So, that was unusual. After being treated to an excruciatingly dispassionate performance in the Ocean State on Wednesday, no one was looking forward to this game. This dread existed before learning that Jabril Trawick would be sidelined with a broken jaw and Joshua Smith was once again not traveling with the team. Then something bewildering happened: they managed to win.
Later in the season, this may be looked back upon as a turning point where the team discovered their identity as a scrappy and determined contender...or it may prove to be a rare, improbable bright spot in an otherwise painful Big East campaign. Either way, it deserves to be commemorated. So for those of you who watched but did not comprehend, those of you whose view was obstructed by the fingers covering your eyes, and those of you who were too afraid to watch at all, here is a GIF-based recap of Saturdays's overtime win over the Butler Bulldogs.
The Opening Half
The first thing that clicked tonight which had been noticeably absent of late were targeted passes being met by non-greased hands on the receiving end. Nate Lubick threaded this bounce to D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera a few minutes into the game and made the sophomore look good in front of his many friends & family in attendance.
However dead-on his passing game may have been, shots were simply not dropping for Starks early in the game. However, Aaron Bowen stepped in to aggressively pull down the offensive rebound and put some second-chance points on the board.
Reggie Cameron got his first start as a Hoya tonight. His overall FG% may have been nothing to write home about, but knocking down this first three seemed to give him confidence that carried through the remainder of the game. Honorable mention goes to his driving layup in the first half.
Speaking of confidence, Bowen also seemed to embrace his greater share of responsibility this game. He did so without the characteristic loose cannon behavior or sloppy turnovers that had fans hurling expletives (or beverages...or pets...) at the television during the Providence game.
John Caprio logged 16 minutes last night. Let that sink in. How far has he progressed from his days as the human victory cigar? It was entirely likely that when this dangerous pass from Hopkins got tipped, it would get knocked out of bounds or picked up by another defender. Instead, Caprio recovered possession and made the layup. I wouldn't bank on this happening every game, but it's nice to know that it's possible.
It seems that the Bulldogs' backcourt have been taking lessons from one of the Big East's most accomplished thespians. The spectre of Jae Crowder was in the building near the end of the first half when Kellen Dunham (or maybe Barlow) tumbled to the court yet again. Roy Hibbert recognized that routine and, for those who can't read lips, assisted the referees by explaining, "Flop. That's a flop!"
The Second Act
On any other night, this play would not be noteworthy. However, after the lackadaisical approach to life that was on display Wednesday night, it was refreshing to see Cameron willing to eat some hardwood in pursuit of a rebound.
As someone pointed out during the game thread, this play was not in Butler's scouting report. To be fair, it probably wasn't in the Hoyas' playbook either until it happened. A slick pass from DSR to hit Moses Ayebga driving to the hoop. Not long before our reserve guards were forced to moonlight as forwards, Moses temporarily acquired the agility (and fancy footwork) of a guard.
Moses is a big dude. I'm certain that he was not expecting to be flipped over someone's shoulder in such a manner. Once again, I applaud the commitment to rebounding...and suggest that the Athletic Department go find whoever's responsible for #45's training and convince him or her that DC is much nicer than Indy.
Dunham lowered his shoulder into Bowen as he entered the paint. That move would seem to indicate a textbook offensive foul. Except that he ran into DSR's arm along the way and grimaced like he'd taken a metal pipe to the throat. When the freethrow discrepancy is already hovering near a 2:1 ratio, what's a couple more?
Getting the assist from Smith-Rivera, Bowen pulls off a nice move to make this layup and draw the foul. Take note of this successful practice run...because you'll see the exact play again soon.
Roy was getting really into it. He is the best.
Committing its final foul of the night was Nate Lubick's nose. It simply had no business encroaching upon that Butler player's elbow. Sarcasm aside, wasn't the purpose of mandatory video replay and the revision of the Flagrant I rule designed for occasions such as this? There was clearly no malicious intent on the part of Alex Barlow, but his elbow smushed our forward's nose! Within the next two minutes Moses and Hopkins also fouled out, leaving the Hoyas with a lineup on the court that even Jay Wright or Mizzou would think of as overly heavy on guards.
Running a route almost identical to the one he and DSR did earlier in the half, except that this time two defenders were waiting for him at the hoop. Thanks to his trademark acrobatic tendencies, he somehow flew through the air with the greatest of ease to split the defense while making the layup and drawing a foul. And also please note Cameron's jubilant air-punch in the bottom left corner.
It's the last possession of the game. Who should be taking the shot? Senior point guard, Markel Starks. It does not matter that he was 1-6 from three. That was his shot to miss or make. He took it and he made it, demonstrating that sometimes luck and leadership collide. Much unintelligible screaming ensued (not from him, of course - he was inscrutable as always).
Butler missed their would-be game-winning shot at the end of regulation that rattled around and took years off of lives before deciding not to drop.
Lubick, Hopkins and Moses had fouled out and were watching from the bench; Joshua Smith was in DC, hopefully peering longingly at the television from over a textbook. The tallest player we had on the court was 6'6". However, Bowen borrowed Jason Clark's Inspector Gadget arms and got away with a steal. The emphatic breakaway dunk after a pass from Starks was a far cry from his garbage-time special. It broke the tie for good, giving the Hoyas a lead that they never again relinquished.
Let's talk about a JTIII timeout here. As somebody pointed out, Coach called for the clipboard. Periodically it is argued that he is not a good "Xs and Os" coach, that he is unable to adapt or make changes. The play drawn up & executed to get the ball to Starks at the end of regulation and then coaching two tireless guards, a freshman, a walk-on and a wildcard to an overtime win should earn him a bit of capital.
If you thought John Caprio was bent out of shape about missing this free throw, Georgetown's biggest cheerleader couldn't even stay in his seat. Poor Roy was doing circles trying to calm himself down. For the record, Caprio did make the second freethrow.
For good measure, Bowen racked up one more steal as the Hoyas were up two with 15 seconds left in OT. He passed it forward to Reggie Cameron who seemed to take a goddamn eternity bringing it up the court for a layup. All I could picture was a block, a steal, and a Butler player streaking back down to the other end of the court to take the lead. That didn't happen, thankfully, and Roy roared his approval.
In the end, Hoyas win. They will continue to make mistakes, but this peculiar game generated excitement and goodwill from a fanbase whose overarching reaction to the season thus far had been a resounding "meh".
Who was on the court when the final buzzer sounded? Markel Starks, D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, Aaron Bowen, John Caprio and Reggie Cameron.
Not a true forward among them. Like I said, it was unusual.