Less than a minute into Saturday’s game, freshman forward Otto Porter took an elbow to the mouth, injecting a sense of drama into what was expected to be a casual Saturday afternoon.
Slumping Villanova has suffered through one of its worst seasons in program history, a down year that was symbolized when freshman forward JayVaughn Pinkstonlanded on top of a loose ball and rolled his ankle inwarmups before facing Georgetown.
The Wildcats are just 4-12 in the Big East, making Saturday’s contest the first time the Hoyas had played an unranked Villanova team in four years. But that did not stop the Wildcats from playing hard.
After Villanova junior forward Maurice Sutton’s elbow caused him to bite down on his tongue, Porter left the court with blood gushing from his mouth. But the resilient Georgetown squad managed to turn a setback into an opportunity. The aftermath of Sutton’s flagrant foul allowed the Hoyas burst out of the gate, scoring six straight points and limiting the Wildcats to only nine in the first 12 minutes.
But after taking a 16-point lead late in the first half, things quickly got sloppy. With junior forward Hollis Thompson, senior guard Jason Clark and senior center Henry Sims all sitting due to foul trouble, four freshmen and a sophomore were left to close out the half.
“Every possession is important. You can have a bad series in the first half that will affect if you win,” Head Coach John Thompson III said.
Porter, who returned later in the half, bailed the Hoyas out with a three-pointer that took a fortuitous bounce off the back of the rim, flew straight up and fell calmly through the net, giving the Hoyas a seven-point lead at the half.
Nevertheless, Villanova was able to match Georgetown shot-for-shot through the first six minutes of the second half, until Sims changed the pace of the game with a dominant performance on the glass.
With Georgetown up by eight, a missed jumper by Porter led to a sequence where the Hoyas grabbed four consecutive offensive rebounds, including two by Sims, who finally ended the series with a tip-in. The team’s effort ignited the crowd and restored the Hoyas double-digit lead. From there, it was no contest.
“There was a lot of effort tonight going after the ball,” Thompson III said. “Henry particularly — there were several plays [not just] when you’re standing under the basket and you get it, but you see him running in from the perimeter, and he either gets it or keeps it alive for someone else to get it.”
Georgetown went on a 20-6 run over a 10-minute second-half stretch, putting the Hoyas up 20 with just three minutes remaining. The Hoyas’ defense was so stingy in the second half that the Wildcats managed just two field goals in the final 15 minutes of the game, finishing with just 28 percent shooting.
The Blue and Gray’s dominance on defense was complete. Georgetown out-rebounded Villanova, 41-24, and held the Wildcats to just 14 field goals for the game. But offensively, it was not a fantastic night. Georgetown turned the ball over 14 times and shot just 3-of-13 from beyond the arc. Free-throw shooting hurt the Hoyas again, as they shot just 16-of-23. Georgetown also committed 22 fouls in the game, including four by Sims and five by freshman forward Greg Whittington.
The Hoyas will find out whether their defensive intensity can translate to offensive success in a hostile environment this week, as they travel to Milwaukee to take on No. 8 Marquette.