INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera had a big homecoming planned for Tuesday night.
With some of his favorite fans in the crowd, he didn’t disappoint.
The junior guard helped force two turnovers and made the clinching free throws in the final 10 seconds to cap a 16-point night and help Georgetown hold on for a 60-54 upset at No. 21 Butler.
“It meant a lot to me to make those last two free throws,” said Smith-Rivera, who played prep ball at nearby North Central High School in Indy. “It meant a lot, too, to play well in front of a lot of people I grew up with.”
It wasn’t Smith-Rivera’s first trip to Hinkle Fieldhouse.
He won in the same venue last year with Georgetown (19-9, 11-6 Big East) and played a high school regional game on the Bulldogs’ home floor, too.
But this time was different.
The 6-foot-3 Smith-Rivera made the play of the game when he poked away a rebound from 6-9 forward Kameron Woods following a missed free throw with 10.2 seconds left and Georgetown clinging to a 56-54 lead. Smith-Rivera was fouled and made both free throws to seal it.
Afterward, the emotional junior reveled in the victory celebration by hugging those who came to watch.
“He had the ball, and coach usually tells me there to sprint back on defense, but Woods exposed the ball,” he said. “In my mind, it was either get it, or I would have been in trouble. I got it.”
ln some ways, it was a very strange night for the Hoyas, whose fourth win in five games kept them in the hunt for the No. 2 seed in next week’s Big East tournament. They were outrebounded 39-20 overall, 17-2 on the offensive end and outscored 15-2 on second-chance points.
In other ways, though, the game had John Thompson III’s trademark signature all over it.
Georgetown held Butler to 35.3 percent shooting, limited the Bulldogs’ top scorer Kellen Dunham to just eight points and had 10 blocks.
“Butler is a team that does not make mistakes. They don’t hurt themselves. You have to come into this place and find a way,” Thompson said. “Every time we would get up on them, they would make a run. But I thought we responded.
It was an odd night for the Bulldogs (21-9, 11-6), too.
They committed 15 turnovers including two in the final 10 seconds. If that didn’t cost them the game, their 10 of 22 shooting from the free-throw line did.
Dunham was held scoreless for the first 26 1/2 minutes and the last 11 1/2 minutes, forcing Butler to rely heavily on two seniors — Woods and Alex Barlow. Woods finished with 15 points and 16 rebounds, while Barlow had 13 points and four rebounds on Senior Night.
“The thing tonight that hurt was that we could have executed a lot better,” Barlow said.
Georgetown led 34-24 early in the second half, only to watch Butler charge back to regain the lead at 40-39.
But the Hoyas answered with five straight points and Smith-Rivera made sure Georgetown never trailed again.
Georgetown: Freshman Isaac Copeland has played a big role down the stretch. But after averaging 0.8 points and 6.7 rebounds in the previous 10 games, Copeland had five points on 1 of 6 shooting and three rebounds Tuesday.
Butler: Starting forward Andrew Chrabascz returned to action after missing the previous four games with a broken bone in his right hand. While the sophomore was active, he was not his usually efficient self, finishing with eight points and two rebounds.
Georgetown: hosts Seton Hall on Saturday,
Butler: visits No. 24 Providence on Saturday.
FOND FAREWELL: It wasn’t just a farewell game for Butler’s seniors. The school’s sports information director, Jim McGrath, worked his final home game, too. McGrath is retiring this year after 34 seasons as the head of Butler’s public relations staff in the athletic department. He was honored with a video tribute during the first media timeout.
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