NEW YORK – After a disheartening 33-point loss to Butler in their regular season finale, it seemed as though all of the wind had been knocked out of DePaul’s sails.
Not so fast.
The Blue Demons put together one of their finest games of the season, staying close with Georgetown before taking the lead for good with a late second half run and coming away with a 60-56 victory. This is DePaul’s first Big East Tournament win since 2009 and the first time they’ve beaten Georgetown since 1994. The team now advances to the Big East quarterfinals.
“That Butler game, we played about as bad as we could and we came in here with an attitude. We’ve been talking about March and the opportunities during March,” head coach Oliver Purnell said. “We talked about how we are DePaul, and we want to play better than that.”
The game was a slugfest from the start with neither team able to settle into an offensive rhythm. It was knotted up at 7-7 for several minutes before Georgetown went up 12-7. The Blue Demons came back with ferocity and would have taken a lead into the locker room if not for some poor play that led to easy Hoya buckets at the end of the half. Durrell McDonald had a chance to send DePaul into the half with some serious momentum after he stole an inbounds pass with under two seconds left but his desperation three-point heave at the buzzer fell well short of the mark. Georgetown led 25-22 at the half.
The start of the second half was the complete opposite of the first, for DePaul and Tommy Hamilton at least. The Blue Demons opened the half on a 10-4 run with Hamilton looking unstoppable on offense, knocking down a three-pointer, a layup after a strong rebound, and a fadeaway jumper with a hand in his face. It was the type of run that DePaul knows Hamilton is capable of if he finds some consistency.
From there, a seesaw battle ensued. For every score DePaul got, Georgetown would answer, and vice-versa. That remained the case until about 13 minutes remained, when Georgetown went on a small run to grab a 40-36 lead. The Hoya contingent, which seemed to greatly outnumber DePaul’s, got the Garden rocking and forced Purnell to call a timeout.
The break seemed to work. DePaul went on a 7-0 run to take a 43-40 lead with just under nine minutes to play.
The game remained supremely competitive, but DePaul suddenly found the bottom of the net.
Forrest Robinson nailed two consecutive three-pointers to give the Blue Demons their biggest lead of the night to that point, a 51-45 advantage. Garrett hit a shot-clock beating shot and DePaul took a 53-45 lead with 3:51 to play.
“Forrest stepped up big for us today,” said Brandon Young. “Billy had a great game today. I played horrible, but that’s why I have teammates who are picking me up.”
In the final three minutes, the Garden was treated to a study in momentum. It seemed as though DePaul could do no wrong, making shot after impressive shot, with contributors ranging from Robinson to McDonald. Georgetown, meanwhile, could do little more than make their free throws and DePaul’s lead continued to build as the clock wound down.
Georgetown got within three. McDonald missed a contested shot and the Hoyas had a chance to tie, but the ball bounced off the rim right into McDonald’s hands, who passed it outside the arc to run the clock some more.
DePaul made its free throws down the stretch to seal the victory. Garrett led three Blue Demons in double figures with 17 points. DePaul won despite just five total assists. It was DePaul’s first win over Georgetown since 1994.
The Blue Demons face Creighton March 13 at 6 p.m. CST.
“It’s going to be tough,” Purnell said. “We played them tough last time out there at Creighton. I think it was a one-point game with six minutes to play…we’d love to be in that same spot tomorrow night.”