With Otto Porter on the bench nursing a sore knee, the player known as DSR put on Georgetown’s best freshman scoring performance in 17 years.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera put in 33 points Wednesday night as the No. 11 Hoyas, no longer the team that relies on Porter and Markel Starks to lead the way every game, routed DePaul 90-66 to move back into a tie for first place in the Big East.
Smith-Rivera went 10 for 12 from the field, 8 for 10 from the free-throw line and made 5 of 6 3-pointers, scoring the most points by a Georgetown freshman since Victor Page’s 34 in the 1996 Big East tournament.
“What he did tonight, he can do — he puts the ball in the basket,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “As the year has progressed, he’s getting a little more comfortable.”
The Hoyas (20-4, 10-3) won their eighth straight and pulled even again with Syracuse and Marquette atop the conference. They shot 63 percent and scored a season-high in points, handling with relative ease a possible trap game ahead of Saturday’s much-anticipated final Big East visit to No. 8 Syracuse.
Thompson, already nervous by nature before every tipoff, said he was more jittery than usual because of all the attention that has given to the Syracuse game. In addition, he said his team had “probably the worst practice of the year by far” on Tuesday. Asked what was wrong with it, he said “everything.”
“I don’t have the energy,” he said, “to revisit yesterday’s practice.”
The nerves no doubt ratcheted up a notch when Porter, the Hoyas’ best all-around player, went to the floor clutching his right knee when DePaul’s Worrel Clahar was called for an offensive foul about eight minutes into the game.
Porter stayed in the game and didn’t seem affected, with a step-back long 3-pointer as the shot clock was expiring and a backcourt steal among his highlights later in the half. He started the second half but was gone for good with 17:18 to play, making another visit to the locker room and sporting a right knee brace.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” Thompson said. “He banged knees, and he was sore, and I think it scared him more than anything else. I don’t think it’s anything big. We were able to get by without putting him back in. If things got tight, I could’ve put him back in.”
Porter finished with 11 points. Nate Lubick added 15 points and eight rebounds, and Jabril Trawick had 13 points for the Hoyas, who pulled away with a 15-4 run at the end of the first half.
Brandon Young scored 16 points to lead the Blue Demons (11-15, 2-11), who have lost 12 in a row to Georgetown and 40 straight to Top 25 teams. DePaul was coming off of a win over Rutgers on Saturday and was hoping to win back-to-back Big East games for the first time in five years.
The Blue Demons hung with the Hoyas for about 14 minutes, thanks mainly to dominance on the offensive boards, but coach Oliver Purnell said a couple of easy misses under the basket hurt his team’s morale.
“We let frustration set in instead of digging in,” Purnell said. “And that kind of fueled Georgetown.”
Durrell McDonald’s 3-pointer with 5:57 to go in the first half cut Georgetown’s lead to 28-25 and turned out to be the last truly competitive shot of the game for the Blue Demons. Trawick and Smith-Rivera — among the players who have stepped up their games after Greg Whittington was suspended last month for academic reasons — spurred the run that put the Hoyas ahead 43-29 at the half.
In the second half, Smith-Rivera made two free throws, a scoop layup and a 3-pointer during a solo seven-point run that put Georgetown ahead by 19.
“Everyone wants to come in right from Day One blazing,” Thompson said. “And it’s taken him time to get settled in. He’s getting comfortable out there with what we’re doing.”
Thompson then turned to Smith-Rivera and asked: “Is that accurate?”
“I guess,” Smith-Rivera answered with a smile.
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