Recap: Markel Starks played all 40 minutes and continued his scoring surge with 21 points while reserves Moses Ayegba and Aaron Bowen helped sparked a 25-8 run during the game's middle as the Georgetown Hoyas closed 2013 and opened Big East play with a 61-54 win over the DePaul Blue Demons on Tuesday night.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 12 points and eight rebounds in his return to the starting lineup for the Hoyas (9-3, 1-0), who have won eight of nine games.
Billy Garrett scored 17 points and Georgetown held DePaul (8-6, 0-1) to 32.7 percent shooting from the field. The Blue Demons committed 18 turnovers, 12 in the first half.
Turning point: Trailing 23-15 in the first half following a 15-2 run by the Blue Demons, the Hoyas took the lead for a good during a closing 14-2 run. Smith-Rivera's 3-pointer put the Hoyas in front 24-23 and Bowen's desperation heave from beyond the arc at the buzzer fell sent Georgetown into the halftime locker room leading 29-25. Committing 13 turnovers in the first half contributed to the Hoyas slow start. Picking up the defensive pressure with 1-2-2 zone traps and 2-3 looks in half court sets helped wake them up.
"We were flat the whole game," Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. "We started off in (the 1-2-2) and it wasn’t effective, and we came back to it and it got our juices flowing a little bit. It was key, we went from down eight or nine until Aaron Bowen hit that shot at the buzzer and we went up four and our press had a lot to do with that."
Key stat: Baltimore native Cleveland Melvin entered leading the Blue Demons in scoring with 16.1 points per game. The Hoyas held the senior forward to six points on 2 of 12 shooting.
Leading man: Starks carried the offense in the first half, scoring 11 of the team's 13 points before help arrived. The senior guard made all eight of his free throw attempts while his teammates finished 7 of 19. He has tied or led the Hoyas in each of the last four games. Yes, that's quite a heavy workload, but the enthusiastic team leader also had time to encourage teammates throughout.
"I can do both," Starks said of his scoring and leadership roles. Thompson then interrupted. "As talented as he is, you can do a lot of things," the coach stated.
Unsung heroes: Ayegba finished with three blocks and helped key the first half rally with defensive and rebounding energy. Thompson rewarded the effort by starting Ayegba opening the second half. Not a scoring threat -he had only two points and missed all three free throw attempts before fouling out in 17 minutes - but the powerfully built senior adds an aggressive edge in areas where others struggle.
"Looking at the stat sheet I thought Moses had more than three blocks, maybe he didn’t, but I felt like he had more than three blocks," Thompson said. "He was a presence, he gave us energy, not just the blocks, but the rebounds.
Bowen, who must lead the country in highlight plays per minute, had eight points, six rebounds and three steals in 17 minutes. He had an acrobatic reverse layup shortly before nailing the three pointer.
"He made some very crucial shots," Starks said of Bowen. "And not just shots, but his effort and energy running down loose balls were also crucial."
Disappearing act: With Ayegba on the court starting the second half, Thompson sat Joshua Smith. The 6-foot-10 center had one rebound and five points in 14 minutes, continuing a stretch of irrelevant work on the glass. He has been a liability on the defensive boards throughout the season and just five rebounds over the last four games. DePaul had 12 offensive boards and stayed afloat with 14 second-chance points.
"If he’s not productive we have other guys. One, who you people have been asking a lot about, in Moses, who we can put in there," Thompson said when asked about sending any message to Smith.
Return to normal: Smith-Rivera's benching punishment for returning late to practice from the Christmas break lasted one game. The 6-foot-3 guard struggled from the field (4 of 13), but led the Hoyas with eight rebounds.
Protect the house: The Hoyas improved to 7-0 at home this season.
No mask: On Sunday, Jabril Trawick said via Twitter that he suffered a broken nose and would be wearing a mask, presumably against DePaul. Yet the junior guard was no masked man when he took the court.
See you soon: The two sides meet at DePaul on Feb. 3, which comes two days after Georgetown faces Michigan State at Madison Square Garden.
On deck: The Hoyas remain in conference and at home as they host St. John's on Jan. 4