WASHINGTON -- Markel Starks was aggressive on offense throughout the Georgetown Hoyas' New Year's Eve game against DePaul.
When the Hoyas were sluggish in the first half, he kept them in it. When they pulled ahead to stay after intermission, he led the way.
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Starks scored 21 points and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 12 as Georgetown defeated the Blue Demons 61-54 Tuesday in the Big East opener for both teams.
"I think that opportunities presented themselves and I took advantage them," Starks said after finishing two points shy of his career high.
In addition to his scoring, Starks played the role of motivator, getting his teammates and the crowd engaged in what was an uneventful game early on.
"We needed to win. We went through a couple lapses, and we just can't have that," he said. "I try to do both: motivate my teammates as well as perform on the court."
Billy Garrett Jr. led DePaul (8-6) with 17 and Brandon Young scored 13.
The Hoyas have won eight of nine and it was their 13th straight win against the Blue Demons.
DePaul led by as many as eight in the first half, and were within six several times in the final minutes. They shot 32.7 percent (18 of 55) and turned the ball over 18 times.
"I told the guys this is the way it's going to be on the road in the Big East, and we need to do a better job of taking care of the basketball clearly," DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said.
The Hoyas (9-3) were up by four at intermission and led 40-31 after Smith-Rivera's driving layup with 15:28 to play.
Young's 3-pointer pulled DePaul to within 40-38, but Georgetown scored three quick points and maintained a slim lead past the midway point of the second half.
With the Hoyas ahead 45-42, Starks scored on a fast-break layup following a steal and Georgetown scored nine straight -- six by Starks -- to open a 12-point lead with 5:24 left.
The Blue Demons made just 13 of 26 free throws, and missed 10 of 16 in the second half, in their lowest-scoring game of the season.
"I thought we just shot ourselves in the foot time and time again at the line, not making the game much closer," Purnell said. "(We) had chances to go to the line and really tighten things up. I thought they had trouble guarding us, and they were fouling us."
The Georgetown-DePaul matchup was one of five opening-day games for the reconfigured Big East Conference. Seven Big East schools formed a basketball-only league and added Xavier, Butler and Creighton.
DePaul started 1 of 10 from the field, but Georgetown went nearly 5 minutes without a point and led just 13-8 after Starks 3-pointer with 9:28 left.
The Blue Demons took the lead, 14-13, when Young inbounded the ball off a Hoya, grabbed it and made the layup.
Georgetown remained cold and Cleveland Melvin's dunk capped a 10-0 run that gave DePaul a 20-13 lead at the 4:57 mark.
After switching out of it early, Georgetown coach John Thompson III went back to his 1-2-2 zone press, which sparked a rally.
"We started off in (the 1-2-2) and it wasn't effective, and we came back to it and it got our juices flowing a little bit," Thompson said. "It was key, we went from down eight or nine until Aaron Bowen hit that shot at the buzzer and we went up four and our press had a lot to do with that."
"I thought it was effective throughout the game, to tell you the truth. I don't think we went on that much of a run in the second half, but we still had a few turnovers and it kept them on their heels a little bit."
The Hoyas went on 14-2 run to intermission.
"We certainly were ready for the 1-2-2 as well as the 2-2-1, but the 1-2-2 did give us some problems," Purnell said. "(I'm) disappointed with the 18 turnovers, that 1-2-2 had a lot to do with it."
Bowen ended the half when he grabbed a loose ball and hit a turnaround jumper from beyond the arc at the buzzer to make it 29-25.
"On the last shot, we had a chance to get that rebound, we didn't get it. They made a 3. I thought that was a big basket," Purnell said.
The teams combined for 25 first-half turnovers, and Starks had 11 points in the first 20 minutes.
Georgetown plays host to St. John's on Saturday and DePaul travels to Marquette.