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Villanova holds off Georgetown to complete series sweep, 77-73

The Wildcats got back in the win column with a Monday matinee win on MLK Day.

NCAA Basketball: Georgetown at Villanova Kyle Ross-USA TODAY Sports

The Villanova Wildcats scraped by the Georgetown Hoyas on Monday afternoon, 77-73, with a last-minute Brandon Slater steal turned Cam Whitmore dunk to seal the victory and series sweep of the Hoyas. A win is a win.

“Hard fought Big East game, credit to Georgetown,” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “We got up early, we tried to separate, but they made a furious comeback in the first half, which continued into the second half. Give our guys a lot of credit as well, they came out, we’d been down in that spot a couple times this year, and ended up getting over the hump.’

The ‘Cats were able to get back in the win column through timely defense and balanced scoring, the recipe to success for Villanova in recent years.

Slater’s late-game steal was one of nine for Villanova, which also forced 13 turnovers. The ‘Cats also took great care of the ball, only giving it up seven times, all key in countering a Hoyas team that relies so much on pure height in order to create unfavorable matchups.

They staved off the resilient Hoyas, keeping them without any made shots in the final 2:22 of the game to hang on for the win.

“We’ve been talking about that — how can we force ourselves up on guys to make mistakes and force them into turnovers?” Villanova coach Kyle Neptune said. “We haven’t done a great job of that thus far. I thought I our guys did a good job of that today. ... Cam Whitmore has done an amazing job at getting into passing lanes. I think both him and Mark (Armstrong) have really improved defensively.”

Offensively, the ‘Cats had five different players in double figures. Caleb Daniels had 16 points, four boards and one steal. Brandon Slater had 15 points. Cam Whitmore chipped in 13 points, went 3-of-5 from long range, and had four steals. Eric Dixon had 12 points and four boards. Mark Armstrong provided 14 points on 5-of-7 shooting off of the bench.

“Offense is offense, but we got to be all about getting stops,” Neptune said. “We’re a work in progress in that regard, we just got to continue getting better. Things are going to happen on the offensive end, we’re gonna make shots, miss shots, if teams are good they’re going to take certain things away, but we scored 77 points and shot it pretty well, but we got to continue getting better on the defensive end.”

The ‘Cats raced to an early 30-19 lead, before Georgetown started to get going late in the first half. The Hoyas managed to cut into the deficit, and the ‘Cats held onto a narrow 37-33 lead at the break.

Georgetown extended its run to start the second half, eventually taking the lead. Bryson Mozone drilled a three-pointer with 13:05 remaining in the game to top off a 17-7 Hoya run that gave Georgetown a 50-44 lead.

It became a tight, back-and-forth battle down the stretch. The Wildcats capitalized from the free throw line and took advantage of a lesser disciplined Georgetown team, attempting 31 free throws and converting on 23 of them for easy points.

‘Nova took the lead for good on back-to-back buckets by Slater and Dixon, who gave the ‘Cats a 73-71 advantage with 1:01 to go. They managed to ice the game from the free throw line.

“When they wanted to play slow, obviously, we wanted to play fast,” Georgetown coach Patrick Ewing said. “When they went on a big run, I thought our guys did a great job of exhaling, keeping their composure, fighting back in the game. ... When you give a team 31 free throws, it’s hard. That’s all I’m gonna say about that.”

Primo Spears led the Hoyas with 19 points on 8-of-13 shooting and seven assists, but had seven turnovers. Jordan Riley chipped in 18 points on 8-of-12 shooting and six boards. Brandon Murray had 10 points and five rebounds.

As a team, the Hoyas shot 28-of-52 (53.8%) overall. They outrebounded the ‘Cats, 33-21.

“They’re talented, they’re physical and they’re tall, but we can’t make excuses for not getting rebounds,” Slater said. “Our game and what we do is predicated on rebounds and stops, we have to look at the film, and see where we weren’t as aggressive to rebound.”

With the win, the ‘Cats improve to 9-10 overall and 3-5 in Big East play. They return to action on the road on Friday, where they have a chance to complete another regular season series sweep, when they take on St. John’s at Madison Square Garden. Tip-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET.