WASHINGTON — Jay Wright’s Villanova Wildcats have managed to avoid many losing streaks, especially in recent years, including when the Cats won it all both in 2016 and 2018. Fifth-year seniors Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillespie and junior Justin Moore helped make sure the team avoided starting one against Georgetown, as the Wildcats overcame a hostile Capital One Arena crowd and the Hoyas, 85-74.
Having already dropped two straight earlier this season in historic fashion — in terms of the Wright era — with back-to-back 20-point loses to Baylor and Creighton, ‘Nova seemed at times like it might be on its way to following up Wednesday’s unexpected last-minute loss to Marquette with another “L” against longtime rival Georgetown.
Down seven points in the second half after squandering a nine-point first-half lead, Villanova (14-5, 7-2 Big East) finally got it going.
Gillespie, held in check by Marquette on Wednesday, led the way for ‘Nova with 28 points, followed by Moore with 19 and Samuels with 18. Meanwhile, the defense turned it on late, causing Georgetown (6-10, 0-5) to miss 11 of 12 shots during what became a decisive 22-8 Villanova run to break the game open.
Size doesn’t matter
Despite being at a considerable size disadvantage, Villanova showed no hesitancy taking it right to the Hoyas at the basket. Samuels, Moore, even Gillespie drove repeatedly for layups, the Wildcats finishing with 42 points in the paint to Georgetown’s 28. At the other end, Georgetown found it tougher than expected, with ‘Nova blocking four shots, including two on a single possession before the shot clock expired. Villanova also won the rebounding battle, 30-26.
Tradition and history
So what makes the Villanova-Georgetown rivalry so special? Wright says it goes back even before Rollie Massimino’s Wildcats stunned John Thompson’s Hoyas, featuring current Georgetown coach, Patrick Ewing, to win it all in 1985 after losing both regular-season Big East games.
“It’s always been a great rivalry,” said Wright, “Obviously ‘85 put it over the top, but the schools have the same philosophy academically and there’s so many great connections between the schools.
“It’s tradition and history. We’re an Augustinian school. They’re Jesuit. We have the same kind of student population and we compete in admissions and recruiting.”
It turns out Wright does have a bench after all. After four of his players went at least 32 minutes against Marquette, Wright substituted more liberally on Saturday. Caleb Daniels scored 12 points in his 30 minutes, including a clutch three-pointer after Georgetown had drawn within 65-60 with five minutes left. Meanwhile, Bryan Antoine and Jordan Longino each scored two, but gave key starters some needed breathers.
Chip off the old blocker
He didn’t get into the game, but a name to remember as a player-to-watch is 7-foot-2 Georgetown freshman Ryan Mutombo. You guessed it. He’s the son of former Sixer and NBA Hall of Famer Dikembe Mutombo. No idea if the kid -- like his father -- wags his finger at opponents when he blocks their shot.