The Georgetown men’s basketball team (14-8, 4-5 Big East) fell on Sunday afternoon to Villanova (18-4, 9-0 Big East), 77-65, at Wells Fargo Center. GU kept the contest tight throughout despite the absence of senior center Jessie Govan due to foul trouble, but the Wildcats found their shooting stroke down the stretch to pull away. Villanova was paced by sophomore guard Collin Gillespie, who scored a career-high 30 points, and redshirt senior forward Eric Paschall, who tallied 24 points and six rebounds. Freshman guard James Akinjo continued his strong play with 19 points for the Hoyas, while graduate student forward Trey Mourning had 12 points and six rebounds in an expanded role with Govan out.
Sophomore forward Jamorko Pickett scored the Hoyas’ first four points after hitting only one field goal in Thursday night’s win over Xavier, but was answered on the other end of the floor both times by Paschall. Two Akinjo jumpers pushed the Hoyas ahead by four, but Gillespie promptly hit his first of six 3-pointers following the latter basket. Govan then committed two fouls in 16 seconds on either side of the under-16 media timeout and was subbed. Head coach Jay Wright’s team continued to go to their bigs, with Paschall finishing an and-one before sophomore forward Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree converted.
The Hoyas looked overmatched inside, as Cosby-Roundtree then followed up a missed three with a putback. Gillespie found twine from distance to restore parity for the Wildcats, who shoot the ninth-most threes in Division I, but ‘Nova went cold thereafter. The usually unflappable senior guard Phil Booth could not get in a rhythm, while Paschall missed two threes in short succession. Georgetown could not take advantage on the other end, however, as freshman guard Mac McClung had a forgettable sequence, fouling Booth in transition after the veteran stepped in front of his pass on the perimeter, before Govan missed two jumpers upon his reintroduction.
Another and-one from Paschall broke a two-minute game scoring drought, but senior guard Greg Malinowski pulled the Hoyas ahead by hitting a corner three off an impressive skip pass from McClung. Before that, however, a painful series for Hoya fans as Govan went back to the bench after committing his third foul some twenty seconds later. The Blue and Gray surprisingly fared better with Govan out, with freshman forward Josh LeBlanc stepping up with three straight rebounds as the Wildcats continued to misfire. The Baton Rouge native also found Pickett from beyond the arc to tie the game at 25, while sophomore guard Jahvon Blair hit on the following possession to put the Hoyas in front. Georgetown’s 11-1 run was ended, however, as Gillespie then hit from deep twice. Head coach Patrick Ewing’s team had solidified defensively, even if the baskets weren’t coming to follow, but they got the basket they deserved when Akinjo hit a rushed three as the halftime buzzer sounded to give the Hoyas a 34-33 edge at the break.
The Wildcats, who shoot it at 37.1 percent from range on the season, were led only by Gillespie, who was 4-of-7; the rest of the home team was 0-of-9. Meanwhile, despite their struggles from the field, the Hoyas committed only six turnovers on the afternoon.
The defending national champions had a challenge on their hands, and they answered the bell immediately after halftime, with Gillespie and Paschall assisting each other for threes within two minutes to give ‘Nova a quick five-point lead. McClung got going with two strong takes to the rim to pull within one, but that glimmer of hope came with an asterisk as the still-scoreless Govan picked up his fourth foul at 16:08. Considering their struggles with the 3-ball, the Wildcats reasonably started running their offense through the post. A layup and then a successful and-one from Paschall restored the ‘Nova lead, but Mourning responded with two buckets of his own underneath. After a LeBlanc free throw, Gillespie connected again from range, but was this time answered by a confident Akinjo three off an inbound play.
The Hoyas were tied down the stretch on the road to the class of the Big East, a team to which they had dropped eight straight. Could they pull off the improbable? Not quite.
Govan had two looks, the second from behind the arc, that could have given the Hoyas the lead, but could not connect. Fellow senior and one-time Hoyas recruiting target Booth hit two straight buckets to open up a five-point lead after the Hoyas again missed twice on the other end, while Govan then had to pick up his fifth foul preventing a Cosby-Roundtree dunk at 4:53. The 8-0 run was ended on free throws from Akinjo and senior guard/forward Kaleb Johnson, but each left a point at the line as well. A Gillespie jumper pushed the lead back to eight, while the Hoyas were dealt a knockout blow as a loose ball ended up in the hands of Booth at the free throw line extended 25 seconds later. Booth pump-faked just as he did underneath the basket when he gave ‘Nova the lead for good at 55-53, and connected to effectively end the game. An Akinjo jumper was quickly followed by a Malinowski three to make things interesting at 69-60 with 1:14 left, but the Wildcats broke the press with ease on their inbounds play, with Gillespie finding sophomore forward Jermaine Samuels to end things.
The Hoyas had their worst shooting performance in the Big East on a day they could not afford to. Against the stingiest conference foes they’ll face, Georgetown shot 33.8 percent from the field and 61.1 percent from the charity stripe. 16 of the Hoyas’ 23 field goals were assisted, however, with four players chipping in at least three dimes. Govan went scoreless on 0-of-9 shooting in his last visit to Philadelphia in the Blue and Gray.
Villanova never did truly turn it on from deep on Sunday afternoon, but did chew the Hoyas up inside, shooting 57.7 percent on their twos. The Wildcats took care of the ball just about as well as the Hoyas did, committing only eight turnovers themselves.
Georgetown hits the road for Rhode Island this week, where they’ll face the Providence Friars (13-9, 3-6 Big East) on Wednesday night. Tip-off is set for 7:30 PM, and the game will be broadcasted on Fox Sports 1 with live stats available at guhoyas.com. Follow @GUVoiceSports for live updates and coverage of all winter sports at Georgetown.