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Villanova struggles on defense and on boards, loses to Georgetown, 85-73

The Wildcats allowed 50.9 percent shooting and were outrebounded by the Hoyas, who snapped a nine-game losing streak against Villanova.

Villanova #4 Eric Paschall stuffs the ball in the 2nd half putting Nova ahead 41-36 during the Georgetown vs. Villanova University NCAA mens basketball game at Wells Fargo Center in Phila., Pa.on February 3, 2019.
Villanova #4 Eric Paschall stuffs the ball in the 2nd half putting Nova ahead 41-36 during the Georgetown vs. Villanova University NCAA mens basketball game at Wells Fargo Center in Phila., Pa.on February 3, 2019.Read moreELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff Photographer

WASHINGTON -- Transition defense and keeping the opponent from grabbing offensive rebounds, the two areas that hurt Villanova a few nights ago against St. John’s, reared their ugly heads again Wednesday night, this time in the nation’s capital.

Georgetown took the initiative early on the boards and shot 50.9 percent for the game, and the 17th-ranked Wildcats had no answers, losing an 85-73 Big East decision to the Hoyas before a crowd of 11,624 that braved the weather to come to Capital One Arena.

With their third loss in the last four games, the Wildcats (20-7, 11-3 Big East) saw their nine-game winning streak snapped against the Hoyas (16-10, 6-7), who last defeated Villanova on Jan. 19, 2015 at the same venue. The Cats also lost back-to-back Big East games for the first time since Feb. 23 and March 2, 2013.

Phil Booth led Villanova with 26 points and Eric Paschall added 16.

After the Wildcats had limited two of Georgetown’s best scorers in defeating the Hoyas on Feb. 3, coach Jay Wright figured Tuesday that Jessie Govan and Mac McClung would play a more significant role in Wednesday night’s rematch. And he was right.

Govan, who did not score on Feb. 3 at the Wells Fargo Center, dominated the inside with 21 points and 11 rebounds, scoring 11 of Georgetown’s first 16 points in the second half that extended the Hoyas’ lead to 15. McClung drained four three-point baskets in also contributing 21 points.

“I thought the first game he didn’t get to play, really,” Wright said of Govan, who fouled out in 13 minutes in the first meeting. “We really have much respect for him. He’s an outstanding player. We tried to go at him the same way [as the first game] but we didn’t get him in foul trouble.”

As for McClung, a freshman who had four points in the earlier contest, he scored 17 points in the first half in sparking the Hoyas to a 42-32 lead.

“He’s just young,” Wright said. “He’s going to be a really good player. When you’re young, you have good games and bad games. We knew he was much better than how he played us the first time. We were more aggressive against him in the first game, but we didn’t come in with great aggressiveness to start this game.”

The Wildcats, who made just nine of 38 three-point shots, appeared to be a step slow all night. They were outrebounded 20-10 in the first half. The Hoyas had an 11-1 advantage in second-chance points while the game was still in doubt. Georgetown had 16 fast-break points and got into its offense quickly in the half-court.

“It definitely felt like they had more energy,” Paschall said. “They came to play. They’re a very good team. They played well tonight and you see what they’re capable of.”

Wright was particularly displeased with the rebounding.

“Rebounding is just physicality and aggressiveness,” he said. “They just beat us. They were much more physical and much more aggressive on the glass, especially early."

After halftime, the Wildcats threatened only twice. They got to within six, 44-38, early in the second half and trailed 50-43 before the Hoyas went on an 8-0 run that Govan capped with a three-ball to make it 58-43 with 13 minutes, 12 seconds remaining.

Villanova got the gap down to single digits one more time, 60-51, on two Paschall free throws, but the Cats went more than 6 minutes with just one field goal, and the resulting 13-3 run for the Hoyas sealed their first win over a Top 25 team in Patrick Ewing’s two seasons as head coach.

And when it was over, John Thompson, Ewing’s former coach with the Hoyas, gave his pupil a big bearhug.