Men’s Basketball | GU Preps for Bulldog Battle

FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA Sophomore forward Isaac Copeland is third on the team in points with 9.7 per game and second in rebounds with five per game. Copeland has scored in the double digits once in Georgetown’s past seven games.

FILE PHOTO: MICHELLE XU/THE HOYA
Sophomore forward Isaac Copeland is third on the team in points with 9.7 per game and second in rebounds with five per game. Copeland has scored in the double digits once in Georgetown’s past seven games.

No team has experienced a more difficult start to conference play than the Butler men’s basketball team (14-7, 3-6 Big East), and it has since fallen from the rankings despite having been ranked as highly as No. 10 in the country entering Big East play. The Georgetown men’s basketball team (13-9, 6-3 Big East) will head to Indianapolis to face the struggling Butler squad in an effort to reclaim a grasp on second place in the conference after dropping a close home game to No. 11 Providence (18-4, 7-2 Big East) this past Saturday.

The Bulldogs rank in the middle of the pack of the Big East in most major statistics. They are an average three-point shooting team within the conference and defend the three at an average rate as well — ranking fourth in offense and seventh in defense. Georgetown, coming off its worst three-point shooting performance of conference play thus far, will look to rebound against an inconsistent Butler team.

“I don’t want to equate sense of urgency with panic, but you know, we got nine games left and we are … two games out of first place. [We’ve] got to win,” Head Coach John Thompson III said of the team beginning the second half of conference play.

Similarly to its game against Providence, Georgetown will likely need to focus on stifling two star players in the Butler matchup: senior guard Roosevelt Jones and senior guard Kellen Dunham. However, unlike the Friars, the Bulldogs boast a third option on their roster who has made a sizeable leap in his performance from last season to this season.

“Both of those two kids are so poised,” Thompson said. “You put around them, a kid like [Kelan Martin] … he’s made a significant jump; he’s playing with extreme confidence right now. They score in bunches.”

In its nonconference games, Butler was one of the most efficient offenses in the country. In fact, despite scoring 1.03 points per possession in nine games, the Bulldogs’ offense overall is still at 1.15 points per possession, placing them among the top 20 in the country.

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ISABEL BINAMIRA/THE HOYA Senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes, left, averages 8.7 points per game and leads the team with 6.8 rebounds per game this season.

While Jones and Dunham are consistent threats, averaging a combined 30.7 points between them, Martin has been Butler’s spark off the bench, anchoring its starting lineup with nearly 15 points per game, 49 percent shooting from the field and an efficient 40 percent shooting from three. Martin also pulls down 6.2 rebounds per game and averages about 25 minutes per game.

However, the Bulldogs have been missing a key piece of their offense for the past few games. Junior guard Tyler Lewis suffered a concussion a few weeks ago and sat out the past three games. Before he was injured, Lewis had helped to initiate the team’s offense and get Dunham and Jones open looks over the course of the season.

A team like Butler, which relies heavily on guard play and has no real interior presence, runs the risk of a big game from the Hoyas’ big men, senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes and freshman center Jessie Govan.

“We’ve got to start looking at getting to the inside more. Not just throwing it into the post, but also attacking the rim and not just from our bigs, but from our forwards as well,” Hayes said.

In a matchup where the Hoyas’ size can be an overall advantage, sophomore forward Isaac Copeland can take this opportunity to rebound from a slew of inefficient games. Though he has performed well defensively, his scoring has left much to be desired. Copeland scored in double figures in 12 of the Hoyas’ first 14 games, but has only done so once in their last seven games.

Copeland’s strength comes from attacking the rim, where he has shot 79 percent on the season. However, he has not built on that figure in three of the past four games, attempting zero shots at the rim.

Copeland, who many pundits and fans expected to make a leap during his sophomore season, has regressed since his hot start to the year. However, Georgetown’s last home matchup against Butler marks a special place in the career of the young forward, who notched 10 points, grabbed six rebounds and drained the game-winning three-pointer in a 61-59 win.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. and the game will be shown on Fox Sports 1.

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