Georgetown men’s basketball is edged by Villanova for fifth straight defeat


Hoyas Coach John Thompson III looks for answers during Monday’s night’s loss to No. 9 Villanova. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

While the Georgetown men’s basketball team welcomed back guard Jabril Trawick ahead of schedule, the Hoyas had to scramble without their second center when Moses Ayegba was forced to sit out Monday night’s 65-60 loss to ninth-ranked Villanova in front of 11,204 at Verizon Center.

Ayegba was ineligible to play because of a one-game NCAA suspension, according to a release from Georgetown approximately 45 minutes before tip-off. The senior from Nigeria served a nine-game suspension as a freshman because of a pre-enrollment infraction, and this latest episode is related to that, according to school officials.

“We received notice of the suspension Monday afternoon, and it stems from his pre-enrollment reconciliation,” Athletic Director Lee Reed said in the statement. Reed was traveling and unavailable for additional comment, although the Georgetown sports information department indicated the team learned of the suspension shortly before leaving campus for Verizon Center.

Once there, the Hoyas took the second-place team in the Big East to the wire but managed just one field goal over the final 2 minutes 8 seconds while Villanova made 4 of 5 foul shots in the last 33 seconds to seal it.

Georgetown dropped its fifth straight to match the most consecutive losses in 10 years under Coach John Thompson III. The last time the Hoyas lost five straight came in 2010-11.

“For the most part, and I don’t remember each possession, but we got open shots for the people we wanted to get open shots for, and it was just one of those days they didn’t go in,” Thompson said.

The Hoyas (11-8, 3-5 Big East) lost for the sixth time in seven games and for the seventh in 11, although senior Markel Starks scored a game-high 20 points to become the 44th player in team history to reach 1,000. The point guard added five assists but also committed a game-high five of Georgetown’s 18 turnovers, tying the team’s second most this season.

The most glaring disparity came at the foul line, where Villanova attempted 28 shots and the Hoyas nine. In Saturday’s 76-63 loss to Creighton, Georgetown shot 11 foul shots to the Bluejays’ 28.

James Bell led Villanova (17-2, 6-1) with 16 points, and JayVaughn Pinkston and Daniel Ochefu each had 12.

“Still a confident team,” Starks said. “Just got to get better.”

Georgetown tied it at 46 midway through the second half on a three-pointer by reserve forward Aaron Bowen, but Villanova scored six of the next eight and another four in a row for a 55-50 lead with 7:03 left. The Hoyas inched closer on Starks’s field goal, 56-54, but again, Villanova had an answer, this time courtesy of Bell’s three-pointer.

Freshman forward Reggie Cameron (12 points) scored on a layup for Georgetown, Ochefu made a layup to put the Wildcats ahead, 61-56, and Starks made a floater in the lane with 2:08 to play, putting a scare into the Hoyas’ longtime conference rival in spite of another game with roster upheaval.

Normally a reserve who played sparingly, Ayegba has been on the floor considerably more over the previous six games given Georgetown’s depleted front court. The Hoyas have been without starting center Joshua Smith for the past seven games since Thompson announced the junior was suspended because of an ongoing academic issue.

Friday afternoon, Thompson ruled out Smith for the rest of the season before Georgetown departed for Omaha to face Creighton. Ayegba played 15 minutes against the No. 20 Bluejays, missing his only field goal attempt and amassing four personal fouls.

With depth in the front court virtually nonexistent, Georgetown got a boost Monday with its smaller lineup thanks to Trawick’s return from a broken jaw. The junior and third-leading scorer among eligible players had missed the past five games since the injury in a 70-52 loss to Providence on Jan. 8 and had been expected to be out longer.

Trawick entered with 13:06 left in the first half and minutes later sank a three-pointer as shot clock expired to draw the Hoyas within 19-15. That was his only field goal in 12 minutes.

“He’s far from being 100 percent,” Thompson said. “He’s got to get his game legs back and everything else, but having him back out there gives us much-needed depth on the perimeter.”

Gene Wang is a sports reporter covering many local and national beats, including Navy football, the Capitals, Wizards, Nationals, women’s basketball, auto racing, boxing and golf. He joined The Washington Post sports department in 1990 as a member of the high school staff and worked as a copy editor and assignment editor for almost 19 years.
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