Rushed Reactions: #13 Butler 59, George Washington 56Posted by IRenko on February 9th, 2013
I. Renko is an RTC correspondent based in D.C. and the author of the weekly column, The Other 26. He filed this report after Saturday afternoon’s game between Butler and George Washington. Follow him on Twitter @IRenkoHoops.
Three key takeaways.
- GW is Getting There — Down 53-38 with under eight minutes to play, George Washington staged a furious 18-4 run, powered by an aggressive full-court defense and a renewed toughness on the glass. But with three chances to tie the game on the final possession, the Colonials couldn’t convert. This is the third time that the Colonials lost a game on the final possession to a high quality opponent at home, after falling to Kansas State 65-62 and Temple 55-53. But in his second year at the helm, Mike Lonergan has molded the Colonials into a very competitive team. At 5-4, they already have as many wins in A-10 play as they had all of last year. They’re also a very young team, starting four freshman and a junior, which should give Colonials fans optimism about the future. On Saturday, in spite of an abominable shooting performance (27.9% FG shooting), the Colonials managed to claw their way back against one of the best teams in the country. That kind of toughness and resilience that should serve them well the rest of the year and into the future.
- Butler Is Not Exactly What You Think It Is — If you don’t watch Butler much, you might stereotype them as a team with good fundamentals, strong three-point shooting, and a solid, compact defense. The reality is more complicated. First, as they showed in the first half against George Washington, many of Butler’s guards — Rotnei Clarke, Roosevelt Jones, Kellen Dunham, and Chase Stigall — can drive the ball to the basket. This is not just a team that comes down the floor looking to free up shooters with off-ball screens. Casual fans may also be confounded by the fact that Butler has a propensity to turn the ball over. It’s the weakest part of their offensive game, and against George Washington, it showed. The Bulldogs committed 19 turnovers, including five in the final 2:15 of the game, breathing life into George Washington’s late rally. Walk-on point guard Alex Barlow has a great story, but his ability to take care of the ball has been less great; more than 37 percent of the possessions he uses result in turnovers. Oh, and one other surprising fact — Brad Stevens gets upset … sometimes. He may be more calm than the average Division I coach, but a game-long bird’s eye view confirms that he can be just as excitable about perceived officiating errors and bad turnovers as anyone.
- To the Victor of the Glass Go the Spoils — Butler built its nine-point halftime lead in large part because of their rebounding dominance. They outrebounded the Colonials 30-19 overall and pulled down 50 percent of their own misses, which they converted into eight second-chance points. But George Washington turned the tables in the second half. They rebounded more than 70 percent of Butler’s misses and more than 40 percent of their own en route to finishing the game with 20 second-chance points. Crucially, they pulled down seven offensive boards in the last six minutes of the game, helping to power the 18-4 run that put them in position to tie the game on the final possession.
Star of the Game. Rotnei Clarke. The Butler guard shot just 5-of-16 from the field, but he still stuffed the stat sheet to the tune of 14 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals, and no turnovers — the last an especially impressive feat given the way his teammates struggled with ball control.
Sights and Sounds. This was a great showing by the George Washington student section, as they packed the Charles E. Smith Center to the rafters. A Serbian flag was out in full force, as it often is in honor of Nemanja Mikic, but it was accompanied by the kind of geopolitical statement that one would only expect in a Foggy Bottom student section, a sign that read “Kosovo is Serbia.”
Quotable: “I’ll be a hundred percent honest with you. I’m not even sure I knew at the time, until I heard my wife screaming it was a 1-and-1. So I gotta yell at my assistants about that” — George Washington coach Mike Lonergan, joking about a situation late in the game when his players failed to go for the rebound on the missed front end of a 1-and-1.
Wildcard: Isaiah Armwood. The Villanova transfer has brought leadership to a young Colonials, setting the tone with his toughness and energy. Despite his slight frame, he is as active an interior player as there is in the A-10. Armwood finished with 14 hard-fought points and 11 rebounds.
What’s Next? Butler returns home to take on a surprisingly good Charlotte squad (17-5, 5-3 in A-10 play), while George Washington will have a week to prepare for the buzzsaw that is VCU’s defense. For George Washington’s freshmen, especially point guard Joe McDonald, it will be a baptism by fire.