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Villanova’s late-game surge leads to 77-65 win over rival Georgetown

Collin Gillespie enjoyed a career-performance, as he and Eric Paschall combined for 54 points.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Villanova vs Butler Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

After losing both regular season meetings last year by a combined 56 points, the new-look Georgetown Hoyas were desperate to avoid suffering the same fate.

Upset-minded Georgetown challenged the Villanova Wildcats for a majority of the game, hanging with the ‘Cats. It even held the lead going into halftime, thanks to a buzzer-beating shot by James Akinjo.

However, Villanova put all doubts and worries to rest late in the second half. With the game all tied up with 7:27 to go, the Wildcats finally found a groove offensively, assembling a 16-2 run that lasted for nearly four minutes. The late-game scoring spurt proved to be the deciding blow, as Villanova pulled away for a 77-65 win to remain undefeated in conference play.

“They were just really good defensively, really physical—long,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. “They did a great job on ball screens, even without Jessie Govan. They were icing ball screens, it goes both ways—they got some foul trouble out of it, but they kept Phil Booth out of it. Just a great game with two really good teams.”

Georgetown kept ‘Nova in check for most of the game. The Wildcats, who had enjoyed hot-shooting performances from long range as of late, couldn’t find the same fortune this time around. Even the open looks weren’t falling. Fortunately for ‘Nova, it had the play of Collin Gillespie and Eric Paschall keeping them afloat, especially in a cold-shooting first half.

Collin Gillespie enjoyed a career-high 30-point performance. In a game where the Wildcats just couldn’t hit from deep, the sophomore guard was hot all-day long. He was 7-of-13 (53.8 percent) on the floor. He also had five boards and four rebounds.

Outside of Gillespie, the Wildcats were just 3-of-20 (15.0 percent) from long range.

“I think I just did a good job with the catch and shoot,” Gillespie said. “Guys got me shots, when I was off the ball. Really just playing off my jump shot and playing with confidence.”

Although it was a career-game for the sophomore, Wright almost didn’t believe it, and it brought back memories of the first time he saw him play.

“First game I saw him live in high school, he scored 41,” Wright said. “I thought he had about 22. I called the assistants after and told them he was good, he must’ve had 22 or 24. They said, “he had 41!” I said wow, that was the quietest 41, but he looked good—I like him. Even today, I wouldn’t have thought he had 30. He has a quiet way of doing things, he’s really efficient. I’m proud of him.”

Eric Paschall also had a solid outing for the ‘Cats, scoring 24 points and collecting six rebounds. Together, he and Gillespie set the tone early, while Phil Booth was cold for a majority of the game, but heated up when it mattered most. Booth sparked and scored eight of 16 points in the decisive run. Ultimately, he finished with 14 points and shot 5-for-15 for the entire game.

With the game tied up at 53, Booth hit a layup and then a trey to get ‘Nova going. He later hit a three, and then Gillespie followed it up with three foul shots to top off the run, making it 69-55 with just 2:28 remaining. Georgetown’s chance at an upset bid quickly vanished, as ‘Nova started hitting its shots.

“I really credit Georgetown’s defense, I really do,” Wright said. “When you shoot a lot of threes, you’re going to have a game like that. You can’t stop shooting and you can’t be afraid. That’s our phrase, shoot ‘em up, sleep in the streets. You can’t be afraid to lose that way. We hung in there and kept shooting, until Collin got hot. Once he got hot, Phil got going a little bit.”

Jermaine Samuels only scored three points against the Hoyas, but he was working hard to clean up the glass. He finished with a career-high 16 rebounds.

For Georgetown, freshman James Akinjo paced the Hoyas with 19 points. Trey Mourning added 12 points and six boards. Jamorko Pickett finished with 10 points. It was a quiet game for leading scorers Jessie Govan and Mac McClung. Govan was scoreless, while McClung had four points. Together, they combined for a 2-of-20 shooting performance.

“It’s getting better,” Wright said of his team’s defensive performance. “I thought we took a step back with DePaul, but today [Georgetown]--offensively—they do a lot of great things well. They can win without Jessie Govan scoring big numbers. They get to the foul line a lot, they shoot well from the three, they play at a high pace. So whatever the numbers are, I thought we did a good job today, especially because they’re a really good offensive team.”

With the win, Villanova improves to 18-4 overall, and 9-0 in conference play. The Wildcats will return to the Pavilion on Wednesday, to take on their next opponent, the Creighton Bluejays. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m. ET.