It was hardly the first time this Georgetown team has frittered away an opportunity for a big win, but Saturday’s 73-69 home loss to Butler seemed to sting more than the others.
A January defeat against a Marquette team without star Markus Howard and last Sunday against cold-shooting Villanova were understandable for a young Georgetown team going up against the top two squads in an otherwise tightly packed Big East. But the Hoyas entered Saturday’s game tied with St. John’s for third place in the conference standings, coming off a good road win at Providence and looking for some separation in the league.
They had their chances in the waning minutes. But after rallying from a double-digit deficit to get within two points with 4:25 to play, Georgetown missed five field goals, wasted a big Butler turnover and gave away the ball twice as the Bulldogs simply held their ground.
“Our bench did an outstanding job of coming in there and fighting, scratching clawing and getting us back into the game,” Georgetown Coach Patrick Ewing said. “It was the starters turn to take us home, unfortunately we just weren't able to. I thought that we blew a golden opportunity to go up one in the win column, but it just didn't happen.”
Butler (14-10, 5-6 Big East) earned its second road win of the season after a January victory at DePaul and beat the Hoyas for the fourth straight time in Washington.
Perhaps Georgetown (15-9, 5-6) can take solace in the fact it will hit the road for its next game, Wednesday at Seton Hall. The Hoyas are just 2-4 in Big East play at Capital One Arena.
On Saturday, not even Georgetown’s biggest crowd of the season — 13,345 spectators including Alonzo Mourning, Dikembe Mutombo, Vice President Pence and a large contingent from Mac McClung’s hometown of Gate City, Va., came out for the Hoyas’ “gray out” — could spur them to a win.
Ewing felt his team lacked a sense of urgency from the start.
McClung led Georgetown with 21 points on 7-for-19 shooting and Jamorko Pickett continued his recent hot streak with 18 points and five rebounds, but just as in their loss against Villanova, two of the Hoyas’ biggest scorers were too quiet.
Freshman point guard James Akinjo missed all six of his field goal attempts and finished with two points. Senior center Jessie Govan shot 2 for 8 from the field for 12 points and nine rebounds a game after he became the sixth player in program history with at least 1,500 career points and 750 career rebounds.
Govan scored just three points after halftime, part of which Ewing took blame for with his play calling but part of which was due to Butler’s defense. The Hoyas outscored the smaller Bulldogs by just 26-20 in the paint.
“I thought our big guys fought like crazy to keep him from catching the ball deep in the post, which, he's so long when he gets those catches it's hard to defend,” Butler Coach LaVall Jordan said. “And then the way we were rotating based on the game plan, we took some things away with his pick-and-pop options, and these guys executed.”
So too did the Bulldogs execute in the final minutes.
The Hoyas trailed by six at intermission after a sputtering first half from their usually high-octane offense. After Kamar Baldwin made a layup to push Butler’s lead to 11 with 11 minutes to play, Ewing pulled most of his starters and put in Jahvon Blair, Trey Mourning, Jagan Mosely and Kaleb Johnson to play with Pickett.
The second unit went on a 7-0 run that Pickett capped with a long three-pointer to get Georgetown within five with 7:12 to play. Less than three minutes later, the rangy wing hit another jumper to narrow the lead to two.
“Stops. That was the main focus going into that stretch of the game, was getting stops,” Pickett said. “That was the thing that we did well, we got stops and we finished it.”
From there, the Hoyas failed to capitalize on chances including two missed free throws from Butler and a strong defensive rebound that resulted in a miss from Govan. The Bulldogs hit just one field goal in the final 4:25 but sealed the win from the free throw line.
Baldwin led the Bulldogs with 18 points. Jordan Tucker had 15 points and Paul Jorgensen had 12. Georgetown out-rebounded Butler 42-33 but allowed 10 three-pointers.
Neither Mosely nor Greg Malinowski, who had a season-high 26 points against the Bulldogs’ in the teams’ first meeting, scored.
“That separates your season, those games right there,” Jordan said. “When it’s one possession, two possessions, four-minute media [timeout] is there, I thought we had to get some big stops. . . . And then guys had to deliver on the other end to keep us in position.”
As for the sense of urgency Ewing said his team lacks, at least on their home court, McClung believes the change has to start in practice and that the team needs to hold each other more accountable.
“We had a bunch of opportunities, we’ve just got to deliver,” McClung said. “This was a really hard one to take for the loss, but we have to just get back and keep our heads up.”