Hoyas fall at Butler with another second half shutdown

January 6, 2021

Photo by John Picker/The Georgetown Voice

The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (3-7, 1-5 Big East) fell to the Butler Bulldogs (3-5, 2-3 Big East) on Wednesday evening at Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis, Indiana by a score of 63-55. It was the same song, 80th verse for the Hoyas as they claimed an early double-digit lead and gave it away because of their own mistakes and a lack of offensive firepower. Senior forward Jamorko Pickett led the visitors in scoring with 12 points, 11 rebounds, and 4 assists, while senior guard Jahvon Blair added 11 points and 8 rebounds and sophomore center Qudus Wahab had 9 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman guard Chuck Harris paced all scorers with 18 points and 5 assists, and graduate guard Jair Bolden added 13 points and 6 rebounds for the home team.

Once again, the game opened with promise for the Hoyas. Their solid fundamental defensive play at the outset, which forced several misses and two turnovers from the Bulldogs, translated into transition offense at the other end, with Blair connecting on an early triple and layup. The Hoyas were also doing a much better job of moving the ball around, collecting four assists on their first five field goals, including two from freshman guard Dante Harris. Georgetown started the game with excellent discipline, going nearly 8 minutes before committing their first turnover. On the other hand, the Bulldogs began the game 3-12 from the field and 2-7 from three, contributing to an early 19-8 lead for the Hoyas.

Butler started to get back into the game thanks to Chuck Harris, who connected on three early catch-and-shoot triples as the Hoyas offense dried up from the field. The Hoyas also had trouble holding defensively, with three Butler offensive rebounds and a few Georgetown turnovers from the second unit allowing the Bulldogs to draw within 3 points. It seemed that as the starters left the game, so too did the unselfishness and offensive creativity.

Once the starters returned to the game, they were able to restore the lead and reopen the flow of the offense. 6 of their first 7 assists came from the starting lineup, allowing the Hoyas to open a 29-20 lead with a balanced attack. However, Chuck Harris continued to hurt the Hoyas, with a transition layup as part of a 7-0 run that brought Butler back within 2. Though they cooled off significantly from the field, Georgetown was able to hold Butler at arm’s length for the half, taking a 34-27 lead into the locker room. Harris was the only one keeping Butler in the contest,  contributing 11 first-half points while the rest of the team shot 6-20 from the field. 

“Transition defense was a big part of the first half. You had three threes in transition, so you’re looking at 12 points on the board because we weren’t back,” said Butler head coach LaVall Jordan. “That was a big challenge at halftime, to run harder.”

Like clockwork, the Hoyas began the second half allowing a jumper to senior guard Aaron Thompson, turning the ball over, and seeing Chuck Harris sink a three from the corner. This forced Ewing to call for time less than a minute into the half. Though the Hoyas committed two early turnovers, they were able to get the ball inside to Wahab and increase the pace of the game, trading baskets with the Bulldogs to maintain a two-possession edge. Graduate forward Chudier Bile started to come alive in the second half, knocking down a wide open three and grabbing two offensive rebounds to set up second-chance opportunities. Meanwhile, Butler started the second half cold, shooting 5-15 from the field and 1-6 from three. Though the Hoyas had five turnovers in the first eight minutes of the half, they held onto their lead due to this poor shooting.

The Bulldogs were able to draw within two by getting senior forward Bryce Nze involved for a couple buckets inside, but Pickett responded with a rainbow three. It was clear that both offenses had trouble creating shots though, which kept the margin relatively close to what it had been at halftime. The Hoyas’ second-half mistakes ultimately came back to haunt them, as Bolden drained a three to tie the game at 51. Pickett and Nze started to trade baskets, and the Hoyas went into the final media timeout with just a two-point lead.

Georgetown failed yet again down the stretch, as they could not buy a make near the end while Butler took the lead on a jumper from Bryce Golden and a layup from Aaron Thompson. Both shots came within the last second of the shot clock, and they forced Ewing to call for time. After Dante Harris missed a difficult layup and Carey hit the top of the backboard on a three, Butler salted the game away as the Hoyas ended on a scoring drought of 4:29.

Many of the same problems plagued the Hoyas again tonight. They committed 9 turnovers and shot 24.1% from the field in the second half. When they needed a bucket the most at the end of the game, they did not have anyone who could get it. Ewing emphasized the need for his upperclassmen to step up in the critical moments of the game.

“Bad decisions. Bad shots. Turnovers. The same things that’s been our Achilles heel,” said Ewing of the second half. “My upperclassmen, they have to do their part to help us to be a better team. I’m disappointed. This was a disappointing loss for me.”

There was a lot more on everyone’s minds than just basketball, given the violent attacks on the Capitol building earlier in the day. Both coaches took time to address the issue.

“I’m saddened to see, as a proud American, all the difficulties – people breaching our Capitol and all the difficult things that are going on there,” said Ewing. “I hope the Washington, D.C.-area folks and also our Georgetown community continue to stay safe.”

“You’re paying attention to, as we have been throughout 2020, things that are going on in the country, it affects all of us,” said Jordan. “There’s a lot bigger things than basketball. We’re all aware of that. In a lot of ways, we’re gonna be the example, be the change that we want to see.”

Georgetown’s next game will be at longtime rival Syracuse (6-2, 1-1 ACC) on January 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPN2. For continued coverage of men’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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