Villanova closes regular season by routing Georgetown

Posted: March 10, 2014

Jay Wright gave his Villanova players the opportunity to celebrate their Big East Conference regular-season championship with commemorative T-shirts, and he even donned one himself Saturday after the Wildcats concluded an exceptional run through the league.

But once the Wildcats finish enjoying themselves, they will begin the really hard work.

And that's not just on the basketball court. The sixth-ranked Wildcats showed they had no intention of relaxing with the title safely in hand, rolling to a methodical, 77-59 victory over Georgetown before a crowd of 18,828 at the Wells Fargo Center.

With six consecutive victories, a 28-3 overall record, and a 16-2 Big East mark, Villanova is the top seed and the favorite in the Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden, where it will begin play at noon Thursday. At stake is a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, which seems like a lock if the Wildcats can go through the Big East event undefeated.

But if the mission is a No. 1 seed, it's news to Wright, who has a "next-game" mentality along with his team.

"We really don't" talk about it, he said. "I really don't think there's that much of a difference once you get playing between a one and a two [seed]. Being considered up there is great, but we just have no concern at all really. I just want to concentrate on the Big East tournament now."

The Cats also will have to deal with all the talk on social media and radio and television about the Wildcats, comments that will run the gamut from "overrated" to "potential national champions." It's up to the players to ignore the talk, and they say they can do that.

"Coach makes sure that doesn't go to our heads," said junior Darrun Hilliard, who scored a team-high 19 against the Hoyas. "We don't really buy into it. All the coaches keep us humble, keep pushing us to get better. We're going to hear [the talk], but it is what it is. We've got to keep moving forward."

Senior James Bell said the focus is "always on the next game and the next day, just getting better, period.

"So everybody can say what they want," he said, "but internally we know what the truth is, and we know what we've got to get better, and we know we're not the best yet. So the next day is the next challenge and another chance to get better."

For his part, Wright appeared thoroughly impressed at how the Wildcats - less than 48 hours after winning the clincher at Xavier and returning home at 2:30 a.m. Friday - regrouped and took care of business against Georgetown (17-13, 8-10).

"It's a pleasure to coach guys that love to play," he said. "Tired, back-to-back, whatever the game is, they love to play together. It's really fun to be a part of it. That's a good Georgetown team."

The Wildcats grabbed the early advantage because of Hoya turnovers and gradually added to their lead. Bell's four-point play made it a 15-point game late in the first half, and the margin grew to as many as 21 thanks to balanced scoring that saw five Wildcats in double figures.


jjuliano@phillynews.com

@joejulesinq

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