VILLANOVA, Pa. – With his team searching for an offensive spark late in a tight game, senior guard Josh Hart came through in grand style yet again for Villanova on Tuesday night at the Pavilion. Hart’s clutch 3-pointer with his team in the midst of a 5 plus minute field goal drought helped the Wildcats hold off Georgetown 75-64.
The victory upped No. 2 Villanova’s record to 23-2 overall, 10-2 in the BIG EAST while the Hoyas – making only their third ever visit to the Pavilion – fell to 13-12 overall, 4-8 in conference action.
Hart ended the night with 25 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals for the victors. L.J. Peak (21 points) and Rodney Pryor (20 points) led Georgetown.
This was VU’s 48th straight win on campus but it didn’t come easily after the Hoyas erased all but two points of what had been a 56-39 lead with 11:05 left to play.
“It was just a gutty effort by Georgetown,” noted Wildcats head coach Jay Wright, who registered his 499th career victory. “We did a lot of good things but our inconsistency catches up with us. We get it back at the end. Georgetown deserves credit for the way they kept playing, kept making plays.
“We did a good job on Peak and Pryor for a while but then they got loose and got it going. We didn’t make shots and it was a ballgame.”
Georgetown answered a 3-pointer from Hart on the game’s opening possession with a 9-2 surge to grab a 9-5 edge with 14:44 left to play in the first half. Prior scored four of those points while the Hoyas clamped down at the defensive end, as Villanova converted just 1-of-8 field goal attempts after the Hart bucket on the opening possession.
Soon, though, Hart and classmate Kris Jenkins ignited the Wildcats’ offense. What was a four point deficit became a 25-15 advantage thanks to a 20-4 surge that the seniors sparked. By halftime, VU had crafted a 43-28 edge as Hart dropped in 17 points while Jenkins added eight.
After connecting on 17-of-27 first half field goal attempts, however, Villanova found the sledding more difficult in the first 10 minutes of the second half. It missed all six of its 3-point field goal attempts in the first 10:29 after intermission and was just 4-of-18 overall in that stretch.
That helped Georgetown cut the deficit to 56-46 after a 7-0 run. A Darryl Reynolds put-back basket pushed the edge back to 58-46 before Marcus Derrickson dropped in a 3-pointer to pull the Hoyas to within 58-49 with 7:07 on the clock.
The margin continued to dwindle to 60-58 after Pryor drained a jumper with 3:51 remaining. Hart got to the free throw line on VU’s next possession and sank one. Pryor was then fouled and he too sank one of two at the line, making it 61-59 with 2:18 on the clock. Jalen Brunson drew a foul and sank two more free throws to make it a four point lead with 2:08 left.
Brunson then made a steal on the next possession that Hart capped with his picture perfect 3-pointer with 1:26 to make it 66-59. The Wildcats would tack on a bit more cushion over the final 86 seconds in what became a 75-64 final.
The erosion of second half leads has been a pattern has been a recent theme for Villanova.
“I think it’s a matter of mental concentration,” he stated. “It’s gaining maturity for this basketball team. We’ve just got to become more focused.”
Villanova will play its next three contests on the road. That stretch begins Saturday at Xavier (2:30 p.m. on Fox TV and 610 Sports Radio) and continues next Monday evening at DePaul and on Saturday, Feb. 18 against Seton Hall in Newark, N.J.