Hoyas host DePaul in Big East opener

Hoyas host DePaul in Big East opener
December 31, 2013, 12:45 am
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Georgetown Hoyas guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (4) plays defense during the game against the Colgate Raiders at Verizon Center.

(Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports)

Matchup: Georgetown (8-3; 0-0 Big East) vs. DePaul (8-5, Big East); Conference opener for both teams

When: Tuesday, 5:00 p.m.

Where: Washington, D.C, Verizon Center

Broadcast: TV - FS1; Radio - 980 AM.

Last time out: Markel Starks, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Nate Lubick each scored 15 points as  Hoyas dominated Florida International 92-57.

History: The Hoyas have won 12 straight over DePaul, including the last seven at home, and lead the all-time series 21-6.

KenPom: Georgetown 29, DePaul 135

Coaches: Georgetown - John Thompson III; DePaul - Oliver Purnell

Leaders: Scoring (D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, 16.3), Rebounding (Nate Lubick, 6.2), Assists (Markel Starks, 4.5) 

Stat watch: The Hoyas face a potent offensive rebounding team for a second straight game. Even though Georgetown ultimately handled FIU on the glass, DePaul leads all Big East teams with 14 offensive rebounds per game. That once again puts a focus on Georgetown's Joshua Smith. The 6-foot-10 center leads the Big East in field goal shooting percentage, but continues to lag with rebounding, grabbing only four over the Hoyas last three games. 

"He just has to do it. There are no excuses for his lack of rebounding," Thompson said on Monday at McDonough Arena. "We can talk technique, we can do all the drills we want to. He just has to make a conscience decision to get the ball. That's a big part that he has to improve on to help us improve on a going forward basis."

DePaul's full court pressure defense turns opponents over more than 14 times per game, but the Blue Demons offset any advantage by committing virtually the same amount of miscues. With its own pressure schemes, Georgetown turned FIU over seven times in the opening six minutes and forced 18 overall. 

Starks watch: The senior guard has tied or led the Hoyas in scoring in the their last three games, averaging 18.3 points in that span. Starks also ranks second in the Big East in assists and fourth in free throw shooting (87.0 percent). 

DePaul: It's always a homecoming for seniors and Baltimore natives Cleveland Melvin (16.1 ppg, 7.1 rbg) and guard Brandon Young (14.5 ppg, 4.2 apg) when the Blue Demons visit the DMV. A scoring threat around the basket since his freshman season, now the 6-foot-8 Melvin is consistently sinking 3-pointers (50 percent on 40 attempts). He is one of only two conference players, along with Creighton's Doug McDermott, averaging at least 16 points and seven rebounds. DePaul has won five of seven games, including victories over Oregon State and a 57-56 road triumph over Northwestern on Saturday.

Change it back?: Smith-Rivera came off the bench in Saturday's win after returning late to practice from the Christmas holiday. With the sophomore guard eventually entering off the bench, Georgetown opened the game versus of FIU with a 30-4 run. Does that mean Thompson might keep the same lineup for another game?

"There is plenty of reason to keep it. I'm not sure I'm going to do it though," Thompson stated.

There are also plenty of reasons to get DSR on the court ASAP. This past February against DePaul, Smith-Rivera made 10 of 12 field goal attempts including 5 of 6 from beyond the arc for a career-best 33 points in Georgetown's 90-67 win. He also made 8 of 10 free throws en route to scoring the most points by a Georgetown freshman since Victor Page's 34 in the 1996 Big East tournament.

Home and home: Adjusting to the new look Big East will take time, but there is one component most seem to embrace immediately, including Georgetown's coach. With the new 10-team conference format, the schools plays two games versus each opponent. "That home-and home helps build rivalries, helps rivalries grow," Thompson said. "I like the fact that everyone has to go here and we're going to go there." Georgetown plays at DePaul on February 3.