NEW YORK — The slipper doesn’t fit.
The prospective Cinderella run through the Big East Tournament needed for the Georgetown men’s basketball team (15-18, 7-11 Big East) to make the NCAA Tournament is over, as the No. 8 seed Hoyas fell to No. 1 seed Villanova (28-4, 16-2 Big East) 81-67 in the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals Thursday afternoon at Madison Square Garden.
Just 15 hours after knocking out No. 9 seed DePaul in the First Round a night earlier, the Hoyas played the Wildcats tight, leading by as many as six points with 16:52 left to play before the Wildcats erupted for a 21-6 run over a span of 5:45 midway through the second half to seal the win and advance to the Tournament Semifinals tomorrow night. Georgetown never shrunk the lead lower than eight points after that point.
Sophomore guard L.J. Peak led the way for the Hoyas, who have lost nine of their last eleven games, with 18 points. Senior center Bradley Hayes added 13 points and nine rebounds in what could be his, senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera, and senior forward Riyan Williams’ final games in a Georgetown uniform.
Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III declined to say whether the Hoyas’ would pursue a postseason tournament. With the NCAA Tournament out of the question and an NIT bid highly unlikely, should the Hoyas decide to play more it would most likely be in either the CBI, CIT, or the brand new Vegas 16 Tournament in its namesake Las Vegas.
“I’m not sure how that world works yet. I say that to say we’re not used to being here,” said Thompson. “And so we’re going to go through the day and figure it out.”
The Blue and Gray couldn’t stop the Wildcats three-headed attack of junior guard Josh Hart, senior guard Ryan Arcidiacono, and junior forward Kris Jenkins, who combined for 59 points and 11-of-17 shooting from three-point range. Hart finished with a game-high 25 points, Arcidiacono had 19 points, and Jenkins scored 15. Villanova and Georgetown each committed seven and eleven turnovers, respectively, but the Wildcats converted the opportunities given to them, as they outscored the Hoyas 20-1 in points off turnovers.
“They’re good in transition. Defensively we had to get back,” said Smith-Rivera, who finished with eight points, five rebounds, and six assists, of the Wildcats. “It’s hard for any team to cover the three-point in transition along with guys running to the rim. So they did a good job in transition.”
The Hoyas opened up the second half on a 10-3 run to take a 37-31 lead, their largest of the game, at the 16:52 mark. Villanova quickly responded with an 8-0 run to retake the lead, 39-37, after a layup by sophomore guard Phil Booth just 1:10 later. Both teams traded the lead two more times each before the Wildcats embarked on their 21-6 run to seal the win and ensure their second consecutive appearance in the Semifinals of the Big East Tournament.
“We got some looks and the ball didn’t go in. We got some point-blank in-the-paint looks,” said Thompson. “I feel like there are, let’s say, four out of five possessions where we got an easy look, it didn’t go in, and then they got three.”
The first half could have not been more of a back-and-forth affair, with no team leading by more than one possession throughout its entirety or attempting a free throw. Campbell scored eight points within the first 5:27 to give the Hoyas a 12-9 lead. Seven of the next eleven made field goals were three-pointers, as Jenkins’ three-pointer to tie the game at 25 answered a Peak three-pointer on the preceding possession.
A Smith-Rivera jumper regained the lead for the Hoyas, 27-25, at the 4:53 mark, but they were held scoreless for the remainder of the half. The Wildcats struggled mightily as well, going 5:16 without a score before another Jenkins’ three-pointer with eight seconds left to play in the period gave the Wildcats a 28-27 halftime lead.
Considering it may be the final game for Smith-Rivera, Hayes, and Williams, Thompson went out of his way at the end of the press conference to praise his three seniors, especially Hayes and Smith-Rivera.
“He’s someone that came to work every day, every single day, and all he cared about is Georgetown University and Georgetown basketball,” said Thompson of Hayes, who was sitting dejectedly to his coach’s left.
“Everyone is just, I want more minutes. I want more points. That’s the antithesis of what Bradley is about as a person,” Thompson continued. “It was never about that. It was always about what can I do to help make this school, the program, this group of guys, you, Coach, better. I just want to thank him for that.”
Thompson then pointed to Smith-Rivera, who was sitting to his right.
“You start talking about Georgetown greats and a few names pop into mind,” said Thompson. “And he’s quietly put himself up there with a lot of those guys. Someone that is a competitor, wants to win this year and last year to a certain extent.”
And if the season is over, one regret Thompson does have is that it ended the way it did for these seniors, who were unfortunately part of the worst Georgetown basketball season in 44 years.
“You just wish it could end differently for these guys because of all they’ve given to me and to Georgetown.”