Recap: Once again, D'Vauntes Smith's 3-pointers missed. Once again, Georgetown's big men picked up many fouls. Once again, the resilient Hoyas found their way to another victory.
Markel Starks had 19 points and Smith-Rivera scored 14 of his 18 points in the second half as the Georgetown Hoyas fended off the Butler Bulldogs for a 71-63 victory on Saturday afternoon at the Verizon Center.
Nate Lubick added 10 points and nine rebounds for the Hoyas (14-9, 4-6 Big East), who have three straight wins after dropping five in a row. In a rugged game with minimal offensive flow, Georgetown shot 53.8 percent (14 of 26) from the floor in the second half and committed just seven turnovers for the second straight game.
Georgetown led by 11 in the second half and 62-58 with 1:43 remaining. Starks' jumper with 47 seconds gave the Hoyas a 66-59 lead.
Andrew Chrabascz led Butler (10-13, 2-9) with a career-high 24 points while Kellen Dunham scored 15. The Bulldogs have lost eight of 10.
Starks played all 40 minutes and had seven assists without any turnovers. The senior made 7 of 13 shots and is averaging 21.6 points over the last six games.
Turning point: Leading 47-44 with 10:21 remaining, Smith-Rivera's jumper started an 11-3 run. He scored eight in that span with another jump shot give Georgetown its largest lead at 58-47 with 6:53 left. The true momentum changer came one basket earlier on Starks' deft dribble, drive and dish to Lubick for a dunk before the "Gray Out" crowd of 13,011.
DSR watch: Entering Saturday, Smith-Rivera remained Georgetown's top percentage 3-point (39.6) shooter by miles despite a massive long distance slump. How massive? After failing on his two tries against Butler, the sophomore guard has missed 17 straight from beyond the arc with 16 of the misses coming over the last four games. Georgetown finished 1 of 12 on 3-point attempts.
Despite the struggles, Smith-Rivera finds ways to score. The crafty 6-foot-3 guard maneuvered inside the arc and paint for buckets. Best of all, he continues the march to the free throw line. Smith-Rivera went 8 of 8 against Butler and is 47 of 49 over his last six games.
Georgetown sank 16 of 19 free throws overall.
1st half: Hammered on the offensive boards early, Georgetown closed strong and specifically with an Aaron Bowen putback for a 29-25 lead. Starks scored 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting. After missing its first eight field goal attempts, Butler strung together enough scores for an 11-4 lead but finished the half shooting 33.3 percent.
They said it: "Markel Starks doesn't get tired. In terms of his physical conditioning, in terms of taking care of his body, in terms of preseason, fall, summer, spring working hard, he does that and does so in a more dilligent manor than probably any player I've ever coached." - Georgetown coach John Thompson III
Butler: The Bulldogs have tremendous Verizon Center memories thanks to thrilling NCAA Tournament victories, their first steps toward reaching the 2011 National Championship game. They didn't add to that collection on Saturday despite Chrabascz's scoring. The freshman forward tallied 18 of 20 points for Butler during the middle of the game including its first eight of the second half. Chrabascz's previous season-high was 14, set in Georgetown's 70-67 overtime win in Indianapolis on Jan. 11.
Postseason forecast: Forget any bracketology talk. For now the only numbers Georgetown fans need to monitor are the overall record and to some degree, RPI. Entering Saturday, the Hoyas need to go 5-3 to reach the all-important .500 conference mark. Based on the remaining schedule - and the brutal finish -, that meant going 3-1 over the next four games. One down...
Odds and ends: Aaron Bowen and Jabril Trawick each scored eight points as Georgetown's bench outscored Butler's 18-7. ...The Hoyas presented Starks with a ball pregame in honor of the senior scoring his 1,000th point earlier this season. ...Wizards rookie and former Georgetown star Otto Porter watched the game next to John Thompson Jr. following Washington's practice at the Verizon Center.
On deck: The Hoyas are back at the Verizon Center Monday night to host Providence. In the first game without center Joshua Smith, Georgetown lost 70-52 on the road to the Friars on Jan. 8. Providence, third in the Big East, faces Xavier on Saturday afternoon.