The Georgetown men’s basketball team (11-3, 1-0 Big East) picked up a big road win in their Big East opener against Butler (9-5, 0-1 Big East) on Wednesday night, 84-76. Scorching shooting from senior guard Greg Malinowski, who scored a career-high 26, helped the Hoyas overcome defensive lapses and poor free throw shooting in the victory. Malinowski was complemented by senior center Jessie Govan, who added 17, as the Blue and Gray built up a lead throughout the second half that proved insurmountable. With the win, Georgetown improves to 5-1 all-time at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
Despite their superior win-loss record, the Hoyas opened as 8.5-point underdogs in Indianapolis, even before it was announced freshman guard Mac McClung would miss his second straight game with an ankle injury.
Though Butler jumped out to a 7-2 lead within 2:01, freshman guard James Akinjo and Malinowski connected on back-to-back 3-pointers to push Georgetown out in front, 8-7. A Govan defensive rebound led to a layup from freshman forward Josh LeBlanc on the other end, and LeBlanc assisted another Akinjo three on the Hoyas’ next trip down. For Butler, a jumper from junior guard Henry Baddley was sandwiched between two more baskets from LeBlanc and Malinowski. Already, 26 points had been scored by the under-16 media timeout, with the Hoyas holding a 17-9 edge.
An and-one down low from sophomore center Joey Brunk pulled Butler within 5, but five straight points from Malinowski gave Georgetown their largest lead of the first half at 10. The Bulldogs would respond as head coach Patrick Ewing rested Govan, LeBlanc, and Malinowski. Baddley, who entered Wednesday averaging only 6.2 points, poured in 10 in quick succession as Butler took the lead, 27-24. Sophomore guard Jahvon Blair connected from deep to stop the bleeding for the Hoyas, and the two squads would largely share baskets for the rest of the half. Two triples from Govan would cancel out a trio of layups from Bulldog big men Brunk and senior Nate Fowler, while Malinowski and LeBlanc stayed in the mix with a layup apiece before half. The trio of Govan, LeBlanc, and Malinowski had accounted for 28 of the Hoyas 40 at the break, as they led by two.
Georgetown defended better after the break, with LeBlanc and Govan each adding baskets as part of an 8-2 run to stretch the Hoyas lead. Then, madness. Malinowski, the transfer from William & Mary averaging 5.8 points, scored 11 of the Hoyas’ next 14 in the ensuing seven minutes, the most unlikely of heroes maintaining the visitors’ arms-length lead. Malinowski would find senior guard/forward Kaleb Johnson underneath before Butler responded through senior guard Paul Jorgenson to pull within nine. On the ensuing possession, however, Malinowski’s sixth 3-pointer of the night on seven attempts at 4:47 effectively put the Hoyas’ Big East opener to rest.
The GU lead would swell to as many as 16 with less than three minutes to play before a frantic Bulldog comeback closed the gap by 10 points in just 1:24. Butler’s junior guard Kamar Baldwin, their leading scorer who the Hoyas generally kept in check, would miss a jumper that could have brought the hosts within four at 0:43, and Govan’s rebound and subsequent free throws put the finishing touches on Ewing’s best win of the season to date.
Despite the Hoyas’ elite offensive performance on a night during which they shot 12-of-22 from deep and 52.9 percent overall, Georgetown had their struggles at Hinkle. Butler grabbed fifteen offensive boards to the Hoyas’ five, while the Hoyas converted only 18-of-32 attempts at the free throw line, with LeBlanc going 2-for-9. 2017 Big East All-Freshman Jamorko Pickett’s struggles continued, as he was held scoreless on 0-for-5 shooting.
Next up for the Hoyas is a matchup with St. John’s (13-1, 1-1 Big East). The game will be broadcast on CBS with live stats available at guhoyas.com. Follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter for updates and coverage of all winter sports at Georgetown.
Image Credits: John Picker/The Georgetown Voice