Hoyas Escape, Get Home Free

Corey Stokes is called for a foul against Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace in Villanova's end of the court with less than one second left.
Corey Stokes is called for a foul against Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace in Villanova's end of the court with less than one second left. (By John Mcdonnell -- The Washington Post)
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By Camille Powell
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 12, 2008

When the whistle blew and the action on the court between eighth-ranked Georgetown and Villanova stopped with just 0.1 of a second left on the clock last night, senior Roy Hibbert wasn't sure what had happened. He had just seen his fellow Hoya, guard Jonathan Wallace, scoop up a loose ball and start to dribble down the sideline, with Villanova's Corey Stokes at his side.

What was the call? The score was tied and both teams were in the double-bonus, so if it was a foul, Wallace -- a career 82.6 percent free throw shooter -- would go to the line with a chance to win the game. If Wallace had stepped out of bounds, the game was likely headed into overtime.

"To tell you the truth, I thought it was out-of-bounds on Jon, and I didn't know what to do," Hibbert said. "I was getting ready to get back on defense, but when I heard it was a foul -- Jonathan Wallace is cold as ice when it comes to hitting free throws."

Sure enough, Wallace coolly sank both free throws to lift the Hoyas to a 55-53 victory in front of an announced crowd of 17,575 at Verizon Center.

It was probably a fitting end to an ugly game that featured more fouls (48) than field goals (30). The Hoyas (20-3, 10-2 Big East) put forth a terrific defensive effort -- holding Villanova (14-9, 4-7) to 12.9 percent shooting (4 for 31) in the second half -- and got one huge stop when the game was on the line.

The Wildcats had the ball with 30 seconds remaining, and they put it in the hands of sophomore Scottie Reynolds (24 points). Jeremiah Rivers was charged with shadowing Reynolds, who had tied the score at 53 with a drive, and he stuck with him down to the baseline, where Reynolds had few options. He tried to pass the ball, but Rivers deflected it, and Wallace scooped it up. A moment later, Stokes bumped Wallace.

Villanova Coach Jay Wright said that he couldn't complain about the foul call because he didn't see it.

"Tough way to lose it, but I was proud of our guys," said Wright, whose team missed 20 shots in a row in the second half. "I thought Georgetown played great. I've watched them win a lot of games this year like that, when they were out of it and they found a way."

That's been the story of the Hoyas' Big East season; this was the fourth time that they won a game that came down to the final seconds. It was a resilient performance from a team that was coming off of a poor second-half performance in a loss to Louisville two days earlier.

"You have to be [resilient] in this league," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "There's going to be adversity. This is a league that on any given night, you're going to lose, you're going to get beat up. Every game is like this. . . . You don't have the opportunity to dwell on the last game, win or lose."

Wallace (15 points), in particular, was able to move on. He missed all five three-pointers he took against the Cardinals -- the third straight game in which he failed to hit a three -- but was 3 of 8 from beyond the arc against Villanova, including one late in the game that ended a five-minute span in which Georgetown didn't make a field goal. He also guarded Reynolds for much of the night, which Thompson said was the best defensive performance of Wallace's career.

Villanova led 31-28 after Dwayne Anderson dunked a missed shot with 19 minutes 48 seconds left. But over the next 12 minutes, the Wildcats missed three-pointers, layups and even tap-ins. When Anderson scored on a putback of a missed Corey Fisher three-pointer with 7:57 to play, he ended a stretch of 20 straight Villanova misses.

Thompson said that the players communicated well and focused on taking away the three-point line (Villanova was 0 for 13 in the second half) but they weren't able to bury the Wildcats, in part because they were careless on offense (10 second-half turnovers).

Wallace's three-pointer with 2:12 left put the Hoyas up by 53-49. But Villanova tied the score after two free throws from Dante Cunningham and the drive from Reynolds with 1:06 remaining. Georgetown had a chance to go ahead, but freshman Austin Freeman missed a three-pointer from the right side. That set up the whirlwind final 30 seconds and Wallace's clutch free throws.

"Just don't think about it," Wallace said of the pressure. "My teammates are telling me, this is what you do every day in practice, you knock foul shots down. I got to the line, refocused, and I was able to walk up and knock the shots down. . . . I don't mind being in a situation like that."

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