The last time the Villanova Wildcats basketball team had a chance to start out 5-0 on the road in Big East play was February 6, 2010. The opponent was Georgetown and the location was the Verizon Center. In 2010, the Cats couldn’t come out with a win. It was déjà vu for the Cats on Monday as the had another shot at a 5-0 road start in the Big East once again against the Hoyas.
This time, the No. 6 ranked Wildcats were able to leave Washington D.C. with a victory, winning a sloppy 65-60 contest over a struggling Georgetown team. The win improved Villanova’s record to 18-2, as Georgetown fell 11-9 with its fifth loss in a row. The win momentarily ties Nova back up with the Creighton Bluejays for first place in the Big East at 7-1.
The Cats came out extremely slowly early in the game, falling behind 8-0, as visions of last Monday’s game against Creighton began dancing in everyone’s heads.
Unlike that blowout loss in Philadelphia, Villanova was able to respond and the game turned into a back and forth contest. The largest lead the entire way was the previously mentioned eight-point advantage that Georgetown got out to in the first three minutes.
The game was plagued the entire way by both fouls and turnovers, as neither team found any real efficiency on offense. In total, the teams combined for 34 turnovers, 39 fouls and yet only 41 field goals. Despite the sloppy play while time was running, both teams did excel when the clock stopped, as the teams shot a combined 30-37 from the charity strike.
After taking a 13-12 lead with 13:06 left in the first half, Villanova didn’t trail for the next 19 minutes and 12 seconds, when Markel Starks hit two free throws to give Georgetown a two-point advantage with 14:42 left in the game.
From that point on, the lead for either team never eclipsed five points, as both squads battled until the bitter end. After losing the lead late in the second half, Georgetown was able to cut the Villanova’s advantage to as little as three with 2:06 left in the game. That’s as good as it got for the Hoyas, as Georgetown missed key opportunities down the stretch to tie up the game, allowing Nova to wrap up the victory down the stretch with clutch free throw shooting.
For the third straight game, James Bell led all Villanova scorers, racking up 15 points on this occasion. Bell came up especially big from 3-point range, hitting three of Nova’s seven trey balls in the game. Bell has been nothing short of incredible the past four games for the Cats, averaging 20.5 ppg. since the DePaul game on January 18th.
Two other Cats also finished the game in double-digits along with Bell. Forward JayVaughn Pinskton eclipsed 10 points for the seventh time in the past eight games, finshing with 12 points. Daniel Ochefu was also great in the game, also finishing with 12 points on 5-5 shooting from the field.
Starks was the leader offensively for Georgetown, finishing the game with 20 points, his third straight game reaching that scoring mark. Reggie Cameron also reached the double-digit plateau as well, ending up with 12 points, his second highest total of the season.
The big disappointment for the Hoyas in this game was leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera who finished with only 8 points on 2-11 shooting. Smith-Rivera’s off night broke his streak of 11 straight games with at least 10 points, and his 18% shooting percentage from the field was the worst performance of the season.
The Hoyas had plenty of chances to come up with a victory down the stretch, but they just couldn’t seem to find a basket when they needed it most.
With the win, the Villanova finished 2-0 in an extremely important bounce back road trip after the home embarrassment against Creighton a week ago. The Cats will get a one-game break from Big East play with a pseudo home game at Temple on Saturday at 4:00pm. It doesn’t get easier for the reeling Hoyas, who play the No. 7 ranked Michigan State Spartans at Madison Square Garden on Saturday as well.