The worst feeling for the Villanova Wildcats Saturday night -- even worse than losing by two to top-ranked St. John's that afternoon -- might have been the realization they would have to play the No. 2 team in the nation only 48 hours later.

Villanova, which upset Georgetown last year and took the Hoyas into overtime last month before losing, gets another chance tonight at 8 o'clock (WTTG-TV-5) in Capital Centre.

Anticipating tonight's game, the Hoyas certainly had to curb whatever happiness they felt coming out of Boston Garden with a 78-68 victory over Boston College.

Georgetown might have been headed for a return to the top spot in the national polls if Villanova had been able to hold on to its second-half lead and upset St. John's in the Spectrum. Instead, Georgetown needs to beat the Wildcats just to stay in contention for the Big East regular-season title.

St. John's is 11-0 in league play with five Big East games remaining, while Georgetown is 8-2 with five left after tonight.

The Hoyas (21-2) avoided a third straight loss in the conference when all-America center Patrick Ewing, in one of his more spectacular performances, blocked nine Boston College shots in the second half, six in a row after the Eagles had come within a point late in the game.

Georgetown's new fast-breaking offense seemed to take a quantum leap from the games against Arkansas and Florida Southern, when it committed a total of 51 turnovers. The Hoyas' shooting percentage also had fallen off for a few games, but they remedied that Saturday by shooting 53 percent, making many baskets in the transition game.

A similar performance tonight probably would produce Georgetown's fourth straight victory. The Wildcats are not as effective in up-tempo games. It's no coincidence that Villanova seemed to lose control against St. John's when the pace picked up.

And it's no coincidence that Villanova nearly beat Georgetown in the Spectrum last month with a low-scoring game that the Hoyas won, 52-50, in overtime. But the Hoyas weren't running as much then, and certainly weren't running as well.

It would be surprising if Villanova doesn't do what it always tries to do -- go inside to 6-foot-10 center Ed Pinckney and 6-6 forward Dwayne McClain in a patient half-court game.

When the Wildcats got away from that Saturday, it hurt them. McClain, who averages nearly 15 points, finished with 24 against St. John's but did not score in the final seven minutes. Pinckney scored only two free throws in the last five minutes.

Coach Rollie Massimino probably spent much of yesterday figuring out the best way for his Wildcats to deal with the new Georgetown, the one that Boston College Coach Gary Williams admitted "caught us on our heels at the start."

Massimino made a brief statement and bolted from the news conference after losing Saturday. But St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca, obviously in a better mood, said, "Villanova is the most difficult team we have to play. I'm not saying they have the best talent or that they're the best team, but they get the ball inside and they do all the little things right . . . "

McClain, asked if playing St. John's close gave him confidence for tonight's game at Georgetown, said, "We can play with anyone in the Big East . . . every Big East game is like a tournament game."