The No. 7 Villanova Wildcats (21-2, 8-2) welcomed the No. 24 Georgetown Hoyas (15-8, 7-5) into the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday afternoon. The Wildcats needed a win to avoid a season sweep at the hands of their long time rivals after suffering a 20 point drubbing at the hands of G'Town in January. The Hoyas needed a win to stay in the top 25 following a loss to the Providence Friars on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats would prevail in this one by a comfortable margin at 69-53 before a sellout crowd of over 20,500. Villanova started a new lineup because starting center Daniel Ochefu was late for a class which earned him a spot on the bench to start the game. This leads us to the first thing we learned....
SPEED KILLS JOSHUA SMITH
Coming into this game, Georgetown fans wanted to see the Hoyas use Josh Smith's size to exploit the slightly undersized Villanova frontcourt. Smith killed the Wildcats in the first matchup between these teams. On Saturday, the Wildcats went with a four Guard lineup that was able to remove any space for Smith to work. The Wildcats were able to drop help and double Smith by using their speed and athleticism.
Even when Smith was matched up with Villanova's only starting forward JayVaughn Pinkston who stands at 6'7", 240 lb, the interior threat was generally neutralized and the 'Cats held Smith to seven points and two rebounds after he went for nine points, eight boards, two steals and two assists in their first matchup. It was Smith's ability to pass out of the post to find players like D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Isaac Copeland that doomed the Wildcats in January. With a little added defensive intensity, Villanova was able to occupy those passing lanes, clog the middle, and force the Hoyas into bad shots.
WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES
Villanova came into Washington, D.C. in January only about 44 hours removed from a Big 5 "road" game at Penn. They looked tired and sluggish as a result. They played lackadaisical defense, settled for bad shots, and allowed Georgetown to score almost at will in the first half.
This time, both teams came off about 2 1/2 days rest, and the Wildcats didn't have to travel, playing their second straight game at the Wells Fargo Center. (Although, it is interesting to note that the WFC is actually farther from Villanova's campus than the Palestra at Penn where they played prior to the last G'Town matchup). The rematch in February saw an entirely different effort put forward. The 'Cats were able to work their game, move the ball, transition well, and play their unique brand of defense that can be totally stifling when they bring the intensity. The Hoyas stat line of 18-60 (FG) and 1-17 (3Pt) is a testament to the defense the 'Cats played. Of course, the Hoyas missed their share of open shots, but that's more attributable to the fact that the only openings they found were 20+ feet away from the basket. Any touches the Hoyas were able to manufacture under the basket were under duress and the Hoyas looked like they felt the pressure.
HOME COURT ADVANTAGE
If there is one thing we're learning from this Big East season is that home court advantage is worth more than your bookie's typical (+3). The disparity in shooting for both teams on the home/away split is astounding. At Georgetown, Villanova shot 34% from the field and 30% from deep while Georgetown shot 51% from the field and 50% from 3. In Philly, the Wildcats shot 49% from the field and 50% from deep while the Hoyas went for 30% and 06% respectively.
This is not an isolated occurrence. Some teams, like Xavier, may be a clearer example: The Muskies are 12-1 at the Cintas Center and 2-6 away from it. A quick look at the Big East's expanded standings show that Villanova and Butler are the only two Big East teams with winning road records, and they sit at only 4-2 and 4-3 respectively. The passion and power that Big East fans are bringing to their home floors is truly special, this is a league like no other.
R.I.P. Dean Smith, the four-time National Coach of the Year and two time National Championship winning coach passed away yesterday at the age of 83.
Thoughts & Prayers go out to Ed Cooley, who was hospitalized yesterday during Providence's 78-69 loss at Xavier.
The Wildcats improve to 3-0 at the Wells Fargo Center and got their fourth straight win. Only the Butler Bulldogs have a longer winning streak in the conference at five games.
The Hoyas dropped their second straight and continue up the I-95 corridor to Seton Hall for a crucial matchup of two teams desperately in need of some positive momentum as both teams look to get off the tournament bubble.
The Wildcats needed this win as they head on the road for a very tough stretch to face a Providence team (which could be a very tough matchup for 'Nova) and Butler who sits only a half game back on the 'Cats in the Big East standings.
Villanova sported their 1985 throwbacks as a tribute to their National Championship team that won the title 30 years ago in 'the Perfect Game' against Georgetown and superstar Patrick Ewing.