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November 24, 2013

Hoyas grind out Classic win

November 24, 2013 - Sometimes games unfold in peculiar fashion, with the normal barometers not portending success. Such was the case in Georgetown's stirring 84-80 victory over VCU today, the Puerto Rico Classic's fifth placed game.

For the contest, VCU (4-20), ranked 10th in the nation, forced 26 Hoya turnovers, nine over Georgetown's current season average. The Rams capitalized on those miscues to the tune of 26 points. Generally that ratio is a death nail to foes, indication that once again VCU's Havoc defense prevailed.

The Rams also bested Georgetown in second chance and bench points, 11-2 and 20-13 respectively. G'Town finished with 15 less shots. Sounds like a Hoya loss.

Somebody forgot to send John Thompson III's team that memo, as the Hoyas battled back from one down at halftime, seven with 12:32 to play. In fact, it was the Hoyas whose eight point lead with 1:02 in regulation was whittled away to three with just two clicks on the clock.

How did this happen?

The stats show a 73.3% second half shooting clip, 75% from three point land during that period. G'Town finished the game at 56.1% (field) and 54.5% (three pointers). Equally impressive was the Hoyas' free throw work of 86.5%, including 17 of 18 in the second half.

Sophomore guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera finished with a game high 26 points, work done in 37 minutes. Add four steals to his total. Backcourt mate, senior Markel Starks played every available minute in route to 23 points, five rebounds and five assists. Junior center Joshua Smith was a stalwart, chipping in 17 points and four rebounds.

Outrebounding VCU 34-29 also didn't hurt. Senior forward Nate Lubick paced the Hoyas by grabbing seven caroms, followed by Starks, Smith and a quartet with three apiece - junior forward Mikael Hopkins, freshman forward Reggie Cameron, senior swingman Aaron Bowen, and Smith-Rivera.

The Hoyas' mixing of man and zone schemes was impactful, helping limit the Rams to 35.7% from the field, a measly 25% in the first half. VCU went 33% from three point land in both periods.

While the numbers say a lot, they don't measure likely the most important ingredient in the win, toughness. Despite facing withering pressure and committing an excessive number of turnovers, Georgetown battled.

A second half sequence tells the story: With 15:05 in regulation, G'Town regained a one point lead after a pair of Starks free throws. Twenty nine seconds later VCU's Jequan Lewis hit a three ball, followed by back to back Starks turnovers, caused by the Rams' vaunted full court defense. VCU capitalized on both with first a Rob Brandenberg (11 points, five rebounds, five steals) layup then a Melvin Johnson (16 points) layup.

Now down 48-41, Thompson called timeout, his guys regrouped, and over four minutes took a 54-53 lead after Starks' steal and subsequent layup. The Rams would lead for only 20 seconds the rest of the way.

Briante Weber paced VCU in scoring with 22 points, while also grabbing six rebounds and tallying four steals. Leading Shaka Smart's program and the game in boards was Treveon Graham, who also scored 17 points.

Georgetown (3-2) returns home, where they will prepare for Lipscomb, November 30th. Tip-off is noon. Tickets are available here.

VCU, now in the Atlantic 10 Conference, hosts former Colonial Athletic Association rival Northeastern this upcoming Friday. Tickets are available.

Game chat is immediately available. Let your thoughts be known!


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