WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Hoyas got the win they so desperately needed.
Georgetown entered Tuesday night’s tilt with No. 13 Creighton snuggled up with the wrong side of the bubble’s cutline, but thanks to a hot-shooting first half and some clutch plays from D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Markel Starks in the final minutes, John Thompson III’s club took a major step towards the NCAA tournament with a 75-63 win.
Smith-Rivera led the way with 18 points, 10 boards and three assists while Markel Starks added 17 points, 11 assists and the two biggest plays of the game.
Creighton had cut a 16 point lead to just six with two minutes left in the game and Starks answered with a vicious crossover and pull-up jumper to put the Hoyas back up eight. On the ensuing Creighton possession, Grant Gibbs hit his second straight three, but Starks followed that up with a beautiful dime to Aaron Bowen to put Georgetown up seven and all but ice the win.
The enormity of this win cannot be overstated for the Hoyas.
They had five top 50 wins entering the night, including a neutral court win over Michigan State at Madison Square Garden, but with a 16-12 record — including two losses to Seton Hall and an embarrassing defeat to RPI No. 221 Northeastern — nothing was guaranteed.
In fact, there still are no guarantees. If the Hoyas truly want to dance, they either need to win at Villanova on Saturday or pick up a couple of good wins in the Big East tournament. Their work isn’t done yet, but Tuesday’s win was a big step in the right direction.
If the Hoyas do manage to play their way into the dance, this is a team that could cause some trouble thanks to their two guards. Starks and Smith-Rivera can matchup with any back court in the country, particularly with their ability to hit shots.
The key for the Hoyas, however, is their supporting cast. Mikael Hopkins finally stayed out of foul trouble, and he was able to chip in with 10 points, five boards and five huge blocks. Jabril Trawick scored 13 points in the first half and combined with Aaron Bowen to fluster Doug McDermott and make him uncomfortable on the catch. McDermott never was in a rhythm, as he finished with 22 points and 12 boards but shot just 9-for-23 from the field and 4-for-11 from three. He missed some looks he usually makes and even bricked a couple of free throws.