By Liz Clarke
Washington Post staff writer
Monday, January 18, 2010; D01
PHILADELPHIA -- For the second time in the past eight days, Georgetown mounted a furious attempt to claw back from a double-digit deficit following an error-prone, poor-shooting first half against a gifted Big East opponent.
But this time -- in front of a hostile, capacity crowd of 20,016 at Wachovia Center -- the No. 11 Hoyas' rally against fourth-ranked Villanova fell short despite a career-high 29 points from sophomore center Greg Monroe.
While Monroe proved virtually unstoppable, adding 16 rebounds, which tied a career high, Villanova clamped down on the rest of the Hoyas and held on for an 82-77 victory that kept its Big East record spotless.
After trailing 40-23 in the first half, Georgetown (13-3, 4-2) did well to knot the score at 67 with 4 minutes 35 seconds remaining -- and again at 69 -- both times on shots by Monroe.
But unlike their come-from-behind victory over Connecticut, the Hoyas couldn't get out of the hole they dug early, turning over the ball nine times in the first half, which led to easy buckets for Villanova (16-1, 5-0) and senior guard Scottie Reynolds of Herndon, who had 27 points.
Moreover, early foul trouble sharply limited Georgetown starters Julian Vaughn and junior point guard Chris Wright, who each picked up three fouls in the first half.
That thrust a greater role on freshmen Jerrelle Benimon and Hollis Thompson, who played 21 and 17 minutes, respectively. While Benimon (four points, six rebounds) grabbed some key boards in what proved a physical game down the stretch, Thompson never could find his shooting touch, going 0 of 7 from the floor.
Villanova's reserves outscored Georgetown's, 25-4. It was a Wildcats freshman, Isaiah Armwood, who did the best defensive job against Monroe in the critical moments down the stretch. And it was also a freshman reserve, Maalik Wayns, who hit clutch free throws with 14 seconds left to keep nudging Villanova's margin out of the Hoyas' reach.
Georgetown Coach John Thompson III played down the role that the fouls had on his team's performance.
"It's an issue if the people that are coming in aren't producing," Thompson said. "It's an issue if all the sudden it's a tremendous drop-off."
In this case, Thompson added, the Hoyas' backups played well.
Benimon "was unhealthy for the first three or four months" because of a high-ankle sprain, Thompson said. "He's healthy now, and he's getting all the reps in practice. So he is a presence in there. He'll continue to get better, as will Hollis."
Junior guard Austin Freeman finished with 22 points. Sophomore guard Jason Clark, who hit clutch three-pointers late in the game, had 16 points. Wright had six points of 1-of-7 shooting from the floor in 24 minutes of work.
It was a classic Big East battle, pitting the league's top-scoring offense (Villanova averages 84.8 points per game) against its second-rated defense (Georgetown had held previous opponents to 58.6 points per game).
The Hoyas took a 15-14 lead on a cagey move by Monroe. Bottled up by Villanova defenders under the basket, he fired the ball to Wright for the easy layup.
But before the game was six minutes old, Vaughn and Wright had earned two fouls each, so they ceded the floor to Benimon and Hollis Thompson.
Villanova proceeded to reel off 14 consecutive points, while Georgetown went without a field goal for more than seven minutes.
Monroe was the only player capable of scoring during the drought, hitting two free throws and finally charging in for a dunk.
Villanova led 46-31 at the break.
John Thompson sent his full complement of starters out to begin the second half, and Freeman, Monroe and Clark collaborated on a seven-point run that pared Villanova's lead to single digits.
Fighting from behind, Georgetown kept the pressure on, with Monroe taking over on the boards. (The Hoyas won the rebounding battle, 45-39.)
Wright hit a pair of free throws to pull Georgetown within 66-63.
With a chance to pull even on his team's next possession, Hollis Thompson clanged his seventh shot off the rim.
In the final minutes, the teams traded fouls and free throws, with Villanova staying a step ahead at every turn.