Butler vs. Georgetown: Bulldogs pull off another stunner

Butler men's basketball coach LaVall Jordan calls a play during the second half of a recent game against Purdue in Indianapolis. (By The Associated Press)

That is why the game is 40 minutes long. Or 50, give or take.

For 20 minutes, Georgetown (10-2, 0-1 Big East) made Butler look like the completely inept squad that it has mostly been this season every time that it played a team that doesn’t compete in a one-bid league. However, the Bulldogs (11-3, 1-0) played astronomically better over the final 30 minutes to miraculously pull out a 91-89 double-overtime win in Washington, D.C.

It was the third consecutive game at Georgetown that Butler has won over the Hoyas in overtime and what it showed was a number of things, both good and bad.

Here are some takeaways from the stunning Bulldog victory.

• Butler can dig deep

First-year Butler coach LaVall Jordan deserves credit for this much, his team doesn’t always play well or smart, but it won’t quit, which is a very admirable trait to possess.

The Bulldogs trailed Georgetown by 19 points in the first half and looked as bad as a team could in falling behind.

In the opening period, they didn’t shoot well (32 percent from the field) or guard well (the Hoyas shot 51 percent from the field) or take care of the ball well (five assists and six turnovers), but aside from those things, everything was fine.

It was the second such victory for Jordan’s team following a similar win over Ohio State (Butler trailed by 15 with 3:46 left in the game) last month, in which Butler demonstrated that it will give everything that it has – even through its own poor play – in trying to secure a win.

• Kamar and Kelan wake up, finally

Two big reasons as to why Butler has gotten rolled whenever it played a really good team this year are the underperformance of starters Kelan Martin and Kamar Baldwin.

Martin was shooting just 42.3 percent overall and 28.6 percent from 3-point range after 13 games, both numbers hover right at career low points for the senior.

In the case of Baldwin, he too was mired in a season-long funk.

After shooting 49.5 percent a year ago, he was making just 41 percent of his shots this year. And from long range, his average had plummeted from 37.2 percent to 28.8 percent.

In addition, the two had combined to pass for 61 assists, while turning it over (59 turnovers) almost just as much. However, that changed Wednesday, particularly in the second half.

The two players combined to make 22 of 41 shots and totaled 58 of Butler’s 91 points. They also combined for four assists while turning it over just once (Baldwin).

Yes, they were terrible still from 3-point range (a combined 2 of 10), but any sign of life is better than none and they helped the Bulldog offense improve from 32 percent shooting in the first half to 64 percent in the second.

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• Sean starts

Redshirt sophomore Sean McDermott had come off the bench over the past four games since injuring his ankle late last month. However, it was crystal clear what his impact was, surprisingly at the defensive end of the floor, so in Saturday’s game against No. 1-ranked Villanova, he needs to return to the starting lineup and move freshman guard Aaron Thompson back to the bench.

McDermott missed all four of his 3-point attempts (that won’t happen again) and only shot 3 of 7 overall. However, he had 12 rebounds, including three offensive, one of which forced the initial overtime, to help Butler.

The Bulldogs don’t win without him Wednesday, period.

“That is where, I think, he has made a jump,” Jordan told News-Sentinel.com Tuesday regarding McDermott’s defensive ability this year. “Sean is a smart guy that has a good feel for the game. He really eats up scouting reports. He’s got length and athleticism, so he brings that to the table on the defensive side of the ball, too.”

“He’s a gritty kid that plays really hard. Having him back out there is something that we’re all excited about in Big East play.”

McDermott had been limited in his minutes over the past four games, but Jordan realized how much he needed him Wednesday and played him 41 minutes.

• Butler has to find a big

A lot of credit goes to a number of Butler players and coaches for Wednesday’s effort, and senior center Tyler Wideman is included in that bunch.

Despite being undersized in almost every game, the 6-foot-8 post has still managed to be effective most nights this season and Wednesday was no exception.

Wideman finished with 15 points and eight rebounds in 34 minutes before fouling out. He is closing out a very nice career for the Bulldogs, but Butler is undersized in almost every game in this league and that has to get remedied moving forward.

Junior Nate Fowler (6-foot-10) is an adequate back-up on a limited-minute basis, but to say that Butler can go into Big East play next season and play him 25 to 30 minutes is a stretch. And we don’t know about redshirt freshman Joey Brunk, because he doesn’t play much at all.

The Bulldog coaches have to recruit either a graduate transfer or junior college transfer that brings size, strength and athleticism to the front court. Butler needs a 6-foot-10, 240-pound man to make an impact at both ends of the floor next season. And no, some 19-year-old freshman won’t help in that regard.

• Curb any enthusiasm

Yes, it was exciting to watch Butler demonstrate the fortitude and improved play – at both ends – to win Wednesday. However, don’t get overly excited because the fact remains that the Bulldogs still did a number of things poorly, which have haunted it all season.

The Bulldogs shot just 14.3 percent (3 of 21) from 3-point range.

Butler got pounded on the glass 45-37, including allowing 14 offensive boards.

The Bulldogs still don’t pass the ball well (just 13 assists on 35 makes), and as many players struggled with their play (Aaron Thompson, Paul Jorgensen, Henry Baddley, and Nate Fowler) as were heroes.

A massive dose of reality comes to Hinkle Fieldhouse Saturday (4 p.m., CBS) in the form of league power Villanova, and it more than likely won’t be pretty.

Butler has large strides left to be made in terms of ball movement, offensive flow, and shooting. As long as those things remain as poor as they have been this season, there are only so many miracles that this team can pull off.

For more on college basketball, follow Tom Davis on Twitter at Tom101010 and on Facebook at Thomas Davis.

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