March 18, 2014
by Bobby Bancroft
WASHINGTON - Sophomore guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had a season-high 32 points and 10 rebounds as Georgetown defeated West Virginia 77-65 on Tuesday night in front of 2,133 raucous fans at McDonough Arena in the First Round of the National Invitational Tournament.
Senior guard Markel Starks had 14 points, a career-high seven rebounds, and seven assists while junior forward Jabril Trawick had 12 points, four rebounds and five assists as Georgetown played on campus for the first time since December 2009.
The victory improved the Hoyas record to 18-14. West Virginia, which was led by Juwan Staten's 23 points, completed its season with a 17-16 record.
Smith-Rivera scored 23 of his 32 points in the second half as Georgetown outscored West Virginia 47-32 over the final 20 minutes. He connected on 7-of-10 from the field including 3-of-4 from three-point land.
"He was in rhythm today," Starks said about his backcourt mate Smith-Rivera. "You go through practices and you scrimmage against one another and he is hitting shots and you are like `gosh.' And then you finally see it tonight. That's big. Unbelievable game. Unbelievable."
It was Smith-Rivera's second game this season with at least 30 points and third for his career. Only Austin Freeman ('11) has more 30 point game under Coach John Thompson III with four.
"I think he had seven assists today so it was definitely just being in the right place at the right time," Smith-Rivera said, throwing the praise right back at Starks.
Georgetown will now travel to Florida State for the Second Round after the Seminoles defeated Florida Gulf Coast 58-53 on Tuesday night. Georgetown last played Florida State in the 1992 NCAA Tournament.
After a slow first half in which the Hoyas shot just 37 percent on 10-of-27 from the field and subsequently trailed 33-30, the Hoyas started to find their groove offensively immediately out of the locker room.
Georgetown went on an early 8-0 run to take a 41-36 advantage. Smith-Rivera had five points during the Hoyas burst including a three-pointer from the top of the key which gave the Hoyas a lead they would never surrender and the fans their moment to finally explode into delirium.
"I just had fun," Starks said after his first game as a Hoya at McDonough. "I think the energy from the crowd transferred to us and I wanted to give it back just so they knew I was having fun too."
Thompson III who guided the Hoyas to the 2005 NIT Quarterfinals agreed with his senior co-captain.
"The energy that we got from the fans - the students, the young alums, the old alums - it was great," said Coach Thompson III. "As I said to someone earlier, `I have seen a lot of games in here, and hopefully tonight's atmosphere will be like many of those old time games.' And it was. I want to thank our fans and I want to thank everyone for that because it helped."
The Hoyas took their first double-digit lead of the game at 61-51 after senior forward Nate Lubick converted a Trawick pass into a fast-break slam dunk forcing West Virginia to take a timeout with just over six minutes remaining.
Georgetown held the Mountaineers without a field goal for nearly seven minutes until Staten's layup with 2:38 remaining cut the Hoyas lead to 68-55. The Hoyas made 17-of-21 free throws in the second half to help ice away the win.
Georgetown snapped a five-game losing streak to its former conference rivals and now holds a 27-25 all-time series advantage over the Mountaineers. The Hoyas also improved to 3-1 in postseason play over West Virginia. All seven players used against West Virginia scored at least three points. Junior forward Mikael Hopkins had six points and three rebounds while Lubick had five points and five assists. Seniors Aaron Bowen and Moses Ayegba chipped in five and three points off the bench respectively.
Bowen's put back at the end of the first have pulled the Hoyas to within 33-30 at break.
Georgetown improved to 2-0 against the Big 12 this season having already defeated Kansas State in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off in November.
Notes: Georgetown improved to 3-0 in NIT games played at McDonough Arena. Smith-Rivera passed Joey Brown ('94) to move into 19th place on the school's all-time three-point list with 101 after his four makes against West Virginia. Smith-Rivera's 62 makes this season are now tied 11th best in school history and he trails just Allen Iverson (96) for most makes by a sophomore.