Hoyas up to task against VCU

The Washington Times Daily - - Sports - BY KYLE HIGHTOWER

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.

Markel Starks added 23 points, and went 10 for 10 at the free throw line to help pre­serve the win in foul-rid­dled af­fair. Joshua Smith chipped in 17.

“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.

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.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

VCU and Rob Bran­den­berg couldn’t get a grip on things of­fen­sively dur­ing Sun­day’s 84-80 loss to Ge­orge­town, as the Hoyas held the Rams to 35 per­cent shoot­ing.

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