Butler vs. Georgetown: Beyond the box score

Aaron Thompson drives to the rim in Butler’s win over St. John’s earlier this week. Thompson registered a season-high 11 assists but scored just two points in the 78=63 loss at Georgetown on Feb. 13. Photo by Zach Bolinger.

DREW SANDIFER | SPORTS EDITOR | dsandife@butler.edu

Due to some lackluster offense and an uninspired effort overall, the Butler men’s basketball team fell to Georgetown on the road by a score of 78-63. Butler moves to 6-9 in Big East play — and just 1-7 on the road — while the Hoyas improve to 4-7. 

It is a recurring script for the Bulldogs. After a mini 4-0 run to start the game, Butler surrendered a 13-0 run and were down 29-12 with over six minutes left in the opening half. Four Hoyas registered double figures in the win. Both Jahvon Blair and Jamorko Pickett reached the 1,000-point mark in their career with the Hoyas in the contest.

Butler was once again plagued by their poor shooting from the field. After a rare good performance offensively earlier this week against St. John’s, the Bulldogs returned to shooting under 40% shooting. Bryce Golden, Bo Hodges and Chuck Harris led the Dawgs in scoring with 12 points apiece. Christian David logged his first points of the season, scoring nine on three 3-pointers in his best performance since tearing his ACL in January 2020. Let’s go beyond the box score in a game where Butler failed to extend its winning streak to a season-long three games.

1. Georgetown could not be stopped from beyond the arc in the first half

The Bulldogs seem to struggle in a few key statistical categories on a consistent basis this season. One of those pain points for head coach LaVall Jordan’s team is defending the opposition from 3-point range. While Butler did a good job on Feb. 9 against St. John’s — limiting the Red Storm to just four 3-pointers on the night — the Bulldogs gave up double that number in just the first half against the Hoyas. A late Blair trifecta with seven seconds remaining in the half was Georgetown’s eighth of the half. Even though Butler knocked down four threes of their own in the first half, the Hoyas were getting wide open looks for a majority of the first 20 minutes.

In a game where Georgetown turned the ball over 24 times, it was critical that the Bulldogs did not allow the Hoyas to find an equalizer. For the opening half, Georgetown’s ability to knock down the 3-pointer and settle into their half-court defense against an already-struggling Butler offense was that equalizer. 

2. Butler’s slow starts

As if on a record that keeps skipping and starting over, Saturday’s game at Georgetown was more of the same for Butler fans watching at home. The Bulldogs fell into an early, double-digit hole thwarted by turnovers and allowing the opponent to shoot from over 50% from the field. Per the CBS Sports Network broadcast, four of Butler’s seven wins this year came from a comeback of ten points or more. Whether the game is at home or on the road, against a nationally-ranked team or the worst the Big East has to offer, the Bulldogs find themselves looking up at a tough hill to climb after ten minutes in the game. This makes Jordan’s group’s margin of error incredibly thin, forcing Butler to play a perfect brand of basketball, one this team is not capable of pulling off on a nightly basis.

What is most frustrating for Butler fans, though, is how predictable this issue has been over the course of the three months since the season began. The Bulldogs and their staff have yet to find a remedy for their tendency to sleep walking out of the gates. Whether it be senior leadership or messaging in the locker room, Butler’s strategy to begin games this season is not working and it seems as though the team will continue to beat its head against the wall until it sees a different outcome. In 18 games this season, Butler has trailed by ten points or more in a staggering 15 of them.

3. Bulldog seniors disappointed in a winnable game

In a season that undoubtedly was going to get turned on its head with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, college basketball teams were going to rely on its upperclassmen now more than ever. This is especially true for Butler basketball, a program that prides itself on development, citing a “next man up” mentality often pushing their most polished players to lead the program. This year, though, it has been a challenge to get consistent results from the team’s veterans. Against Georgetown, Aaron Thompson recorded a season-high 11 assists, but added five turnovers and only two points to his stat sheet. Bryce Nze and Jair Bolden combined for 11 points off 4-of-15 shooting from the field. After the game, it was revealed that Nze has been dealing with a groin injury, possibly causing some of the inefficiencies.

There was one bright spot for Butler against the Hoyas and it was not an upperclassmen most would expect. Christian David scored nine points behind a career-high three 3-pointers on just four attempts. David logged a season-high 18 minutes as the senior forward continues to work his way back to 100% from an ACL tear suffered in January 2020. David looks more comfortable than he has all season to this point and tallied three assists along with his hot shooting. If Butler can get all of their seniors to play as a cohesive unit, they will put out much better performances than they did at Georgetown.

Final Thought

While this is still a young team, one theme emerging from this season continues to bug me — I’m not sure Butler is establishing an identity with this current group. Sure, the Butler Way will be the program’s mantra no matter who puts on the Bulldogs’ jersey, but on the court, it does not seem there is not a consistent thread in each of Butler’s games. Aside from the game today, the young Bulldogs usually put out energy and effort, but performances from any given player seem so volatile.

Especially on the road, Butler seems to be a collection of individuals rather than a team. Sure, the prospects look a lot different when the result is different when the buzzer sounds, but I could realistically point to any of a handful players as to who the leader will be next year, which is not the usual in this program.

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