Butler escapes GW with win

David Driver, The Sports Xchange
The SportsXchange

WASHINGTON -- A win by Butler in the NCAA title games in 2010 or 2011 would have most likely earned the Bulldogs a trip to the White House to meet the president.
That never happened, but No. 14 Butler was in the neighborhood Saturday afternoon and left Foggy Bottom with its first-ever win in the nation's capital as a member of the Atlantic 10 Conference. But it wasn't easy before a loud sellout crowd of 4,488.
The Bulldogs watched a 17-point lead with 12:02 left slip to 57-56 with 44 seconds left. But Kellen Dunham of Butler hit two big free throws with 23 seconds to go and the visitors held on a for a 59-56 victory against a George Washington team that started four freshmen.
So was Butler head coach Brad Stevens happy to be back in the nation's capital, despite the near loss?
"Absolutely a thrill. We are excited to be in this conference," said Stevens, standing outside of the Butler dressing room after the game.
Stevens told The Sports Xchange he even stayed in the same room at the Crystal City Marriott in Virginia on this trip that he stayed in when Butler beat Pittsburgh and ODU at the Verizon Center in Washington in the NCAA tournament in 2011.
He said, with a smile, he would not reveal which room it was in case he wants to stay there again.
"President Obama was wonderful to us after we got beat by Duke. He called me the next day," said Stevens, who said it is not normal for the losing team to get a call from the president.
Obama, who has attended at least one GW game in the past, was nowhere to be seen Saturday and the Colonials were certainly not nice house guests.
The Bulldogs (20-4, 7-2 Atlantic 10) had 19 turnovers and were beaten on the boards in the second half by GW (11-11, 5-4), which almost won despite making just 27.9 percent of its shots.
"In the end, we won the game," said Butler guard Rotnei Clarke, who had 14 points and four assists. "We did not handle their pressure. But in the end, we won. I think we will be fine. We are not too worried right now."
GW fans were in a frenzy as the Colonials battled back by putting backcourt pressure on Butler.
"I like it. I like it," Stevens said of the environment his team faces on the road. "Five straight (road) sellouts, five straight places that have been absolutely jumping. I really like it."
GW's Isaiah Armwood, the only non-freshman starter, had 14 points and 11 rebounds, freshman point guard Joe McDonald had 10 points, no assists and four turnovers and reserve Lasan Kromah added 10 points.
"We played great. But we did not finish it up," said Armwood, a transfer from Villanova used to big-time games. "A lot of guys had open looks. They weren't dropping."
McDonald said, "We wanted to get the win. When we are down 17 we (showed) we can win."
GW was just one of 12 from 3-point range but made 21 of 30 shots from the foul line while Butler was 13 of 21.
"Butler is really good. When you are really good the ball bounces your way a lot," GW head coach Mike Lonergan said.
Butler took its first 14-point lead at 41-27 on a tip by Khyle Marshall with 14:20 left in the game and the Bulldogs built the lead to 46-31 on a 3-pointer by Clarke with 12:50 left.
Clarke's basket made it 48-31. Seconds later GW went on a run and cut the lead to 53-43 with 5:52 to go.
Andrew Smith of Butler fouled out with 4:52 left and then GW battled back and pulled within 57-54 on a basket by Kromah with 52.4 seconds to go. McDonald hit two free throws with 44.5 seconds left to make it 57-56 but Butler's Dunham, who had 10 points, made two throws with 23.8 seconds left to make it 59-56.
McDonald missed a 3-pointer with about 11 seconds to go and Butler got the rebound and had possession but an out-of-bounds infraction gave the ball to GW, which missed a shot at the buzzer that would have tied the game.
Notes: Smith is the last holdover from the Butler teams that made the 2010 and '11 national title games. ... The Bulldogs advanced to postseason play for the seventh time in a row last season, which tied a school record. ... Butler is home on Wednesday against Charlotte. ... The Bulldogs beat No. 1 Indiana in overtime on Dec. 15. ... GW marked the 20th anniversary of its 1993 Sweet 16 team on Saturday. ... It was the highest-ranked team to visit GW since 2000, when GW faced No. 5 Temple. The Colonials start four freshmen and were picked to finish 13th in the Atlantic 10 Conference this season. ... Saturday marked the first time Butler played a game in D.C. since 2011, when the Bulldogs beat ODU and Pittsburgh at the Verizon Center in the second and third rounds of the NCAA field on the way to the national title game. ... The last time GW beat a ranked team at home was in 1998 against Xavier. Next up for GW is a game Feb. 16 at VCU, along with Butler the other new team in the Atlantic 10 with a Final Four pedigree.