After watching its three-game conference winning streak get snapped in overtime Saturday, the Georgetown men’s basketball team looks to put its name back in the NCAA tournament conversation as it travels to Philadelphia to take on bitter conference rival No. 2 Villanova Wildcats.
Georgetown (13-11, 4-7 Big East) narrowly lost the rebounding battle in its previous game but struggled tremendously from the three-point line. The Hoyas made only one of 19 shots from deep, despite shooting close to 38 percent on the season. Georgetown looks to turn its performance around against a confident Villanova (22-2, 9-2 Big East) squad.
“They do everything well,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said of the reigning national champions. “You have to meet their energy, meet their aggression; you have to meet their cohesiveness. They play so well together.”
Villanova, one of the premier teams in the nation, has previously been ranked No.1, but fell in the ranks after its loss to No. 18 Butler (18-5, 7-4 Big East). The Wildcats rebounded this past week with a 30-point victory over Seton Hall (14-8, 4-6 Big East) and a 20-point win against Providence (14-10, 3-7 Big East), and remain in good position to earn a No.1 seed for the NCAA Tournament.
Senior guard Josh Hart leads the Wildcats in scoring and rebounds with 18.9 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Hart’s season performance has elevated him to a top contender for the Naismith College Player of the Year. Senior guard Kris Jenkins — the hero of last season’s championship game — contributes 13.2 points and 4.1 rebounds per game.
“We have to do a good job tomorrow standing in front of our guys,” Georgetown sophomore center Jessie Govan said. “That’s a big part of the game plan, to keep them out of the paint and try to crowd the paint when they get in there and get out on shooters and have good close outs because that’s a lot of their offense.”
As a team, Villanova plays sound basketball, shooting efficiently from the floor and the free-throw line. The Wildcats rank 11th in NCAA Division I in field goal shooting with 49.4 percent in addition to their 80 percent free-throw percentage that ranks third in the nation.
In order to slow down Villanova’s consistent scoring, Georgetown needs to improve its 46.4 percent field goal percentage to keep pace in the game. However, the Wildcats defense — which holds their opponents to a conference-best 62.9 points per game — can make shooting inside extremely difficult for the Hoyas.
“It’s crucial,” Thompson said of his team’s ability to finish in the paint against the Wildcats. “They are a very physical team and they do a good job of when you get it in the paint, you’re going to get bumped, you’re going to get hit.”
The Blue and Gray have the pieces to slow down Villanova’s star power. Junior guard L.J. Peak and graduate student guard Rodney Pryor — both listed at 6’5” — match up well defensively with the 6’6” Hart and Jenkins. The Hoya duo averages 18.2 and 16.3 points, respectively, and make up the bulk of the team’s offensive momentum, carrying a large part of the scoring load for the team this season.
In addition to their veteran players, the Wildcats boast an impressive set of sophomore guards in Jalen Brunson and Mikal Bridges. Brunson is second on the team in scoring at 14.4 points per game and Bridges shoots just under 42 percent from three-point range. Freshman guard Donte DiVincenzo, who notched the buzzer-beater tip-in over Virginia (17-5, 7-3 ACC), had a career high 20 points in the team’s last win.
The matchup looks to be the most challenging for Georgetown for the remainder of the season — the Hoyas come into the game with a 9 percent chance of winning, according to KenPom.com, and have little room for error if they look to make the NCAA Tournament. With seven games before the Big East tournament, every game has playoff implications.
“There’s a lot of history there. Whether they won the national championship last year or not, it’s a big game for us,” Thompson said of the teams’ rivalry. “We can beat them. We know that, the guys know that, they see what we can do, but now we have to go do it.”
Tipoff for Tuesday night’s game is set for 7 p.m. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and can be heard locally on 106.7 FM.
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