Georgetown’s lone junior took over on Senior Day.
Arriving with a closing kick that has been absent far too often this season, junior forward DaJuan Summers scored 13 of his team-high 15 points down the stretch to help the Hoyas close out their regular season with a 48-40 victory over DePaul.
The victory concluded the worst regular season of coach John Thompson III’s five-year tenure on the Hilltop on a relative high note, sending the Hoyas (16-13, 7-11 Big East) into this week’s Big East tournament with a tepid dose of momentum.
Facing the seemingly insurmountable challenge of winning five games in five days as the league’s 12th seed, the Hoyas open with No. 13 seed St. John’s (15-16, 6-12) at 2 p.m. Tuesday, with the winner slated to meet slumping Marquette (four straight losses) at the same time Wednesday. Given Georgetown’s unsightly conference record and second-half swoon (4-10 since Jan. 15), its only path to an NCAA tournament berth may be an unlikely run to the Big East title and the league’s automatic bid.
“The season has three parts: the regular season, the Big East tournament and if you’re fortunate enough, the postseason,” Thompson said. “Obviously, we didn’t have the kind of regular season we were hoping for. We’d like to have a few more wins. But that’s over now, and we’re starting new next week. We’ll move on to part two and see. We are going to go up to New York excited and ready to play.”
The Hoyas probably will be hungrier to play than the last time they took the floor at Madison Square Garden. With its at-large hopes in must-win mode, Georgetown blew a 15-point lead to the Red Storm last Tuesday.
That loss represented the squad’s worst performance of the season. But Saturday’s regular-season finale against DePaul nearly earned a place in the conversation. The Blue Demons (8-23, 0-18) entered the game attempting to avoid becoming the first winless team in Big East play since Miami did so in 1994. And thanks to a second-half surge powered by DePaul junior guard Will Walker (20 points), the Blue Demons put a scare into both the Hoyas and the 12,338 fans who came to bid adieu to Georgetown senior stalwart Jessie Sapp.
In a game featuring all the offensive and athletic fireworks of a chess stalemate, DePaul tied the game (24-24) on a jumper by Walker with 15:43 remaining. But in the end, DePaul could overcome neither Summers’ late surge nor a tragicomic 17-for-59 (.288) shooting performance that was as much the result of a rosterwide case of the clanks as Georgetown’s defense.
Summers scored or assisted on six of seven scoring possessions during the closest thing to a spurt the game offered, helping Georgetown turn a surprising 26-26 gut-twister into a 42-31 edge on his jam with 3:47 remaining.
“What was good down the stretch was that [Summers] got two offensive rebounds and he caused a travel out there,” Thompson said. “He made some hustle plays that I think got him going which we needed.”
The afternoon’s largest ovation, however, was reserved for Sapp, who finished with seven points, five rebounds and two steals in his final regular-season home game. The Harlem native ranks among the program’s all-time top 30 in numerous statistical categories, including steals, assists, rebounds, games played and 3-pointers.
“I felt appreciated,” Sapp said of the applause he received when Thompson pulled him out of the game in the final seconds. “I wasn’t ever a big-time scorer or any of that, but I always tried to do the little things and I was always proud to wear the uniform. I felt they noticed that.”
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