Villanova gets a shot at redemption against conference rival Georgetown

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Villanova has won 49 of its past 56 games, which isn’t easy to do. Of the losses, only the two to Seton Hall haven’t been by double figures. Four were by at least 16, including the last one, a 78-58 beatdown on Jan. 19 at Georgetown.

The No. 7 Wildcats are 20-2 for the second consecutive season and third time in six years.

In 2010 and again last March they would go on to lose their second game in the NCAA Tournament as a No. 2 seed. Jay Wright’s 2005-06 team also won 20 of its first 22. And that group got to the Elite Eight as a No. 1 before being eliminated by eventual national champion Florida.

So much for the historical perspective.

VILLANOVA LAST SEVEN LOSSES
Date Opponent Score
Jan. 19, 2015 Georgetown 78-58
Jan. 3, 2015 Seton Hall 66-61 (OT)
Mar. 22, 2014 Connecticut 77-65 *
Mar. 13, 2014 Seton Hall 64-63 **
Feb. 16, 2014 Creighton 101-80
Jan. 20, 2014 Creighton 96-86
Dec. 28, 2013 Syracuse 78-62
* NCAA Tournament
** Big East Tournament
Record of 49-7 since start of 2013-2014 (Nov. 2, 2013)

When G’town (15-7, 7-4 Big East) clocked the Wildcats in Washington, the Verizon Center court got stormed.

“I probably wish they hadn’t done that,” said coach John Thompson III. Maybe that’s because the Hoyas still had to visit the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday. The Hoyas are 2-2 since then, having lost twice at home, to Xavier (14-9, 5-6) and on Wednesday to Providence (17-6, 7-3). They also needed overtime to survive at Marquette (10-12, 2-8), which Villanova just beat by 18 in South Philly.

The No. 24 Hoyas likely need to a win to remain in serious contention for the regular-season title.

In the first meeting, it seemed like every Villanova pass was contested. The Wildcats shot 34 percent and had 17 turnovers. They never led. It was 4-4. And then 13-11, midway through the first half. At intermission it was 42-20. The biggest lead was 26. The Wildcats got to within a dozen, with 7 1/2 minutes to go. They scored eight the rest of the way.

“They got us good,” Wright acknowledged.

At that point he noted that his guys had slipped at the defensive end, and G’town exposed that. Now the Wildcats are struggling more on offense, though they haven’t allowed more than 55 in their ensuing three games. Georgetown can play big, which has been known to lessen the low-post effectiveness of emerging junior Daniel Ochefu and senior JayVaughn Pinkston, who at a generous 6-foot-7 usually has to go up against taller guys anyway.

“We’ve been good enough to win, but I think we’re still a work in progress,” Wright said. “We can get a lot better.”

Especially with back-to-back road games coming up after this. On Wednesday they’re at Providence before heading to No. 22 Butler (17-6, 7-3) next Saturday. Last season, the Wildcat team that would set a program record by winning 28 times before the conference tournament had to go two OTs at Providence and an extra five minutes at Butler. They beat the Bulldogs at the Pavilion on New Year’s Eve by 12. Butler has won four in a row.

Conventional wisdom suggests the Wildcats should be in decent shape if they can take two of these next three. But every one could be a scrum.

Villanova had won three consecutive games against G’town before the latest one. Before that the Hoyas had taken eight of nine, including five in a row for the third time in the series. Villanova has dropped two of its past three at Providence.

This will be the Wildcats’ 11th sellout (20,225) at the Center. The latest was against West Virginia on March 6, 2010. They’ve won their past six in that building, matching their longest such streak. The other was between 2005 and ’07, and included two NCAA games. None of these six have come against Top 25 opponents.

They’ve also won nine of their past 10 there. The three in 2013 were all against top five teams, including one against G-town. The blemish in that run occurred last January 96-68 to Creighton.

This article was written by Mike Kern from Philadelphia Daily News and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.