Villanova-Georgetown Preview

The Associated Press

Georgetown is hoping to bounce back from its worst loss of the season against a Villanova team trying to remain positive through some difficult defeats.

One of the Big East's traditional rivalries resumes Saturday when the ninth-ranked Hoyas look to hand the visiting Wildcats a fourth straight loss.

Coach John Thompson III called his club's 73-55 loss at Seton Hall on Tuesday its "worst performance of the year." The Hoyas (20-6, 10-5) allowed the Pirates to shoot 61.0 percent - a season high for an opponent.

Georgetown is in a three-way tie with Cincinnati and South Florida for fourth place and the accompanying double-bye in the Big East tournament, and knows it can't afford many more slip-ups.

"The Georgetown-Villanova game is special," Thompson said. "It's something that we're going to have to play well, we're going to have to come out and bounce back and play much better than we did the other day."

The Hoyas have won seven of the past eight meetings, though only two were decided by more than five points.

Villanova (11-16, 4-11) will have to win the conference tournament if it wants to reach an eighth straight NCAA tournament. The Wildcats' last two losses have been in overtime at home and came without starters Maalik Wayns and James Bell.

"We're getting valuable minutes for our freshmen, Ty Johnson and also JayVaughn Pinkston is really coming on for us, another young guy," coach Jay Wright said. "It's just been a tough year, but these guys have stuck together, they're playing hard and we feel confident going to Georgetown."

Wright said that Bell is doubtful Saturday with a sprained left ankle that has kept him out of the last two games. The coach said he is hopeful that Wayns, the Big East's fourth-leading scorer at 17.8 points per game, won't have to miss a fourth straight game with a sprained left knee.

Johnson has totaled 26 points on 8-of-30 shooting while averaging 5.7 assists over the last three games. Dominic Cheek has stepped up to score 42 points over the last two.

"They always have done a very good job down through the years with their guard play at both ends of the court," Thompson said. "They always have the perimeter players that switch everything, can jump everything and defensively, they keep you off kilter."

The Wildcats are wary of Hoyas leading scorer Jason Clark, averaging 13.5 points on 55.9 percent shooting in four career games against Villanova. Clark, however, matched a season low with seven points Tuesday.

"Jason Clark, I think is one of the most underrated players in the country," Wright said. "He's not just a great player but he's a great leader."

The Hoyas had held opponents to 32.5 percent shooting over a 4-1 stretch before the poor effort against the Pirates. No Georgetown player scored in double figures.

The poor offense hasn't been the norm for a club which has three players averaging in double figures, with eight different Hoyas scoring at least 10 in a game.

"They're just a very balanced team offensively and defensively," Wright said. "You can't just pick one guy you have to stop, you can't really pick one guy that's a defensive weakness. I think that's why they've been so consistent over the season."

Wright's team has dropped 10 straight to ranked opponents, but its five losses to Top 25 foes this season have been by an average of 7.0 points. While Villanova is 1-8 in true road games, Georgetown is 13-1 at home.

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