Game 24: Butler Bulldogs (13-10, 4-6) at Georgetown Hoyas (15-8, 5-5)
When: Saturday, noon
Where: Capital One Arena
Series: Georgetown leads 8-5, Hoyas won 84-76 on Jan 2
TV: FSN - MASN2 (Brandon Gaudin, Tarik Turner)
Radio: The Team 980 (Rich Chvotkin)
KenPom Ranking: Butler 53, Georgetown 77
NET Ranking: Butler 57, Georgetown 72
KenPom Projection: Georgetown 76, Butler 75 (54 percent)
Line: Georgetown -2, o/u 152
After splitting a pair on the road the Georgetown Hoyas are back at Capital One Arena on Saturday against Butler for their annual GRAY OUT GAME!
Just as Georgetown had to snap a long losing streak at Providence to earn a sweep over the Friars during the week, the Hoyas must reverse a poor trend at home against the Bulldogs in order to earn their first sweep over Butler since 2015.
The Bulldogs has won their last three games in Chinatown, all coming in overtime. This will be Jessie Govan and Kaleb Johnson’s final shot at defeating Butler at home
There’s a lot on the line for both teams as this February BIG EAST match-up is not only big for the league standings but there are also NCAA Tournament implications as both teams are trying to get on the right side of the bubble.
Despite their 13-10 record the computers continue to like the Bulldogs who appear closer to the lucrative LAST FOUR OUT category than the Hoyas thanks to a better non-conference performance.
Butler has been to the last four tournaments but appears to be heading in the opposite direction while Georgetown has won three of four games to get back into the fringe NCAA talk.
The Hoyas, who were led by their three starting freshmen – James Akinjo, Mac McClung, and Josh LeBlanc – in their midweek win at Providence, need to take care of business at home the rest of the way after improving to 3-2 in the league on the road.
Georgetown is just 2-3 at home in BIG EAST play but they face a Butler team with just one win to their credit away from home. The Bulldogs are 1-5 away from Hinkle with the victory coming at DePaul.
“I think our defense is definitely getting better,” coach Patrick Ewing said during the BIG EAST teleconference Thursday.
“We play some guys that can play defensive very well and at times we’re leaving them on the floor instead of just going with just offense. I have a blend of both defensive stoppers, guys that can guard elite players and players who we believe are very good scorers. I think that it definitely helped versus Villanova. We fell short in the end but also Jessie was in foul trouble and Mac [McClung] didn’t have a very good game. And then in Providence I thought that was one of our biggest wins in terms of energy and effort and ability to rebound the basketball.”
COMING OF AGE
Since coming off the bench against Creighton five games ago, freshman point guard James Akinjo (14 ppg, 5.3 apg) has responded with stellar play and the right decision making.
Against the Bluejays, Akinjo dished out a career high 11 assists against just one turnover. After the win over Providence during the week, Akinjo has 34 assists to just eight turnovers in his last 162 minutes over those five games. His coach isn’t surprised by Akinjo’s or the other freshman’s growth as the season starts to approach the end.
“I attribute it to his grown,” Ewing said about Akinjo’s recent ability to limit his turnovers.
“He came in as 17 and turned 18 about a month ago. He’s learning like all the freshmen. They’re learning the difference between high school and college and I think that plays a key role in how good we’re going to be. I gave all of those guys a little leeway to make mistakes and hopefully that they would learn from it and then we’ll be a better team in the second half in the year and that’s showing to be working out.”
SINCE THEY LAST MET
Butler has won gone 4-5 since dropping their annual home game to Georgetown just after the New Year. The Bulldogs have been off a week since snapping a three-game slide last Saturday at home in a 70-68 nail biting victory over Seton Hall. Kamar Baldwin continues to lead Butler in scoring while former Georgetown Washington transfer Paul Jorgensen and Sean McDermott also score in double figures in Jordan’s second season. Butler’s best chance to upset the Hoyas would be to limit Georgetown’s ability to get to the line – Georgetown took 21 more free throws than Butler last game – and find a way to move the ball around for good looks from deep as the Bulldogs have a few good 3-point shooters.
Starting for an injured McClung in the first meeting with Butler, Greg Malinowski went off, scoring a career high 26 points on a 10 for 12 shooting night. The William & Mary transfer was nearly perfect from behind the arc, going 6 for 7. The grad transfer has only started three games since his offensive outburst in Georgetown’s league opener and has scored just a combined 20 points in the Hoyas last seven games. Another big outing against Butler and Malinowski will be in line for some all-league votes from Bulldogs coach LaVall Jordan.
Georgetown 80, Butler 72 – Hoyas will get to over .500 in the league since the first Butler game setting up a very interesting Valentine’s Eve game in Newark against Seton Hall on Wednesday.