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Holiday Hangover: Georgetown Falls to Butler, 64-58

Listless, error-filled performance overshadows stellar play from two freshmen

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was ugly. After two straight inspired nail-biters against top-flight competition, Georgetown turned in a stinker Friday, falling 64-58 to Butler in the Battle 4 Atlantis third-place game. The Hoyas played with little energy and less focus for much of the game, carelessly turning the ball over, committing bone-headed fouls, and wastefully missing free-throws. While they later clawed out of a hole of their own creation, the Hoyas eventually fell short. The uninspired loss was a sour note to cap an otherwise upbeat weekend.

Georgetown looked flat almost from the start of Friday's game, struggling to get offense in the half-court and giving away too much on defense. The Hoyas missed free throws (7 of 11 at one point), turned the ball over, and generally looked out of sorts. Georgetown suffered two scoring droughts totaling seven-plus minutes, during which Butler built a 28-15 lead. The permissive Hoya defense also contributed to the deficit, failing to mark Bulldog shooters, allowing wide-open driving lanes, and committing careless fouls that, in sum, resulted in free Butler points from the charity stripe.

Perhaps the only benefit of Georgetown's abysmal early play was the amount of time left to come back. Butler's own foul issues benched three of five starters, exposing the Bulldogs' few scoring options off the pine. At the same time, Georgetown spread the wealth on offense, as six different Hoyas scored in the final three minute before intermission.  An Aaron Bowen three (found money, there) just before half narrowed the margin to just four entering the break.

Of particular note in Georgetown's comeback were the efforts of two freshmen forwards, Isaac Copeland and Paul White. Copeland arrived on the Hilltop as the highest-rated of the vaunted Georgetown recruiting class. Through five games, he largely had failed to live up to that hype, looking passive and uncertain. Friday changed that narrative, as Copeland erupted for 16 points, 4 rebounds, a steal and a block, altering the game on both ends of the floor. Copeland continued to be an effective finisher around the rim but also canned a pair of three-pointers. His ability to nail outside shots will affect both his playing time going forward and the effectiveness of Georgetown's half-court offense.

White continued his quick evolution into a steady contributor, scoring 13 points, grabbing 3 rebounds, and blocking a pair of shots. White's mid-range jumper helps puncture opposing zones, and he hit his second three-pointer of the season, offering another outside-shooting alternative.

Georgetown eventually gained the lead in the second half, only to sputter down the stretch. The Hoyas missed jumpers and failed to penetrate the lane as they had against their higher-ranked opposition earlier in the week. Eventually, Butler's superior effort and timely shooting put the Bulldogs ahead for good.

Friday's loss punctuated the Atlantis trip with a question mark. Does Georgetown have the leadership to motivate the troops to play a third game in three days? How will the Hoyas initiate offense in the half-court? As the calendar turns to December, what can we expect from White, Copeland, the suddenly low-profile LJ Peak, and fellow freshman Tre Campbell? How reliable are seniors Bowen, Mikael Hopkins, and Jabril Trawick, who combined for just 10 points and 12 rebounds in 64 minutes?

Let's not overstate the magnitude of the Butler loss. The Bulldogs aren't Northeastern, to which Georgetown lost a game in Puerto Rico last season, or even the Old Dominion teams that knocked off the Hoyas twice earlier in the JT3 era. Butler's Kellen Dunham (16 points) is a potential all-conference player, Roosevelt Jones is a cagey veteran, and Andrew Chrabascz is a budding, Harangodian villain. Like a lesser version of Thursday's foe Wisconsin, Butler executes well and rarely beats itself. The Bulldogs beat North Carolina on Wednesday and, despite some recent turmoil, have a recent tradition of excellence. For its trip to Atlantis, Georgetown turned in today's understandable stinker only after playing two excellent games to the wire against very good opponents, all in less than two days.

Still, Friday's loss was disturbing in its listlessness, and the Hoyas will have to prove that it was more of an aberration than a pattern. They'll have over a week to stew over this loss before facing Towson in the Verizon Center on Sunday, December 7.