PHILADELPHIA – The Big East is noted for its physical style of play, and Sunday’s matchup between No. 11 Georgetown and No. 4 Villanova did not disappoint. The two teams combined for 52 personal fouls in a slugfest that had more contact than some boxing matches, as Villanova outlasted the Hoyas 82-77 in front of a sold-out crowd at Wachovia Center.

“It’s the Big East and every night’s going to be just like that,” Georgetown Head Coach John Thompson III said. “That’s Big East basketball. I don’t necessarily think today was any more physical than any other night.”

A week after surviving a 19-point first-half deficit against Connecticut, the Hoyas dug another first-half hole.

Villanova set a frenetic pace early, hawking Georgetown ball-handlers at every turn, amassing six of its 27 team fouls in the first 4:30 of play. The teams traded baskets early, but after junior guard Chris Wright and junior forward Julian Vaughn picked up two personal fouls each, [the Hoyas were forced to look to their bench](

With Wright and Vaughn replaced by freshmen Hollis Thompson (four rebounds) and Jerrelle Benimon (four points, six rebounds), the explosive Villanova attack unloaded on the Hoyas, ripping off a 26-8 run over the next 8:49 to take a commanding 17-point lead with 4:30 to play in the half.

The Villanova run was highlighted by freshman guard Maalik Wayns, who had two treys in the spurt and 11 points in the game, and by a Wildcat defense that held the Hoyas without a field goal over 6:50 after they took the lead with 13:19 left in the half.

Hampered by foul trouble, Wright and Vaughn (three fouls each in the first half) combined for just two points on 1-of-6 shooting in the first half, and just six points in the game, all of which came from Wright. The offensive play of sophomores Greg Monroe and Jason Clark managed to keep the Hoyas in it in the first half, as Monroe netted 13 points and Clark added 11 points in the first stanza.

As was the case last Saturday, however, the Hoyas came out quickly in the second half.

Freeman, who had 22 points and six assists, started things off with a three pointer on the Hoyas’ first possession, then took a pass from Clark to the rack for two to cut the Villanova lead to 14 at 50-36 two minutes into the half. The Hoya run would continue over the next three minutes, capped by a 22-foot three pointer from Freeman, his 11th point of the second half, to cut the deficit to three at 54-51.

“When they score they get to set up their half-court defense, and they’re great,” Villanova Head Coach Jay Wright said. “I think that was the difference in the second half.”

The Villanova shooters, who were on fire in the first half, went cold, shooting 18.2 percent from three-point range in the second half after shooting at a 50 percent clip in the first.

With the lead closing, a loose ball underneath the Georgetown basket set off tempers as a scuffle ensued, but when the dust settled Monroe shined through, willing the Hoyas back into the game.

The sophomore center, who was 10-of-15 from the free-throw line in the game, started by making two from the charity stripe to make it 66-61. A hip check by Villanova forward Antonio Pena sent him to the line for two more, which he made. The next time down he took his own miss and put it in to tie the game up at 69, and after a Wayns layup restored the Wildcat lead, Monroe, matched up on Mouphataou Yarou, drove the lane, laying it in to tie the game once again.

“Monroe was just awesome,” Wright said. “He has gone to another level as far as taking over the game.”

“We wanted to get [Monroe] the ball,” Thompson said of his game plan. “I thought they did a very good job of taking touches away.”

Big baskets by senior guards Scottie Reynolds, who had 27 points to pace the Wildcats, and Reggie Redding once again put the lead in the Wildcats’ hands.

“Scottie can’t be contained,” Thompson said of Reynolds’ 8-of-15 performance from the floor. “He’s just too good of an offensive player.”

No shot by Reynolds could match what he did with 1:55 to play. Holding a 72-69 lead, the 6-foot-2 senior guard went among the trees and grabbed an offensive rebound, managing to call a timeout before a jump ball was called, which would have given possession back to Georgetown.

Asked whether he called timeout because he knew which way the possession arrow pointed, Reynolds was somewhat honest.

“Kind of. . [I’ll] say yes,” he said, laughing.

Villanova would extend its lead to 78-73, but strong defensive play by Monroe, who had four blocks and 16 boards to go with his career-high 29 points, gave the Hoyas a few final chances. A layup and a foul with 14 seconds to go cut the lead to 80-77. Monroe’s ensuing foul shot missed the rim completely, taking the air out of the Hoyas’ sails and sealing the Wildcat victory.

“I thought that our energy was great,” Thompson said. “The kids fought till the very end.”

Next up for the Hoyas is a road date with No. 16 Pittsburgh on Wednesday at 7 p.m.

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