The Georgetown men’s basketball team came into Monday night’s Big East bout with Villanova prepared to throw blows early and often — and, on this particular night, No. 4 Villanova (17-2, 4-2, Big East) could not take a punch, as Georgetown (13-5, 5-2 Big East) beat its longtime rival, 78-58.
The win was the second in three days over fellow conference-title contenders for Georgetown, and this holiday weekend may prove to be a turning point toward stability in what has been an up-and-down campaign for Head Coach John Thompson III and his team.
“That was as good of a defensive stretch as we’ve had in a very long time,” Thompson said. “I think it was our defense that dictated the game. It’s what got us to that lead in the first half. … When our offense got sluggish in the second half, our defense held on.”
A little over 48 hours after his three-pointer clinched Georgetown’s victory over Butler in the final moments of Saturday evening’s game, freshman forward Isaac Copeland had his finest performance in blue and gray, scoring 17 points and adding six boards off of the bench.
“We played great today. It’s a team effort,” Copeland said.
Copeland was joined in double-digit scoring by junior guard D’Vauntes Smith Rivera’s 17 and senior guard Jabril Trawick’s 10. Trawick left the bench for the locker room briefly in the second half after catching an elbow to his left eye, but it was going to take a much stronger blow to keep the Philadelphia native off of the court on this night.
“I just got hit in the eye,” Trawick said. “It was bothering me for a little bit, but I’m fine.”
Georgetown took a 42-20 lead into halftime after the team forced Villanova into 10 first-half turnovers, which was a stark contrast from the Wildcats’ typically balanced offensive attack that entered the game averaging only 11 turnovers per contest. The sharp shooting of junior guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who finished with a team-high 16 points, helped Villanova get as close as 12 points in the second half, as the Wildcats trimmed Georgetown’s lead to 62-50 with 8:02 to play. In spite of their second-half offensive surge, the visitors were unable to find a consistent offensive rhythm all night.
“I think you’ve got to give Georgetown credit for just maintaining an aggressiveness with that lead,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said, following his team’s loss. “They just did a great job of continuing to drive the ball, getting to the foul line, offensive rebounds. Even when we were pressing, they never got tentative.”
Georgetown, on the other hand, consistently found open looks around the rim as its players sliced through Villanova’s full-court pressure with relative ease. The Hoyas also made 19 of their 24 second-half free throws to secure the victory in a game that saw the whistle blown for 51 fouls.
Before Monday’s game, Trawick was averaging 10.2 points per game in Georgetown’s 12 wins, but just 3.6 in their 5 losses. The Hoyas’ emotional leader embodied the team’s spirited effort on Monday night as he wreaked havoc on both ends of the floor. Trawick finished with four steals and drained two three-pointers, the second of which was an off-balance pull-up that gave Georgetown a 42-19 lead with 1:07 to play in the first half and sent a packed Verizon Center into an absolute frenzy.
“This guy made it happen. He made the plays on the defensive end and on the boards,” Thompson said of Trawick. “Jabril got us going.”
The victory was Georgetown’s most balanced effort of the season as six players contributed at least eight points. Wins over Butler and Villanova will not make Georgetown’s season, but losses could have done fatal damage to their hopes of a favorable draw come March. As the student section stormed the court following the upset, Thompson and his team hurried off exactly to where they hope to be come season’s end — alone in first place in the conference.