Always Money in Philadelphia: No. 7 Villanova defends homecourt against no. 24 Georgetown
PHILADELPHIA—What a difference nearly three weeks can make.
On Jan. 19 at Verizon Center, the Hoyas found themselves in sole possession of first place in the Big East after a 78-58 dismantling of then-No. 4 Villanova. The Hoyas’ stifling defense created problems for the Wildcats, who shot 35 percent from the field and had 17 turnovers.
Saturday’s contest saw the teams switch roles, this time with No. 7 Villanova (21-2, 8-2 Big East) playing the aggressor in their 69-53 victory over No. 24 Georgetown (15-8, 7-5 Big East) in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,587 fans at Wells Fargo Center.
“They looked like we did last game and we looked like they did,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright.
Fueled by 12 made three-pointers, the oppressive Wildcats defense forced 15 turnovers and held the Hoyas’ to 30 percent shooting overall, including 1-of-17 from three-point range. The loss marks the Blue and Gray’s third in their last four games.
“Villanova is a good defensive team. We were trying to be aggressive,” Georgetown senior guard Jabril Trawick said following the loss. “We wanted to attack the basket a lot more. They played well. We just didn’t bring it like we were supposed to.”
Freshman forward L.J. Peak led the way for the Hoyas in their losing effort, with 15 points off 6-of-18 shooting. Senior forward Aaron Bowen scored 10 points off the bench in just 17 minutes played, while Trawick added eight points and four rebounds.
Trawick’s three-pointer at the 16:48 mark of the first half gave Georgetown an early 5-2 lead. But all went downhill from there for Head Coach John Thompson III’s squad, as it was the last time they led as well as their last made three. The Hoyas proceeded to miss their next 16 attempts from downtown, equating to 6 percent shooting from downtown overall, tied for the Hoyas’ lowest all-time three-point shooting percentage in which they made at least one three-pointer.
“They did a good job of chasing us off the [three-point] line,” Thompson said. “We did a poor job of looking for our second, third, and fourth options.”
The Wildcats capitalized on the Blue and Gray’s poor first half shooting, 9-of-29, and turnovers, nine, as they went on a 15-2 run to take a 17-7 lead with 11:40 left in the first half. Georgetown never cut Villanova’s lead to single-digits for the remainder of the contest.
Three-point shooting and defense proved a powerful combination. The home team shot 50 percent, 12 of 24, from deep, and with seven of those coming in the first half which allowed them to build a commanding 37-23 halftime lead from which they never looked back.
Guards Josh Hart and Kris Jenkins combined to go six for seven from outside the arc for the game, and while the Wildcats cooled off slightly from their first half mark of 53.8% from three, they still managed to connect on 45.5% of their outside shots in the second half.
As the home team poured in jumpers from distance, the away side couldn’t find the basket, especially on three-point shots. The stifling defense allowed the Wildcats’ shooters time to get into the game, and provided opportunities to attack the Hoyas’ end of the floor. Villanova converted 24 points off Georgetown’s 15 turnovers.
“We weren’t great offensively in the very beginning. But defensively, we were bad last game, and I thought this game we were really focused, and we created turnovers. We got some easy baskets off our turnovers which loosened up their defense a little bit,” Wright said.
Trawick knows that the Hoyas have to play better, especially if they want to break their recent funk, which has seen them lose three of their last four games.
“We got to play harder. We got to know that we just can’t come out and think that we’re going to win games like this. Playing against these teams in the Big East is really hard. This is really a grind. We have to grind out the game for the whole 40 minutes. And we didn’t do that today. We just have to come together, play together, and play as hard as we can the next couple of games.”
The Hoyas will look to bounce back when they travel to Seton Hall (15-8, 5-6 Big East) this Tuesday with tipoff is slated for 7:00p.m. Thompson acknowledged that the Hoyas will have some soul-searching to do before that contest on what they need to do to regain their earlier form.
“We will figure that out on the ride down I-95,” Thompson said.
Photo: Georgetown University