In a game played on Martin Luther King Day in 2015, Villanova faced Georgetown in a game that was dominated by Hoya Paranoia. Fast forward a year, and the script was flipped as the Wildcats were able to fend off the Hoyas, 55-50.
Even though Jay Wright’s team had no problem putting up points in their last game against Marquette, the same did not ring true at the Verizon Center. In fact, this game mirrored Villanova’s last road game against Butler.
Low shooting percentages and defensive stalwarts ruled the afternoon in our nation’s capital. Coach Wright was very aware of the pattern that was taking place.
“It’s just not going to be pretty in this league,” Wright said reminiscing about style of play of the old and new Big East.
Despite the ugly style of play, the Wildcats knew this would not be the same result that unfolded nearly a year ago, even with star center Daniel Ochefu being banged up. Villanova would go on an early 6-0 run to assert their dominance before the first media timeout. The Wildcats would never fall behind again after the run.
In the first half, Villanova was fueled by their stingy defense and efficient shooting from inside. The Wildcats only allowed 22 points of offense and held Georgetown to under 35% from deep. On the offensive end, the team shot above 40% from field, but did shoot just a measly 12% from beyond the arc. In what was a continued theme for the rest of the game, Josh Hart and Ryan Arcidiacono led the squad with six points each.
With the Wildcats rolling into the half with a four point lead, there were two players causing Jay Wright fits – D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera and Isaac Copeland. They combined for 17 out of Georgetown’s 22 points and were shooting the lights out. The coaching staff knew they had to make adjustments or these two would get hot and run Villanova right out of the building.
It seemed that the second half would be the exact opposite of the first half. Two deep balls from Kris Jenkins and a smooth mid-range jumper from Ochefu had everyone thinking the ‘Cats would run away with the game due to a hot offense. However, Georgetown’s defense would not allow for such things to happen.
Both teams went cold from the field, but incessant and somewhat unnecessary foul calls would give both squads plenty of opportunities to rack up points from the free throw line. Simply put, Georgetown made theirs and Villanova did not, and it allowed the Hoyas back into the game. A 5:39 dry spell from the field coupled with the poor free throw shooting brought a Villanova double digit lead to less than five within a blink of an eye.
Smith-Rivera, who did not have a bucket in the half until the 1:54 mark, and Copeland brought Georgetown to within three. However, clutch free throws from Arciadiacono and big time boards from Hart kept Villanova on top and effectively iced the game inside the final minute.
With the win Villanova has won 21 Big East games in a row going back to last season and including the Big East Tournament.
”It just means we’ve come to play every single game that we’ve played,” said Arcidiacono of the Wildcats conference. ”We’re not really focused on if we’re undefeated or if we’re 3-3 or 4-2 or anything like that. It just means we’ve come to play every single time.”
While Hart and Arcidiacono both led the team throughout the game, one of the unsung heroes for Villanova was Mikal Bridges. Bridges had the honor of guarding Smith-Rivera and held him under wraps in the second half.
”We knew he has the ability to just go off,” said Wright of Georgetown’s stud guard.”(Bridges) is only a freshman and he loves to defend. He’s really long, he’s got some great mobility and we put him on some really good players. Smith-Rivera is probably one of the best and I thought he did a great job on him.”
Villanova has improved to 16-2 on the year overall, and 6-0 within conference. As a team, they shot 38.3% from the field, and just 16.7% from three point land. Three Villanovans had double digit points (Hart, Arcidiacono, and Jenkins). Hart was impressive on the boards, grabbing 12 with 11 of the defensive variety.
For Georgetown, their overall record fell to 11-7, with four wins and two losses coming within Big East competition. The Hoyas fared much better from deep (36.8%), than from the field (32.7%). Leading the Hoyas was Smith-Rivera, who put up 15 points. Copeland and had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
Villanova will be off until Wednesday night (9PM), when they travel to Prudential Center to take on the Seton Hall Pirates.