The Georgetown Hoyas (26-4, 15-3 BE) showed their quicks against Villanova (20-12, 9-9 BE) and set a Big East tournament three-point shooting record to overcome senior center Roy Hibbert’s worst game of the season and overthrow the Wildcats, 82-63.
The two teams’ styles couldn’t be more different. Head Coach Jay Wright’s Wildcats feature the same guard-dominated small-ball made famous by the now-graduated quartet of Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Kyle Lowry and Mike Nardi, while the Hoyas maintain a big, physical frontcourt. But when Hibbert and sophomore forward DaJuan Summers both found themselves in foul trouble early, Georgetown was forced to downsize. With a healthy freshman guard Chris Wright back in the line-up, and with senior guard Jonathan Wallace safely out of his mid-season slump, the Hoyas were happy to comply, putting as many as four guards on the court throughout the game.
Wallace made his first seven attempts in the first half, shooting a near perfect 7-8 from the floor, including a perfect 5-5 from behind the arc. Wallace’s sharp shooting was contagious, as the Hoyas shot 10-17 (58.8 percent) from behind the arc as a team in the first half.
“Coach told me to make sure I was aggressive,” Wallace said after the game. “We just try to be aggressive and get good looks at the basket.”
The addition of the speedy Wright (6 points) to the Georgetown arsenal neutralized Villanova’s pesky three-quarter court press and brought back the Hoya transition game that had been absent since his injury at the beginning of conference play.
“It’s good to see Chris Wright running out there,” Coach John Thompson III said. “Knock on wood, hopefully he can stay healthy. He’s been a big injury to us this year and we’ve missed him.”
Villanova looked nothing like the hot-shooting team that routed the Syracuse Orange yesterday, shooting just 6-20 (30 percent) from the floor and 2-8 (25 percent) from behind the arc in the first half against the nation’s best defense. The Wildcats were also killed on the boards, 20-9, in the early goings. But despite the stats, Villanova maintained a manageable 40-29 halftime deficit, because Georgetown’s aggressive defense came at a price. The Hoyas committed 14 personal fouls in the first half to the Wildcats’ five, and Villanova went 15-18 from the charity stripe while the Hoyas failed to reach the free-throw line once.
“We didn’t feel bad at halftime,” Wright said. “We’re down 11, but we were getting the ball inside and we thought we established, taking the ball aggressively and getting to the foul line.”
The fouling woes continued for the Hoyas at the start of the second half, and Villanova continued to take advantage. The Wildcats came out of the locker room with an 11-0 run that saw Summers and Hibbert each pick up their third fouls. Villanova junior forward Dwayne Anderson’s (12 points) three-point play tied the game at 40 less than five minutes into the second half.
The teams traded baskets for the next few minutes, but with just over ten minutes to play, junior guard and hometown New York boy Jessie Sapp took over. Sapp scored nine points and assisted on two more in an 11-0 run that gave the Hoyas a more comfortable 59-50 lead.
“It’s just a coincidence,” Sapp said of his strong play at home in New York City. “I come out every night, whether it’s here or any other place we play.”
“Jessie plays well normally when he gets a chance to give his mom a hug,” Thompson added.
Hibbert’s nightmare game continued when he entered back into the game with five minutes to play only to foul out immediately with zero points. But his teammates, especially Sapp and Summers, picked up the slack. Every run that Villanova managed was thwarted from behind the arc by one of the two, as the Hoyas tied the Big East Tournament record with 17 made three-pointers, comfortably polishing off the Wildcats 82-63.
“To say Roy had a tough time getting into rhythm would be an understatement,” Thompson said. “But the nature of our team is when any particular guy is struggling, not doing well, we have other people that can step up, and our team is confident in everyone. Jon got us going, and Jessie kept us going.”
The Hoyas shot 28-51 (55 percent) from the floor and an absurd 17-28 (60.7 percent) from behind the arc. Georgetown also registered assists on 25 of their 28 field goals. Sapp led all scorers with 23 points, followed by Wallace with 20 and Summers with 19. The Wildcats shot 17-51 (33.3 percent) from the floor and 6-18 (40 percent) from behind the arc, led by sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds with 13 points.
Georgetown will face the West Virginia Mountaineers, who knocked off the 15th-ranked UConn Huskies 78-72 later in the afternoon, in the semifinals tomorrow night at 7.