Villanova thumps sloppy Georgetown, denting Hoyas’ NCAA tournament hopes


Villanova's Josh Hart skies for a dunk against Georgetown on Saturday. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Georgetown arrived at Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon with an opportunity other teams on the NCAA tournament bubble did not enjoy: a chance to score the sort of marquee win the selection committee wouldn’t be able to overlook.

The Hoyas left Philadelphia with a reminder of the issues that have cost them all season long and a future that remains as cloudy as ever.

No. 6 Villanova overwhelmed Georgetown, 77-59, a loss that means the Hoyas (17-13, 8-10) finished under .500 in league play for just the second time in 10 years under Coach John Thompson III. Now they will likely need several wins in this week’s Big East tournament in New York to improve their chances on Selection Sunday.

Georgetown will be the No. 7 seed, opening play on Wednesday night against DePaul.

But Saturday’s game could resonate long after this weekend. On the heels of an impressive 75-63 win over No. 13 Creighton at Verizon Center on Tuesday, the Hoyas had a chance to enhance a résumé that already included more wins (five) against the RPI top 50 than 14 teams currently ranked in the Associated Press top 25 rankings.

But Villanova (28-3, 16-2), the Big East’s regular season champion, never trailed in completing its second-ever season sweep of Georgetown. Even worse: The Hoyas proved to be their own worst enemy, done in by 18 turnovers.

Issues dealing with a trapping defense — the Wildcats finished with 14 steals and 22 points as a result of the giveaways — offset the fact that Georgetown shot 50 percent as a team.

“Just trying to make home run plays instead of being simple, playing how we usually play,” Smith-Rivera said of the problems. “We just forced a lot of things that we shouldn’t have.”

Senior guard Markel Starks again led the charge with 20 points, and guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and forward Aaron Bowen chipped in 14 and 13 points, respectively.

But the miscues were a sticking point, particularly because Georgetown spent Friday discussing how important ball security would be against the Wildcats. The Hoyas also committed 18 turnovers when they lost to Villanova, 65-60, at Verizon Center on Jan. 27.

Led by junior Darun Hilliard (19 points, five assists), three different Wildcats finished with at least three steals Saturday. Georgetown started the afternoon with turnovers on three of its first four possessions and fell into an early 9-2 hole.

“I think that we were kind of excited in a bad way, coming out the way we played,” junior Jabril Trawick said.

Initially, though, Georgetown appeared capable of giving Villanova a challenge, overcoming its sloppy play with some hot outside shooting. But the Hoyas were forced to play the final 11 minutes of the first half without Trawick because of foul trouble. The game then turned for good once Starks went to the bench with his third foul after sinking a jumper that trimmed Georgetown’s deficit to 28-24.

Villanova quickly pounced, and senior James Bell capped off a 14-3 surge with a four-point-play. The Wildcats entered halftime with a 42-29 lead.

“We’ve had several games where our post players have been in significant foul trouble. Sometimes we’ve figured it out. Sometimes we haven’t,” Thompson said. “It’s more harmful for us when our perimeter players and our guards are in foul trouble because we depend on them to do so much.”

Georgetown never could find its bearings in the second half, failing to close the deficit to single digits after the break. Villanova sophomore Ryan Archidiacono (11 points) then closed the door on any chances at a comeback by hitting back-to-back three-pointers that upped the lead to 55-35 with just more than 13 minutes remaining in regulation.

Soon after, a section of Villanova fans began to periodically chant, “N-I-T, N-I-T.” As if the Hoyas needed another reminder of the fate that might await them without a run in the Big East tournament next week.

“We have to play better than we did today,” Thompson said. “Significantly better.”

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