Tantalizing start, late collapse mark loss to Villanova in Big East opener

December 13, 2020

Photo by John Picker/The Georgetown Voice

The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (2-3, 0-1 Big East) suffered a frustrating 76-63 loss to Big East rival No. 9 Villanova (5-1, 1,0 Big East) Friday evening at McDonough Arena. The Hoyas squandered a sterling opening half effort as they allowed Villanova to steadily erase an early deficit and come out with a hard-fought victory. After a tantalizing early glimpse of an efficient, aggressive Hoyas’ team that controlled the game and dominated the paint, an increasingly winded Georgetown squad fell prey to self-inflicted mistakes and Villanova’s potent second half offense.

The teams went back and forth early as each team tried to get their offense going. Senior forward Jermaine Samuels opened the scoring for Villanova with a quick drive inside, but a jumper from senior forward Jamorko Pickett got Georgetown on the board to tie the game, 2-2. After another Samuels layup, Villanova’s offense struggled to make shots and went scoreless for two minutes. A three from senior guard Jahvon Blair helped build an early lead, and after sophomore center Qudus Wahab got an easy putback off graduate guard Donald Carey’s miss from three to make it a 9-4 deficit, Villanova coach Jay Wright took an early timeout.

Coming out of the break, the Villanova offense ran a methodical set leading to a three from junior guard Caleb Daniels, narrowing the game to 9-7. The Hoyas responded with an 8-0 run off a Wahab layup and two Pickett threes. From there, Georgetown built an even larger lead, opening an eighteen point gap with 4:45 remaining. Part of the offensive show was a breakout performance from freshman guard Dante Harris, who scored 6 first half points on perfect shooting. Wahab’s dominance inside was also crucial to the early Georgetown success, with a 12 point first half and a team advantage on the boards. Head coach Patrick Ewing’s team also ran a very efficient first half, not recording a single turnover for the first thirteen minutes.

Speaking after the game, Ewing praised Harris’s first half effort. “I thought he did a great job in the first half, not as good in the second half. He’s going to be a key part of our team. He believes in himself, I believe in him.”

As the half wound down, Villanova found ways to cut into Georgetown’s lead, narrowing the gap over the final five minutes. They finished on a 5-0 run off junior forward Brandon Slater’s dunk and senior Collin Gillespie’s three to make it 46-33. An apparent Villanova three right at the buzzer was waved off upon further review, keeping the game at 46-33 after an exciting, but scoreless, final minute.

Reflecting on the first half after the game, Villanova head coach Jay Wright credited Georgetown’s coaching. “We did not play good defense in the first half. Patrick’s got a real NBA mentality, he gets his guys to recognize what you’re doing, you make an adjustment and his guys recognize it. They’re tough to guard.”

The Villanova offense, which had struggled in the first half (shooting only 35%) came out firing in the second half. Over the first five minutes, the Hoyas could only muster 4 points from two Blair jumpers. Meanwhile, Villanova’s shooting came alive, with Gillespie making three three-pointers, including one with 14:17 left that tied the game at 50-50. After a Daniels three gave Villanova a 53-50 lead off of a 15-0 scoring run, graduate forward Chudier Bile hit a long two out of a timeout to stop the bleeding at 53-52. The teams went back and forth, keeping the game close until Georgetown made a short run. Dante Harris struck again, making a three to retake a 55-54 lead for the Hoyas. Makes from Blair and Pickett then opened a 59-55 lead, but Villanova junior forward Cole Swider hit a quick three to narrow it to 59-58.

With under ten minutes left, the game remained close even as the Hoyas struggled to score. After Pickett made it 59-55 with 9:16 remaining, the Hoyas wouldn’t strike again until Blair hit a nice floater off a Villanova turnover to make it a 61-60 Georgetown lead with 5:54 left. From there, however, another scoring drought would put the game out of reach. A 13-0 run that included two Daniels threes and three made free throws gave Villanova a decisive 73-63 lead. By the time Pickett’s jumper broke a scoreless stretch of over four minutes with 1:36 remaining, the game was largely decided. Despite their best efforts, a winded Georgetown squad worn down by Villanova’s relentless second half attack could not close the gap any further, with Pickett and Bile fouling out in the final minute to seal the loss.

Pickett and Wahab paced the Hoyas, with Pickett recording 16 points and 10 rebounds for a double-double. Wahab posted 12 points and 5 rebounds, although most of his contributions came in the first half. As a team it was a tale of two halves, with an efficient first period in which the Hoyas shot 58% (including 50% from three point range) and recorded only 3 turnovers. Their second half tally of a meager 17 points was the result of a chilling 26.7% shooting percentage, 1-11 on three pointers. Combined with 9 turnovers and losing on the boards, the second period showed a complete, overwhelming Villanova effort.

When asked after the game, Coach Ewing’s frustration with the second half collapse was clear. “Tonight, we just self-destructed. With three minutes to go we were right there, it was a one point game. Then we started worrying about who’s shooting, who’s taking bad shots instead of just continuing to play.”

Villanova’s shooting – especially from three, where they made 15 of 39 attempts – was key to their success. Nonetheless, Coach Ewing’s concern was closing out better as opposed to preventing attempts altogether. “I don’t care if they shoot the three, it’s just that we’ve got to stop them from making a high number. If they want to take 39 threes that’s on them. We made some mistakes and they were able to make them.”

“Rome wasn’t built in a day, we’re still building, we’re still learning each other, still trying to grow. We’re going to make mistakes, we can’t panic, just got to keep on building and keep on working,” said Ewing. “This is our first game in the Big East, we had our opportunities to get the win, once again we made too many mistakes and we’ve got to cut those out.”

Georgetown will continue searching for its first Big East win heading into back to back games against St. John’s. Their first contest is scheduled for tipoff at 7:30 pm on Sunday at McDonough Arena. For continued coverage of men’s basketball and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.


Jakob Levin
Jakob Levin is the Sports Editor. Hailing from New England, he is naturally a devoted, lifelong Cleveland sports fan.

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