NEW YORK — In his first Big East tournament game, Billy Garrett Jr. showed off the poise and playmaking that made him the conference’s rookie of the year.
The freshman point guard scored 17 points, including the clinching free throws, and DePaul surprised Georgetown 60-56 on Wednesday night for only its second victory at the Big East tournament.
“I’m proud of them, but we want to stay longer,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “We’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.”
Forrest Robinson snapped a second-half tie with consecutive 3-pointers and had 14 points for the 10th-seeded Blue Demons (12-20), who finished in last place during the regular season. After ending a 14-game losing streak to the Hoyas, DePaul will play Thursday night in the quarterfinals against second-seeded Creighton, ranked No. 14 in the nation.
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 21 points to pace the seventh-seeded Hoyas (17-14), who were hoping a run to the championship game at Madison Square Garden could still squeeze them into the NCAA tournament after an up-and-down season.
Those dreams were dashed with Georgetown’s first loss to DePaul since January 1994.
“This is disappointing to us, but you’ve got to give a whole heck of a lot of credit to Oliver and his team and his staff. They played a very good game,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “They were poised when they had to be poised, and they made the plays when they had to make the plays.”
Markel Starks added 17 points on 7-of-19 shooting for the Hoyas, who dropped five of their final seven games following a four-game winning streak that included a victory over then-No. 7 Michigan State.
Besides its solid backcourt tandem of Smith-Rivera and Starks, a first-team all-Big East selection, Georgetowngot only 18 points combined from the other seven players who saw action. Smith-Rivera was 10 for 10 at the foul line but 5 for 14 from the field for the Hoyas, who went 5 of 17 (29.4 percent) from 3-point range.
Brandon Young had 13 points for the Blue Demons, who had lost 12 of 13 and were blown out at home by Butler 79-46 in their regular-season finale last Thursday.
“Obviously, that was a heck of a win for our ballclub, but I think our guys earned it every step of the way with their approach,” Purnell said. “The last several days in practice, after the Butler game where we probably played as bad as we could, these guys came in with a proper attitude and really worked at it.”
DePaul’s only other win in eight Big East tournament games came against Cincinnati as a No. 16 seed in 2009. Of course, the conference has a much different look following the departures of past powers such as Syracuse, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Louisville before this season.
It also was the first Big East tournament victory in four tries for Purnell.
Young, a senior guard, upped his career total to 1,877 points and passed Hall of Fame big man George Mikan (1,870) for fourth on the school’s all-time list.
Starks hit a tying 3 with 8:52 left and motioned confidently toward DePaul’s bench that it should temper its excitement. But the Blue Demons, it turned out, had reason to feel good.