NEW YORK — For only the second time since joining the Big East, DePaul advanced to the second round of the conference tournament.
The 10th-seeded Blue Demons knocked off seventh-seeded Georgetown 60-56 Wednesday in a first-round matchup at Madison Square Garden.
After halting a 14-game losing streak to the Hoyas, DePaul will play Thursday night in the quarterfinals against second-seeded Creighton, the nation’s 14th-ranked team.
DePaul (12-20) was led by guard Billy Garrett Jr., the Big East’s Rookie of the Year, who tossed in 17 points. Blue Demons forward Forrest Robinson tied his career high with 14 points.
“This was one of, if not our best game of the year,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.
DePaul last advanced to the second round of the tournament in 2009, its third season in the conference. The Blue Demons have a combined 10-19 conference tournament record playing in the Great Midwest (1-4), Conference USA (7-9) and the Big East (2-6).
Georgetown (17-14) received 21 points from guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who made all 10 of his free throws.
DePaul led 57-54 with 16.1 seconds left after a 7-2 run by Georgetown, but Blue Demons forward Jamee Crockett sank one of two free throws and Garrett hit both of his with six seconds left to seal the win.
Garrett was 7-for-7 from the line, 4-for-4 in the final 21 seconds of the game. The Blue Demons made 17 of 24 foul shots.
“In shoot-around and practice, coach (Purnell) preached free throws,” Garrett said. “He said every one counts and it’s going to come down to free throws, and it did.
“So we listened to that and we paid attention to it in practice. When it came down the stretch, it really did come to free throws, and we were able to knock them down.”
Garrett was the highest-scoring freshman in the conference, and he received weekly honors five times, the most among all Big East freshmen. He became the second Blue Demon in four years to win the season honor. Cleveland Melvin, who was dismissed from the school in early February, was the conference’s Rookie of the Year in 2011.
The Blue Demons went on an 8-0 run to take a 53-45 cushion with 4:08 left in the game. Robinson drained back-to-back 3-pointers and Garrett scored on a twisting layup in the sequence.
DePaul tied it at 40-40 on a jumper from guard Brandon Young with 9:50 to play then went ahead 43-40 on a 3-pointer by Robinson at the 9:16 mark. After a 3-pointer from Markel Starks, Young sank a free throw for a 44-43 DePaul lead.
“Obviously that was a heck of a win for our ballclub,” Purnell said. “The last several days in practice, after the Butler game (a 79-46 loss) where we probably played as bad as we could, these guys came in with a proper attitude and really worked at it.
“We’ve been talking about March and what opportunities lie in March for a couple of weeks now, and I think our guys internalized that.”
The Hoyas ended the first half by outscoring DePaul 8-3 to take a 25-23 lead. Smith-Rivera led Georgetown with 11 first-half points and Garrett tossed in nine.
DePaul’s 7-0 burst with 4:15 remaining in the half gave the Blue Demons a 20-17 lead. Robinson began the run with a 3-pointer, and Young’s jumper gave the Blue Demons their first lead of the game at 18-17. Young finished the scoring sequence with two free throws.
With the score tied at 7-7, Georgetown went on an 8-0 run, fueled by 3-pointers from Starks and forward Aaron Bowen. The Blue Demons went six minutes before scoring a basket during the Georgetown blitz.
NOTES: The 56 points were the lowest DePaul allowed in eight Big East Conference tournament games. … Georgetown G D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera became the sixth player in tournament history to go at least 10-for-10 from the foul line in a game. He recorded the best free-throw shooting performance for the Hoyas in their tournament history. …Georgetown and Connecticut have won seven Big East tournament titles each, tops in the conference’s history. … Georgetown coach John Thompson is now 10-1 against DePaul. … Georgetown’s backcourt of Markel Starks and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera is averaging 33.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 6.8 assists and
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