WASHINGTON - In the course of a few seconds last night, Villanova went from a possible upset of No. 8 Georgetown to certain overtime to the most heartbreaking of defeats.

Scottie Reynolds lost the ball on a drive to the hoop seeking the potential winning basket, and freshman Corey Stokes fouled Georgetown's Jonathan Wallace with one-tenth of a second to play, leading to the two free throws that gave the Hoyas a 55-53 victory over the plucky Wildcats at the Verizon Center.

It marked the second time this season that Villanova (14-9 overall, 4-7 Big East) lost a game on free throws with less than a second to play - the first was their 69-68 loss to North Carolina State on Nov. 25 - but this was much more painful because of the route the Wildcats took to have a chance at a stunning win.

Villanova missed 19 consecutive shots from the field over a span of about 12 minutes in the second half. The Wildcats ended the drought down by 12, but solid defense and the play of Reynolds and Dante Cunningham pulled them into a tie with 1 minute, 6 seconds to play.

The fact that the Cats went 4 of 31 from the field (12.9 percent) in the second half meant they should have been firing up the bus long before the final buzzer. But that wasn't the case, and that's the silver lining that Villanova coach Jay Wright displayed after the game.

"I was proud of our guys," Wright said. "No moral victories or anything. It's not. It's a loss. But we played better tonight, and I just think we're learning."

The Villanova defense was a factor. The Hoyas (20-3, 10-2) did shoot 46.7 percent in the second half, but turned the basketball over 10 times. They committed four miscues and missed the front end of a one-and-one to help a 9-0 Wildcats run that got the visitors back in the game.

"I thought we played good defense," Wright said. "If you're a good team, there are going to be nights when you don't makes shots and you've got to win it with your defense. We haven't been able to do that all year. That's what Georgetown has done all year. They still found a way to win the game."

The Wildcats got their chance to go for the last shot and victory when they took possession with 30.1 seconds left after a miss by the Hoyas' Austin Freeman. Reynolds, who led all scorers with 24 points and had hit the reverse scoop that tied the game, dribbled the clock down, then started his move to the hoop at about 10 seconds.

Reynolds went to the baseline, was cut off, and turned the ball over as he tried to pass inside while falling out of bounds. Wallace picked up the loose ball and started up the left sideline as the clock hit one second, little time to do anything.

Stokes tried to cut him off but was a little too late and too close to the line. As he brushed against Wallace, referee Bob Donato blew the whistle with the clock one tick away from overtime.

"I was just playing defense, and the ref called a foul," Stokes said.

And what did he think when the whistle blew?

"They're about to get two free throws to win the game," he replied.

Wright admitted, "Honestly, I didn't even see it. I can't even complain about it because I didn't even see it."

Wallace hit the two free throws to finish with a team-high 15 points. He had hit the last five points in Georgetown's 18-3 run - during a time when Villanova was trying to find a way to get the lid off the basket. The Hoyas had a 46-34 lead with 8:41 to play.

For the game, Villanova shot 24.6 percent from the field. Freshman guard Corey Fisher made just 1 of 16 shots.

Wright said his team was "crushed" by the loss but saw a positive. "They know we played a very good team on the road and we played well," he said.

Cunningham, who had 10 rebounds, also preferred to look at the positive.

"Losing is the hardest part," he said, "but we went out there and we battled. I think there were more positives than negatives. Tonight we grew as a team and it was amazing. I sat in the locker room and I teared up a little bit just thinking about where we came from."