It was an all too familiar story for the Georgetown men’s basketball team at Hinkle Fieldhouse on Jan. 6. The Hoyas led the Butler Bulldogs 34-27 at halftime but saw their lead trickle away as the second half wore on and lost 63-55. This marks the fourth time this season that the Hoyas have lost a game they led at halftime.
Georgetown (3-7, 1-5 Big East) came into Wednesday’s matchup looking to extend Head Coach Patrick Ewing’s (CAS ’85) hot streak on Butler’s home court. Ewing had won all three of his previous matchups as a coach at Hinkle Fieldhouse.
The Hoyas looked dominant out of the gate and rode a great start from senior guard Jahvon Blair to an early 11-3 lead over the Bulldogs (3-6, 2-4 Big East). When first-year guard Dante Harris hit his second three-pointer with 13:58 remaining in the first half, Georgetown was up by 11 points, the team’s largest lead of the night.
The Hoyas were moving the ball well and getting good looks from beyond the arc. They knocked down four of their first five three-pointer attempts, stretching the floor for sophomore center Qudus Wahab to go to work on the smaller Butler big men. Georgetown also took care of the ball surprisingly well, not turning it over for more than seven minutes and making crisp passes on the fast break and in the halfcourt offense.
Outside of a few miscommunications, the Hoyas also looked strong on defense. When their offense sputtered, they were able to get stops on the other end of the court and force Butler into long three-point attempts at the end of the shot clock. Wahab rose up for a big block against Butler forward Bryce Golden just a few minutes into the game. Wahab is averaging 2.6 blocks per game, good for third in the Big East.
The Hoyas went into the halftime break with a comfortable 7-point lead, having played some of their best basketball of the season. They shot 46% from three-point territory, made 67% of their free throws and held Butler to its fourth-lowest first-half scoring output of the year. All five starters pitched in at least 5 points in the first half. Senior forward Jamorko Pickett missed his first five field goal attempts, but he was able to knock down some key shots late in the first half to keep the Hoyas up.
As has become typical for this Georgetown team, this was truly a game of two halves. The Hoyas came out of the locker room flat, and Butler took advantage, going on a 5-0 run and forcing Coach Ewing to call a timeout only 44 seconds into the second half. The team gathered itself, and a stepback three-pointer from Jahvon Blair pushed the Hoyas ahead 37-32 with 18:53 to play.
“We came out of the half and made two crucial mistakes,” Ewing said after the game. “From there on, our defense was poor and we weren’t able to get enough stops to get away with a win.”
In the minutes following the Blair three-pointer, the teams traded baskets, and the Georgetown lead hovered around 5 points. Graduate transfer forward Chudier Bile provided some energy off the bench, pulling down an offensive rebound and going up hard for the basket and the foul. He put the Hoyas up 47-38 with a three-pointer minutes later, but his performance was somewhat erratic, as he turned the ball over three times and picked up three personal fouls in only 12 minutes of play.
After a first half in which they were able to consistently find the open man, the Hoyas found themselves settling for low-percentage shots and letting Butler dictate the pace of the second half. Butler was able to run right through the Georgetown defense, driving to the paint and finishing a series of uncontested layups under the basket.
“It was bad decisions, bad shots, turnovers,” Ewing said of the team’s second-half struggles. “The same things that have been our Achilles’ heel.”
Pickett knocked down two free throws and made a layup to keep Georgetown in the game with 5:49 left to play, and the two teams were knotted at 55 with 3:30 remaining on the second-half clock. On Butler’s next possession, the Hoyas locked up their main offensive weapons and forced a last-second midrange jumper from a reluctant Golden at the end of the shot clock. He swished it, and the Hoyas were behind for the first time in the game with 1:49 remaining.
Pickett went down the court and missed a jumper. Butler guard Aaron Thompson, back for his first game since suffering a knee injury Dec. 16, put his team ahead 59-55 with only one second on the shot clock and 55 seconds remaining in the game. This deficit would prove insurmountable for the Hoyas, and they would not score again.
Once again, the Georgetown Hoyas showed flashes of impressive play but were unable to come up with the baskets they needed in the final minutes. Pickett filled up the stat sheet with 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Blair added 11 points, Wahab had twelve rebounds, and Bile had 7 points and three rebounds off the bench. Wahab and Pickett are now first and third respectively in the Big East rebounding rankings, with 8.8 and 8.7 boards per game.
In his postgame press conference, Coach Ewing addressed the insurrection that occurred at the United States Capitol earlier in the day.
“I’m saddened as a proud American to see the people breaching the Capitol and all the difficult things that are going on there,” Ewing said. “I hope that the folks in the Washington, D.C. area and our Georgetown community continue to stay safe.”
The Hoyas drop to 3-7 on the season and 1-5 in Big East play.