It was after his fifth consecutive missed shot that Patrick Ewing recalled saying to himself, "I guess this must not be my night tonight."
But with a little prodding from Coach John Thompson, Ewing continued shooting. He made seven of his last eight shots, including a jumper with three minutes remaining that gave Georgetown the lead for good and sent the second-ranked Hoyas to a 57-50 Big East victory over Villanova before 15,188 at Capital Centre.
Ewing led all scorers with 16 points, 11 rebounds and four blocked shots. Bill Martin had 10 points for Georgetown, which won despite shooting 39 percent to Villanova's 49.
Villanova's Harold Pressley scored 14 points and guard Gary McLain had 10. But Ed Pinckney and Dwayne McClain, who average 31 points a game between them, scored only seven each.
Even so, the 19th-ranked Wildcats led by nine points early as the Hoyas (22-2, 9-2 in the Big East) missed their first 10 shots, failing to score on their first 11 possessions.
But Georgetown, with Ewing making his final four shots of the half, pulled to within 25-22 at intermission.
Villanova's last lead came at 44-43 with 3:34 remaining when Pinckney followed up Dwight Wilbur's missed shot with a basket.
Georgetown came down and called a timeout with 3:12 to play. "I was afraid at that time we may have taken a shot too quickly," Thompson said. "They go down and score to go up by three and it becomes a different game. The big thing then was not to shoot too hastily. The ball represents the lead.
"I told them to take their time and try to get it in to Patrick. They got it in quicker than I thought."
It took 12 seconds for the Hoyas to swing the ball into Ewing. He got the ball on the left base line 12 feet from the basket, turned and shot over 6-foot-10 Pinckney, who had blocked Ewing's first shot of the night.
"We had been running the same play, and I had gotten a couple of baskets off it earlier," Ewing said. "But that time I was relatively open."
Ewing's basket gave Georgetown a 46-45 lead. The lead went to 48-45 when Reggie Williams and Horace Broadnax combined for a steal that led to a pair of free throws by Martin.
Ewing's two foul shots made it 50-45, and after Villanova scored, he threw a length-of-the court pass to Martin for a dunk that enabled the Hoyas to make it 52-47 with less than a minute to play.
Ewing smiled broadly afterward when he thought about what a miserable start he had. "I didn't know what was going wrong. I was traveling, trying to get too close to the basket. Finally, I decided to take the shots that their defense was giving me."
Thompson, who took Ewing out for a few seconds after missing the fifth shot, said, "I told him to keep shooting. I thought he was going to stop taking his shots."
Ewing had to be more involved in the offense because the Hoyas were not able to run in the manner they wanted. As guard Michael Jackson said, "It's hard to run fast against a defense like Villanova's because they don't press; they run right back into the paint and set up."
Thompson, knowing that, said he told his players before the game, "We might not be able to run as many breaks because they primarily play half-court defenses."
And Villanova was even able to "counter-break," as Thompson called it, to get several easy baskets in the first half. Georgetown spent much of the rest of the game in man-to-man defense.
Even though Georgetown couldn't run and scored only eight points in the first first 12 minutes, the Hoyas did not make many turnovers and did not give up anything to Villanova inside.
Pinckney made three of nine shots and McClain three of eight. Many times, Pinckney wanted to shoot, but couldn't even see the basket over Ewing. On the game's most spectacular play, Ewing missed a foul-line jumper -- his only miss of the second half -- but sprinted back on defense to smack Pinckney's dunk attempt off the glass.
McClain had several shots altered by Ewing. "I've played against him for six years (including games in high school)," McClain said, "but it still doesn't make a difference."
Pressley, who made five of seven shots, including a hook shot over Ewing to give Villanova a 37-36 lead, said, "I would call him, 'Mr. Defense.' "
Mostly, Villanova wanted to call for relief from losing close games in which it held the lead for much of the way. The Wildcats (15-7, 7-5) lost by two points against top-ranked St. John's on Saturday.
Of the seven losses Villanova has, "five were to teams ranked Nos. 1, 2, and 5," Villanova Coach Rollie Massimino said. "One was to Maryland, which (led) the Atlantic Coast Conference, and another to Georgia, which leads the Southeastern Conference.
"It would be a shame and a disaster if this team doesn't get into the tournament," he said.
Part of Massimino's strategy was to make Georgetown shoot free throws. "We knew they had been shooting 62 percent from the free-throw line; we wanted to foul them and see if we could get something going that way," he said. But Georgetown made 11 of 12 foul shots.
"I don't even want to talk about free throws," Thompson said, smiling, and hoping not to jinx his team, whose two losses came, in part, because it missed crucial free throws.
Thompson also was pleased with the play of freshman reserve Perry McDonald, who had four points and four rebounds in 16 minutes and helped with the Hoyas' harassing defense.
"Perry gave us inspiration at the time we needed it," Thompson said. "It's not always how much, but when."