PORTLAND, Ore. — All the talk that the Hoyas couldn’t handle underdogs can hush. Georgetown finally showed it can be a bully in March again.
D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 25 points, Mikael Hopkins had 10 points and nine rebounds, and fourth-seeded Georgetown avoided another NCAA Tournament upset by beating No. 13 seed Eastern Washington 84-74 on Thursday night.
“I’m glad we were playing basketball. I wouldn’t want to wrestle or play football against them,” said Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford. “They were intense.”
For good reason, too.
The Hoyas (22-10) had lost four of their last five tournament games — all to teams seeded 10th or worse — and fell behind by seven in the first half to the 3-point happy Eagles. Hayford had also predicted on a national radio show Wednesday that the Eagles would win, grabbing headlines that reached Georgetown’s locker room.
Hoyas coach John Thompson III said his players told him of the interview, and they were as eager as anybody to show — not talk about — what they could do.
“I didn’t need to stoke them up and didn’t want to calm them down,” Thompson said, then fired a friendly verbal jab back at Hayford’s failed prediction.
“Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of that, I think of Joe Namath, I think of Muhammad Ali, I think the Larry Bird and the 3-point shooting contest,” Thompson said. “The kids brought it to me and said, ‘Their coach is guaranteeing victory.’ I kind of looked down there at him. Thought he didn’t foot the bill of guys that usually guarantee victory. Our guys were fired up about that.”
Georgetown got its groove back behind effort, energy and its own long-range touch. The Hoyas went ahead by 23 early in the second half and held off Eastern Washington’s late rally.
They will face fifth-seeded Utah on Saturday in the round of 32.
“We felt like we had something to prove just in general,” said Georgetown’s Jabril Trawick, who added 10 points.
National scoring leader Tyler Harvey finished with 27 points, and Venky Jois had 19 points and eight rebounds for the Eagles (26-9), who entered averaging 80.8 points behind Harvey’s 22.9 per game.
Hayford said he didn’t regret his comments — they were meant to give his players confidence. And Hayford and his players agreed the words had little impact on the game.
Instead, the outcome had everything to do with Georgetown.
“We needed to shoot really well. Credit to them — they stopped us,” Jois said.
The Hoyas had hoped to exploit their size advantage, but Joshua Smith — their 6-foot-10, 350-pound center — picked up his second foul with 15:46 remaining in the first half and went to the bench. Smith was called for his third foul just 9 seconds into the second half and exited again.
The Eagles spread the floor and played just the kind of game they wanted: fast and filled with lots of 3-point attempts.
The problem? Georgetown could shoot it, too.
Eastern Washington made six of its first 12 shots from beyond the arc and took a 24-17 lead. But the Hoyas found their own stroke from deep, closing the half with a flurry to go up 43-33.
Georgetown finished 11 of 23 from long range. Eastern Washington was 9 of 28.
Smith-Rivera put the exclamation point on Georgetown’s streaky shooting by hitting consecutive 3-pointers during a second-half spurt that put the Hoyas ahead 58-35.
The Eagles, who rallied from 11 points down to beat Montana in the Big Sky championship, put a stir into the crowd when they closed within seven in the final seconds. But their last comeback bid simply ran out of time.