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Villanova knocks off another top-five victim, beats Georgetown

The SportsXchange

PHILDELPHIA -- Villanova made a strong case on why it should be given an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament by turning back a top-five opponent for the third time this season.

The Wildcats (19-12, 10-8 Big East) knocked off No. 5 Georgetown (23-5, 13-4) 67-57 Wednesday before 13,685 at the Wells Fargo Center. Earlier in the season, Villanova knocked off then No. 5 Louisville and No. 3 Syracuse, both in late January.

Throw in a 60-56 win over Marquette, another Top 25 team, and Villanova has a nice resume heading into the Big East Tournament next week in New York. Coach Jay Wright's team was picked to finish 12th in the 15-team league in the preseason.

"I would think so," Wright responded when asked in the post-game news conference if he thought his team would qualify for the tournament. "I think everyone has a unique resume this time of year. With 10 (conference) wins I think we would be close enough to get in."

The loss ended an 11-game win streak for the Hoyas, who play Syracuse on Saturday in the final game of their storied Big East rivalry. Syracuse is headed for the ACC next season.

A win by Georgetown on Wednesday would have guaranteed it at least a share of the Big East's regular season title, but coach John Thompson III's team was done in by a Villanova bunch that was aggressive in its sets, resulting in a huge advantage in trips to the free-throw line.

The Wildcats, led by 20 points and five steals from JayVaughn Pinkston, were 30 of 42 from the line, compared to just 4 of 8 for Georgetown. Pinkston was 11 of 14 from the stripe.

Georgetown moved to within four points at 56-52 with 2:46 to play, but Villanova closed it out with an 11-5 run with all of the points coming from the line. Pinkston was 4 of 6 from the stripe in the stretch.

"We wanted to drive the ball and we wanted to post-up," said Villanova guard Darrun Hilliard, who contributed 14 points and three steals.

Otto Porter Jr., a candidate for National Player of the Year, led Georgetown with 17 points, recording his 15th straight game in double figures.

Named as the Big East's Player of the Week for the third straight week, Porter dominated the second half with 11 of his team's 28 points. However, he was held in check late in the game, failing to score after his last basket with 9:09 left.

"We wanted to double-team him (Porter) and keep fresh bodies on him," said Pinkston of Villanova's approach to defending Porter.

Georgetown committed a season-high 23 turnovers. Villanova, coming off back-to-back losses to Seton Hall and Pittsburgh, scored 24 points off the miscues.

"They (Villanova) came out and were extremely aggressive," Thompson said. "You have to give them credit as well as us being careless with the ball."

The Wildcats, who led by eight points with a little more than 14 minutes to play, went more than 8:30 without a field goal in the second half but never lost their advantage. Georgetown got to within one point, 44-43, at the 11:06 mark on a layup by Porter, but Villanova responded by scoring four straight points from the line to move ahead 48-43 with 9:50 remaining.

Hilliard broke the field-goal drought for Villanova with a 3-pointer at 5:43 and Ryan Arcidiacono followed with a pair of free throws to get the advantage back to eight, 56-48, with 4:50 to play.

Markel Starks, who sat for much of the second half before fouling out with 53 seconds left, sank a driving layup and a scoop shot to cut the Georgetown deficit in half, 56-52, at the 2:47 mark. Then the Wildcats march to the free-throw line started.

"We were in foul trouble the whole game," said Thompson. "We had to fight through it. I can't remember being a part of a game like that. Out of all the numbers on the stat sheet that (free throw disparity) jumped out at me the most. It hurt us."

Georgetown struggled in its half-court offense, ran into early foul trouble and committed 12 turnovers in the first half. That formula led to a 33-29 Villanova lead at intermission.

D'Vaun Smith-Rivera scored on a runner to draw the Hoyas even at 27-27 with 1:16 left in the half, but the Wildcats closed on a 6-2 run.

The Hoyas led 9-2 before the Wildcats went on a 17-3 run to grab a 19-12 advantage. Villanova sank 5 of 8 from the line during that stretch and James Bell drained two 3-pointers.

Porter had a quiet half, scoring just six points with one rebound. Pinkston led Villanova with nine points.

Thompson dismissed the emphasis of the preseason coaches' poll.

"You have to pick because the league says lets vote," Thompson said. "But it's such a magnification of small differences. The disparity is all over the board, just within our staff.

"I asked our coaches to vote before the season and they all had different picks. You could end up being seventh or eighth and being a very, very good team. That speaks to the strength of the conference."

It has been five seasons since the Hoyas added to their Big East trophy collection. They won their second consecutive Big East regular season title in 2007-08. The previous season they won the Big East championship and reached the Final Four.

NOTES: Wednesday was just the second time in one season that Villanova hosted three top-five teams. ... Georgetown, with no seniors on its roster, is 10th in the nation in scoring defense, limiting the opposition to 56.3 ppg. ... Coming into Wednesday's game, Arcidiacono is averaging 14.8 ppg over his last six games and has converted his last 18 free-throw attempts to raise his season average to .832 from the line.
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