GAME NOTES: First-round action in the Big East Conference Tournament concludes with a matchup featuring the 10th-ranked DePaul Blue Demons taking on the seventh-ranked Georgetown Hoyas at Madison Square Garden.
The winner of this match will move on to the second round, where the second- ranked Creighton Bluejays will be waiting.
DePaul had an absolutely atrocious year in conference play, at one point losing 10 in a row before a win toward the end of the season against Seton Hall ended the misery. The Blue Demons enter the Big East postseason having lost two straight games, including a 79-46 thrashing at the hands of Butler last Thursday.
Georgetown lost four of its last six games to end the regular season, but before that had won four straight contests. The Hoyas were a ranked program early in the season, but fell off the ladder when conference play hit. Georgetown is coming off a 77-59 loss to the conference's top seed, Villanova, on Saturday.
Georgetown has dominated the series with DePaul, owning a 23-6 record all- time. The two teams met twice during the regular season, with the Hoyas winning both - most recently a 71-59 beating on Feb. 3.
DePaul scored a season low in single-game points against Butler in the team's season finale, netting 46 in the loss to the Bulldogs. Brandon Young was a bright spot in the contest for the Blue Demons, scoring 24 points on 8-of-20 shooting from the floor. Billy Garrett chipped in 12 points with six rebounds. The Demons shot just 32.7 percent from the floor in the loss, including a dismal 1-of-18 from 3-point range (5.6 percent).
The most disheartening part for DePaul is that it's missing its top scorer, Cleveland Melvin, who was ruled out earlier this season for personal reasons. Melvin took his 16.7 ppg average with him, leaving the scoring up to Young (16.2 ppg) and a core group of young players. Garrett came up in the ranks to net 12.4 ppg, but it was Young's season to be a star on the Blue Demons. The senior racked up 109 assists to lead the team, and notched a team-best 54 steals in his last season. Tommy Hamilton is the team's active leading rebounder at 5 rpg, and Sandi Marcius tops the squad with 32 blocked shots.
Villanova opened the game against Georgetown in Philadelphia on a high note, and never allowed the Hoyas to get back in the contest. The Wildcats led by at least 11 points all the way through the second half en route to the victory for the Big East's top team. Markel Starks paced Georgetown in the loss with 20 points, adding a perfect 6-of-6 shooting touch from the free-throw line. D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera chipped in 14 points with five rebounds, and Aaron Bowen scored 13 off the bench. The Hoyas shot an even 50 percent from the floor in the loss.
Starks recently overtook Smith-Rivera for the team's top spot in scoring, netting 17.1 ppg for the Hoyas on 41.9 percent shooting. His 122 assists lead the team, and his 85.9 percent free-throw shooting touch is second only to Smith-Rivera's mark from the charity stripe. Smith-Rivera tallies 16.8 ppg, and hits 86.5 percent from the foul line. His 36 steals are also a team high. Nate Lubick leads Georgetown in rebounding on the year with 5.6 rpg, followed closely by Mikael Hopkins, who brings down 5.3 rpg and adds a team-leading 48 blocked shots to his resume.
DePaul has had a rough year thanks to injuries, tough competition and a difficult non-conference schedule. The Blue Demons will need tons of help to even get past Georgetown, let alone get through the Big East tourney. The season is drawing to a close for DePaul, while Georgetown will likely get a shot at Creighton in the second round.
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