Your Georgetown Hoyas stay giving you heart attacks. Georgetown played its fourth straight nail-biter, once again frittering away a late lead. But for the second consecutive game, the Hoyas averted disaster, pulling out a hard-fought 87-83 win at Butler. The win, which continued a recent trend of strong play, improves Georgetown to 15-10 on the season and 5-9 in conference.
Marcus Derrickson led the way for the Hoyas Tuesday night, matching a career high with 27 points on a scorching 11 of 13 from the field. Also making the headline was fellow junior big Jessie Govan, who amassed a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds to go with 3 blocks. In a pleasant surprise, grad transfer guard Trey Dickerson logged his best game as a Hoya, scoring 18 points.
A mid-week road trip in the February doldrums doesn’t always yield the most inspired play, but Georgetown rolled into Hinkle Fieldhouse ready to play Tuesday night. Immediately, the Hoyas turned to their two junior bigs, Derrickson and Govan. Jonathan Mulmore found Govan on a game-opening pick-and-roll and, a couple of possessions later, Govan converted an early post-up. Later, Derrickson got the ball in the post, faced up, and drained a mid-ranger then, after a Kaleb Johnson streaking transition dunk, Doc hit his signature NBA-deep three-pointer from the top of the key. After Marcus and Jessie traded baskets, Derrickson hit a nearly identical transition three to put the Hoyas up 18-7 early.
The double-digit lead wouldn’t last, but what Hoya leads do these days? While Georgetown cooled down offensively after a hot start, a couple of Butler benchwarmers entered the game and promptly hit three triples between them, narrowing the game to a one-possession margin midway through the first half.
Georgetown turned back to its two mainstays, as well as an unexpected star for the evening. Derrickson hit a pair of jumpers, one of which became a three-point play before Dickerson netted a catch-and-shoot triple from the wing. After a Hoya dry spell, Dickerson scored on consecutive possessions, driving for a lay-in and then burying yet another triple.
Whether Derrickson, Govan, Dickerson, or one of the supporting cast was scoring, Georgetown’s ball movement fueled its offense Tuesday night. Post feeds to the two big men were clean, and the posts found cutters and weak side shooters alike. Dickerson and Mulmore found open teammates in transition and the half-court. The ball momentarily slowed down when Butler finally went zone, but the Hoyas soon adapted, working the ball to Govan in the high post and from there to the nearest open shooter. In all, Georgetown assisted on 20 of 30 made baskets, including 13 of their first 16 buckets, and shot 59 percent from the field and 47 percent from three.
That offense was enough to keep Georgetown ahead going into the half, 44-39. And the Hoyas’ shooting didn’t really slow down after the half, as they at one point made six consecutive field goals to expand the lead to 13 points. But while the shooting stayed hot, the ball-handling, which had yielded just four Hoya turnovers in the first half, got sloppy. As Butler began pressing, Georgetown got shaky, at one point giving the ball away on three straight possessions.
Still, it briefly appeared as if this might finally be the night where Georgetown’s play was good enough not just to take the lead, but to sustain it without much drama. A Jagan Mosely triple made the lead 15 with barely 7 minutes to play, and the Hoyas still led by 9 with under 2 minutes to play.
Alas, these Hoyas can’t always stay out of their way at the end of the game. A Butler offensive rebound yielded a cutback to make the deficit 7 points and, after a couple of missed Georgetown free throws, a Bulldog layup narrowed the gap further. On the ensuing press, the Hoyas turned the ball over, leading to a Butler lay-in that made the difference just one possession.
Mercifully, the collapse went no further. Mulmore got to the line thanks to a beautiful feed from Derrickson, and converted a pair of clutch free throws. When Butler answered, and then got a stop, the Bulldogs were primed to tie the game. But a solid Georgetown defensive possession forced a contested and errant Butler three-pointer. The Hoyas grabbed the rebound, and put the game away at the line.
The win had all the signs of recent improvement under first-year head coach Patrick Ewing: solid ball and player movement, tough defense, and particularly the play of Georgetown’s two junior big men. The Hoyas’ mid-season development has been evident for weeks, and is just now yielding wins, and dramatic ones at that. This season has always been more about the process and progress than the results, but positive results don’t hurt.
Of course, the win almost wasn’t because of some of the staples of recent late-game collapses. Shaky ball-handling was once again a culprit, and crunch-time execution is hit or miss. But there were just enough hits Tuesday night for the Hoyas to return home with a win.
Georgetown goes back to the District for the next two weeks, playing three straight in the Capital One Arena. The Hoyas have played two of those opponents — Xavier and Providence — tight already, in hostile arenas. Can Georgetown pull off a couple more wins before season’s end? Time will tell, but the Hoyas are trending in the right direction.