Wildcats Upset in First Round of Big East Tourney

Georgetown center Qudus Wahab flexes during the Hoyas' upset victory.

Villanova fell short in their Big East Tournament opener in a tight 72-71 loss to Georgetown. The 1-seeded Wildcats once again missed senior guard Collin Gillespie in the game, however, sophomore Justin Moore made the bench for their matchup with the Hoyas. Moore limped off the court during the ‘Cats previous game against Providence, an injury Jay Wright would later describe as a “severe ankle injury” on Twitter. A report before the Georgetown game from John Fanta of Fox declared Moore a game-time decision with Moore ultimately checking in before the 17:00 mark.

Moore logged only 27 minutes in the game, scoring 10 points on just seven shots. Sophomore Jeremiah Robinson-Earl led Villanova with 26 points and six rebounds. Jermaine Samuels tallied 20 points and seven rebounds in the loss.

Dante Harris scored 18 points to go with five assists for the Hoyas.

The Wildcats opened the game on a 9-0 run, seeming to shrug off any memory of the Providence loss less than a week ago. Georgetown erased the lead over the next two minutes of a highly contested first half. Villanova could not find a solid footing over their opponents, only able to stretch a six-point lead later in the first half. The Wildcats saw that advantage reversed going into halftime.

Without Gillespie in the lineup and Moore limited, Villanova was always going to struggle to put points on the board consistently. Samuels and Robinson-Earl stepped up in the first half with 24 combined points, but the team converted three of their 19 first-half attempts (15.79%) from long range. Fouls hurt the Wildcats as well, and Georgetown took advantage of their opportunities from the line. Not only did Jay Wright have to deal with four players with two fouls in the first half, but the Hoyas forgot how to miss from the free-throw line, sinking all 23 attempts in the game.

The start of the second half mirrored that of the first for the ‘Cats, Villanova making a 12-2 run to turn a two-point deficit into an eight-point lead. A three-pointer from Moore five minutes later edged Villanova closer to a ticket for the semifinals. Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown squad chipped at the lead, whittling the Wildcat advantage to five with 90 seconds left. It was a pair of clutch free throws in the end from the Hoyas that sent Villanova packing for a trip to Indiana.

Wright will be disappointed with the result of the game, but the second-half performance from the Providence game carried over into this matchup. The defense forced 12 turnovers from Georgetown, committing only six turnovers in exchange. The offense was more coherent in this game if not still lacking the same edge Villanova had with Gillespie. The shooting will need to improve if the Wildcats wish to continue playing into late March.

Villanova now turns to the Selection Sunday show this Sunday which will determine the team’s seed and opponents for the March Madness Tournament.