The Georgetown men’s basketball team faltered late in another Big East matchup Jan. 28 at Capital One Arena, falling 69-64 to No. 16 Butler, after leading by eleven at halftime and tying the score with just a minute and a half to play.
The Hoyas (12-9, 2-6 Big East) started the game with promise, edging the Bulldogs offensively and setting themselves up to take down their third ranked opponent of the season and pick up their third conference win. Big three-pointers by Butler (17-4, 5-3 Big East) and missed opportunities by the Blue and Gray in the second half, however, helped hand the Hoyas their third consecutive loss.
Sophomore guard Mac McClung put the game’s first points on the board when he hit a tough fade-away runner on the baseline. After the successful start, the Hoyas were quick to push the ball in transition throughout the contest. They found success with a fast-tempo strategy in the first half, sinking 14 of 30 attempts from the field and shooting 50% from behind the arc.
After tying the game at 12, Georgetown went on an 8-0 run capped off by a fast break dunk from freshman center Qudus Wahab to claim a decent lead. Wahab continued his streak of strong performances, tallying ten points and five rebounds in just ten minutes of action.
Early foul trouble for Butler also boded well for the Hoyas. The referees called the game tightly throughout the contest, and Georgetown found itself in the bonus with 9:44 still remaining in the first half. The Blue and Gray converted on its free throw opportunities resulting from the Bulldogs’ physical play, shooting 85% from the line in the game.
Senior guard Jagan Mosely scored 11 points and grabbed seven rebounds in the effort, backing his offensive performance with a solid showing on defense. Matched up against the Bulldogs’ leading scorer, senior guard Kamar Baldwin, Mosely played tight defense. He limited Baldwin, averaging 16 points a game, to just two shot attempts in the first half, though Baldwin’s strong effort down the stretch left him with 13 points for the contest and a strong victory for a Butler team that had been cooling off after rising to number two in the AP poll.
Head Coach Patrick Ewing (CAS ’85) commented on the team’s dominant defensive efforts in the first that allowed the Blue and Gray to pull ahead of the Bulldogs.
“In the first half, we were getting stops. Our defense was fueling our offense and in the second half, it wasn’t the case,” Ewing said in an interview with GUHoyas.
The Hoyas frequently turned their tough defense into transition offense. Just before the half, Georgetown pieced together an 8-0 run spearheaded by back-to-back three-pointers from graduate student guard Terrell Allen and McClung. The Hoyas headed to the tunnel with a 43-32 lead over their nationally-ranked opponent.
Second-half struggles, the Achilles’ heel of the Georgetown season thus far, plagued the Blue and Gray once again as the Hoyas faltered in the second half. The Hoyas’ difficulties late in regulation were the opposite problem from the team’s previous game, a bout with Xavier in Cincinnati, Oh., which saw the Hoyas only score 23 points in the opening period.
Butler was led by senior forward Sean McDermott, who shot efficiently throughout the game. McDermott found multiple open looks from beyond the arc early in the second half and converted three straight three-pointers to put Butler up 50-46, capping a 18-3 run to start the half. McDermott finished with a game-high 25 points, eight rebounds and 75% field goal shooting.
Despite Butler’s strong second half performance, Georgetown did not relinquish the game easily. With 5:48 remaining, Mosely hit a clutch triple to cut the deficit to one. As the end of play neared with a minute and a half left on the clock, senior center Omer Yertseven poked the ball away from a Butler player to gain possession for the Blue and Gray. On the breakaway, Yurtseven was fouled by Butler and took to the line for two free throws, converting both chances to knot the game at 64.
McDermott, however, struck again. On a set play, he was left wide open and knocked down another three-pointer to reclaim the Bulldogs’ lead. Mosely found an open three on the ensuing possession but could not sink the three-pointer to match the score at 67.
Clutch free throws by the Bulldogs left the Hoyas out of contention as Georgetown trailed by five with 30 seconds remaining. As the cheers at Capital One Arena died down and Hoya fans fell into silence, Butler ran down the clock and Georgetown suffered its sixth conference loss of the season.
The Hoyas next take the floor at Madison Square Garden, where they will look to beat St. John’s for the second time this season and pick up their third conference win. Tipoff is set for Sunday, Feb. 2 at 1 p.m.