Big East Notebook: Quarterfinals – Georgetown 62, Villanova 57



Kyle Scudilla

NEW YORK — From the opening tip of Thursday’s Big East quarterfinals opener, even the most novice basketball observer could see which team had the day off Wednesday and which one played the day before, coming into Thursday afternoon’s contest battling a slew of injuries. The Georgetown Hoyas (23-6, 14-3 Big East) grabbed the lead two and a half minutes into the game and never looked back, using a dominant 26-2 run to propel themselves to a 62-57 victory over the Villanova Wildcats (22-10, 10-8). Jay Wright’s squad didn’t crack double-figures until the 5:18 mark of the first half and found themselves down 37-18 at halftime.

Despite bouncing back, and ending with four players in scoring in double-figures, the Wildcats last-minute efforts fell short. Villanova scored 12 points in the game’s final two minutes, arousing the interest of the sellout crowd, but the canyon it dug itself in the first half prevented an MSG miracle. The best chance Villanova had came when they were down 58-52 and, following a steal, Scottie Reynolds pulled up for an open three pointer on the right wing that went in and out.

Georgetown had four scorers in double-figures, led by Roy Hibbert’s 14 points. Big East Player of the Year Jeff Green finished with 12 points and nine rebounds, while DaJuan Summers and Jonathan Wallace each finished with 10 points apiece.

Turning point

While Villanova had its moments down the stretch, cutting the large Georgetown lead to as little as five points, the Hoyas’ 26-2 run in the game’s first 10 and a half minutes set the tone for the rest of the contest. Georgetown didn’t play a particularly good second half, missing free throws and turning the ball over, but the cushion it built in the first half had just enough padding to hold off the ‘Cats in the end.

Villanova player performance capsules

Curtis Sumpter

Sumpter was Villanova’s leading scorer with 18 points on 6-of-16 shooting. Villanova went to him often down the stretch, and he came through with six points in the final 90 seconds, but a few missed free throws and 3 pointers with questionable contact from Georgetown loomed large in the Wildcats’ desperate effort to steal a win in the closing stages of the game. Sumpter continued to look healthy, showing no ill effects of playing back-to-back games, and should be in good shape for Villanova’s next game.

Scottie Reynolds

After lighting up Madison Square Garden with a record-setting 29 points yesterday, Reynolds struggled from the field, going just 4-of-14 including 1-of-7 from beyond the arc. He finished with 11 points, four rebounds and four assists playing all 40 minutes. Scottie seemed to be bothered by the active play of Georgetown’s guards in the backcourt, and was not able to easily exploit the lane like he was against DePaul.

Reggie Redding

The freshman started for the second straight game and played major minutes in place of the injured Mike Nardi. Redding used his increased role to crack double-digits scoring for the first time at Villanova, setting his career-high with 11 points. His previous high was nine, set against Northwood and then tied yesterday against DePaul.

Will Sheridan

Every time a shot attempt left Sheridan’s hands, it went through the hoop. After not scoring in yesterday’s contest, the Wildcat forward-center went 2-for-2 from the field and 6-of-6 from the line for 10 points. Sheridan also led Villanova’s rebounding effort with nine in the game, tying his season high set previously against Navy.

Dante Cunningham

Cunningham was the focal point of the Villanova offense the first few trips down, as the Wildcats tried to establish themselves in the post against the big and physical Georgetown front line. The sophomore was turned away by the Hoyas’ interior defenders early and often, having a couple of shots rejected and going 0-for-6 from the field before hitting his first shot. Cunningham fouled out with just over a minute to go with seven points, two rebounds and two steals.

Shane Clark

Clark saw limited minutes off the bench for the second consecutive game due to tendonitis in his left knee. He played with a wrap on his knee for the second straight day and, statistically speaking, was quiet, finishing with no points and two rebounds. The sophomore attempted just one shot over the course of the tournament and his lateral movement was slowed by his leg injury. Credit him with playing through the pain as Villanova’s primary option off the bench in Coach Wright’s short rotation.

Mike Nardi

Nardi played more than he did against DePaul, but it wasn’t by much. After playing just two minutes yesterday, the senior guard pitched in eight minutes off the bench, collecting two assists. Nardi may be the Wildcat who benefits most from the week off before the NCAAs. He played with a brace on his strained left calf and did not start for the second straight game.

Five key statistics

1) Villanova’s 18 first half points was the fewest the team has scored in a half all season. Its previous low was 22 points in the first half of its February 3 contest with Louisville. The ‘Cats managed to hold the Cardinals to 20 first-half points in that game, and won 57-53.

2) Villanova shot just 27 percent in the first half and made only one 3 pointer in the game’s first 20 minutes.

3) Big East Tournament newcomers DaJuan Summers and Jonathan Wallace each buried three 3 pointers. Summers’ came early during Georgetown’s first-half run, while Wallace’s helped stave off Villanova’s rally attempts late in the second half.

4) 70 percent from the line doesn’t stand out as a negative statistic, but with Villanova, who shot a Big East best 78 percent for the season, it did. A few missed free throws by Reynolds and Sumpter down the stretch hurt ‘Nova’s chances for a comeback.

5) Villanova lost the rebounding edge for the second game in a row. Georgetown out-rebounded the Wildcats by a 38-32 margin and grabbed 11 offensive boards.

Post-game wrap-up

Coach Wright chalked up the loss to Villanova running into the wrong team at the wrong time. He praised the Hoyas, saying that they are playing as well as any team in the country. During Georgetown’s 26-2 run to begin the game, he told the team that there was a lot of time left in the game and that if Georgetown could go on a big run, so could Villanova.

“We didn’t lose our composure and we kept battling, but they were just too good,” Wright said.

He said he was proud of his team, particularly his seniors for their leadership of a team with ten freshmen and sophomores. He credited Sumpter, Nardi and Sheridan, saying that any success the younger players experience will be due in part to the guidance and motivation they received from the senior leaders. He said he is eager to get back to work for the team’s next game, wherever it may be.

Mike Nardi said he felt pretty good today and he should be OK going forward. He said that the team wanted to go out and play until the last second, despite feeling helpless during Georgetown’s early run.

Historical perspective

Villanova has lost to Georgetown in all four of its Big East Tournament matchups. The previous three took place in 1982, 1996 and 2003. Curtis Sumpter was the only member of the current Villanova squad to play in the 2003 contest, and led the team with eight rebounds in a 46-41 loss.

Will Sheridan’s 11 point performance marked the second time he has scored in double-figures in his Big East Tournament career. The Villanova senior tallied 17 points in a win against Rutgers in 2006.

Roy Hibbert set his career-high in scoring for Big East Tournament play with his team-high 14 points.

DaJuan Summers and Jonathan Wallace (10 points each) scored double-figures in their first career Big East Tournament games, something no one else on Georgetown’s current roster had accomplished.

After going 1-1 in the 2007 Big East Tournament, Jay Wright’s tourney record now stands at 6-6, ranking him fourth among active Big East coaches in tournament wins behind Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Jamie Dixon.

The Wildcats are three games over .500 at 29-26 all-time in conference tournament play.

Georgetown has now won two-thirds of their games all-time in the Big East Tournament, with a record of 42-21 dating back to the tournament’s inception.

The loss kept Villanova from reaching the tournament’s semifinals what would have been a fourth straight season.

What the win means for Georgetown

The win kept Georgetown’s hopes alive for a possible No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They will have to probably have to win their next two games to make that a reality. Currently, the Hoyas sit around the area of a No. 3 seed. A loss today could have significantly damaged Georgetown’s chances for a top three seed, considering the Big East’s national reputation is down this year.

What the loss means for Villanova

A win could have comfortably boosted the ‘Cats to at least a No. 7 seed. On the bright side, Villanova’s comeback effort probably saved them from sliding too far down the NCAA pecking order. The selection committee often operates in a “what have you done for me lately” mode of thinking, and a blowout loss to the Hoyas could have been costly for the ‘Cats, who currently have lots of competition amongst other major conference teams looking for at-large bids and fighting for seeding in the middle of the pack. Still, the Wildcats’ tournament resume is pretty solid, with good “computer numbers” and a string of wins that have looked more and more impressive (notably Louisville, Notre Dame, Texas and a previous win at Georgetown).