Darrell Owens hits his first of two free throws. The crowd goes silent. Villanova’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of their 1985 NCAA championship season is soured. Georgetown has hope.

Back on Jan. 15, the Georgetown men’s basketball team went to play Villanova in one of their toughest matchups of the season and came away with a stunning 66-64 last-second win over the Wildcats.

The win gave the Hoyas hope of resurrecting the basketball program, one that had just suffered its worst season in 31 years, going 13-15 during their 2003-04 season. Georgetown had beaten the then-No. 16 Pittsburgh Panthers, but it was unclear whether or not the upset was a fluke. The victory over Villanova gave the impression that the Hoyas had turned the corner.

Since their last meeting, both Georgetown and Villanova have had impressive runs in the Big East. Villanova has shown that it will be a serious player in this year’s NCAA tournament as they have gone on a tear, beating basketball powerhouses No. 7 Kansas, No. 17 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Boston College. The Wildcats have risen all the way up to their current top-25 seeding, sitting at 24.

All of the Wildcats’ quality wins, though, have come at home. Villanova has lost at Notre Dame, at Boston College and at Connecticut. The only losses in the conference that the Wildcats have had at home have been against perennial powerhouse No. 15 Syracuse and Georgetown.

The Hoyas are now between a rock and a hard place, having lost their last two games in a stretch that is crucial for their chance to participate in March Madness. Georgetown fell to both Notre Dame and St. John’s on the road.

This weekend’s game will be an extremely tough game for the Hoyas, but Head Coach John Thompson III is not worried.

“We take the same approach to every game,” Thompson said. “We are in a position no one expected us to be. We have a couple of games left and they are all very important.”

The buzz around campus has undoubtedly been whether or not the Hoyas will impress the NCAA selection committee enough to earn a spot in the national tournament. The players and coaches are obviously aware of where they stand.

“I’m sure everyone is talking to our guys [about the Hoyas prospects of a tournament birth],” Thompson said. “But when we come down to McDonough, all our attention will be on our next opponent. That’s been my approach, to focus on the immediate.”

The Hoyas and Wildcats both have players that present matchup problems for their opponents, especially in their power forwards. Villanova junior forward Curtis Sumpter (16.5 points and 7.3 rebounds per game) is playing outstanding basketball. Sumpter is shooting 43.8 percent from three-point range, catching the attention of coaches and players around the league, including Thomspon.

“Sumpter, in many ways, plays like a guard,” he said. “He has the ability to score a lot of points in many different ways.”

On the other side of the ball, Georgetown’s five-time Big East Rookie of the Week, freshman forward Jeff Green (13.3 points per game) will present problems of his own. Green has played phenomenally in his first collegiate season, playing almost the same style of basketball as Sumpter, with the ability to shoot threes (he has a 37.8 three-point percentage) and post up or defend almost any big man in the conference (7.0 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game).

Sumpter and Green will likely guard each other in this weekend’s showdown, providing an interesting matchup to look for come game time.

Another thing to look for this Sunday will be the Hoyas’ play in the first half. Georgetown’s first-half woes have been a legitimate concern as they have now failed to score 20 points in the first halves of four conference games this season.

The Hoyas have been able to stay close in many of these games because their good defense has kept them within striking distance for the second half. But this was not the case against St. John’s this past weekend.

The Red Storm scored 45 first-half points en route to a 76-67 victory for St. John’s at Madison Square Garden, a game the Hoyas could ill afford to lose.

“If there is a positive, we know we can come back,” Thompson said of the team’s first-half play. “I don’t think there has been a common theme. If there is a positive, we know we can come back.”

This Sunday will be the most important game of the season for Georgetown. The Hoyas started the conference schedule well, but they are now on the bubble to make the NCAA tournament.

The Hoyas must get past the wall of their first-half struggles and come out strong against Villanova to have a chance to sweep the Wildcats and win their way back into the NCAA tournament picture. Time will tell whether or not the Hoyas are up to the task.

Tip-off is noon on Sunday.

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