VILLANOVA, Pa. — In just six minutes and fifty five seconds, the Georgetown men’s basketball team (13-12, 4-8 Big East) erased a 12-point deficit, silenced the once-raucous crowd at The Pavilion, and brought itself within one possession of No. 2 Villanova (23-2, 10-2 Big East). But the Hoyas were unable to complete their comeback bid, as Villanova junior guard and national player of the year contender Josh Hart came alive in the final two minutes to lead the Wildcats to victory. Hart led all scorers with 25 points. Georgetown was led by junior guard L.J. Peak’s 21 points and six assists. Graduate student guard Rodney Pryor added 20 points and nine rebounds for the Blue and Gray.
In what has proved one of the nation’s premier conferences, the Hoyas now face an upward battle if they hope to get a first round bye in the Big East Tournament. More importantly, Georgetown now faces the prospect of finishing the season below .500 for the second consecutive year. With six games remaining, the Hoyas need at least three wins to ensure they enter the Big East Tournament above .500, which would make them eligible for postseason play.
The game opened sloppily, with the teams combining to turn the ball over four times on the first six possessions. A Pryor dunk with 15:05 left in the half followed by a Peak free-throw gave Georgetown a four point lead, the largest the Hoyas would enjoy on the night. Villanova quickly stormed back to take a commanding lead, however. The combination of Hart and senior forward Kris Jenkins presented numerous problems for Georgetown defensively. Hart shot an efficient 6-9 from the field in the half, including 3-4 from deep, while Jenkins managed 3-5 shooting on a variety of moves from mid-range. A three from Hart extended the Wildcat lead to its biggest margin of the game, 17, with 3:05 remaining. Entering the halftime break, Georgetown, looking dazed and confused, faced a seemingly insurmountable fifteen-point deficit, 43-28.
In the half, Villanova shot 63 percent (17-27) from the floor, compared to 44 percent for Georgetown. The Wildcats also connected on six threes to Georgetown’s two en route to building their sizeable advantage. Peak and Pryor scored just 12 points in the half, while sophomore center Jessie Govan, who was plagued with three personal fouls, registered just two points.
The second half didn’t start much better for Georgetown, as Villanova freshman guard Donte Divincenzo found his groove on the offensive end. His layup with 11:05 remaining in regulation restored Villanova’s 17 point advantage. The Hoyas would not go away quietly however, as Peak and Pryor helped unleash a devastating 19-4 run over the next 6:55 of game action to cut the Villanova lead to just two, 61-59.
“We were able to get stops and rebounds,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said of his team’s second half spurt. “For long stretches, when they missed a shot, they got offensive rebounds. They’re too good at both ends of the court to give them second shots. We chipped away at (the lead) because we were able to get stops and get out in transition.”
On the ensuing Villanova possession, Georgetown fouled sophomore guard Jalen Brunson, which sent him to the free-throw line. After the Wildcats took a four point lead on Brunson’s free-throws, Peak turned the ball over, leading to a deep three from Hart with 1:26 remaining. Up to that point, Hart, Jenkins, and Brunson had yet to record a field goal for the Wildcats in the half.
“We ran a play for (Hart) there at the end,” said Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright. “He’s coming to the middle of the floor from the baseline … you’ve got to have strong legs to catch it in the middle of the floor and drill that. He does.”
Hart’s three both ignited the crowd and burned the Blue and Gray’s comeback hopes. Between fouling and forcing tough shots in a desperate attempt to close the margin, the Hoyas transition defense began to falter. Redshirt sophomore Mikal Bridges capped the Villanova win with a thunderous dunk with 16 seconds left on the clock.
“It was just a gutty effort by Georgetown,” Wright said. “We did a lot of good things. But our inconsistency just catches up with us … I think you just have to give Georgetown credit for continuing to grind … Pryor and Peak, I think, we did a good job on them for a while, but they got loose and we started missing shots.”
“It’s all about getting defensive stops and not getting ourselves down in that position,” Pryor said. “(The comeback) is about getting stops and making shots on the offensive end.”
While the final score was a double-digit loss, the second half was much closer. Peak scored 18 points in the period, while Pryor added 12. Outside of this duo, however, the Georgetown offense was nonexistent. Senior center Bradley Hayes, who recorded just six points, was the next closest Hoya in terms of scoring output.
Georgetown will now look forward to a Saturday afternoon date with Marquette (15-9, 6-6 Big East) at noon. The game will be televised on FOX.