WASHINGTON – In front of a season high 13,345 fans for the annual Gray Out game, Georgetown’s second half comeback came up short in a 73-69 loss to visiting Butler on Saturday that put a hurt on the Hoyas slim NCAA Tournament hopes.
Mac McClung led all scorers with 21 points while Jamorko Pickett added a season-high 18 as the Hoyas (15-9, 5-6) blew a golden opportunity to take over third place in the BIG EAST after St. John’s fell a few minutes earlier at home to Providence.
“I thought that we blew a golden opportunity to go one up in the win column but it just didn’t happen,” coach Patrick Ewing said after Georgetown shot just 38 percent.
Well behind both Villanova and Marquette at the top, Georgetown is now tied with Butler and St. John’s in third place at 5-6. That group of three will be joined by the winner of Creighton - Seton Hall as well as DePaul should the Blue Demons win at Xavier. Both games are scheduled for 8pm on Saturday.
McClung had a chance to tie it up late but after driving through traffic his layup attempt went hard off the glass as Georgetown ended the game without making a field goal over the final 4:25.
“Yeah it was a play we drew up,” Ewing said as the Hoyas had called a timeout with 50 seconds left. “He went downhill, got to the lane, and he’s a finisher, he just missed.”
Kamar Baldwin led three in double-figures for Butler (14-10, 5-6) with 18 points while Duke transfer Jordan Tucker scored 14 of his 15 points in the first half as the Bulldogs were hot from deep early, including three from Tucker.
Georgetown has now lost four straight home games to Butler and dropped down in the KenPom rankings to 81.
“We had a bunch of opportunities, we just got to deliver,” McClung after Georgetown lost for a fourth time in six conference home games.
“It was a really hard one to take for the loss but we’ve just got to get back and keep our heads up.”
Jessie Govan - the Hoyas leading scorer, had 12 points was just 2 for 8 from the field. Govan had just three points in the second half - all from the foul line.
Greg Malinowski, who had scored a career high 26 points while starting for an injured McClung in the first meeting on Jan 2, didn’t attempt a shot on Saturday and was scoreless in 11 minutes.
James Akinjo finished with two points but was 0 for 6 from the field. The freshman point guard had three assists while being limited to 27 minutes due to foul trouble.
With the Hoyas trailing by 61-52 with 11 minutes left, Ewing turned to four substitutes to go alongside Pickett in a bit of risky move that actually got Georgetown to within striking distance.
Kaleb Johnson converted an old fashioned three-point play and then again got free down low for another layup. Trey Mourning converted one of the Hoyas few fast break opportunities before Pickett’s third 3-pointer of the game got Georgetown to within 64-61 with 7:12 left.
By the time the starters checked back in Butler was up five but the Hoyas were still in striking distance with a chance to in yet another close game in a season of close ones. Pickett’s jumper with 4:25 left pulled Georgetown to within 66-64 but it would be the last made shot for the Hoyas who finished 0 for 5.
“Our bench did an outstanding job of coming in there and fighting and scratching, clawing and getting us back into the game,” Ewing said. “It was the starters turn to take us home and unfortunately we just weren’t able to.”
Turnovers, missed shots, and free throws were all the Hoyas could muster down the stretch. In a critical possession with less than 90 seconds left Govan missed a long jumper with the Hoyas trailing 69-67. Georgetown forced a turnover on the other end when Baldwin traveled leading up to that missed layup by McClung.
McClung shed some light on his new buzz cut look as he was walking out of the interview room: “It was an accident, but....”
The freshman guard also wore a headband for the first time this season.
QUOTABLE PT 2
“You know what?,” Ewing said when asked how he could motivate his team to play better from the start. “They way we’ve been playing we’re playing better on the road than we do at home so we’ll see what they come with.”
Georgetown travels to Newark to face Seton Hall on Wednesday for the first meeting this season with the Pirates.
The Hoyas have lost their last three games at the Prudential Center so now would be a great time to stop that trend as Georgetown will try to get back to .500 in the league the fifth time this season.
“Win at all costs,” Ewing said about what Georgetown needs to do as the season winds down.
“We have to separate ourselves if we want to do well. And this was a game we had an opportunity to separate ourselves to build on what we did at Providence. I’m disappointed in the fact that we didn’t come out with the sense of urgency that we needed to.”