Hoyas edge DePaul men’s basketball for fourth straight loss

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DePaul guard Billy Garrett Jr. looks on after Wednesday’s 84-57 loss to Providence at Allstate Arena. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

DePaul guard Billy Garrett Jr. looks on after Wednesday’s 84-57 loss to Providence at Allstate Arena. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

After Wednesday’s 84-57 blowout loss to Providence, DePaul head coach Oliver Purnell said that his team could play better and the key would be how the Blue Demons responded.

The Blue Demons fought hard Saturday, but fell 68-63 to Georgetown at the Verizon Center. The loss was DePaul’s fourth in a row and the Blue Demons (12-16, 6-9 Big East) have now dropped seven of their last eight.

“I was pleased with our effort tonight, and I thought we really struggled a couple of times in the game that were critical for us,” Purnell said. “I thought defensively down the stretch, we were really, really good. But, we didn’t rebound the ball. We did a good job stopping them on the first shot, but we were giving two or three shots.

“We have to do a better job of finishing things off,” Purnell said. “Georgetown, clearly, is one of the best teams in our league and one of the best teams in the country. We put ourselves in a position to win, but we didn’t finish it off on the glass.”

Georgetown (18-8, 10-5) out-rebounded DePaul 43-30 with center Joshua Smith leading the Hoyas with 11 boards. Smith was a presence in the paint, also scoring 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting.

Despite the rebounding disadvantage, DePaul was still in a position to win the game. Sophomore Billy Garrett Jr. hit two free throws to cut Georgetown’s lead to 64-62 with 27 seconds left.  Georgetown, however, sealed the game at the line.

Before that, the Blue Demons went on a second half run sparked by senior Forrest Robinson. Robinson led the Blue Demons with 17 points and made five 3-pointers, three of those being after halftime.

DePaul guard Durrell McDonald goes up for the layup Wednesday against Providence. The Blue Demons lost that game and the following game to Georgetown, 68-63, on Saturday. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

DePaul guard Durrell McDonald goes up for the layup Wednesday against Providence. The Blue Demons lost that game and the following game to Georgetown, 68-63, on Saturday. (Josh Leff / The DePaulia)

Georgetown led 42-33, their largest lead of the game, with 15:29 left, but the Blue Demons rallied. Purnell chose to run the full-court press in spots, which turned out to be very effective. DePaul forced 13 Georgetown turnovers, scoring 20 points off of them.

DePaul never led in the second half, but the closest they got was 56-55 with 5:45 remaining thanks to a Robinson 3-pointer. It was the third Robinson three in a row.

“I thought we were getting what we wanted in our screening game,” Purnell said. “When Forrest picks and pops, you have to pick your poison. You either help on Billy, who is driving to the basket, or you’re gonna switch and cover Forrest.

“I thought we did a really good job of freeing him up,” he said. “Obviously, he did a really good job of knocking down shots.”

DePaul started the game strong, taking a 14-9 lead with a Jamee Crockett 3-pointer. Crockett finished with 13 points, three rebounds and three assists.  They also withstood a 9-0 Georgetown run in the first half to go into halftime trailing 30-27.

Georgetown guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera led the Hoyas with 19 points. Smith-Rivera was a force for the Hoyas, also grabbing seven rebounds and shooting 6-of-8 from the line.

“Smith-Rivera was terrific,” Purnell said. “What a fine money player he is.”

The win propelled Georgetown to second in the Big East behind Villanova. It was the Hoyas’ third victory in a row and also swept the season series with DePaul. They previously won 78-72 Jan.13 at Allstate Arena.

The Blue Demons have just three remaining games — facing Creighton, No. 19 Butler and Marquette — before the Big East tournament on March 11-14.  Two of those games, Creighton and Butler, will be at Allstate Arena where the Blue Demons are 9-5 this season.