GAME NOTES: The revamped Big East Conference begins play today, as the Georgetown Hoyas entertain the DePaul Blue Demons at Verizon Center.
Unfortunately for the Blue Demons, Big East openers have not been kind to the team over the years, winning just once in eight opportunities. The squad has dropped five straight games since defeating Villanova back in early 2008 by a score of 84-76.
In terms of this season, DePaul has a winning record for the time being, thanks largely to the fact that the non-conference schedule has been so favorable. The team has won four of the last five outings against the likes of Florida Atlantic, Chicago State, Houston Baptist and more recently, Northwestern (57-56) last Friday.
As for the Hoyas, one of the founding members of the league, they've rebounded nicely from a 1-2 start to the campaign by winning seven of the last eight outings. On Saturday, the program crushed Florida International, 92-57, a week after being dumped by Kansas on the road, 86-64.
Georgetown leads the all-time series with the Blue Demons by a count of 21-6 and has won all eight matchups while since DePaul joined the Big East. The latest meeting last season was a 90-66 blowout for the Hoyas at home. Georgetown has won 12 in a row overall in the series and seven straight at home.
It was a close call for the Blue Demons last week in Evanston, but the team managed to pull out the one-point win against Northwestern nonetheless. Sandi Marcius scored 12 points to lead the way, followed by Cleveland Melvin with 11 points and six rebounds, the latter stat moving Melvin into 21st place on the program's all-time rebounding list. The team survived despite shooting only 36.8 percent from the floor, 1-of-10 behind the 3-point line and 14-of-29 at the charity stripe.
Now seventh on the school's all-time scoring list, Melvin continues to pace the team in scoring on the season with 16.1 ppg, thanks to his 20-of-40 effort beyond the arc. He is also first with 7.1 rpg and a total of 16 blocked shots, so you can forgive him for having a mere 12 assists in more than 400 minutes of action. Brandon Young checks in with 14.5 ppg and picks up the slack in the passing department with a team-best 50 assists.
The meeting between the Hoyas and FIU was over long before the final buzzer as the hosts built an enormous 50-14 advantage at the break. Because the game was already under control, Georgetown emptied the bench and saw all but one of the 13 players that saw action score. Nate Lubick, Markel Starks, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera all tallied 15 points for the group, the latter also handing out six assists as the team shot 60.7 percent from the floor and held a 33-22 rebounding advantage.
Smith-Rivera currently leads a trio of double-digit scorers for the Hoyas with 16.3 ppg, followed by Starks (15.9 ppg) and Joshua Smith (12.7 ppg) as the squad generates a healthy 76.8 ppg. Lubick had a breakout game in terms of offense by his standards the last time out, currently averaging just 6.1 ppg, but it is his effort on the glass that makes him an integral part of the program with a team-best 6.2 rpg.
The Georgetown defense has proven to be rather strong against opponents that are not up to the challenge, limiting foes to just 66.0 ppg on 38.5 percent shooting from the floor, including 28.7 percent behind the 3-point line. If Melvin gets off to a slow start the Blue Demons could easily fall into that category.