The Georgetown Hoyas men’s basketball team (5-9, 3-6 Big East) competed hard but fell to the No. 3 Villanova Wildcats (12-2, 7-1 Big East) on Sunday afternoon at Finneran Pavilion in Villanova, Pennsylvania by a score of 84-74. Villanova’s unselfishness offensively and their clutch play in winning time gave them the edge in a hard-fought game that was even closer than the final score indicated. For the Wildcats, senior forward Jermaine Samuels had a career day, finishing with 32 points on 6 of 7 shooting from deep with 6 rebounds and 5 assists, while sophomore forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl added 14 points, 6 rebounds, and 5 assists of his own. Senior guard Jahvon Blair paced the Hoyas with 18 points and 5 assists, while sophomore center Qudus Wahab added 17 points and 7 rebounds.
“His 30 points is not what hurt us,” said Georgetown head coach Patrick Ewing of Samuels. “It’s the offensive rebounds, turnovers, 12 fast-break points, that’s what hurt us. They had 18 points off our turnovers.”
The Hoyas started the game with tremendous promise, as Wahab used his size advantage over Robinson-Earl to pick up a couple early buckets. Both teams rained fire from the field, as Samuels scored a quick 12 points and the Wildcats got going from three early. Samuels did it both inside and outside, and Georgetown’s bigs had trouble stepping out with him, which created opportunities for other players to get going as well. The Hoyas called on sophomore center Malcolm Wilson for more mobility on Samuels, and it appeared to somewhat pay off on the defensive end as the Hoyas kept it close. However, Villanova still managed to keep the Hoyas at arms length with excellent spacing and unselfish basketball, starting 6 of 12 from three-point land and taking a double-digit lead, 30-20.
“All my mindset is to make the correct offensive play when the ball comes my way, whether that’s shooting, making the extra pass, driving the ball,” said Samuels. “That’s just what Villanova basketball is and that’s my job as a senior.”
Wahab continued to work inside on Robinson-Earl and Samuels when he got back into the game, showing off an impressive repertoire of post moves. Graduate forward Chudier Bile and graduate guard Donald Carey brought the energy per usual, with strong work on the inside and knocking down jump shots. Both teams were nip and tuck the whole way in the first half. Though the game was played at Georgetown’s preferred pace, they still struggled with 8 turnovers in the half, and they conceded 10 second chance points to a Wildcats team keen on kicking out extended possessions for three. All things considered, Villanova’s poor shooting from the field (37.5%) kept the Hoyas in the game, with a halftime score of 37-35.
“The game nowadays is the bigs are going to be stepping out shooting threes, and they have two guys that are capable of doing that,” said Ewing. “I can live with the three-point shot, but he wants to drive. He wants to pump fake and drive, stay down on the shot fake. When he gets to the basket, make him have to score over you.”
Both teams traded buckets to start the second half as the game continued its frenetic pace. The Hoyas relied heavily on Wahab in the deep post, while Robinson-Earl got to work early with a couple field goals after a cold start. Villanova came out of the break with uncharacteristic sloppiness, surrendering three early turnovers in the first four minutes of the half as the Hoyas stayed close despite Samuels’ efforts. Following a scoring drought, Villanova changed their defensive strategy on Wahab, using junior forward Cole Swider to front him and denying post entries. Offensively, their ball movement was pristine, catching the Hoyas late in rotation with 17 of their first 20 field goals assisted. However, the inspired play of freshman guard Dante Harris, who made an incredible steal and save on the boundary and followed it up with a three, propelled the Hoyas to tie the game at 60.
“I think Cole was the reason that got us going on defense,” said Robinson-Earl. “Playing really great post defense, moving around, not standing behind and letting [Wahab] catch the ball, just using his speed against him.”
Wahab and Samuels went at it again coming down the stretch of the game, with Wahab establishing position in deep and Samuels utilizing the pump fake to get Wahab off balance. In the end, though, it was Villanova’s ball movement and unselfishness that doomed the Hoyas. Georgetown had kept it within one possession for most of the second half, but a brutal sequence where Wahab missed a dunk and Samuels dished to graduate guard Caleb Daniels for three gave Villanova some breathing room at 75-69. That was part of a 12-4 run that turned a 67-66 Georgetown lead into an 84-74 defeat down the stretch.
“There were some great drives that initiated rotation from Georgetown where he kicked it out,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright on Samuels’ performance. “He didn’t get the assist, the next guy got the assist, but it was all initiated by Jermaine.”
Villanova played their characteristic brand of basketball, pump-faking their way to 18 free throws on 16 Hoya fouls and collecting 21 assists on their 27 made field goals. Robinson-Earl and Samuels represented consistent shooting threats and Wahab had some struggles defending their big men in space. The adjustment of having Swider front Wahab was enough to contain him down the stretch, as the Hoyas had dominated the paint for much of the game. Though Georgetown struggled again with 14 turnovers, their performance was encouraging, as they once again went toe to toe with one of the nation’s premier programs and have plenty to build on.
“I’m not leaving with my head down. Just like all year long, every game that we’ve lost except for the Seton Hall game, we’ve had opportunities to win all of them,” said Ewing. “I’m disappointed that we didn’t get the win, but I’m not putting my head down.”
Georgetown’s next game will be against a familiar foe in No. 15 Creighton (14-5, 10-4 Big East) on February 9. Tipoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. and the game will be televised on CBS Sports Network. For continued coverage of men’s basketball and all Georgetown sports, follow @GUVoiceSports on Twitter.