WASHINGTON, D.C. — Known far and wide for its intelligence and sustained calmness under fire, nationally ranked Butler was nearly dissolved by the missed free throws of Roosevelt Jones and the absence of Andrew Smith and Erik Fromm when it saw a 17-point lead washed away before finally surviving to edge motivated George Washington, 59-56, on Saturday before a capacity crowd at the Charles Smith Center in Foggy Bottom.
Jones went 2-for-9 from the foul line as George Washington continually fouled him in atempting to overcome its own miserable shooting in the last seven minutes.
Once in front, 48-31, with 12:02 to play, the Bulldogs owned a 10-rebound advantage and had moved to control even though their usual scoring focal point, Rotnei Clarke, was having very little positive effect on the game. Clarke would finish with a 5-for-16 showing from the field.
When 6-foot-11 Andrew Smith and 6-foot-7 Erik Fromm fouled out, Butler was only a small shell of the team that had been outrebounding the Colonials.
With Butler holding a 53-38 lead with only 7:38 remaining, the tempo and tenure of the fun-filled afternoon was completely changed.
Butler couldn’t rebound. The inconsistent officiating in the Atlantic 10 game became almost intolerable. George Washington couldn’t continue at the pedestrian pace the game had been played at — and so the Colonials instituted a full court press and sent all five players to the offensive boards after every missed George Washington shot.
Butler would not make a field goal in the final 7:38. It was outrebounded 14-4. Worst of all for the struggling Bulldogs, Clarke didn’t have the ball. Jones had it. And Jones went 1-for-8 from the foul line in those last frightful minutes.
Even though he didn’t rebound, Butler coach Brad Stevens kept Jones on the floor.
And with the gambling Colonials getting two, three, and even four shots at times, they eventually chiseled away all but one point frrom the Butler lead — that despite shooting 27.9 percent from the field.
With the Bulldog lead at 57-56, freshman Kellen Dunham was fouled with 23 seconds remaining , Dunham’s two free throws (other than Jones’ continual mistakes, Butler was 11-for-12 with its free throws) made it a three-point game.
George Washington managed get off three long-range shots before the final horn short-circuited its comeback quest against the nation’s 14th-ranked team. Butler was winning its 20th game, giving it eight straight seasons with at least 20 wins.
Intelligence and composure when seeing a loud and focused crowd on the road weren’t anywhere to be found in the final 7:34. But the Bulldogs had enough lead to withstand the 1-for-12 three-point shooting from the Colonials (11-11 overall after the loss) and their own out-of-character troubles that were never solved.