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Villanova overcomes slow start in 85-74 win over Georgetown

Who says the ‘Cats can’t close? Villanova finishes strong after slow start against Georgetown.

NCAA Basketball: Villanova at Georgetown Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After collapsing offensively down the stretch in a tough loss to Marquette on Wednesday night, there were no letdowns this time around for the Villanova Wildcats.

The Wildcats suffered a slow start, trailing Georgetown at the half, but they turned it up in the second half. Villanova particularly shot well down the stretch, making six of its last seven shot attempts and going 8-for-8 from the free throw line to close out an 85-74 win on the road.

“I give a lot of credit to Georgetown, I know they’ve had a lot of injuries and a lot of COVID,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Even Patrick had COVID, so he hasn’t been with them, but if you look at their past two games where they had Patrick and everybody back, they’re gonna be good. They’re gonna be a force. That’s a good win for us against a good Georgetown team. Proud of our leadership, Collin GIllespie, Justin Moore and Jermaine Samuels did a great job.”

The Wildcats struggled to keep the Hoyas in check from opening tip, but they were able to keep up with Georgetown. Georgetown held onto a 40-37 lead at the break.

The Hoyas opened the second half with back-to-back layups, before the Wildcats got going. An 11-3 run for the ‘Cats temporarily gave them the lead, and it was a back-and-forth battle until ‘Nova started pulling away.

“On the road, some things aren’t going to go our way, guys are going to get hot and hit crazy shots, but it’s all about how you handle the situation in front of you,” Villanova forward Jermaine Samuels said. “We knew it was going to be difficult, because Georgetown has a great team, and we rallied.”

Samuels started a 7-0 blitz that was finished off by a couple of Collin Gillespie free throws, giving the ‘Cats a 70-60 lead with 4:22 remaining in the game.

Georgetown didn’t go away quietly, but it was unable to overtake the ‘Cats.

“I don’t think that there was a lot of things they did defensively, but we took some rushed shots and took some shots where we tried to do things ourselves,” Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said of the Wildcats’ late-game performance to pull away. “On the other end, Villanova was doing that 2-5 pick-and-roll that hurt us a little going down the stretch. Then, Gillespie, he started backing down in the paint and getting us in foul trouble.

It was a big day for Gillespie, who finished with a game-high 29 points, including a blistering 6-of-9 performance from behind the three-point line.

“I was just playing off my jump shot and taking what I saw and having a good attitude,” Gillespie said. “The other night didn’t go away the way we wanted, but it’s just attitude — next day, next play.”

Justin Moore and Samuels also chipped in impressive performances. Moore had 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting, while Samuels had 18 points (8-of-11 shooting) with five boards. Caleb Daniels added 12 points off the bench.

“We tried to get their bigs away from the basket, then try to beat them to rim,” Wright said. “I thought Justin did a great job of that. Then, they went small and changed it up a little bit. When they went small, then Jermaine Samuels became really effective.”

For Georgetown, forward Collin Holloway pestered the ‘Cats all-game long. He was nearly perfect on the floor, finishing with a team-high 25 points on a 9-of-10 shooting performance. He also had five assists. Dante Harris, the hero and Big East Tournament MVP in the Hoyas’ run to the conference title, had 17 points and six boards before fouling out. Aminu Mohammed had 13 points, while Donald Carey chipped in 11 points and seven assists.

“For the most part, we did well and we had 18 assists, which might be a season-high for us,” Ewing said. “But at the end, we didn’t make the right plays, and we tried to get it done by ourselves instead of continuing to move the ball and share it.”

Villanova improves to 14-5 overall and 7-2 in conference play. The ‘Cats return home for a Tuesday night game at the Finneran Pavilion against DePaul. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.