In November, when the Georgetown men’s basketball team (18-9, 10-6 Big East) and Butler (21-8, 10-5 Big East) squared off at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas, Butler came out on top 64-58. When they faced off during conference play at Verizon Center in January, freshman forward Isaac Copeland drained a three-pointer with five seconds left on the clock to seal the 61-59 win for Georgetown.
On Tuesday night, the grudge match will tip off at Butler’s famous Hinkle Fieldhouse in Indianapolis. The third and final installment of regular-season bulldog-versus-bulldog action is far more than a tiebreaker.
Fresh off a 22-point loss to St. John’s (20-9, 9-7 Big East) and preparing to play a game weighted with postseason implications, senior guard Jabril Trawick said it best: “We just need this win. It’s a simple as that.”
The winner of Tuesday night’s meeting will be in a prime position to snag the No. 2 seed going into the Big East tournament. No. 4 Providence (20-9, 10-6 Big East), currently tied with Georgetown for third place in the conference, will also have a say in how the seeding shakes out. Depending on how the final week of the regular season goes, any of the three teams could end up behind No. 1 seed Villanova in the No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 position.
With so many factors out of their control, the Hoyas are, as always, just focusing on one step at a time.
“Next game, next game, next game, next half, next possession. That’s how we approach it,” Head Coach John Thompson III said.
The victory over Butler at Verizon Center signaled a breakout moment for Copeland — the matchup marked his first regular-season game with more than 20 minutes of playing time, his first game scoring in double digits and his first game winner — but he played down the moment in a press conference on Monday.
“They recruited us here for a reason,” Copeland said. “I look at [Butler] as every other team and every other game, I just happened to make a big-time shot. I have a lot confidence against them, but I have a lot of confidence in my game as a whole, so I just look forward to playing another good team.”
Originally picked to finish second to last in the Big East, Butler shot to the top of the conference thanks to huge contributions from junior guard Kellen Dunham and junior forward Roosevelt Jones. Dunham is third in the Big East in points per game and Jones, who scored 28 points against the Hoyas in their last meeting, earned high praise from Thompson.
“He’s so tough. He has — in a positive way — one of the most unorthodox games that I’ve seen in a long time. He makes off-balance moves, he makes off-balance shots. For someone who doesn’t shoot threes, you know he’s coming at you and you still can’t stop him,” Thompson said.
Georgetown will rely on team defense to slow down Jones.
“It has to be a group effort — everyone has to deter him,” Thompson said.
In addition to putting a lid on Jones and Dunham, the Hoyas will have to contend with Butler’s home crowd in an arena close to half the size of Verizon Center.
“It’s a crazy arena, it gives them an advantage,” senior forward Mikael Hopkins said.
Last season, the Hoyas beat the Bulldogs in overtime at Hinkle Fieldhouse. When asked if that win last season gave the team confidence they could repeat the feat, Hopkins answered in the affirmative.
“I’m going to say yes,” Hopkins said, smiling.
The Hoyas will need that confidence as they prepare to head to Indiana. Though the most recent result of the bulldog matchup is on their side, the last four times the two teams have met, the final scores have been decided by eight points or fewer, with two of the games going into in overtime. Last time, it was Copeland with the heroics, but Thompson says that when the game is on the line, there’s one player who will get the ball: Hoyas leading scorer and Big East Player of the Year contender D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
“At the end of the day, [the ball] usually ends up in D’Vauntes’ hands,” Thompson said.
Georgetown tips off against Butler at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.
Hoya Staff Writer Tom Schnoor contributed to reporting.