The Georgetown men’s basketball team (14-14, 7-8 Big East) is set to host the Butler Bulldogs (18-9, 7-8 Big East) Saturday afternoon for Senior Day. The meeting between the two rivals will serve as the Hoyas’ final home game of the season before hitting the road for the last two regular season games heading into the Big East Tournament. The game will tip-off at 12:00 p.m. at Verizon Center, and will be televised on CBS.
The Hoyas are coming off a disappointing 88-70 loss to No. 5 Xavier (25-3, 13-3 Big East) last weekend in Verizon Center. Senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera led the Hoya offense with 18 points, while sophomore forward Isaac Copeland added 13 and sophomore guard LJ Peak contributed 12 of his own. The loss was Georgetown’s third straight, and sixth in the last seven games, dropping them to a three-way tie for sixth in the conference.
The Bulldogs dropped their most recent contest to the No. 1 Villanova Wildcats, 77-67, in the Pavilion. Sophomore forward Kelan Martin led the charge with 19 points, while the senior duo of Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham dropped 16 and 13, respectively, in the losing effort. The Bulldogs also currently sitting in the sixth seed, but own the tiebreaker over the Hoyas as they lead the season series 1-0.
Martin scored a career-high 35 points in the Bulldogs’ 87-76 victory when the two teams met in Indianapolis earlier in the month. Peak scored 22 and Smith-Rivera added 21 for the Hoyas.
The Hoyas plan to focus on defense in the rematch to limit the potent Butler offense. The Bulldogs average 80.3 points per game as a team, good for second in the conference, behind only Xavier.
“Defense usually gets the job done, even when you have off nights,” said Smith-Rivera. “Right now, I think that’s a big challenge for us, to defensively lock in and come out with some wins down the stretch.”
“[Butler’s] a veteran team,” said Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III. “They’re a team that plays with a hardness and a toughness. Martin is playing as well as anyone in the league right now.”
For three Hoya seniors, Smith-Rivera, center Bradley Hayes, and guard Riyan Williams, Saturday will mark their final game at Verizon Center in a Georgetown uniform.
Since beginning his career on the Hilltop four years ago, Smith-Rivera has shot his way to fifth-place on the all-time Georgetown scoring list, including 16.3 points per game in his senior season.
“Just seeing his maturity as a man, I’m not talking about his game…there’s been a lot of growth in D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera,” said Thompson. “He’s really grown up, and he’s ready for whatever the next phase holds.”
“It just went by so fast,” reflected the senior guard. “I appreciate it, and hopefully we can get a win.”
Hayes, who became a steady scorer and rebounder in his only season as a starter, is still suffering from a fractured hand that has kept him out of the previous three games.
“It’s horrible…[Hayes] worked so hard, and he cares so much,” said Thompson. “His care for this program is above and beyond most.”
Though Hayes will not be active against Butler, he has been outspoken that he will play again this season.
“I don’t know,” continued Thompson. “He has that hope. It may happen, to be honest. It may come down to pain tolerance. But at the end of the day, our doctors will be in that. I’m not going to let him play if I think he if that will in any way, shape, or form hurt him.”
Williams, the son of Hoya-great Reggie Williams, has seen very limited playing time during his tenure on the Hilltop. But according to Thompson, Williams’ playing time does not represent his impact on the team.
“Riyan is one of these guys, when people see what D’Vauntes has been able to do on the court, a lot of that is because of what Riyan does to him in practice,” praised Thompson. “He’s someone that every day in practice plays extremely hard.”
The Hoyas will have to fight to prevent the Bulldogs from spoiling the senior send-off. Regardless of the outcome, the senior trio will wave goodbye to the only fans they’ve known during their collegiate career.
“It’s bittersweet,” said Smith-Rivera. “But I’m excited for it.”