Villanova knocks off Georgetown Hoyas, another top-ranked team

ASSOCIATED PRESS Villanova's Darrun Hilliard (left) fouls Georgetown player in first half.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Villanova's Darrun Hilliard (left) fouls Georgetown player in first half.
Posted: March 08, 2013

IT WAS ANOTHER one of those games that could obviously go a real long way toward getting Villanova back into the only tournament that matters after a 1-year sabbatical.

The Wildcats, who of course weren't even supposed to be in this position way back when, had already beaten two other Top-5 teams in the Wells Fargo Center, Louisville and Syracuse, back-to-back in late January. But this was different, because now it's March and the urgency factor is seriously elevated. Particularly for any wannabe that's straddling that ever-popular NCAA bubble.

Bracketologists seemed to agree that somehow, they were still barely in even after losing at then-23rd-ranked Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon in overtime, a scrum they really should have won. Wednesday night in South Philly, No. 5 Georgetown, which hadn't lost in 6 weeks, was the next opportunity. And, in their case, the final opportunity to enhance the old résumé before heading into next week's Big East tourney in New York.

They'd led Pitt by three with under a minute to go in regulation. It wasn't enough. This time, once again, they played from ahead most of the way. Only they didn't let a big-time opening get away.

So how much weight will a double-digit win over what had been perhaps the hottest team in the land carry when the selection committee convenes in Indianapolis? Villanova 67, Georgetown 57. It sure completes some kind of trifecta.

It doesn't mean the Wildcats (19-12, 10-8) have necessarily secured a spot in the 68-team field. Or maybe it does. Just to be sure, they might have to add one more win at Madison Square Garden. But nearly 95 percent of all Big East teams that have reached 10 conference wins have made it.

They figure to be a No. 7 or 8 seed in the Big East tourney, which means they'll probably play Cincinnati, Providence or St. John's in Wednesday's second round. That will be determined when everyone else finishes up on Saturday. In the regular season, Villanova lost at Cincinnati, got swept by Providence and beat St. John's at the Pavilion in OT.

"I would think so," said coach Jay Wright, when asked if he thought his team had earned an at-large bid. "I think everyone's got a unique résumé. But 10 wins in this league, with some of the quality wins we've had . . . And some of the bad losses we had early aren't so bad [now]. Given where everyone else is right now, I think we would be [in].

"But we also know that anything can happen, too. I think we're in a good spot. We're not going to worry about it."

The Wildcats didn't trail after the first 9 minutes, despite falling behind 7-0 in the first 70 seconds. Georgetown (23-5, 13-4) - which had won the last three meetings and eight of the last nine - tied it at 27-all with 1:22 left in the half. It was a two-point game with 9 minutes to go. And, the Hoyas were still within four some 6 minutes later. But they would score only five points the rest of the way, all in the closing 40 seconds.

The Wildcats had one field in the final 14 minutes, a three-pointer by Darrun Hilliard with a little over 5 1/2 minutes left that put them up 54-48.

"There's no second-guessing," said Hilliard, who has been struggling from the arc recently. "I'm shooting. It's a shot I take, and make, every day in practice. I know the guys have confidence in me to take it."

In the closing 13:07 the Wildcats shot 26 free throws, converting 20. The Hoyas never got into the bonus situation in either half. They finished with seven more field goals, but Villanova made 26 more freebies, on 34 more attempts. That stuff tends to make a difference.

So does anyone really remember that they blew a four-point lead in the final 17 seconds 9 days earlier at Seton Hall?

"I'm not just proud, I'm impressed with our guys," said Wright, whose team avoided its first three-game losing streak since mid-January. "The last couple of games we came away with tough losses. But we played well. Most young people would have felt sorry for themselves. We had 2 days of hard practice for this . . .

"I feel good about the way we're playing right now. Some games early in the year, we were bad. You saw it. Sometimes you can't measure how much better you're getting by wins and losses. Even the last couple of games, I felt we we've been more consistent."

The Wildcats had four guys score in double digits, led by JayVaughn Pinkston's 20. He only took six shots but went 11-for-14 at the line. Hilliard (7-for-9) had 14, Ryan Arcidiacono (6-for-9) 11 and James Bell 10. Mouphtaou Yarou, the lone senior starter, had 12 of their 26 rebounds. He also had four steals, one less than Pinkston. They had 17 turnovers, about their average. But G-town, which had nine more assists, had a season-high 23, almost double their norm.

Georgetown's Otto Porter Jr., a sophomore forward who has emerged as the best player in the conference, scored 17 but needed 16 shots to do it.

It wasn't pretty. Big East games rarely are. But for the Wildcats, it could turn out to be the trump card that gets their name call. And at this point in the quest, who could ask for much more?

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