Georgetown shook off a sluggish start and errant outside shooting to pick apart the Butler Bulldogs Saturday, 71-63. Markel Starks scored 19 points to lead three Hoyas in double figures en route to Georgetown's third straight win.
Things didn't start off so swell for the much-beleaguered Georgetown offense. After a pair of early baskets, the Hoyas went scoreless for more than four minutes, allowing Butler to creep ahead 11-4 even though the Bulldogs missed their first 8 shots. Butler got all of those early looks thanks to gobs of early offensive rebounds. While the Bulldogs turned the extra shots into just two second-half points, the long possessions kept the ball out of Georgetown's hands and prevented the Hoyas from establishing an offensive rhythm.
Soon, though, the Hoya baskets started piling up, thanks to Starks. The senior guard has borne a heavy burden on offense all season long, and continued to carry it on Saturday, making 7 of his 13 shots and setting up teammates on 7 assists. Off a pick-and-roll, he found Moses Ayegba for an easy post opportunity near the rim to break the scoring drought. Off a Butler miss, Jabril Trawick moved the ball ahead to Starks, who sliced through the lane for a transition lay-up. A minute later, Starks fed Nate Lubick for an open lay-up, and Georgetown was clicking again on offense.
Starks was by no means the only Hoya to contribute on Saturday. Lubick had one of his strongest games of the season, asserting himself around the rim to the tune of 10 points and 7 rebounds (per ESPN--my informal tally suggests the number was higher). Lubick also played solid defense, blocking Butler's first shot of the game and swiping two steals. Trawick was again energetic around the rim and on the boards, scoring 8 points while hauling in 6 rebounds. And Aaron Bowen put his frenetic energy to good use, scoring 8 points, blocking a shot, and nabbing two steals, including one at half court that lead to an acrobatic Bowen-DSR-Bowen-Starks fast break lay-up.
The big relief for Hoya fans was the reemergence of D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, who poured in 18 points. DSR continued to struggle from deep on Saturday, missing both of this three-point attempts. But he may be finding his range from the inside out, as Smith-Rivera worked his way off the dribble and back-cuts to find shots at the rim, in the mid-range, and from the free-throw stripe.
That fivesome--Starks, DSR, Bowen, Trawick, and Lubick--saw plenty of time in the second half and appeared to offer somewhat of an antidote to Georgetown's offensive woes. Defenses that double-team Starks or Smith-Rivera off of a pick-and-roll must have a help defender cover the picker, in this instance Lubick, leaving Bowen or Trawick uncovered on the wing or along the baseline. Those two aren't volume scorers, but both are effective finishers at the rim and will at least take an open perimeter shot. Saturday, they combined to shoot 7 of 16 from the field, a very healthy mark for this team. Five of those baskets were assisted, showing the value of the extra pass while another, Bowen's put-back to end the half, was the result of an opportunistic offensive rebound.
Those contributions added up to 60 percent shooting from two-point range for the Hoyas. Added to a very respectable 16 of 19 from the line, Georgetown had a solid offensive day despite continuing to struggle from three, where the Hoyas made just one of 12 attempts.
Georgetown needed offensive production Saturday because Butler didn't back down. Freshman Andrew Chrabascz scored a career-high 24 points on a series of rolls, dives, and cuts to the basket. While not high on style points, Chrabascz was maddeningly effective at finishing around the rim, getting a step ahead of Lubick and Mikael Hopkins, and drawing the occasional phantom foul. Those whistles also kept the game within arm's reach, as the Bulldogs converted 17 of their 21 trips to the line.
Even so, the Hoyas maintained the lead throughout the second half, easing toward a third straight win. The victory also breaks a three-game slide at home, where Georgetown had typically held serve in the past, and positions the Hoyas at 5-6 in conference, making a return to the NCAA Tournament less of an absurd proposition than just eight days ago. The Hoyas will be at home again Monday in a big showdown with Providence, another team with dreams of dancing but plenty of work left to do.