NB: Before Georgetown-Villanova game commentary, I’d like to pay respect to Hall of Fame Coach Dean Smith, who passed away this morning. Georgetown’s history intersected with Coach Smith’s team in 1982, of course. UNC fan, or not, one cannot deny his greatness and impact on the game of college hoops. Rest in peace, Coach.
Let’s face it–no one ever had this road game against #7 Villanova penciled in as a “Win”. However, the Hoya faithful, especially after dismantling the Wildcats at home on January 19th, held out hope, if not for a season sweep, a competitive matchup in the City of Brotherly Love on Saturday. Instead of a competition, the game resembled more a showcase of Villanova talent at the expense of the Hoyas. In fact, the Wildcats treated the Hoyas with the same “respect” that the Hoyas showed the Cats in DC. The Hoyas were not in the game but for the first 5-6 minutes and failed to make a run to cut into Villanova’s very comfortable 15-20 point lead throughout much of the game.
The “George Clooney of college basketball”, as one commentator referred to him, Coach Jay Wright, said it best: “They looked like we did last game and they looked like we did.”
What hurts most for the Hoyas is not the Villanova loss per se, but the fact they have lost 3 of their last 4 games, two at home (to Xavier and Providence) and the schedule does not get much easier. The 15-8, 7-5 in conference Hoyas next face Seton Hall on Tuesday night 2/10 and its potential conference Player of the Year candidate Sterling Gibbs at the Prudential Center. The Hoyas return home on 2/17 for two consecutive and critical home games against St John’s followed by DePaul in 2/21. Two of the final three Hoya games are on the road against St. John’s and #22 Butler, with the final Senior Day home game against The Hall on March 7th.
The Game: It was all Villanova this time, and senior guard Darrun Hilliard II led his team with 15 points. Josh Hart added 13 to help the Cats avenge its worst loss of the season to the Hoyas two weeks ago, 78-58 on Jan. 19th at the Verizon Center. The Wildcats raced out to a 17-point lead and never let the Hoyas back in the game. The Cats hit 50% (12 of 24) 3-pointers and led by as many as 24.
Shooting 36% this season from the arc, the Wildcats shot with ease against the Hoyas’ defense. In the first half alone, Hilliard and junior guard Dylan Ennis hit consecutive 3s for a 12-7 lead that sparked the rout. Ennis hit one for a 10-point lead, junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono made it 27-13 with his and the Wildcats finished 7 of 13 in the half. In the second half Villanova’s sophomore forward Kris Jenkins hit consecutive 3s for a 51-29 lead.
Villanova looked very much like the pre-season #1 conference pick and at least the #7 team in the nation. The Cats’ only other loss was a 66-61 overtime loss at Seton Hall on January 3rd. Now 21-2, 8-2, Wright’s squad looks like a lock for the Big East regular season champion and en route to at least a 2 seed in the NCAA tournament, barring any unexpected turbulence.
Hot vs. Cold: The Hoyas were as cold as their opponent was hot. They picked a bad day to have their poorest offensive game of the season. The Hoyas could not find their touch or any rhythm. They shot 30% for the game from the floor (18 of 60) and missed 16 of 17 3-point attempts for a 5.9% mark. They shot a decent 72.7 percent from the line (16-of-22).
Down 14 points, 37-23 at the half, the Hoyas failed to regroup. Season leading scorer D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera (DSR), who averages 15.8 ppg, was held to 2 points for the game. Senior center Josh Smith, who averages 12 ppg, finished with 7 points and 2 rebounds. This was in stark contrast to the first game in D.C., where DSR scored 17 for the Hoyas and Smith, 9 points and 8 rebounds, who put the game away as early as the Cats did yesterday. In the first game between the two teams, the Hoyas led 42-20 and shot 60 percent in the first half and 51 percent for the game.
Anything Prominent?: The only offensive “bright spots” for the Hoyas were freshman small forward L.J. Peak, who scored 15 points for the Hoyas (on 6 for 18 shooting and 0 for 4 from the arc), and reserve Aaron Bowen, who scored 10 points in 17 minutes and injected some spark into what appeared to be a lifeless team over many minutes. Bowen was 3 for 6 from the field and 4 for 6 from the free throw line with 3 boards, 2 steals and an assist. Philly native Jabril Trawick added 8 points, 4 boards, 2 assists and a steal and while he played with his usual intensity, the Hoyas as a team struggled. As opposed to the ascending Wildcats, the Hoyas will drop out of the Top 25 for a second time this season, after this loss and the loss to Providence earlier in the week.
Rebounding Edge: With all the misses, the Hoyas held a 39-34 rebounding edge, had 10 assists, a season high 14 steals but failed to convert on them.
Adding Insult to Injury: With a packed house of 20,587 at the Wells Fargo Center, Villanova wore 1985 throwback uniforms to commemorate its national championship season 30 years ago and played highlights from that title game on the big screen. No one has to remind Hoya fans of that Era or Hoya students of hoops history of Villanova’s “Perfect Game”. It is seared in Hoyas fans’ memories forever.
BIG EAST Teams Reprimand Student Athletes: Not that it had any impact on the game, but Jay Wright pulled forward Daniel Ochefu from the starting lineup for being late for a class. Ochefu sat out just a few minutes before he entered the game.