Georgetown equaled its worst conference start in program history Saturday by losing in overtime to #18 Butler, 85-76. The Hoyas made a spirited comeback to take a late lead in regulation, only to give away multiple chances to win. Overtime was a one-sided rout as the revived visitors ran away from the Hoyas. The loss is Georgetown’s tenth straight regular season in-conference defeat, a new low in a season full of them.
Today, like many days over the past two years, was not an out-and-out failure. Georgetown led Butler by one at the half, and had many opportunities to put the game away down the stretch. The Bulldogs are a strong team that had just beaten defending national champions and previously undefeated Villanova on Wednesday night. Like Georgetown’s recent losses to Providence, Xavier, and Marquette, an overtime home loss to Butler is defensible on its own. Three of those four losses have come by two possessions or less or required overtime.
But we’re far past the point where a basket here or there might have painted a different picture for the past two seasons. Regardless of whether John Thompson III’s teams have just been spectacularly unlucky, repeatedly collapsing late in games or having comebacks fall just short, they indisputably have been bad, lacking both in-game planning and execution at critical moments.
Saturday was no different. Three times down the stretch, Georgetown had the opportunity to close out the win. Three times, the Hoyas failed badly. First, with Georgetown leading by three and one minute to play, Butler ran a basic high pick-and-roll. Rather than switching as they had been doing, or sticking with their men, the two Hoya defenders both chased the ball-handler, Kethan Savage, leaving Bulldog big man Nate Fowler wide open at the top of the key. Fowler calmly received the pass from the inexplicably double-teamed Savage, and drained a three-pointer to tie the game. Granted, Fowler had attempted just seven three-pointers this season to that point, but he had made five, and double-teaming Savage was clearly an error, not a plan.
The second mistake came just one possession later, after freshman Jagan Mosley had capped his career day (20 points) by putting the Hoyas up by two with just 37 seconds to play. On this second possession, Georgetown switched men on a pick-and-roll, and senior Bradley Hayes successfully contained Savage into a missed mid-range jumper. But, despite three other Hoyas crowding the basket, no one gave a thought to boxing out Fowler, who swooped in from the perimeter, gathered the offensive rebound, drew a foul, and converted two tying free-throws. This failure was a surprise to no one who has watched Georgetown give 34.4 percent of opponents’ misses right back as second chances, one of the worst marks in the country.
Despite these defensive lapses, there was still time for Georgetown to pull out the win. Mosley raced the ball up the court and called the Hoyas’ final timeout with just under 6 seconds to play. Out of the break, it was revealed that Georgetown had called no play during the timeout. That is, unless you consider an L.J. Peak isolation that resulted in a badly missed jumper from the top of the key as time expired a “play.” There was no screen, no off-ball movement, no diversion, nothing. Having called a timeout, JT3 also had forfeited the disorder and surprise that might have yielded a basket immediately after the Butler free throws, instead allowing the Bulldogs to set their defense and snuff out Georgetown’s pathetic shot choice. Somewhere, Craig Esherick and Kevin Braswell nodded approvingly.
If this is the best shot you can get coming out of a timeout, maybe don't call a timeout. Only thing missing is Esherick holding up the ✊ . pic.twitter.com/RPdkm6XpHz— Liam Donovan (@LPDonovan) January 7, 2017
This was an awful. For one thing, if JT3 wanted an isolation, as he confirmed after the game that he did, why not call the timeout during Fowler’s free-throws to ice Fowler, set up the ISO in the event of made free-throws, and allow Peak to benefit from the chaos of transition play? And if he wanted instead a set half-court offense out of the timeout, why not at least give Peak something, anything to give him separation from his defender, like a simple ball screen?
As with all of these maddening, life-shortening losses, today’s defeat was particularly frustrating because of the closeness of it and the inherent positives one can take from losing a close game. After Marcus Derrickson poured in a career-high 26 points in the loss to Providence on Wednesday, Mosley was the star du jour today, attacking open driving lanes, burying a couple of perimeter jumpers, and generally finding scoring opportunities. The freshman’s effort was necessary because Rodney Pryor, the team’s leading scorer, went scoreless and missed all 8 of his field-goal attempts, running his two-game total to just 6 of 26 form the field.
Peak also had a solid day, scoring 21 points and playing solid defense. Derrickson overcame some early shooting woes to drain a critical, game-tying 3 in regulation and finish with 14 points, his fifth straight double-figure game.
But despite these solid individual performances and a generally close game, Georgetown once again found a way to lose. Going back to the beginning of last season, the Hoyas are 3-11 in games decided by 5 points or fewer or in overtime. While one or two of those outcomes might be chalked up to bad luck, Georgetown’s continued pattern of low effort, sloppy execution, bad game plans, and lack of in-game adjustments are more than just luck.
During today’s broadcast, Fox play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson pointed to a parallel looming over the game. Georgetown stood at 0-3 in conference play, Johnson pointed out, and had started Big East play 0-4 in only one other instance, in 1998-99. After that fourth loss, John Thompson, Jr. resigned as coach, citing personal off-court issues. Today, Johnson stopped short of speculating what might happen, were the Hoyas to lose to Butler, as they eventually did. Tomorrow is the 18th anniversary of Pops’s retirement. It’s time.