WASHINGTON – In danger of losing a game it once led by 17, against a Georgetown team missing its top two scorers, Villanova needed something short of a miracle Saturday to pull out a victory and still have a shot at a share of the Big East regular-season championship.
The call went to Jermaine Samuels, with small assists to the Hoyas’ Qudus Wahab and video replay.
Samuels’ basket – confirmed to be goaltending on review – and his subsequent free throw with 5.6 seconds remaining completed a three-point play that gave the 14th-ranked Wildcats a 70-69 victory over the undermanned Hoyas before a crowd of 13,168 at Capital One Arena.
The victory for the Cats (24-7, 13-5), coupled with Creighton’s 77-60 victory over Seton Hall, gave them a share of the conference crown with the Bluejays and Pirates. They also clinched a No. 2 seed in Thursday night’s quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Georgetown (15-16, 5-13) played without two injured starters, center Omer Yurtseven (ankle) and guard Mac McClung (foot).
Villanova raced out to leads of 14-0 in the first 3 minutes, 45 seconds and 26-9 with a little more than 11 minutes left in the first half, but the Hoyas found their game afterward, closing to within 39-30 at halftime and scoring the first 11 points of the second half for the first of eight lead changes.
The Wildcats’ last lead before the final dramatics came at 61-58 on Samuels’ basket, also a goaltending, with 4:48 remaining. Georgetown’s 7-0 run, capped by two free throws from Jamorko Pickett, put the Hoyas up 65-61, and a three-pointer by Terrell Allen kept the advantage at four, 69-65, with 1:01 to play.
Freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl drove in for a layup and then forced a turnover on a tipped pass with about 27 seconds left. With coach Jay Wright deciding against a timeout, Collin Gillespie found Samuels near the left baseline, and the junior forward drove, went up for the shot as he was fouled by Pickett, and Wahab swatted the shot away.
An official review was deemed goaltending, and Samuels rattled his free throw home for the final – and most important – point. Allen’s driving shot in heavy traffic at the buzzer bounced off the rim.
Keys to the Game
Though he had to sit out the final 6:21 of the first half after picking up his second personal foul, Saddiq Bey led the Wildcats with 18 points. He scored 11 in the second half, including a critical three-pointer with 1:22 remaining. The other four starters scored in double figures – Samuels and Robinson-Earl 13 each, Gillespie and Justin Moore 11 apiece.
Pickett led the Hoyas with 20 and Allen added 17. Their starting five played all but 10 minutes, and Allen and Jahvon Blair were on the court for all 40.
Georgetown found its way into the paint at will, outscoring Villanova, 34-20, with Allen and Mosely frequently slashing to the basket.
Wright, on why he didn’t call a timeout before Samuels’ winning play: “I felt we had a better chance because [the Hoyas] were so dialed in. You can tell if a team is dialed in to their coach. If they had a stoppage, he was going to be able to get them set and we’d have a tough time scoring, and I didn’t want to give them a chance to get set. Collin found Jermaine and it was a big play.”
Samuels: “I was shooting threes down the stretch and they weren’t going in but it was still catch and shoot [on Gillespie’s pass]. Then when [Pickett] closed out on me, I saw his top foot and decided to make a strong move and try to be aggressive.”
Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing, on calls down the stretch: “We can’t cry about foul calls, we still had our opportunities to win.”
The Wildcats begin the quest for their fourth consecutive Big East Tournament title on Thursday night against the winner of Wednesday’s game between the No. 7 seed and DePaul. The Blue Demons’ opponent will be either Marquette or Xavier, if the Musketeers lose their game Saturday night against Butler.
Wright again did not turn to his bench for much help Saturday. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree contributed four points and four rebounds in 12 minutes, but Cole Swider and Brandon Slater combined for 7:22 of playing time and zero points.