NEW YORK — In his first Big East tournament game, Billy Garrett Jr. showed off the poise and playmaking that made him the conference’s rookie of the year.
The freshman point guard scored 17 points, including the clinching free throws, and DePaul surprised Georgetown 60-56 on Wednesday night for only its second victory at the Big East tournament.
“I’m proud of them, but we want to stay longer,” DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. “We’ve got absolutely nothing to lose.”
Forrest Robinson snapped a second-half tie with consecutive 3-pointers and had 14 points for the 10th-seeded Blue Demons (12-20), who finished in last place during the regular season. After ending a 14-game losing streak to the Hoyas, DePaul will play Thursday night in the quarterfinals against second-seeded Creighton, ranked No. 14 in the nation.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 21 points to pace the seventh-seeded Hoyas (17-14), who were hoping a run to the championship game at Madison Square Garden could still squeeze them into the NCAA tournament after an up-and-down season.
Those dreams were dashed with Georgetown’s first loss to DePaul since January 1994.
“This is disappointing to us, but you’ve got to give a whole heck of a lot of credit to Oliver and his team and his staff. They played a very good game,” Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. “They were poised when they had to be poised, and they made the plays when they had to make the plays.”
Markel Starks added 17 points on 7-of-19 shooting for the Hoyas, who dropped five of their final seven games following a four-game winning streak that included a victory over then-No. 7 Michigan State.
Besides its solid backcourt tandem of Smith-Rivera and Starks, a first-team all-Big East selection, Georgetown got only 18 points combined from the other seven players who saw action. Smith-Rivera was 10 for 10 at the foul line but 5 for 14 from the field for the Hoyas, who went 5 of 17 (29.4 percent) from 3-point range.
Brandon Young had 13 points for the Blue Demons, who had lost 12 of 13 and were blown out at home by Butler 79-46 in their regular-season finale last Thursday.
“Obviously, that was a heck of a win for our ballclub, but I think our guys earned it every step of the way with their approach,” Purnell said. “The last several days in practice, after the Butler game where we probably played as bad as we could, these guys came in with a proper attitude and really worked at it.”
DePaul’s only other win in eight Big East tournament games came against Cincinnati as a No. 16 seed in 2009. Of course, the conference has a much different look following the departures of past powers such as Syracuse, Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Louisville before this season.
It also was the first Big East tournament victory in four tries for Purnell.
Young, a senior guard, upped his career total to 1,877 points and passed Hall of Fame big man George Mikan (1,870) for fourth on the school’s all-time list.
Starks hit a tying 3 with 8:52 left and motioned confidently toward DePaul’s bench that it should temper its excitement. But the Blue Demons, it turned out, had reason to feel good.
Robinson connected from long range to snap a 45-all tie with 5:55 to go. Starks missed a 3 at the other end and Robinson drained another deep one before Garrett barely beat the shot clock with a tough basket in the lane to give DePaul an eight-point cushion.
Georgetown cut it to 55-52 on two free throws by Smith-Rivera after Young fouled out with a minute to go. DePaul’s Durrell McDonald put up a desperation 3 to beat the shot clock, then alertly grabbed his own rebound when it bounced long off the front rim.
Garrett, who picked up his Big East rookie of the year trophy at a news conference earlier in the day, then hit all four of his free throws in the final 22 seconds to seal it.
“In shootaround and practice, Coach preached free throws. He said every one counts and it’s going to come down to free throws, and it did,” said Garrett, the son of DePaul assistant Billy Garrett. “So we listened to that, and we paid attention to it in practice, and we worked on it. When it came down the stretch, it really did come to free throws, and we were able to knock them down.”
Robinson went 4 of 5 from behind the 3-point line. The junior forward matched his career high for points, set Feb. 19 at Xavier.
DePaul’s previous win over Georgetown was 78-51 at home on Jan. 22, 1994. Purnell improved to 1-6 against the Hoyas.
Georgetown jumped out to an early eight-point advantage before the Blue Demons went on an 11-0 run to grab their first lead with just more than 5 minutes remaining in the first half. Robinson hit a 3 during the spurt for DePaul, which was 1 for 10 from beyond the arc in the opening 20 minutes and finished 5 for 19 (26.3 percent).
Smith-Rivera’s layup stopped a 6:30 scoring drought for the Hoyas, who regrouped to take a 25-23 lead into the locker room.
“We’ve been through a lot with the program this year,” Georgetown guard Jabril Trawick said. “I think it’s disappointing we didn’t come out with the win, but at the end of the day, I think that we’re a tournament team. I mean, we’ll see.”