Freshman forward L.J. Peak tied Villanova senior guard Darrun Hilliard with a game-high 15 points in Georgetown's loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 7.
Freshman forward L.J. Peak tied Villanova senior guard Darrun Hilliard with a game-high 15 points in Georgetown’s loss to the Wildcats on Feb. 7.

When Georgetown and Villanova renewed their rivalry for first time this season Jan. 19, a blowout ensued. The Hoyas jumped out to a 42-20 halftime lead that night over the then-No. 4 Wildcats and did not look back, cruising to a 20-point victory. So No. 7 Villanova (21-2, 8-2 Big East) had revenge on its mind when No. 24 Georgetown (15-8, 7-5 Big East) travelled to Philadelphia on Saturday.

The Wildcats got their payback and then some. Riding an aggressive defense and hot shooting from behind the arc, Villanova dominated from nearly start to finish, downing Georgetown 69-53.

“They looked like we did last game and we looked like they did,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said.

Defense from both teams dictated the opening minutes of the game and a runner in the lane from freshman forward Isaac Copeland gave Georgetown a 7-6 lead with 15:11 remaining in the first half.

However, much as it was in the first game between the two teams, the intrigue surrounding Saturday afternoon’s matchup was largely resolved thanks to a decisive first-half run by the home team. After Copeland’s bucket, the Hoyas would go scoreless for the next five minutes as the Wildcats scored 13 unanswered points to open up a lead of 19-7.

“They jumped out on us like we jumped out on them,” Head Coach John Thompson III said. “Against good teams you can’t get down like that and fight back.”

Georgetown’s scoring drought was the result of energetic defense from Villanova coupled with plain old poor shooting. The Wildcats forced the Hoyas into nine first half turnovers and allowed few open shots, blocking four attempts in the first 20 minutes.

When Georgetown did manage to create the occasional good look, it was unable to convert; senior guard Jabril Trawick and freshman forwards Paul White and L.J. Peak all missed shots they usually make with some regularity.

Senior center Joshua Smith ran into foul trouble early in the game and finished the first half with two points. Junior guard Smith-Rivera, Georgetown’s leading scorer, finished the period with none. The Hoyas trailed 37-23 at halftime.

Georgetown’s only real chance to get back in the game came in the opening minutes of the second half. The Hoyas ran a play that got Smith-Rivera an open shot and his first points of the afternoon out of the locker room and proceeded to force turnovers on five of the Wildcats’ next seven possessions.

On the fast break following one of those turnovers, freshman guard Tre Campbell missed a layup at the rim; senior forward Mikael Hopkins was there for the put-back, but his dunk attempt bounced off the rim into the arms of Trawick, who was also unable to finish from close.

The possession was a microcosm of the afternoon for Georgetown, which shot 1-of-17 from three and 29.5 percent from the floor. Much of the second half turned into a formality, as the Hoyas were unable to trim the deficit to fewer than 12 points.

Peak led Georgetown with 15 points, his highest total since Dec. 20 against Charlotte, but it took 19 shots for the freshman to get there. Villanova senior guard Darrun Hilliard matched Peak with 15 points of his own. Smith-Rivera was held to only two points, his lowest total since going scoreless in a loss to Marquette during January of his freshman year.

Villanova did not play a perfect game and turned the ball over 20 times, a testament to Georgetown’s continued defensive effort in the second half, but the Wildcats made 12 of their 24 three-pointers and looked far more comfortable than they had in D.C. earlier in the season.

“They were hitting shots today,” said Trawick. “They got a lot of energy. When you’re hitting like that on the offensive end it’s going to help the energy.”

The debate surrounding the court storming by Georgetown’s student section that followed that win now seems like distant history. The Hoyas have gone 2-3 since and have dropped three of their last four. Trailing Villanova, No. 22 Butler and Providence in the Big East standings, Georgetown is seemingly out of the regular season conference title chase.

Thanks to an impressive RPI and strength of schedule, it’s inaccurate to describe the Hoyas as in a precarious position, but they are certainly in a testing one. To the extent that there are any easy wins in the highly competitive Big East, most of them are now behind Georgetown. The Hoyas will need to put Saturday’s loss in the rearview mirror before a Tuesday night trip to New Jersey for a crucial game against Seton Hall (15-8, 5-6 Big East) that marks the beginning of the final third of conference play for the Blue and Gray.

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