PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas (AP) — Butler has already been mightily tested this season.
The Bulldogs changed coaches in October when Brandon Miller was granted a medical leave of absence, then were picked to finish in the bottom half of the Big East, all while trying to figure out how to bounce back following the program’s worst record in nearly a decade.
They seem unfazed by it all.
Kellen Dunham scored 16 points and Butler beat Georgetown 64-58 in an all-Big East matchup for third place at the Battle 4 Atlantis on Friday afternoon. Alex Barlow added 11 for the Bulldogs (5-1), who won two of their three games in the
Bahamas for interim coach Chris Holtmann.
“I’m just really proud of our guys’ effort today, and their resiliency,” Holtmann said.
Butler missed 119 of its first 168 shots in the tournament then got hot at precisely the right time Friday. The Bulldogs — back-to-back NCAA finalists in 2010 and 2011 — made 9 of 11 shots during one second-half stretch, good enough to help put this one away.
“The law of averages will even out,” Barlow said. “We knew at some point shots were going to fall, and fortunately for us it was at a crucial point in this game.”
Isaac Copeland scored 16 points on 7 for 10 shooting for Georgetown (4-2), Paul White added 13 and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera finished with 12 for the Hoyas.
Georgetown lost for the first time in four all-time meetings with Butler. All three of Georgetown’s games in the tournament were decided in the final minute, two on the final shot.
“That’s not a good thing to get experience and come away with a loss,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said. “We came here to win three games, not to lose two. But we’ve got to move on.”
Ordinarily, conference rivals could not meet in early-season tournaments like this one. But a waiver was granted in Butler’s case, since the Bulldogs had accepted the invitation to play in the Bahamas before the school decided to join the Big East.
Butler and Georgetown were on opposite sides of the eight-team bracket. The only way they could meet was by posting exactly the same outcomes both Wednesday and Thursday.
Sure enough, it happened.
And the Bahamas got a glimpse of Big East physicality.
There were 10 instances of players picking themselves off the floor in the first 7:15 — before either team reached 10 points. The first inadvertent hit to someone’s head came on the fourth possession, six players got knocked to the deck in a
55-second span soon afterward and Butler’s Kameron Woods gasped for air after getting struck in the neck late in the half.
“I think it was a real good challenge for us, seeing where we’re at right now,” Dunham said.
Butler: Barlow’s 3-pointer with 7:10 left in the half put Butler up 21-13, significant because the Bulldogs never led the Hoyas by more than seven in any of the teams’ first three meetings. G Jackson Aldridge (ankle) returned after missing four games and made a quick impact. He induced Smith-Rivera into two fouls within a four-second span in the opening minutes.
Georgetown: C Joshua Smith sought out referee Doug Sirmons for a handshake before tip-off. Sirmons was one of the officials on the Georgetown-Florida game Wednesday, when Smith was twice called for flagrant fouls. Georgetown shot 32 percent in the first half, making back-to-back shots only twice — yet still was within 31-27 at the break.
It was the fourth meeting between the schools, and Paradise Island became the fourth different locale to host their matchup. The teams played at Madison Square Garden in New York at the Jimmy V Classic in 2009, then played league games on their respective home floors in Indianapolis and Washington last season.
Georgetown had three starters with two fouls in the game’s opening minutes. The Hoyas were called for at least 20 fouls in all three games in the Bahamas and were outscored 49-34 from the line.
Butler: At Indiana State, Wednesday.
Georgetown: Home against Towson, Dec. 7.