MEN'S BASKETBALL | Butler Dogfight Awaits GU
Published: Friday, February 7, 2014
Updated: Friday, February 7, 2014 00:02
The last time Georgetown (13-9, 4-6 Big East) and Butler met — a 70-67 overtime win for the Hoyas at Hinkle Fieldhouse — Georgetown found itself in a must-win situation. The Hoyas were coming off of an embarrassing 70-52 game at Providence and needed a victory to right the ship.
Despite riding a two-game win-streak for the first time in almost a month, the Hoyas will find themselves in a similar situation when the Bulldogs (12-10, 2-8 Big East) come to Verizon Center looking for revenge Saturday.
In that previous meeting, Georgetown gave up a first-half lead over Butler — something the Hoyas have become increasingly used to as of late — before senior guard Markel Starks hit a big three late in the game to force overtime. In the extra period, Georgetown was able to grind out a win.
Georgetown’s victory in Indiana proved to be its last in a while. The team struggled without suspended junior center Joshua Smith and injured junior guard Jabril Trawick, dropping five consecutive games. That number, tied for the longest losing streak in Head Coach John Thompson III’s time at Georgetown, looked certain to increase when the Hoyas traveled to New York to take on No. 7 Michigan State at Madison Square Garden last Saturday.
But the Hoyas persisted and, despite trailing for almost the entire first half, were able to escape with a 64-60 victory over the Spartans. Starks again carried the scoring load for Georgetown, finishing with 16 points, while sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera continued his poor shooting. Despite going only 2-of-13 from the floor, Smith-Rivera converted on eight of his nine free-throw attempts to add 12 points. His clutch free-throw shooting in the last minute stomped out a potential Spartans’ comeback.
A road match against DePaul on Monday night proved to be a similar story, as Starks scored the most points for the Hoyas and Smith-Rivera did most of his damage from the charity stripe. With Georgetown desperate to find a consistent third scoring option, Trawick — in his third game back from a broken jaw — stepped up to add 15 key points on an efficient 5-of-8 shooting.
Butler, meanwhile, has had its share of ups and downs since it last met Georgetown. After getting crushed by No. 20 Creighton, the Bulldogs battled back to edge Marquette in overtime before dropping consecutive games to Providence and St. John’s. Its subsequent victory over Seton Hall may be its best road win all year, but the Bulldogs could not maintain the same level of performance, losing their next game at Marquette.
Sophomore guard Kellen Dunham — who leads the Bulldogs in scoring — did the most damage in the first game against the Hoyas, scoring 21 points in the contest. Only two other Bulldogs — forwards Khyle Marshall and Andrew Chrabascz — finished with double-digit points, but big man Kameron Woods racked up 10 rebounds that almost keyed a Butler victory.
In order to stretch its winning streak to three, Georgetown will need a consistent third scoring option to emerge, something it has been lacking since the team lost Smith. Trawick was that option on Monday night, but it remains to be seen whether he can fill the role on a nightly basis going forward. The Hoyas will also need to control the glass. To do so however, their big men will have to do a better job of remaining in the game — in the first matchup against Butler, senior forward Nate Lubick, junior forward Mikael Hopkins and senior center Moses Ayegba all fouled out, forcing senior guard John Caprio into the game for long periods of time. The trio repeated the feat on Monday night in Chicago.
But in their last two games, the Hoyas have started to find a formula for success. Long half-court sets, tenacious defense and smart play have allowed Georgetown to grind out wins at the end of its last two contests.
As the calendar turns to February and the field of the NCAA tournament begins to take shape, Georgetown will need to continue its recent strong play if it hopes to qualify for the tournament for a fifth straight year. Several projections currently have the Hoyas among the first few teams out of the field. Butler, meanwhile, is still looking to find its footing in a new conference under a new coach.
Tipoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. at Verizon Center.