Anybody got a smoke? Holy crap. Your mighty Georgetown Hoyas rolled into Indianapolis and fought their way to a 60-54 win on Butler's senior day. On a night when foul trouble, cold hands, non-existent defensive rebounding, and a hostile crowd all portended doom, the Hoyas found one solution after another, often from the most unlikely sources. Georgetown's win was its best on the road this season, its second-best overall, and perhaps its grittiest.
Tonight's showdown offered so much beyond the game itself. Georgetown had just lost in one-sided fashion at St. John's on Saturday. The Hoyas had swept the league's lower tier on the road but, entering their last away contest, had yet to secure a truly meaningful win in front of a hostile crowd. Both teams had NCAA and Big East Tournament seeding on the line, with a wide range of possibilities still in play. And these two foes had already faced off twice this season (both featuring big first-half leads for Butler and big comebacks for Georgetown) with the two teams splitting the decisions .
There were individual narratives as well. After four games away with a broken hand, Bulldog (and bulldog) antagonist-in-chief Andrew Chrabascz was back in the lineup, promising mean mugging (of both varieties). Georgetown's intriguing star was D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera, an Indianapolis native who hoped to carry his team to a big win in his home town (sporting a fresh new hair color, as we learned just before tip).
With so much back-drop, it was almost hard to focus on the action itself. And for a while, the Hoyas looked a bit off-kilter. That is, except for senior guard Jabril Trawick, who scored Georgetown's first 9 points to keep pace with a more balanced Butler attack. In addition to burying a three, Trawick pounded his way to the rim, finishing around the basket and drawing fouls.
Still, one man does not an offense make. Butler built a six-point lead that looked like a repeat of the Bulldogs' sizable first-half advantages in these teams' previous meetings this season. And things could have been worse: Butler grabbed seven early offensive rebounds (en route to an eye-popping 17) but turned those second chances into just 3 points.
Soon, Georgetown made its own run, thanks to a lineup change forced by foul trouble. Joshua Smith and the struggling LJ Peak exited with 2 fouls apiece, replaced by the more defensively minded Mikael Hopkins and the ultra-quick Tre Campbell. A longer, more interchangeable Hoya lineup stifled Butler's offense, forcing open-court turnovers and switching to deny open looks on the perimeter. Both substitutions paid dividends offensively as well, as Hopkins converted three opportunities down low and Campbell leaked out for a breakaway lay-in before hitting a pair of threes. Hopkins played under control on both ends of the floor, and Campbell made use of his first extended run in nearly a month, making his case to play at least as much as his struggling classmates. With those unlikely sources of offense, Georgetown found itself entering the half up six points.
Things tightened, and intensified, after the break. After a cold first half, Butler star Kellen Dunham hit a mid-range jumper and then a pair of 3s, turning what had swelled to a 10-point Hoya lead into a 1-point Butler advantage. Alex Barlow did Alex Barlow things, fraudulently drawing a phantom foul on Aaron Bowen while committing mistakes that broadcasters overlook while lavishing praise on the FORMER WALK-ON AND ACADEMIC ALL-AMERICAN. With Smith again on the pine with foul trouble, Georgetown searching for offense, and the locals fired up by Dunham's shooting, things again seemed to be slipping away for the Hoyas.
And yet, after a pair of Isaac Copeland free-throws, Georgetown never trailed again. Both teams racked up the fouls, leading to a charity-stripe battle that unfortunately has become all too commonplace in college basketball generally and Georgetown games specifically. Tonight, free-throw roulette went the Hoyas' way. While Georgetown buried 13 of its 15 attempts, the Bulldogs struggled mightily from the line, hitting just 10 of 22 free throws and undermining broadcasters' favorite narrative that Butler "doesn't beat itself."
Those misses, and just enough makes by the visitors, kept Georgetown ahead down the stretch. Smith-Rivera was money from the line and from the field. Early in the half, he broke Barlow's ankles with a step-back jumper. Later, DSR buried a key three-pointer and another step-in jumper over Barlow. He also made his free-throws, finishing with a game-high 16 points and team-high 7 rebounds. Smith got free in the post, hitting a pair of layups and, just as importantly, avoiding his fifth foul. And Aaron Bowen made timely contributions on both ends of the floor, wrapping up Dunham and hitting a wide-open three.
Even so, Georgetown's lead stood at just two with under a minute to play, setting up a wild final minute. Consecutive jumpers by Isaac Copleand had just missed, giving Butler the ball and the chance to win. But Roosevelt Jones missed a runner, then Chrabascz plainly fouled Smith on the rebound (then reacted with appropriate, bug-eyed disbelief). Smith missed the front end of a one-and-one, and professional rebounder Kameron Woods (15 points, 16 rebounds) grabbed the miss for just a moment, setting up a possible last-second tie or even a Butler win.
But the hometown kid came up huge. No sooner had Woods put hands on the ball than DSR, defensive hero of the win over Butler in DC, swiped the ball away from behind, grabbing a steal that meant that Butler had to foul him. Smith-Rivera then hit the ensuing free throws, putting the game out of reach.
This was a true team win. Smith-Rivera, Campbell, Hopkins, Trawick, and Smith all contributed offensively. On defense, Hopkins and Copeland protected the rim while Bowen and Trawick locked in on Dunham and Jones, respectively. It wasn't always pretty--Georgetown couldn't grab a defensive rebound to save its life and fouled too early and too often--but games against Butler are rarely aesthetically pleasing.
And the win was important. With another victory on senior day, Georgetown will finish at least third in the Big East, possibly even second if Providence falters in either of its last two games. The Hoyas also firm up their NCAA resume, securing a top-notch road win and another RPI top-25 victory.
Of course, we've learned this year that the narrative quickly shifts, and the Hoyas will soon need to turn their focus to Saturday's game against Seton Hall. But for tonight, we can enjoy a win and the arrival of March.