WASHINGTON — Georgetown coach John Thompson III said his team was "floating" back in January, trying to reshape its identity when injuries and academic issues contributed to a five-game losing streak.
On Tuesday night, just in time to make a last-chance surge toward a possible NCAA tournament berth, the Hoyas played like a group that had found itself. They frustrated the nation’s leading scorer and had two players put up career numbers in a 75-63 win over No. 13 Creighton.
"We’re not floating now," Thompson said.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 18 points, and his career-high 12 rebounds earned him a hand-slap from Thompson as they sat down for their postgame news conference. Markel Starks, one of five seniors playing his final home game, added 17 points and a career-best 11 assists.
Jabril Trawick, sidelined with a broken jaw during four-fifths of the five-game skid, had 15 points and seven rebounds for the Hoyas (17-12, 8-9 Big East), who shot 54 percent and advanced their cause as an NCAA bubble team. They also still have a chance to be one of the six teams in the overhauled, 10-team Big East to get a bye in next week’s conference tournament.
The Hoyas can further boost their resume against No. 6 Villanova on Saturday. After the game, Starks was emotional as he spoke about a college career that is winding down, but Thompson’s confidence is such that he felt those sentiments to be premature.
"This is the last home game," Thompson said. "But we plan on him playing a few more games in a Georgetown uniform, before everything is said and done."
The Hoyas won by rattling Doug McDermott for the second straight game, building a lead big enough to withstand a late rally. Shadowed by Aaron Bowen or Mikael Hopkins, McDermott scored 16 of his 22 points in the second half. He finished 9 for 23 from the field, including 4 of 11 from 3-point range. He had nine of his 12 rebounds after halftime.
"The team usually plays to how well my energy is," McDermott said, "and it wasn’t there to start the game. I can’t allow making and missing shots to dictate what I do on the defensive end. I’ve got to do better in that regard."
The Bluejays (23-6, 13-4) have lost two straight and are left with an outside chance at winning the regular-season title in their first year in the conference. They will need to win their final game against Providence and hope that first-place Villanova loses to both Xavier and Georgetown.
"We’ve got to flip the page," said McDermott, who is 34 points shy of becoming the eighth Division I player to score 3,000. "It’s been a tough road trip."
McDermott, averaging 26 points entering the game, was held to 14 — his second-lowest tally of the season — in a win over Georgetown in January, a game in which his teammates picked up the slack from his 5-for-15 shooting night.
This time, the help was not as forthcoming until the final minutes. The Bluejays, who trailed by 16 early in the second half, didn’t get closer than five down the stretch, when Grant Gibbs (17 points) hit a 3-pointer to make the score 66-61 with 1:42 to play.
Creighton shot 40 percent and made 10 of 29 3-point attempts. Austin Chatman added 14 points for the Bluejays, who played without Isaiah Zierden after the freshman guard hurt his right knee in Saturday’s loss to Xavier.
A key sequence occurred late in the first half, when Bowen stepped in front of McDermott to steal a pass from Gibbs, leading to a fast-break alley-oop from Starks to Trawick, who dunked the ball and beat his chest, celebrating a 34-23 lead.
"He brings so much more energy to the team," McDermott said. "He got that easy dunk in transition, and I felt like that just gave their team a lot of energy and confidence the rest of the game."
At halftime, Georgetown announced that a new, on-campus Intercollegiate Athletics Center will be named after Hall of Fame coach John Thompson Jr.