The Georgetown Hoyas completed a sweep of their first-ever BIG EAST season series with the Butler Bulldogs with a 71-63 victory at home in the Verizon Center.
It was an important win for the Hoyas, but not the sort of performance that suggests that they are anything more than the bubble fodder they have been most of the year.
Georgetown got off to its normal slow start, punctuated by the typically unwatchable offense that failed to generate any kind of decent looks at the basket. Two long, contested threes by Markel Starks and a wild, running lefty hook by Mikael Hopkins typified the action.
Butler took a five point lead after five minutes thanks to good early work on the offensive boards and two early threes by Kellen Dunham.
Butler maintained the lead for the first 15 minutes of the game in the midst of horrible shooting by both teams. Hopkins picked up two early fouls and spent most of the game in foul trouble. Rather than turn to backup center Moses Ayegba, Coach John Thompson III spent most of the game using a smaller lineup with swingmen Aaron Bowen and Jabril Trawick off the bench.
This would help contain Dunham (15 points on 4 of 11 shooting), but also resulted in Georgetown’s defense being more vulnerable in the paint.
In particular, the team struggled to stop freshman forward Andrew Chrabascz, who blistered the Hoyas for a career high 24 points on 9-of-12 shooting.
Georgetown saw their play improve and went into the locker room with a 29-25 lead. The offense was boosted by several back door cuts featuring Nate Lubick (a strong 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting with 7 rebounds) on both ends, a couple of easy buckets in transition, as well as a rare Aaron Bowen three (the only three hit by Georgetown in 12 attempts in the game).
Georgetown maintained its slim lead for the first ten minutes of the first half. Markel Starks (19 points on 7-of-13 shooting) once again led the Hoya offense while D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera continued to struggle from the perimeter. DSR did contribute in the second half by attacking to the rim and getting to the free throw line for a perfect 8-for-8 performance, finishing with 18 points. On defense, the Hoyas continued to give up points inside and struggled to stop Chrabascz.
The Hoyas opened it up later when Hopkins returned. This helped the interior defense and forced the Bulldogs into several bad shots down the stretch. Combined with the effectiveness of Starks and DSR, it was too much for the outmanned Bulldogs to handle.
Georgetown managed to limit their fouls and stay even from the free throw line for the third straight game (16-19 compared to Butler’s 17-21). This is an encouraging sign in an area that bedeviled the Hoyas for most of the season. The Hoyas also managed to shoot a healthy 49.1 percent from the field and limited themselves to six turnovers. This enabled them to post a rare semblance of offensive efficiency that they desperately need going forward.
However, some of the same weaknesses showed up again in this game.
Georgetown shot an unsightly 8.33 percent from 3-point range, continuing a string of poor performances from downtown. In contrast to some of the elite Hoya squads of recent years it is clear at this point that this team simply is not a threat from the perimeter.
Also, Hopkins’s foul trouble and the struggles defending the paint reminded Hoya fans that the shortage of big bodies can make this team vulnerable and undercut the team’s generally excellent perimeter defense.
Another question going forward involves Reggie Cameron.
The freshman has been starting for the last nine games since Jabril Trawick went out with a broken jaw. However, he has been a virtual non-factor and once again did virtually nothing, scoring two points on 1-of-4 shooting with one assist). Aaron Bowen replaced him to start the second half, and when Trawick went out late with a brief injury, he was replaced not by Cameron but by former walk-on John Caprio. Cameron has essentially been a shooting specialist who is not all that great as a shooter this year.
It is now an open question what role, if any, he will play on the team going forward this season.
Georgetown won this game with the formula we can expect them to use the rest of the season: ugly play, tough defense, and an aggressive offensive approach trying to get to the basket. The uptick in shooting and continued control of the team’s foul problems are encouraging signs, but there are still quite a bit of holes here.
The Hoyas remain a team perched on the edge of the NCAA Tournament. Monday’s home game against Providence will serve as an eliminator for the next version of Joe Lunardi’s bracket.