’Cats seek remption against Georgetown on Saturday

Frank Scicchitano

“We’ve got to go back to work to keep getting better. There’s a lot of time, it’s still early enough in the season.”

That was Head Coach Jay Wright’s message to the media following Villanova’s 20-point defeat at the hands of George- town in the teams’ meeting ear- lier this season.

Yes, the Hoyas had the hot hand that night at the Verizon Center in Washington, connect- ing on 23 of 45 field goal attempts and hitting an even 50 percent (6- of-12) from beyond the arc, but Villanova’s play was nowhere near the level fans have come to expect out of this year’s team.

The Wildcats struggled to gen- erate offense in the first half and had difficulty moving the ball around their opponent’s swarm- ing defense. As a result, they sufferedtheirfirstlosstoGeorge- town since the 2011-12 season.

On Sunday, the ’Cats will host their conference rival at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadel- phia. The Hoyas have not won a matchup against Villanova in this arena since February of 2009, and senior guard Darrun Hilliard will certainly do his part to keep this streak alive.

Hilliard is averaging 17.5 points per game in his last nine appearances on the Wildcats’  he was 7-8. At 6-foot-9 and 220 scoring entering the week at 15.2 points per game.

Trawick, a Philadelphia native, gave Villanova a fit in January by recording four of Georgetown’s 10 steals. The veteran sidekick to Smith-Rivera is also the team’s leading 3-point shooter, connect- ing on 46 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc.

Team defense is arguably the strong point for the Wild- cats, who have allowed just 60.6 points per game heading into this week of play, good for second in the conference. If they play disci- plined and aggressive on this end of the floor, they should be able to shut down the Hoyas’ scoring attack.

The regular season is about three-quarters of the way over, and Villanova is still very much in contention for a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament in March. A victory on Saturday will put the ’Cats in prime posi- tion in the Big East standings and will be a nice addition to their tournament résumé.

Tipoff at the Wells Fargo Cen- ter is scheduled for 2 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on FOX.

alternate home court, and fel- low senior JayVaughn Pinkston has also had some shining mo- ments in downtown Philadelphia throughout his Villanova career as well.

The forward posted a double- double in his last game at the Wells Fargo Center, scoring 25 points and grabbing 10 rebounds in the Wildcats’ comeback victory over Syracuse in December.

Villanova has won eight of its last 10 games in the NBA arena and always delivers a quality performance to a crowd that is more than twice the capacity of a sold-out game at the Pavilion on campus.

The struggles for the Wildcats’ offense in the first game between these teams stemmed from an uncharacteristic lack of passing. They tallied just eight assists, which was well below their sea- son average of 16.2 per game.

Georgetown did an effective job clogging passing lanes and pressuring the ball, forcing 17 turnovers and holding Villanova to just 34 percent shooting.

Freshman forward Isaac Cope- land had a breakout performance for the Hoyas’, joining senior guard D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera as the team’s leading scorers with 17 points.

Copeland was 5-6 from the field and earned the rest of his points at the free throw line where pounds, he logged 25 minutes off the bench and was able to domi- nate Villanova’s interior defense.

The inside pair for the Wild- cats, comprised of Pinkston and junior forward Daniel Ochefu, has shown flashes of brilliance this season but has also been vul- nerable at times.

Ochefu is nearly averaging a double-double this season, scor- ing 10 points per game and pull- ing down 8.4 rebounds, which is the third-highest average in the Big East.

Pinkston, on the other hand, has seen a decrease in his scoring average but still provides an irre- placeable veteran presence down low.

Against the Hoyas, both big men had below-average perfor- mances. Pinkston had six turn- overs and missed his only two field goal attempts, scoring all six of his points on free throws.

Ochefu was in foul trouble throughout the game, play- ing just 20 minutes and giving Georgetown plenty of opportuni- ties to attack the Wildcats inside.

If the ’Cats successfully im- prove their interior defense this time around, they will still need to be aware of the Hoya’s talented backcourt, led by Smith-Rivera and senior guard Jabril Trawick.

Smith-Rivera, this season’s Preseason Big East Player of the Year, is fifth in the conference in