Boardwork: Georgetown 83, DePaul 75

On Sunday, Georgetown rode a dominant rebounding effort and a hot hand to a road conference victory. Tuesday, the formula was much the same, as the Hoyas relied on Jason Clark’s sharpshooting and team board work en route to a 83-75 win at DePaul.

Clark led all scorers, hitting 11 of 14 shots, 5 of 7 from three, en route to a career-high 31 points. The senior guard re-found his outside stroke, which had eluded him throughout a 4-for-22 three-point slump over the past six games. But he also played to his strengths, slashing to the hoop and pushing the ball in transition. Clark also affected the game in other ways, assuming primary ball-handling duties in the absence of point guard Markel Starks (who was sidelined with a stomach bug), swiping four steals, and grabbing five rebounds.

And Clark wasn’t alone on the glass, as six Hoyas grabbed at least four rebounds over an undersized Blue Demon squad. Leading the charge to the boards was Otto Porter, who grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds, his fifth double-digit rebound game in just eighteen career appearances. Porter continued to show a nose for the ball, also racking up two steals and two blocks even as he struggled through a rough shooting night.

The Hoyas particularly thrived on the offensive boards, where more Hoya misses found their way into Hoya hands (17) than into those of the Blue Demons (15). Senior post Henry Sims generated the most second chances, grabbing four offensive rebounds and seven misses over all while also scoring 13 16 points.

It wasn’t all good news for Georgetown, which struggled to cope with DePaul’s frenetic pace. The Blue Demons forced 18 Hoya turnovers, most in their full-court press. While Porter gave the ball away a team-high five times, the miscues were fairly evenly distributed. Some of the mistakes were to be expected: the Blue Demons thrive on taking the ball away in the full-court press. What’s more, the Hoyas were without Starks, frequently Georgetown’s lead guard, making the DePaul pressure all the more daunting. Even so, Georgetown’s tendency to fork the ball over was troubling, made all the more so by DePaul’s ability to capitalize on those mistakes. Those mistakes allowed DePaul runs that kept the Hoyas from pulling away in a contest they led nearly wire to wire.

DePaul also managed to stay close because Georgetown could not hit free throws. Clark missed five of his nine tries, while Hollis Thompson (14 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals) bricked both of his. As a team, the Hoyas hit just 16 of their 28 free throws, continuing a five-game slump in which they have made just 61 percent of their free throws.

Even so, Georgetown put the game away. After DePaul rattled off eight straight points without the Hoyas advancing the ball past half-court, the lead stood at just 48-46, and the sparse Blue Demon crowd had come to its feet, cheering through the Hoya timeout. But a pair of offensive put-backs, one by Thompson and another by Greg Whittington (five rebounds, four points), sandwiched around a Clark fast-break lay-in, made the advantage eight. Georgetown was never really threatened again, stretching the lead to 14 before holding on for the win.

For those prone to complain about the state of Hoya hoops, games at DePaul are a sobering reminder of what could be. These contests are observed by a few thousand in a soulless facility, far closer to the airport than campus, where banners tout the achievements of minor league hockey and arena football squads. During a visiting team’s run, the loud clapping of a few opposing fans echoes, making the meager home crowd seem all the more so. On Tuesday, it was evident that the DePaul faithful, supporters of a team so long the laughingstock of the Big East, desperately want their team to matter again. For a while, the Blue Demons looked ready to satisfy that yearning, scoring in bunches and swarming with full-court pressure. But, whatever their errors throughout the game, the Hoyas got just enough offense from Clark and just enough work on the glass to keep DePaul at arm’s length.

The two-game, two-win road trip means the Hoyas held serve while five other Big East teams teams also have two conference losses. Now, the Hoyas return to their home court, where on Saturday they’ll face a young Rutgers squad that already has beaten a pair of top-10 teams at home while compiling a 3-3 conference mark. In the meantime, Hoya Saxa.

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