In front of a packed home crowd, the Georgetown men’s basketball team ended its two-game losing streak and pulled off a season-altering upset over No. 17 Villanova on Wednesday.
The victory marks Georgetown Head Coach Patrick Ewing’s (CAS ’85) first coaching win against a ranked opponent in his tenure on the Hilltop. It is also the first for the Hoyas (16-10, 6-7 Big East) against the Wildcats (20-7, 11-3 Big East) since the 2014-15 season, making it the first of senior center Jessie Govan’s career.
“They were the last team I hadn’t taken out in the Big East. It felt great to … beat the defending national champions,” Govan said in a postgame interview with GUHoyas. “I think it’s a sign of things to come, and this program will keep getting better and better. We’re working on getting Georgetown back to national prevalence.”
Georgetown was led by its top two leading scorers, Govan and freshman guard Mac McClung, who scored 21 points each. McClung dominated the first half with 17 points after making his first five shots to start the game. He also drained five consecutive three-pointers in the first frame. Govan scored 15 of his points in the second half, helping to close out the Wildcats down the stretch.
In a battle featuring the Big East’s top offense, in Georgetown and the conference’s top defense in Villanova, the Hoyas maintained Ewing’s fast-paced offensive style to take the edge. Georgetown led in points off turnovers and fast-break points.
“They want to play slow. We want to play fast,” Ewing said. “When they scored, we didn’t just take the ball and walk it up. We tried to push it up, and I thought that that got us going.”
Georgetown started the game hot, shooting 52 percent from the floor in the first half. Freshman guard James Akinjo and McClung made back-to-back three-pointers in the seventh minute to put Georgetown up 15-8.
The Hoyas built a bigger lead off the hot start from McClung. With 2:20 before halftime, Akinjo nailed a three-pointer, and sophomore guard Jamorko Pickett followed with another, putting the Hoyas up 14 points. By halftime, Georgetown led 42-32.
Despite McClung’s stellar individual performance, he passed off the credit to the rest of his team.
“We were just running and moving the ball around and it happened to get to me a couple times, and I made a couple, but it’s all my teammates finding me,” McClung said.
Coming out of halftime, Villanova cut the Georgetown lead to single digits. With 15:34 left, Villanova junior guard Phil Booth hit a three-pointer to cut the deficit to 50-43.
Georgetown responded with an 8-0 run over the next two minutes, capped by a three-pointer by Govan to put the Hoyas up 58-43 and bring the fans to their feet.
In Georgetown’s matchup with the Wildcats earlier this season on Feb. 3, Govan fouled out of the game with zero points. This time though, he was out for revenge.
“Last time we played, I was scoreless. So I definitely came in with a chip on my shoulder in the game,” Govan said. “I think I was just staying aggressive.”
Georgetown went on to take a 19-point lead with 5:05 left after a layup by senior forward Kaleb Johnson and free throws by McClung. Late in the game, trying to gain extra possessions, Villanova applied a full-court press. While the Wildcats induced turnovers, the Hoyas won in transition and never let the lead dip below 12 points for the rest of the game.
The Hoyas went on to defeat their Big East nemesis 85-73, and they now sit behind Villanova at fifth in the Big East standings. Ewing understood the gravity of this win.
“This was a must-win for us against a very good team and great coach,” Ewing said. “They share the ball extremely well, and I thought that my guys stepped up.”
For the game, Georgetown led Villanova in rebounds and points in the paint. The Hoyas gave a strong defensive effort, holding the Wildcats to under 39 percent shooting from the floor and 24 percent shooting from three-point range, well below their season averages.
McClung highlighted the importance of having the right game plan and mentality, especially against a highly ranked opponent.
“We were just more alert. We know they can shoot the ball. We were coached well and strategized to defend the three-pointer and close them out,” McClung said. “We focused on not mentally going out, not mentally losing focus during the possession.”
The Hoyas have little time for celebration, as they return to action Saturday. Four of the team’s last five regular season games are on the road before the Big East tournament. Ewing spoke about the upcoming matchups and his team’s growth going forward.
“We have to build on this. It can’t just be a one-game thing. We have five more games to go, and our dreams and our goals are to make the NCAA tournament,” Ewing said.
Georgetown will return to action Saturday when it faces Creighton in Omaha, Neb. The game will be covered on FOX starting at 2:30pm.