For 47 straight games, Villanova held their opponents under 50 percent shooting from the field. That streak lasted until last Monday against Creighton, as the Bluejays shot 56.9 percent from the field en route to a 96-68 upset victory. Villanova didn’t play again until this past Saturday and again failed to hold their opponent under 50 percent shooting against Marquette.
While Villanova was able to squeak by with an overtime win, their previously elite defense appeared to be crumbling as the Wildcats entered conference play. It looked as though the trend was going to continue Monday as Villanova visited Georgetown, looking for their first road win against the Hoyas since 2007.
Entering the game against Villanova, Georgetown had averaged 71.8 points per game, which was ninth out of 10 teams in the Big East and ranked 178th overall. Losing starting center Joshua Smith due to academic ineligibility on Friday only added to the Hoyas uphill battle on offense. The 6-foot-10, 350-pound junior was third on the team in points per game at 11.5 and without him in the lineup, Georgetown had averaged 63.5 points, compared to 75.6 points when the center played.
However, none of this stopped the Hoyas from shooting 55 percent in the first half against the normally stingy Villanova defense. Despite their hot shooting, Georgetown still trailed at halftime by five points, due in large part to 14 turnovers.
Despite allowing Georgetown to stay in the game throughout the night, it was a stellar play on defense with 34.6 seconds left that secured the victory for Villanova. Down three points, Georgetown’s Markel Starks came around a screen with the ball and drove to the hoop. However, Villanova senior James Bell showed incredible defensive awareness by coming off his man and shuffling to the spot on the court that Starks was driving to. After causing the textbook charge, Villanova went on to ice the game with free throws.
Villanova has a strong offense, ranked 22nd in the country in points per game heading into Monday night, but if they want to make any noise this March, defense will have to be their calling card. As Villanova makes their way through conference play, it appears they still have work to do on defense if they hope to gain a favorable seed in the tournament, much less have any chance of making a run. However, Monday’s game against a hungry Georgetown team showed the resilience and grit Villanova will needs to succeed down the stretch in the Big East.