Two teams squared off at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, but only one group looked ready for the NCAA tournament. When Georgetown most needed a win, it folded at the hands of No. 6 Villanova, who cruised to a 77-59 win on its senior day.
The Wildcats feasted on lazy passes and careless turnovers to jump out to a 9-2 lead. Junior guardDarrun Hilliard II scored seven of Villanova’s first 12 points, and the Big East regular season champions showed off their No. 6 ranking. For the Hoyas, senior forward Nate Lubick accounted for two of Georgetown’s first three turnovers and picked up two quick fouls before sitting for a majority of the half.
But a well-timed timeout by Head Coach John Thompson III allowed the Hoyas to regroup and slowly chip away at Villanova’s lead. Senior guard Markel Starks scored Georgetown’s first five points, and three-pointers from junior guard Jabril Trawick and sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera brought the Hoyas within one point.
But that’s as close as Georgetown would come, as Villanova took advantage of Hoya foul trouble —Trawick and Starks both picked up three in the first half and were forced to sit for long stretches — as the Wildcats went on a 26-14 run to close the half.
The issue for Georgetown in its first meeting with Villanova was free-throw disparity, foul trouble and turnovers. The Hoyas lost all three categories badly in the first half; particularly frustrating was the turnover differential — a major point of emphasis for Thompson this year.
Despite having a higher shooting percentage than Villanova, Georgetown trailed by 13 heading into the locker room; perhaps its 10 fewer field goal attempts were to blame for the deficit.
Unfortunately for the Hoyas, the second half was worse, and Georgetown never even approached single digits the rest of the game. Turnovers continued to plague the Blue and Gray — Georgetown finished with 18 overall — and the Hoyas struggled on both sides of the ball.
At times, the Hoyas struggled to penetrate past the three-point line and were forced away from the basket by Villanova’s aggressive man-to-man defense. On the defensive end, the Hoyas had difficulty finding all of the Wildcats’ shooters. Hilliard was the Achilles’ heel for the Hoyas, as the junior finished with 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting.
A strong performance from the backcourt did little to keep the game close. Smith-Rivera finished with 14 points and five rebounds while Starks led all scorers with 20 points and added three assists. However, the senior also turned the ball over five times and committed four fouls.
The other four-year veteran turned in one of his most uninspiring performances of the year. Just a few days after seeing eight minutes of playing time against Creighton — his lowest of the season —Lubick did little after his slow start of fouls and turnovers. In his limited action, Lubick fumbled passes from Starks and Trawick in the lane and managed only two points on an open dunk.
In all, there were few bright spots for the Hoyas. Senior forward Aaron Bowen scored 13 points on an efficient 5-of-7 shooting, but he seemed to give up defensively in the second half. Meanwhile, freshman forward Reggie Cameron and senior center Moses Ayegba attempted one shot between the two of them.
Simply put, the effort, intensity and discipline that propelled Georgetown to victory against then-No. 13 Creighton was simply absent against Villanova when the Hoyas had their backs against the wall. Save for a brief stretch in the first half, Georgetown played 40 minutes of lackadaisical and careless basketball.
Now, Georgetown must put this game behind itself and prepare for the Big East tournament, where it will likely face off against DePaul as a No. 7 seed. The only surefire way to make the NCAA tournament is to win the Big East championship — something this Hoyas team, which has beaten three top-15 teams already, is clearly capably of. Perhaps an appearance in the title game will be enough for Georgetown to hear its name called on Selection Sunday.
Either way, the Hoyas need to string together wins. And that starts Wednesday in Madison Square Garden.