Well, that was interesting. Georgetown played its most thrilling game of the season, surviving remarkable attrition to win at Butler in overtime, 70-67. The victory seemed within reach for much of the game but also seemed to slip away as one post after another fouled out from an already depleted Georgetown rotation. The Hoyas had to execute a last-second play perfectly, and get a bit of luck, just to make it to the extra session, when some timely defense and just enough free-throw shooting put the game away.
Georgetown looked focused and sharp early, building a 11-4 lead while stifling Butler on the defensive end. Nate Lubick had a pair of nice early buckets, both on high-low feeds from Mikael Hopkins, and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera showed off early for his hometown crowd. Freshman Reggie Cameron was inserted into the lineup and paid early dividends, hitting a corner jumper.
That early run created a margin that Georgetown sustained for much of regulation. The Hoyas were stingy on defense, stifling Butler's offense in the half court and running Bulldog sharpshooter Kellen Dunham off his spots. Butler's deliberate pace with the ball played into Georgetown's hands, as the Bulldogs found few scoring opportunities and even less time.
The Hoyas' focus was impressive, given the circumstances. Georgetown was down two starters, Joshua Smith, who remains suspended in academic limbo, and Jabril Trawick, who is out indefinitely with a broken jaw. The Hoyas were on the second game of a roadtrip that already had resulted in a dispiriting blowout loss at Providence. And, they were facing a desperate Butler team in front of its home crowd.
Still, Georgetown was composed for much of the game, getting offense where it could. Smith-Rivera hit one jumper after another, leading the offense for the third straight game. Markel Starks continued to struggle with his shot but shadowed Dunham throughout the game and came up big with the game onthe line. Aaron Bowen was at his opportunistic best, scoring a career-high 11 points on offensive rebounds, slashes to the hoops, and one gorgeous three-point play in the waning minutes of regulation. Lubick and Moses Ayegba each provided offense that was more needed than expected. Cameron struggled with the deep ball but still worked his way to 9 points, tying a career high.
That sum-of-the-parts offensive attack, combined with a suffocating defense, was enough to keep Georgetown in front for the first ninety percent of regulation. But the Hoyas gradually lost bodies, and then their lead. Lubick was the first to go, picking up early fouls then eventually earning his fifth by breaking his nose when Butler point guard Alex Barlow swung his elbow into Lubick's face. (Curiously enough, the call stood despite video review; I haven't seen any word on Lubick's prospects for future games.) Lubick was followed to the pine by Ayegba, who soon gathered his fifth foul, then Hopkins, who, the last big standing, committed a thoughtless offensive foul in the final minute of regulation.
Without five rotation players, including four bigs, Georgetown turned to a makeshift lineup that included Bowen and Cameron at forward and senior John Caprio, originally a walk-on, at what amounts to center. The short rotation was by no means the Hoyas' only problem, as Georgetown struggled to make outside shots, to get to the line, then to convert once there. The stagnated offense, Butler free-throws resulting from all those Hoya fouls, and some porous defensive rebounding combined to allow Butler to creep back into the game.
Eventually, Butler took the lead and built a three-point advantage with 24 seconds to play. Down to their last gasp, Georgetown drew up a gorgeous play and executed it perfectly. The Hoyas inbounded the ball to Markel Starks in the high post. Starks looked off a couple of options before feeding DSR, who rotated up to the top of the key. As Starks passed the ball, a flare screen was set for him, freeing him to dart to the wing, where the return pass found him open for a deep triple. His legs surely weary from playing nearly the entire game, Starks bent, raised up, and fired, burying the three that forced overtime. A desperation Butler jumper went halfway down before rattling out, leading to the extra session in appropriately dramatic fashion.
Starks again kept Georgetown afloat in overtime, converting a three-point play resulting from a gritty drive to the rim, and making a free throw on a night when the charity stripe was unkind. Those points kept the score even until, with less than a minute remaining in overtime, a Bowen steal got the ball to Starks's hands and then back to Bowen, who streaked down the court for the dunk that put the Hoyas ahead for good.
This certainly is the least talented Georgetown team in recent memory, and perhaps of the JTIII era. It is flawed in ways large and small, and the Hoyas' prospects obviously have diminished over the past two months. Yet, those limitations make Saturday's win so much more gratifying. There is little context to worry about, only a desperation win in which John Caprio was the crunch time center. After the two guards whom JT3 will ride until they break, Georgetown's closing lineup featured an athletic specimen who has struggled to crack the rotation for four years; a freshman who logged more time at Butler than in the previous five games combined; and a one-time walk-on cast far out of position yet gamely doing what was asked of him.
Georgetown completes its road trip Wednesday at Xavier in what will, almost by necessity, be a less thrilling match-up. While the Hoyas have largely taken care of business against the Big East's lower half, the Musketeers are Georgetown's first opponent in the top half of the conference. Still, there are a few days until that game, and in the meantime the Hoyas can rest and savor an improbable win.