Saddiq Bey lives in the Washington area and was recruited by Georgetown, but he passed on the school, eventually choosing Villanova. He insisted before Saturday’s game between the Wildcats and the Hoyas there was “no rivalry,” that it was “just our next game.”
Bey, a 6-foot-8 sophomore forward, still came out as though he had something to prove. He shot 10-of-15 from the field, including 8-of-10 from three-point range, and scored a career-high 33 points, to lift the 16th-ranked Cats to an 80-66 win over Georgetown before a crowd of 15,041 at Wells Fargo Center.
Bey got off to a hot start with 19 points in the opening half to lift ‘Nova (12-3, 3-1 Big East) to a 39-36 lead at the break. He scored 10 of his team’s first 17 points of the second half, as the Cats padded their lead over the Hoyas (11-6, 1-3) to as many as 17 points.
Collin Gillespie’s three-point basket with just over 9 minutes remaining gave Villanova a 63-50 lead, but the Hoyas scored the next 6 points to make it a 7-point game at 63-56 with 6:12 remaining on a basket by Qudus Wahab. The Cats responded with a 10-0 run – six by Jeremiah Robinson-Earl – and increased their margin to 73-56 with 2:32 to play.
The Wildcats, who had connected on just 24.9% of their three-point attempts in their last six games, fired early and often on Saturday. They sank 10-of-17 in the first half and finished 15-of-29, or 51.7%. For the third time this season, they hit more three-point baskets than two-pointers (12).
Robinson-Earl added 14 points and 7 rebounds, while Gillespie chipped in with 11 points and 5 assists. Wahab, a freshman who entered the game when starting center Omer Yurtseven got into first-half foul trouble, shot 6-of-7 on his way to a team-high 13 points, plus 2 blocked shots in just 15 minutes.
The 7-foot Yurtseven was repeatedly fed the ball inside in the game’s first 10 minutes, before picking up his second personal foul and going to the bench. He finished with 10 points and 7 rebounds, below his season averages of 16.9 points and 9.9 rebounds.
Sophomore guard Mac McClung, who came in averaging 16.4 points per game, shot just 3-of-15 from the field and scored 8 points.
“He’s learning how to be a go-to guy,” Wildcats coach Jay Wright said of Bey. “When you’re a go-to guy, you can’t be afraid to have that night where you look really bad and everyone says, ‘Hey, you lost because you can’t make a shot.’ You can’t be afraid of that. He definitely wasn’t afraid today, and that’s how you have good games like that.”
“Every game, we all have the same approach -- take shots when they’re there, and defend and rebound,” Bey said. “That’s what we try to be consistent with every day, so we can have a different player score every game, as long as we stay focused on defending and rebounding.”
“You’ve got to give credit to them,” Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said. “Saddiq Bey played his butt off. I know he improved his shooting, but I didn’t think he was going to go 8-for-10 from three. He stepped up.”
In their last three wins, all in the Big East, the Wildcats have had a go-to guy who has carried the offense. Gillespie did it against Xavier and Creighton, scoring 24 points in each game, and Bey carried the torch on Saturday. It was redemption of sorts for Bey, who was named Wednesday to the midseason watch list for the 2020 John R. Wooden Award, given to the nation’s outstanding college basketball player. He came out aggressive after a four-game stretch in which he averaged 8.3 points while shooting 34.3% from the field and 5-of-19 (26.3%) from three.
Playing with a seven-man rotation, Georgetown seemed to run out of gas in the second half, going 0-3 in Big East road games this season. The Hoyas saw point guard James Akinjo, last season’s conference freshman of the year, and forward Josh LeBlanc transfer last month. Two other players left the program amid sexual-harassment allegations.