Stifling zone defense keys Hoyas comeback against Butler

December 31, 2020

Photo by John Picker/The Georgetown Voice

The Georgetown Hoyas women’s basketball team (1-1, 1-1 Big East) defeated the Butler Bulldogs (0-4, 0-3 Big East) on Thursday afternoon at McDonough Arena by a score of 56-45. A masterful second half on the defensive end which saw the Bulldogs score just 10 points in the half and 4 when the outcome was still in doubt allowed the Hoyas to mount a comeback against a shorthanded Butler team. Freshman guard Yasmin Ott played all 40 minutes in the game and paced all scorers with 13 points, while junior forward Jillian Archer collected a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. For the visitors, junior forward Okako Adika scored 11 points and secured 9 rebounds, and redshirt freshman guard Tenley Dowell added 9 points on 3-5 shooting from deep.

Butler was not able to get anything going early thanks in large part to the Hoyas inside presence. Early blocks from sophomore forward Graceann Bennett and freshman guard Kelsey Ransom led to a 1-7 start from the field for the Bulldogs, who also turned the ball over twice in the first five minutes. Butler went on a 13-0 run after that, keyed by hot three-point shooting from Adika, Dowell, and graduate guard Micah Scheetz. The Hoyas also struggled with getting stops, as the Bulldogs began to attack the basket and senior guard Upe Atosu made all four of her free throws in the opening frame. 

“I think they had a great game plan when they came in. I always tell our kids that people say we only have nine, but nine is enough. Butler showed today that seven is enough,” said Georgetown head coach James Howard. “I tip my hat to them for coming in and they really had us on the ropes.”

Early in the second quarter, it was Georgetown’s turn to get hot from the field. They were able to stay in the game thanks to their inside defense, and Ott (8 points in the first half, 2-3 from three) as well as Ransom (8 points, 2-3 from three) were able to hit open looks from deep. Archer set the tone inside, grabbing 4 offensive rebounds in the half and adding 7 points off of several putback opportunities. Butler was still able to maintain the lead at halftime, as they shot 50% from the field and from three in the second quarter. The second-chance points for the Hoyas ultimately helped them draw closer, with their length being a major reason for this change.

“To get her back into actual action of the game and get her feel back, I was impressed with what she did on the offensive glass,” said Howard of Archer. “She got the ball to spots on the floor where she could score and be effective.”

After a relatively sloppy start to the third quarter, Georgetown’s length and offensive rebounding helped them generate scoring chances. This time, it came from freshman guard Jazmyn Harmon collecting a board and getting a strong and-one to go. Ott followed up with a three at the top of the key after catching her defender cheating off of her, and the Hoyas pulled even with the Bulldogs at 37 apiece after previously trailing by 11. Georgetown retook the lead with their stifling defense and a 12-0 run keyed by the teamwork between Bennett and Ott. For the quarter, Butler had the same number of shot clock violations as points (2) as the Hoyas played with discipline and communication defensively.

“Jazmyn Harmon, Yasmin Ott, and Kelsey Ransom came in here with a lot of defensive swag,” said Howard. “I knew I was going to get three kids that were going to compete every night, no matter what.”

Once the Hoyas turned up their defensive effort, Butler was not able to get back into the game in the fourth quarter. A combination of turnovers, missed shots, and a lack of second chance opportunities buried the Bulldogs late, as the Hoyas played to their strengths by winning the rebounding battle and using their length to disrupt the Butler offense. Georgetown allowed just ten points in the second half to a shorthanded Butler team, making the necessary adjustments defensively and showing Butler a 1-2-2 zone defense that stumped their attack.

“They were getting great penetration in the first half, and they were really putting their heads down and attacking us off the dribble,” said Howard. “The best zone for a penetrating team was a 1-2-2 look, and we were able to shut down the lane line drives and force them to play a little wider. Then we had good rotation, and when I saw that it gave them a problem, we stayed with it.”

The team statistics showed a Hoyas team that played with heart and hustle against a Bulldogs team that just could not keep up towards the end. Georgetown racked up 12 offensive rebounds compared to Butler’s 8, and they resoundingly won the battle of second-chance points by a margin of 16-0. They also made better decisions with the basketball, committing just 12 turnovers while forcing 16. Even when trailing by double digits early, the Hoyas continued to fight and made the adjustments needed to come away with the victory.

“We could’ve held our heads down when we got down 13 or so, and it could’ve been a 20-something point loss, but this young team showed me that they have fight,” said Howard. “This is a little different from the last year, because I don’t know if we would’ve come out of it. But after this game, I’m liking the fight that I’m seeing in these first two games.”

The Hoyas will fight again right after the new year, when they travel to Villanova (7-1, 2-1 Big East) on January 2. Tipoff is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. and the game will be broadcasted on the Big East Digital Network which is streaming on FloHoops. For continued coverage of women’s basketball and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.

Nathan Chen
is the Sports Executive. He was born and bred in the DC Sports Bog and is ready to die in it.

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