SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Georgetown began its four-day trip to San Juan thinking about a humbling loss after a second-half collapse against Northeastern.
But after back-to-back hard-fought wins, the Hoyas are returning home feeling good about the team they can potentially become this season.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 26 points and Georgetown fought off Virginia Commonwealth in the second half to hang on for an 84-80 victory in the fifth-place game of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off on Sunday.
“Obviously that’s very good win against a terrific team. I thought VCU they did what they do,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “They (forced) 26 turnovers, but, that said, we focused in a settled down and made the plays that were necessary.”
Smith-Rivera, who scored 51 points in the Hoyas’ final two games in San Juan, said he was simply responding to a need he saw at the time.
“The biggest thing was taking care of the ball. We had 26 turnovers, coming tournament time or even the next game that has to come to a limit,” he said. “I felt like at certain times the team needed me to score, and I felt the need to step up and make plays.”
Among the necessary plays was making free throws because of all the foul calls. He and Starks combined to go 15 of 16.
There were 61 fouls called in the game, which lasted nearly three hours.
“With the way that the games are being officiated now, games are going to be longer,” Thompson said. “You probably are having higher scoring game, but the games are uglier.”
The Rams outran the Hoyas in their previous meeting in the 2011 when they blew out the Hoyas in the second round of the NCAA tournament on their way to the Final Four.
It was close throughout this time around.
VCU (4-2) forced 26 turnovers, but couldn’t get baskets to fall down the stretch, shooting 35 percent for the game. Georgetown (3-2) shot 56 percent, and was 6 for 11 from the 3-point line.
“Shooting percentage was actually in the front of every body’s mind. They kept passing up open shots that they normally would take,” said VCU guard Briante Weber, who led VCU with 22 points. “The ball not going in really affected how we played and at the same time it affected some shots we would normally make.”
Treveon Graham added 17 points.
Despite some first-half turnovers, Georgetown had handled VCU’s pressure well Sunday until back-to-back takeaways and scores bookended an 8-0 spurt that nudged the Rams out to a 48-41 lead with 14 minutes to play.
Georgetown came back, and took a 67-60 lead with 4:20 remaining on a pair of free throws by Starks.
The Hoyas lost some of their quickness when Jabril Trawick went to the bench with his fifth foul on the next trip down the floor. But they kept attacking inside and got a layup from Nate Lubick that made it 69-63.
VCU got to 81-78 on a layup by Weber Graham with 14.1 seconds to play, and again at 83-80 with 1.8 left, but the Hoyas were able to close it out at the line.
In fast-paced opening 20 minutes that featured five lead changes VCU took a one-point lead into the locker room at halftime, thanks to a lopsided advantage at the free throw line.
The Rams went 14 for 19 from the foul line. The Hoyas got there just three times, going 2 for 3.
Georgetown controlled the pace early, sprinting out to an 8-0 advantage, but it didn’t last.
VCU began to get some turnovers off its pressure, forcing 14 for the half that led to 15 points on the offensive end.
The Rams took their largest lead of the half at 26-20.
VCU coach Shaka Smart said he expected his team to make a lot of revisions going forward.
“One thing we learned down here in PR is we have to get better,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said. “We already knew that, but now we’ve been smacked across the face with it.”