Three teams ranked in the top-5 in the country have visited the Wells Fargo Center this year to square off with Villanova, and all three have fell victim to the Wildcats. Coming off two disheartening losses on the road to Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, Villanova’s NCAA Tournament hopes seemed to be on life support. That was until the 5th-ranked Georgetown Hoyas, arguably the hottest team in the nation having won eleven straight games coming in, made the trip to South Philadelphia on Wednesday night and found out just how resilient this young group of Wildcats are, losing 67-57 in ‘Nova’s regular season finale. The win made it just the third time in twenty years that an unranked team has beaten three top-5 teams in the same season.
It didn’t start out well for Villanova (19-12 overall, 10-8 Big East), as Georgetown (23-5, 13-4) came out of the gates with a 7-0 run. The Hoyas’ Otto Porter Jr., the favorite for Big East Conference player of the year and candidate for National Player of the Year, made a layup off an assist by Abington Friends grad Jabril Trawick to make it 9-2 at the 17:17 mark of the first half. The Wildcats, however, held Georgetown scoreless for almost six minutes after that, and a three-pointer by James Bell gave ‘Nova their first lead of the game, 10-9, with 12:04 left.
The ‘Cats grew their lead to seven at 19-12 after a Tony Chennault layup, but once the final media timeout of the first half arrived with just over 3 minutes until intermission, the Hoyas had narrowed the gap to two, with Villanova holding a 25-23 lead. Georgetown’s D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored their next 6 points, and after ‘Nova’s Ryan Arcidiacono connected with James Bell on an incredible alley-oop dunk, the two teams went to their respective locker rooms with Villanova leading 33-29.
The game had evolved into a bruising defensive battle after the first 20 minutes, with the two squads combining for a total of 21 turnovers, 12 of which were committed by Georgetown, just under their season average of 13 for a full contest. Sophomore JayVaughn Pinkston led the way for the Wildcats at the break with 9 points on 2 of 3 shooting from the floor, and 5 of 6 from the foul line. James Bell added 8 points including 2 of 3 from beyond the arc, and Senior Mouphtaou Yarou chipped in with 4 points and 6 rebounds. ’Nova held Otto Porter Jr. to just 6 points on 2 of 6 shooting in the first half, in large part due to the brilliant defense of Darrun Hilliard. Markel Starks and Smith-Rivera each led the Hoyas at intermission with 8 points.
A quick three by Jabril Trawick 22 seconds into the second half pulled Georgetown to within one, 33-32, but the Wildcats responded with a 6-0 run to grow their lead back to seven, 39-32, at the 17:51 mark. Ryan Arcidiacono passed the ball to JayVaughn Pinkston in the left corner who drained just his 10th three-pointer of the season to make it 44-36 with just over 14 minutes remaining, but Otto Porter Jr. led the Hoyas on a 7-0 run after that to pull them to within one yet again, 44-43 at the under-12 media timeout.
A huge three from Darrun Hilliard and two free throws from Arcidiacono gave the Wildcats some breathing room at the 4:50 mark, as they grew their advantage back to eight at 56-48. Georgetown would not get closer than four from that point on, as Villanova did a tremendous job closing the game out, something they failed to do against Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, as they clamped down defensively and made 11 of 12 free throws down the stretch. A tip-in by Mikael Hopkins with 7 seconds left on the clock gave the game it’s final score, and the Wildcats had knocked off another top-5 opponent, 67-57.
Villanova out-scored the Hoyas 30-4 from the foul line, as they attempted an astonishing 34 more free throws than the visitors. With Georgetown being more of a jump-shooting team than a low-post team, and the ‘Cats leading all of Division I in free throw rate, the statistic is not as surprising as it may seem. ’Nova forced the Hoyas into a season-high 22 turnovers, almost twice their season average, which led to 24 points for the home team. JayVaughn Pinkston led four Villanova players in double-figures in scoring with a game-high 20 points on 4 of 6 shooting from the floor, and made 11 of 14 free throws, while also recording 5 of his team’s 15 steals. Sophomore Darrun Hilliard added 14 points, James Bell emerged from his scoring slump with 10 points, including 2 of 3 from long range, and Ryan Arcidiacono finished with 11 points and 6 assists. Mouphtaou Yarou hauled in a game-high 12 rebounds, and also chipped in with 6 points.
Otto Porter Jr., who came into the night averaging 28 points over his last three games, scored 17, and added 5 assists and 4 rebounds. The Wildcats held him to just 6 of 16 shooting from the field, including just 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. Freshman D’Vauntes Smith Rivera added 14 points off the bench, and point guard Markel Starks scored 12 points in just 25 minutes, as he battled foul trouble for most of the game. He also committed 5 turnovers to just 1 assist.
Villanova will now sit and wait for the rest of the teams in the Big East Conference to finish their schedules before finding out where they will be seeded in the upcoming Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden starting on Tuesday, March 12th. Following a couple of mediocre seasons after their 2009 Final Four appearance, head coach Jay Wright and the Wildcats are feeling good. With their NCAA Tournament bubble on the verge of bursting after losing to Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, many didn’t feel as though they stood a chance against the mighty Georgetown Hoyas. Like they’ve done time and time again this year, however, they proved that despite their youth, they’re as tough as any team in the country. After their most recent win on Wednesday night, they have almost certainly earned themselves an invitation to the tournament, where the best may still be yet to come.
Tags: Georgetown, James Bell, JayVaughn Pinkston, March Madness, Mouphtaou Yarou, NCAA, NCAA Tournament, Ryan Arcidiacono, Villanova, win