Freshman stepping up in absence of Whittington
D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera needed only a half game before he showed what he was capable of offensively for Georgetown.
After the Hoyas' original season opener against Florida on board the USS Bataan was scrapped at halftime, Smith-Rivera erupted for 19 points in the Hoyas' first official game against Duquesne, including going 4-for-4 from 3-point range.
The freshman guard from Indianapolis hasn't quite matched the same level of production since. But he's moving closer, scoring 14 and 16 points in Georgetown's last two games and emerging as a key replacement for suspended Greg Whittington.
|No. 5 Louisville at Georgetown|
|When » Saturday, noon|
|Where » Verizon Center|
|TV » ESPN|
"I think it took me a few games to understand what my role was," said Smith-Rivera, who is more often referred to by his initials: DSR. The nickname fits his powerful but compact 6-foot-3 frame. At 227 pounds, he's outweighed only by one starter, Nate Lubick (6-8, 235), and one reserve who has seen somewhat regular minutes, Moses Ayegba (6-9, 250).
Smith-Rivera doesn't lack in confidence at either end of the floor, and his increasing comfort defensively has affected his scoring. He put up 12 of his 14 points in the second half of Georgetown's runaway 63-47 win over Notre Dame on Monday. After the Fighting Irish closed within three points, he missed one 3-point attempt but then didn't hesitate to take the same shot a second time after an offensive rebound, sparking an 18-0 run.
"I think he's working harder on the defensive end," Hoyas coach John Thompson III said. "He's gone to a situation where he has to work really hard. You're going to play someone really good every night. He's getting used to that and the pace that you have to play."
The Hoyas (13-4, 3-3 Big East), who traditionally struggle in rebounding -- they're 13th in the conference (33.2 per game) -- also have welcomed Smith-Rivera's ability to pursue the ball. He pulled down 10 boards in a 67-51 win over St. John's on Jan. 12 and has averaged 4.2 rebounds in Big East games.
After losing just once in nonconference play, Georgetown is still searching for consistency, and it wasn't easy for a player who went 44-0 with Oak Hill (Va.) last year to watch Thompson limit the rotation to six or seven players.
"Some of the guys on the team were just trying to figure out what their roles were," Smith-Rivera said. "Some guys wanted to be on the court more than they were. But at the same time, the only way we can win is if guys understand their roles and what to do when they're out there."
Smith-Rivera faces his toughest matchup of the year Saturday against No. 5 Louisville (16-3, 4-2), which is coming off back-to-back losses to Syracuse and Villanova.
"We all gotta go through our bumps and bruises," Georgetown junior guard Markel Starks said. "This is going to be a real test to see if he is our premier freshman. We'll see."