In the final game of conference play, Georgetown lost to #4 Villanova by a score of 97-73. Jessie Govan was stellar, scoring a new career-high 30 points, grabbing 8 rebounds and shooting a perfect 10/10 from the freethrow line. The Hoyas kept this game competitive until midway through the second half, despite going 0/9 from three-point range in the opening half and playing without Marcus Derrickson, who had led the team in scoring throughout Big East competition. Georgetown did not let up, but Villanova had an answer for every basket or misstep and the Hoyas were unable to meaningfully cut into the deficit. Still, this team looked infinitely more composed and determined than the squad who got the doors blown off by 32 by these Wildcats only six weeks ago. So tonight’s loss is disappointing, but it is not demoralizing.
The Hoyas are are now 15-14 on the season and 5-13 in Big East play. Both teams were coming off of overtime games, with Georgetown just short vs. Marquette on Monday and Villanova overcoming an uncharacteristically ugly shooting affair to beat Seton Hall in Newark on Wednesday evening. The pregame announcement that Derrickson would be sidelined with an ankle injury necessitated an adjustment of expectations, as his 16 ppg would be sorely misssed against one of the best teams in the country.
Villanova controlled the tipoff, but the Hoyas opened with persistent defense that forced the ‘Cats to take contested jumpers. Meanwhile, Georgetown was spreading around their own scoring. Jonathan Mulmore kicked things off with a layup off the glass, Govan hit a jumper off the feed from Jagan Mosely, Jamorko Pickett finished a layup over Mikal Bridges and a pair of freethrows by Kaleb Johnson capped off a confidence-building early interval before the first media break.
However, even on possessions where they forced Villanova to dribble in circles or scramble to corral disrupted passes, the Wildcats frequently found a way to convert near the end of the shot clock. Jalen Brunson and Phil Booth are more than capable of creating their own scoring opportunities or finding a teammate who can complete the play. The primary takeaway from the first four minutes predicts the arc of the whole 40: Villanova can work around their own errors while exploiting every one of their opponent’s mistakes. It’s how they win.
Georgetown kept themselves within striking distance by getting the ball to Govan frequently and by attacking the basket to draw fouls. Jessie was in double figures before halftime and the Hoyas had earned significantly more trips to the freethrow line. Unfortunately, Georgetown was ice-cold from outside and they ceded ground by failing to appropriately cover and close out on the perimeter. Lack of effective communication on the defensive end yielded lots of purposeless motion. Villanova used this disarray to their advantage and began the familiar three-point barrage while the Hoyas missed 10 field goals during a nearly 6-minute drought before heading into the break down 44-31.
Early in the second half, when Pickett finally hit a trey of his own, Antwan Walker dunked it from the baseline, and a blocked shot on the defensive end allowed Trey Dickerson to find Jahvon Blair for a three-pointer (then another), it looked briefly like the Hoyas were about to make a run. Dickerson drove the lane and hung improbably in the air before finishing a layup. The Hoyas’ momentum also seemed to be suspended. During the next four minutes, Georgetown was unable to answer threes from Omari Spellman, Booth and Bridges, punctuated by a pull-up jumper from Brunson. An 11-point spread had ballooned into a 22-point hole.
As with every game, there were overall bright spots and glaring areas of weakness. Walker filled the frontcourt vacancy admirably, adding 8 points and 3 rebounds in 18 minutes. While he needs more experience reading opponents’ offensive sets and determining where he should position himself, he was unrattled by the physicality in the paint and he asserted himself well to the end, fighting for a rebound off a Pickett miss with 90 seconds remaining and keeping the play alive. Govan singlehandedly created foul trouble for the Wildcats’ front line; Eric Paschall, Spellman and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree each finished the game with three or more fouls. Conversely, Coach Ewing’s big man protege was whistled only once in 36 minutes on the court. Dickerson’s streak of strong play continued, forcing a few steals and showing great awareness of his teammates’ positions while dishing out assists. Additionally, the Hoyas only committed 10 turnovers despite pressure from the Wildcats’ experienced backcourt.
On the other side of the spectrum, Georgetown players without the intitials J.G. struggled mightily to put the ball through the hoop throughout the contest and they ended up shooting only 17% from deep. The Hoyas’ effort level on the defensive end was acceptable; their execution still needs much work and should be a focus in the offseason. When blown rotations and over-helping inside left Villanova shooters—and they are ALL shooters—open on the perimeter, our opponents regularly capitalized. During one stretch late in the first half, four different Wildcats hit three-pointers on consecutive possessions. Georgetown players either failed to close out in time or, if they were appropriately in the vicinty of the man they should have been guarding, did not keep their hands in the air.
As of now, a new season begins and we look ahead to the Wednesday night Big East Tournament matchup. The Hoyas will face St. John’s at 7pm, aiming to beat the Red Storm for the third time this season. It’s Ewing vs. Mullin at the Garden, again.