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A Tale of Two Halves: Georgetown Relinquishes Big Lead Amid Offensive Struggles, Loses to #9 Villanova, 76-63

Hoyas build 18-point advantage in the first half but can’t buy a bucket down the stretch.

Rafael Suanes/Georgetown Athletics

Your fighting Georgetown Hoyas briefly played their best ball of the season Friday night, building a double-digit lead over #9 Villanova that they carried into the half. After the break was a different story, as the Wildcats showed resilience and discipline while the Hoyas showed little of either, and the visitors ultimately left McDonough with a 76-63 victory.

The Hoyas have sometimes struggled to score this season but started hot against Villanova. Senior Jamorko Pickett initiated offense early, using his size over smaller Wildcat wings to body his way to a couple of midrange jumpers while smoothly canning a pair of triples en route to his second straight double-double (16 points, 10 rebounds). Sophomore big man Qudus Wahab likewise used his bulk to force his way into position beneath the rim or a number of easy looks. Georgetown played fast and loose, moving the ball freely and finding the open man. In all, eight Hoyas scored during a first-half blitz.

For the first half at least, it seemed like the Hoyas might escape the miserable, patented Villanova spin cycle of pump fake, drive, kick, shot. The Wildcats’ shots weren’t falling from deep, in part because their lesser gunners were firing away as Georgetown largely sagged off. Those sagging Hoyas clogged the lane, making interior looks few and far between. The Wildcats managed just one field goal over a seven-minute stretch when the Hoyas’ advantage grew to 40-22.

But these samples were small. Slowly, and then all at once, Villanova’s way broke Georgetown’s early resovle. A trio of Wildcat triples, two by Collin Gillespie, built some momentum for the visitors entering the half. Out of the break, Gillespie hit another pair as Hoya defenders lost track of him on consecutive possessions. The latter of these kicked off a 15-0 run that pulled Villanova close, even with, and then ahead of Georgetown, 53-50. That run featured deep balls by Gillespie (37% from 3), Swider (39%), and Caleb Daniels (42%), who matched Gillespie’s game-high 18 points. Two of those bombs came in transition off of Georgetown misses; a first half of Villanova misses abetting Georgetown easy offense had been flipped on its head.

Georgetown fought back, retaking the lead on a three-pointer by freshman guard Dante Harris, who scored more points tonight (9) than in his first four outings (7). In a season of limited expectations, Harris has been a pleasant surprise thus far, showing a speedy nose for the bucket and a confident stroke from deep. Pickett and classmate Jahvon Blair (11 points) each made jumpers to push the Hoya advantage back to four. And even after Villanova retook the lead, a Blair floater gave Georgetown the lead approaching the five-minute mark.

But that basket would be the Hoyas’ last until the game was out of hand. Turnovers squandered four of seven critical possessions, while the others saw hard-luck shots rim out. At the same time, Villanova’s 40 minutes of soul-crushing execution kicked into extra gear, as Daniels made a pair of open threes sandwiched around a smooth Swider jumper.

In all, the Hoyas’ spirit in the first half and fight even down the stretch were commendable. They played an inspired twenty minutes, pushing the ball ahead in transition and putting up open shots confidently. Pickett and Harris in particular provided blueprints for future contributions. Even when the inevitable Villanova second-half surge came, the Hoyas continued to compete.

And yet, Georgetown’s limitations were equally evident. Getting buckets in the half court remains a sometimes impossible chore, as the Hoyas managed just 17 second-half points after netting 46 before the break. Particularly against a humming machine like Villanova, which took 39 curated three-pointers to just 23 heaves from Georgetown, the Hoyas seem like they can’t score enough on offense or lock in enough on defense to win a 40-minute game.

The Hoyas have a quick turnaround, returning to action Sunday evening against St. John’s in McDonough. That will provide another, perhaps more realistic, chance at a first conference win. Til then, Hoya Saxa.