For the first time this season, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (13-10, 6-4 Big East) allowed an opponent to make more than 50 percent of its shots from the field, losing to Butler (15-7, 4-6 Big East) 87-76 on Tuesday night. But it was not the first time this season that the Hoyas let the opposing team’s star player reach his career-high game in points — Georgetown’s defense has struggled continuously this season to stave off standout players — as the Bulldogs’ sophomore forward phenom Kelan Martin scored 35 points and recorded eight rebounds and four blocks.
Butler staved off a late Georgetown rally with Georgetown coming as close as four points in the final minutes of the game. Senior guard and co-captain D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and sophomore guard L.J. Peak once again led the way for the Hoyas with 21 and 22 points, respectively. Smith-Rivera contributed seven assists, and the Hoyas moved the ball better than the Bulldogs, recording 15 assists to their opponents’ eight. However, the star power of Butler’s other wings, senior guards Roosevelt Jones and Kellen Dunham, proved to be more than enough to make up for Butler’s lack of assists and 11 turnovers.
Martin, who was just coming off a 25-point performance in his last game, continued his stellar play for the Bulldogs, who had been searching for a bounce-back conference win after a rocky start to Big East play. For the Hoyas, this marks their second straight loss.
Martin started off hot, scorching the Hoyas’ defense for 19 first-half points. At the end of the game, Martin’s points per possession average was at 1.50.
According to Martin, this was only the second game of the season where he has played his current position.
“I’ve been playing mostly [small forward] lately, these past two games. I’m just coming out of practice, practicing hard every day, getting extra shots up after practice – just trying to continue to develop,” Martin said.
Butler came out making the majority of their first-half shots and mounting a nine-point halftime lead against a Georgetown squad that was not only struggling to defend, but to score as well. Things picked up in the second half, with the teams combining to score 82 points.
However, the Hoyas could not stay out of foul trouble, recording 11 more fouls than the Bulldogs. Moreover, Georgetown also sent Butler to the free throw line 38 times, with their opponents taking 22 more free throws than they attempted. Once again, the Hoyas failed to consistently attack the paint, despite senior center and co-captain Bradley Hayes scoring 12 points on an efficient 5-of-6 shooting.
During Georgetown’s rally, Butler came up with a bucket or two in free throws just when they needed to. Never did the lead get fewer than four points for the Bulldogs.
“They made big plays when they had to make big plays, and that’s not always in the last minute or two,” Head Coach John Thompson III said of Butler’s execution down the stretch.
And they did make big plays all throughout the game. Butler consistently and efficiently scored when they needed to, only trailing by as much as four, 9-5, with 16:05 left in the first half.
Butler’s ultimate victory held significance beyond just a conference win. On Monday, Butler Assistant Coach Emerson Kampan lost his son to a genetic disease, and Head Coach Chris Holtman dedicated the team’s win to the Kampan family after the game.
“We were down a very important staff member here today, and the last couple days. Emerson and Kylie Kampan are mourning the loss of their sixth month old son, Emerson Kampan IV,” Holtman said. “On Monday morning he lost his battle. Today this game had some added importance.”
The Hoyas will look to bounce back in the second and final game of their road trip against the Seton Hall Pirates (15-6, 5-4 Big East) on Saturday. Tipoff is set for 9 p.m., and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.