Senior guard Tony Chennault is shooting over 45 percent from the field this season. (Rachel Bleier/The Villanovan)
by Nick Fattori
Following a dramatic overtime win which resulted in snapping Marquette’s 20-game home conference winning streak, the ’Cats continued their road trip at long-time rival, Georgetown.
Like any game with the Hoyas, it was a battle; ultimately, the Wildcats prevailed 65-60.
The win pushed ’Nova back into a tie for the Big East lead with a record of 18-2 (7-1). The loss dropped Georgetown to a disappointing 11-9 (3-6).
“That was old-school Big East, man,” Head Coach Jay Wright. “That was fun.”
The Hoyas came out firing and jumped out to an 8-0 lead, but the Wildcats roared back on a 19-4 run, capped off by two threes from sophomore guard Ryan Arcidiacono.
Following this, sloppiness ensued on both sides. Villanova committed eight first-half turnovers, but this was overshadowed by Georgetown’s 14, which led to 10 points for the ’Cats.
The Hoyas’ miscues gave ’Nova a 35-30 advantage at the break, even though they were outshot 55 to 44 percent. What also aided the Wildcats was their nine of ten foul shooting, as opposed to the four Georgetown made from the charity stripe.
Each Villanova starter scored at least six points in the first half and was led by sophomore forward Daniel Ochefu’s eight points.
The Hoyas were able to stay close for most of the half behind the sharp shooting and consummate play of senior guard Markel Starks. He tallied 10 points and five assists in the first 20 minutes.
The Wildcats’ halftime lead was short-lived as Georgetown ran off the first five points of the half to tie it up. From that point on it became a back and forth battle until the end.
’Nova played stingy defense, but was only able to convert on one field goal attempt in the first seven minutes of the half, which kept the Hoyas within striking distance only down 43-41.
Villanova had a chance to break away, but once again could not handle the ball well and committed another eight turnovers in the second half.
Because of this, every time the Wildcats were able to build a two-possession lead they were unable to pull away.
“Their length and physicality caused turnovers,’’ Wright said. “No one else has done it like that to us. I thought down the stretch we played really good defense. Sometimes, you’ve got to win that way.’’
With three and a half minutes left the ’Cats were up 56-54, but then senior guard James Bell buried a three to put them up five and give them some breathing room.
The two teams then traded baskets and with 30 seconds left it became a foul shooting competition for ’Nova.
They proceeded to hit four of their six foul shots, played tough defense and held on to get the 65-60 win.
“We love that,” Wright said. “Both teams are just so physical and so tough, and that game was played within new rules and I think both of us are learning how to play that way.”
The Wildcats were paced by Bell, who finished with 16 points, four rebounds and four steals. Junior forward Jayvaughn Pinkston and Ochefu also chipped in with 12 each.
“Early in the game, I was cold, but you’ve got to keep shooting,’’ Bell said. “I feel like all of them are going in.’’
Starks of Georgetown continued his hot play in the second half and finished with 20 points. The real disappointment of the night for the Hoyas was star sophomore guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera.
Coming into the game he was averaging over 17 points, five rebounds and three assists a game. However, he was stymied by the ’Cats defense and was held to eight points on two of eleven shooting, one rebound and one assists.
“We’re going to look under every rock, we’re going to try to figure it out. We’re going to get out of this hole,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “I don’t have all the answers as to how.”
Another key factor in the game was the disparity in foul shots.
’Nova went to the foul line 28 times, converting on 22 of them. Georgetown only got there nine times, making eight. The difference aided the ’Cats, who were outshot on the day 44.4 to 40 percent.
Following the big win, the Wildcats will play their final of three straight road games on Saturday.
It will be their last non-conference game of the year against another rival, the Temple Owls.
With a win they will claim their 22nd Big Five Title. The game is scheduled for 4 p.m. at the Liacouras Center.