Wildcats pull away from Hoyas in BET opener



Eugene Rapay

Forget about what happened in last Saturday’s regular season finale against Georgetown or in the Wildcats’ first meeting with the Hoyas in January.

Villanova may have had Georgetown’s number in the regular season but when it comes to the two rivals clashing in the postseason, the Hoyas have had dominion over the ‘Cats.

In fact, in the longstanding history of the Big East Tournament, Villanova had never beaten its historic foe. The Hoyas owned a perfect 5-0 record over the Wildcats.

It all changed Thursday afternoon, as the Wildcats finally beat their rivals in the Big East Tournament with an 81-67 victory.

“That Georgetown team is a very good team that played a great game last night and played real well today,” Villanova head coach Jay Wright said.

The Hoyas did not make it easy for the defending Big East Tournament champions. They kept it close with Villanova all throughout the first half – a stark contrast to last Saturday’s game, when it was already decided in the opening minutes.

Villanova center Daniel Ochefu played limited minutes after suffering a sprained ankle during practice on Tuesday. He didn’t practice yesterday. Despite the added rest, it was apparent that the 6-foot-11 senior was still in agony. He logged 13 minutes, only grabbing three rebounds during that time.

“He tried a little bit,” Wright said. “I think it got tweaked again. We have to rest him up and see if he can be better tomorrow.”

With Ochefu hampered with injuries, it opened the paint up for Georgetown to take over inside. Seven-foot center Bradley Hayes wasn’t available for last Saturday’s game. This time around, he made his presence known.

He scored 11 points and grabbed nine rebounds to lead a strong interior effort that included the Hoyas outrebounding the ‘Cats 42-30.

Villanova was unable to get a single offensive rebound in the first half, while Georgetown was able to notch a number of second chance points.

The Hoyas also found success behind a balanced scoring effort. With the play inside the paint established, it allowed for them to look to the perimeter and burn Villanova by draining open three-point attempts.

“We didn’t try to reinvent the wheel,” Georgetown head coach John Thompson III said. “We just tried to do a few things better. We wanted to be aggressive on both sides of the court.”

The aggression paid off as the Hoyas were right behind the ‘Cats for most of the game. Outside of a last second Kris Jenkins 3-pointer that helped Villanova snatch a 28-27 lead going into halftime, Georgetown seemed to be the team in control.

Not one Wildcat had over 10 points in the first half. It wasn’t until the second half that the Wildcats finally got themselves going.

Georgetown had a 47-46 lead with 10:30 remaining in the game. The Wildcats finally took complete control of the game behind a 14-1 run that was orchestrated by Jenkins, Ryan Arcidiacono, and Josh Hart.

The trio of upperclassmen players combined for 38 of Villanova’s 52 second half points, with Arcidiacono and Hart eclipsing the double-digit scoring mark.

Once the Wildcats took the lead behind the big run, they could hardly look back.

“Teams do a good job of trying to get to Ryan, Josh, and Kris,” Wright said. “That was part of the first half, we just couldn’t get those guys going. We just had to play defense, hang in there and break free.”

It also helped getting and converting baskets at the free throw line. After not having a single shot from the charity stripe in the first half, the Wildcats proceeded to make 20-of-25 free throw attempts.

Hart led the way with a game-high 25 points. Arcidiacono had 19 points, including a 5-of-7 performance from beyond the arc. Jenkins finished with 15 points and four rebounds.

The Wildcats will advance to the semi-final round of the Big East Tournament, where they will take on the winner of the Providence-Butler game.