Postgame Roundup: Hoyas drop fifth straight in bruiser against Villanova

Not quite enough. Again.

The Hoyas (11-9, 3-6 Big East) played one of their strongest games of the season against No. 9 Villanova (18-2, 7-1 Big East), but again fell short 60-65. This was the fifth straight loss for the Hoyas who have also lost six of their last seven. This streak is tied with another for the longest of Head Coach John Thompson III’s tenure.

“We haven’t been in this situation too often. Don’t plan on being in it too long. This is how I’m interpreting this question: Are you guys going to get down?… Are you going to stop competing? That’s not them. I think the group understands who we are,” said Thompson of his team’s morale going forward. “I think we’re a different team now than we anticipated coming into the year. We’re a different team now than we were the first half of this year. With all that being said, I’m not saying this group is not going to lose confidence, but this group is not going to lose faith in each other.”

Despite the familiar result, the shape of this game was different, with the Hoyas hanging with their opponent throughout the game, rather than falling behind early or dropping a lead late. The Blue and Gray shot over 50 percent from the field in the first half, but were hurt by turnovers and shooting fouls. For the game, the Wildcats shot 28 free throws to the Hoyas’ 9. This closely parallels the last matchup between these two teams where the Hoyas shot 8 free throws, 34 less than Villanova.

“I’m not saying we’re being fouled and they’re not being called, but if you look at that stat right away, we shoot nine foul shots, they shoot 28, same as we shot last game, so we have to figure out how to get fouled,” said Thompson.

The game saw a hero’s performance from senior guard Markel Starks, who scored 20 points on 7 of 15 shooting, making a series of circus shots in the lane late in the game to keep the dragging Hoya offense going. Starks also reached the 1000 point mark for his career on the day. Uncharacteristically, sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera contributed only 8 points on 2 of 11 shooting, including shooting 0 of 6 from behind the arc. Freshman forward Reggie Cameron had one of his strongest games of the season scoring 12 points on 5 of 8 shooting.

Senior center Moses Ayegba was suspended by the NCAA for the game due to issues related to “pre-enrollment reconciliation.” The loss of Ayegba came as a surprise to Thompson and his staff.

“I did not have an inkling until, I think it was 2:15 [p.m.] today, and didn’t know for sure until 6:05 [p.m.],” said Thompson. What the “pre-enrollment reconciliation” means, exactly, remains unclear.

Junior guard Jabril Trawick returned to the lineup for the first time since the Providence game on Jan. 28 after recovering from a broken jaw. In his first game back, Trawick played only 12 minutes and scored 3 points, but will be a significant factor as he begins to incorporate himself into the Hoya gameplan.

“Jabril hasn’t done anything since he got hurt against Providence. He literally hasn’t done anything except some conditioning, so he’s far from being 100-percent, he’s got to get his game legs back,” said Thompson. “Having him back out there gives us some much needed depth on the perimeter. His presence is important, so we threw him out there a little bit today. We didn’t want to totally immerse him.”

For the Wildcats, most starters struggled from the field with all except sophomore forward Daniel Ochefu shooting under 40 percent. However, all managed decent scoring numbers, leaning on free throws, with Ochefu, junior forward JayVaughn Pinkston, and senior guard James Bell leading the way in double figures.

Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright was not the first to express sympathy for the Georgetown team that is still essentially missing two starters, with junior center Josh Smith’s return ruled out for this season.

“Well they’re missing two starters I mean in this league, they’re in every game I mean the Marquette game here – we played Marquette so you watch that film so you’re watching that game and going how do they lose this, they’re right there,” said Wright. “It’s such a fine line between winning and losing and not having two starters and being in every game like this, it’s amazing that they’re doing what they’re doing and when Trawick comes back and gets going I think they’re going to get a lot better – but they’re different without those two guys, they are.”

The Hoyas will now face, debatably, their biggest test of the season on Saturday when they take on No. 7 Michigan State at Madison Square Garden. Tip will be at 3 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1.

Photo: Freddy Rosas/Georgetown Voice

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