An old rivalry sparked up again on Tuesday night, and Villanova hosted Georgetown in the Pavilion for the first time in 11 years. Spotted in the crowd that night was a sign made by some clever ‘Nova student:
That jab about the National Championship victory in ’85 over Georgetown echoed the Wildcats’ uniforms that paid homage to the original batch of champions. Ever since ‘Nova debuted their ‘throwback’ jerseys from that year, it seemingly makes sure to have them prepared for whenever the Hoyas come to town.
For a minute (or 10) there, Villanova looked like they were in danger of losing its first game at the Pavilion since before any of the current players were even on campus–and to Georgetown–which would make it that much worse. The Wildcats kept their rivals at bay, pulling away to win 75-64, but their struggles did not go unnoticed.
“Our inconsistency again just catches up with us, but then we get it back at the end,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “We’ve just got to become more focused.”
This focus was exhibited by senior captain Josh Hart, who led the ‘Cats to victory with a 25 point, seven rebound performance. He scored the first basket of the game, and also the one that changed the tide later in the game, which crushed Georgetown’s final hope for a stunning upset.
“It starts with the three seniors,” said Hart. “We’ve gotta demand that.. First of all we’ve gotta demand that of ourselves, first and foremost, and then just playing ‘Villanova Basketball’ and demand that from the younger guys.”
Georgetown led for only 3:47 of the entire game, but it almost tied it up at the end. The Hoyas went on a furious rally from the end, quickly erasing what seemed like a cushy 17-point lead.
Villanova went ice cold, as Georgetown went on a 17-4 run that lasted for nearly eight minutes. With 3:51 left in the game, Robert Morris graduate transfer Rodney Pryor took a jump shot and brought the game to 60-58, with Villanova barely in the lead. Pryor made 20 points in the game, and had nine rebounds.
The Wildcats responded with a timely three from Hart that put them back on track and was the beginning of a scoring spurt that gave the ‘Cats the separation they needed.
“You fight and claw to get back in it, and then you end it with them going on a run,” said Georgetown’s head coach, John Thompson III. “That’s what good teams do. They’re a veteran team, and they play great together.
It also helped the Wildcats that Donte DiVincenzo was able to dial up another solid performance off the bench, supplying 15 points, six rebounds, and a pair of assists. The 6’5” redshirt freshman has been finding his niche lately and that streak continued on Tuesday night.
“He just played great,” said Wright. “He’s just getting better every day, I’m so proud of him. All the little things that are difficult for freshman to learn – he just picks up on all those things. You guys will see in the future – he’s a great scorer. You’re just starting to see a little bit of it, but he’s doing all the other little things and that’s why he’s become so valuable to us.”
Every single Wildcat who got on the court this game scored, and all but one scored at least a half a dozen points. Redshirt sophomore Mikal Bridges had a solid game, scoring 11 points off of 5-of-6 shooting and was a menace on defense.
“He can guard any position,” said Wright. “He’s just becoming complete. I think he has the ability to be the kind of player Josh Hart is, where he’s just a totally complete player. Donte does too, where they do everything.”
Despite the scare near the end, the overall feeling the entire game was full of positivity, and excitement. The student section seemed to recognize there’s only a few games left at the Pavilion this season, and acted accordingly. Shortly after the second half started, with over 18 minutes left in the game, the entire student section started chanting ‘start the busses.’
With less than five minutes left, many realized these sentiments may have been premature. However, the ‘Cats put the student section’s fear to rest.
“They’re just loose guys,” said Wright. “They’re just fun-loving, loose guys. You know, you can see. They get down, they blow leads, it doesn’t affect them. They don’t panic. It might just be the personality of this team.”
Villanova’s team-oriented schemes rang true against the Hoyas.. Every single player that touched the court scored. Each one got at least one rebound. All but one assisted on at least a few baskets and overall, they assisted on 16-of-26 baskets–all while turning the ball over just eight times.
“Once we initiate the offense we’re all ball players,” said DiVincenzo. “Everybody has the same role.”
Villanova’s next test will be when they take on Xavier this Saturday. Tip off for the ‘Cats is at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, in Ohio.
“They find their way to do it,” said Wright. “I know they’ll go into Xavier ready to play, go in with confidence, with great respect to Xavier, they do that every game.”