We Are Georgetown and You’re Not: Hoyas Seek Revenge Against Butler

Ugly.

That was the word many pundits used to characterize the last meeting between Georgetown (11-5, 3-2 BIG EAST) and Butler (11-5, 3-2 BIG EAST), a 64-58 slugfest on Nov. 28th that saw the Bulldogs edge the Hoyas in the game’s final minutes.

The loss followed one of the Hoyas’ best-played games of the season, 68-65 loss against top-ranked Wisconsin, and secured an unsatisfying fourth place finish at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas. For Head Coach John Thompson III, Saturday’s rematch with Butler at Verizon Center won’t be about a change in strategy, but a change in execution.

“I think the ways to win the game are still the same,” Thompson said. “That was a game, if you remember, where we had some of the worst transition d[efense]…that we’ve had all year. To beat them you have to negate, you’re never going to take away, but limit their strength, which is their rebounding and limit how they spread you out and get easy baskets in transition. And then you have to hope you get some baskets.”

For the Hoyas to remain competitive on Saturday, some of these baskets will have to come from a bench that has been noticeably dormant. In Georgetown’s last three games, only freshman forward Paul White has managed to score in double digits off the bench, forcing Thompson to lean heavily on his starters, in particular junior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and senior center Josh Smith.

Freshman forward Isaac Copeland may be the Hoya in the best position to end the bench’s dry spell on Saturday. In Georgetown’s last meeting with Butler, Copeland shot seven of ten from the field and tallied a career-high sixteen points, his first scoring outburst after a slow start to the season. For Copeland, his strong performance was a product of overcoming a steep learning curve.

“I think as a freshman it’s all about confidence,” Copeland said. “Getting used to the offense, the Princeton offense, is different than a lot of other schools, so just more repetition, getting the experience, is helping me out so far. “

Copeland’s counterpart, senior forward Mikael Hopkins, will be another Hoya fans will be looking to step up on Saturday. The senior forward has been unable to find his touch around the rim this season, scoring in double figures just once. Additionally, Hopkins has been unable to stay on the floor, picking up at least four fouls in nine contests this season. For the senior, staying confident remains the key.

“I was down on myself after that Providence game,” Hopkins said. “I really felt as though I blew that game for the team. I actually sent out a text to let the guys know that I was upset with myself for that. They just told me to keep my head up, come in here and work on it. And that’s what I did.”

For Butler, all eyes will be on junior sharpshooter Kellen Dunham, who enters the weekend averaging 16.8 points per game, good for fourth-best in the Big East. Limiting his ability to get clean looks at the basket will be a key for the Hoyas.

“If you’ve been watching them play, he’ll shoot any shot anywhere on the court,” Hopkins said. “He’s a good player, he can score the ball in a lot of different ways, and we gotta keep an eye on him.”

“Dunham’s an elite shooter,” Thompson said. “He gets it off fast and, much like a lot of teams in the this league, they do a very good job of getting him shots.”

The Hoyas enter Saturday’s matchup after a middling start to Big East play. Losses at Xavier (11-6, 2-3 BIG EAST) and Providence (13-5, 3-2 BIG EAST) were countered by wins over Creighton (9-9, 0-5 BIG EAST), Marquette (10-6, 2-2 BIG EAST) and Depaul (9-9, 3-2 BIG EAST), making Saturday’s contest an effective barometer for the state of Georgetown’s season.

And, with Big East frontrunner No. 5 Villanova (16-1, 4-1 BIG EAST), coming to Verizon Center this Monday night, the Hoyas surely will be looking to gain some momentum.

“It’s real important,” Hopkins said. “We’re going out there in Verizon and we’re just going to try to remain undefeated in the Big East at Verizon.”

Copeland is just focused on the one task ahead: Butler.

“We just need to take care of business first Saturday and keep our momentum going,” Copeland said. “We’ll worry about Villanova when that comes up.”

Photo: Georgetown University

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