Georgetown (23-5, 13-4) had plenty at stake Wednesday as well, entering the game alone atop the Big East standings. But the loss dropped the Hoyas into a three-way tie with Louisville and Marquette (also 13-4 in Big East play) with one game remaining, heightening the stakes of Saturday’s already emotionally charged regular season finale against Syracuse at Verizon Center.
“We needed this game, also,” said Georgetown Coach John Thompson III. “We’re playing for the championship. That’s something that’s just as important. We felt desperate coming in on this game.”
If desperation translates to on-court intensity, Villanova (19-12, 10-8) displayed more of that in front of a modest but spirited crowd of 13,685 at Wells Fargo Center, repeatedly forcing the Hoyas into bad shots and stripping the ball 15 times.
Georgetown’s brand of desperation translated too often to fouls, at least in the view of the officials who sent Villanova to the free throw line for 42 shots compared with the Hoyas’ eight.
Three Georgetown players fouled out: defensive specialist Jabril Trawick; 6-foot-9 Moses Ayegba, who has supplied valuable minutes in reserve; and point guard Markel Starks, who played sparingly after drawing his fourth foul with more than 16 minutes remaining.
But the turnovers troubled Thompson most — particularly the inexplicable double-dribbles and errant passes.
“You have to give them credit,” Thompson said of Villanova. “They came out and were extremely aggressive. You have to give them credit for what they did, as well as us being careless with the ball.”
Georgetown was led yet again by sophomore Otto Porter Jr., who had 17 points but was essentially silenced over the final six minutes. Freshman D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera added 14, and Starks scored 12 in 25 minutes.
But most of the Hoyas’ energy went into trying to contain Villanova’s JayVaughn Pinkston, who scored 11 of his game-high 20 points on the free throw line, while snagging a game-high five steals.
Georgetown had won eight of its past nine meetings with Villanova. But after taking a 9-2 lead, the Hoyas’ offense stalled on turnovers, and Villanova went ahead on a three pointer by James Bell.
After falling behind 13-11, Georgetown never led. The Hoyas tied it twice and closed the gap to one point a few times. But they couldn’t overtake a Villanova squad playing for a place in the postseason.
Starks was particularly turnover-prone early, and Thompson replaced him with walk-on John Caprio, who coughed up the ball, as well.
“There was a stretch there, where we were just giving it back and forth to each other,” Thompson said, alluding to Villanova’s 17 turnovers, as well.
The first half closed on a scoring burst in which Smith-Rivera hit from long range to knot it twice, but Villanova took a 33-29 lead at the break.
It was an inauspicious half for the Hoyas, who tallied as many turnovers as field goals (12 each).
The Hoyas’ turnover woes continued in the second half.
Starks sat after drawing his fourth foul with 16:12 remaining, the Hoyas trailing by three. Georgetown was lucky to be that close, given its turnovers.
Porter hit a turnaround jumper then drove for a layup to pull within one, 44-43.
But Villanova’s Darrun Hilliard hit a huge three-pointer with just under six minutes remaining that seemed to sap the last gasp from the Hoyas, whose rally unraveled from there.