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Georgetown continues to play well but falls short in the end against Villanova

Georgetown led No. 3 Villanova with less than six minutes remaining Sunday but couldn’t finish the job.
Georgetown led No. 3 Villanova with less than six minutes remaining Sunday but couldn’t finish the job. (Matt Slocum/AP)

Patrick Ewing has insisted his Georgetown Hoyas are good enough to compete against any team in the nation despite having just five victories this season. Those thoughts have been met with skepticism, particularly as the Hoyas lost five straight before coronavirus issues last month forced a three-week break.

Ewing’s sentiment, however, has been on point since the team returned. The Hoyas lost, 84-74, at No. 3 Villanova on Sunday in Villanova, Pa., but Georgetown led one of the country’s best teams with less than six minutes remaining and trailed by just five in the final minute. The Hoyas couldn’t finish, but a victory was certainly within reach.

The close loss came after Georgetown earned consecutive victories for the first time this season in its previous two games, including a win over No. 15 Creighton on Wednesday. The all-time series between Georgetown and Villanova is now tied at 44 wins apiece, and Ewing is 1-7 against the Wildcats since taking over the Hoyas’ program, but he still took positives from Sunday’s effort.

“I’m not leaving with my head down,” Ewing said. “Just like all year long . . . every game that we’ve lost except for the Seton Hall game [a 78-67 loss on Dec. 23], we’ve had opportunities. All of them. We made a lot of mistakes early in the season that hurt us. The last time we played Villanova [on Dec. 11] we were up 18 and we didn’t keep our composure [in a 76-63 loss].

“I’m not putting my head down. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the win. But I’m not putting my head down. I think we’ve grown a lot since the first day to where we are right now.”

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The Wildcats (12-2, 7-1 Big East) closed the game on a 14-5 run as the Hoyas (5-9, 3-6) went 1 for 8 from the field in the final four minutes. Georgetown was buried when Jahvon Blair was called for an intentional foul with 54 seconds left as the Hoyas tried to trap, trailing by five. Jeremiah Robinson-Earl hit a pair of free throws, and while Georgetown was able to force a missed three-pointer on the ensuing extra possession, Villanova’s Collin Gillespie secured the offensive rebound and was fouled. Gillespie made both free throws, and the Hoyas trailed by nine with 22 seconds remaining. Ballgame.

The two teams went back and forth for much of the second half in a game that featured 17 lead changes.

Blair led the Hoyas with 18 points to go with five assists and four rebounds, and Qudus Wahab matched a career high with 17 points to go with seven rebounds. Jamorko Pickett posted 12 points, eight rebounds and three assists, and Chudier Bile also scored 12 points before fouling out.

Forwards Bile and Wahab were extremely active during Georgetown’s best runs, but foul trouble kept taking both off the floor. Bile made his second consecutive start Sunday after averaging 18 points in the two previous games. He hadn’t scored in double figures since the third game of the season before this stretch, but he has now done so in each of the past three games.

Villanova didn’t have much of an answer when the 6-foot-11 Wahab got the ball deep in the paint, and the sophomore played some of his most controlled, patient ball of his career.

“We’re still making too many mistakes,” said Ewing, who wore a mask with a picture of former Georgetown coach John Thompson Jr. on it during the game. “I keep telling my guys that at some point you’ve got to be able to guard your guy, mano-a-mano. With seven minutes to go, it’s a tie game. Turned the ball over, didn’t get shots up, mistakes both offensively and defensively. . . . All of those things, it hurt us tonight.”

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Senior forward Jermaine Samuels scored a career-high 32 points for Villanova, knocking down 6 of 7 shots from behind the arc. He also had six rebounds and five assists and carried the Wildcats offensively in the first half. Robinson-Earl added 14 points, six rebounds and five assists, and Gillespie finished with 12 points, five assists and three rebounds.

“Jermaine had a phenomenal game,” Robinson-Earl said. “We just practice every day those habits of looking for each other and catch-and-shoot always. He was just making a lot of good shots, and we tried to share the ball as much as we can.

“That’s one thing about our team that can make us really special: Anybody can go off on any given night.”

The win was much-needed for a Villanova program coming off a 70-59 loss to St. John’s on Wednesday. The Wildcats had single-game lows in points, field goal percentage and three-point percentage in that loss.

“The difference between winning and losing is so small [in this league],” Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. “St. John’s, we were ready for them, and they kicked butt. And these guys, you saw how tough they were and how good they are. . . . When we lose to St. John’s, everyone says, ‘Wow, what a shock.’ It is to fans, but players can’t think that way.

“We were in a dogfight [today]. They’re really good. We have to know that every night and . . . can’t feel like we didn’t play well.”

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