Hart helps No. 2 Villanova survive late Georgetown run
VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) Jay Wright apologized for both his tardiness to a postgame news conference and for failing to bring two players who usually flank Villanova’s coach at the podium because he let them shower first.
”Bad execution on our part,” Wright said.
Just like most of the second half for Villanova.
The seat on his right was eventually filled by Josh Hart, who, as he did in the closing minutes of the game, finally showed up at the end.
Hart scored 25 points and No. 2 Villanova held off a late Georgetown run in a 75-64 victory Tuesday night.
Hart, a national player of the year candidate, followed a can’t-miss first half with an 0-for-everything second that helped the Hoyas (13-12, 4-8 Big East) slice a 17-point deficit to two and had the Wildcats reeling at the Pavilion.
L.J. Peak buried a 3 and Rodney Pryor hit a jumper to key a 17-4 run, and suddenly a Hoyas team coming off a scary bus accident on the way to Pennsylvania had pulled within 60-58 with 3:49 left.
The Hoyas, swept by Villanova in three games last season, seemed poised to pull off the upset they needed to try and make a run at the NCAA Tournament.
The Hoyas just couldn’t stop Hart in the clutch. He hit a 3 off a Georgetown turnover for a seven-point lead and turned a steal into a layup that made it 70-60 and sent the Pavilion crowd into a frenzy.
Hart, who scored 17 points in the first half, missed his first seven shots in the second and was scoreless until a late free throw.
”That team is too good,” Georgetown coach John Thompson III said.
The Wildcats (23-2, 10-2) held on and won the 79th game in the series between these decades-long rivals.
Hart got the Wildcats rolling after they missed six of their first seven 3-point attempts. Hart hit three 3s in the first half and scored 17 points to help the Wildcats take an early 17-point lead.
The Wildcats are at that point of the season where fans are just waiting for March. The students even started a ”Trust the Process” chant when Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid made a cameo in the second half.
Donte DiVincenzo scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half for the Wildcats.
With three straight road games ahead, the Wildcats know they have to sharpen their game.
”It’s definitely concerning,” Hart said. ”You can’t have that mentality of, oh, they got it down to two, but we’re going to be good.”
Hart hit four 3s in 37 minutes, and chipped in three steals and two assists without a turnover.
”He’s a stud,” Wright said. ”Certain guys, you just know physically they can handle the minutes.”
Peak led Georgetown with 21 points and Pryor had 20.
Georgetown was involved in a crash on Monday on I-95 North outside of Baltimore on the way to Pennsylvania. There were no major injuries to any members of the team. But guard Tre Campbell banged his right knee and sat out. Thompson hobbled on the sideline and often grabbed the scorer’s table for support. Thompson said he had a doctor’s appointment on Wednesday.
”I wasn’t gliding down the sidelines,” he said. ”Our prayers go out to the other people that were in the accident. It was a bad accident.”
Georgetown lost its second straight game following a three-game winning streak. The Hoyas desperately needed a marquee win to help its NCAA Tournament hopes.
The 2017 Big East championship trophy made a stop at the Pavilion and it’s hard to imagine it won’t soon find a permanent spot at Villanova. The Wildcats are the three-time defending conference champs and lead the Big East again this season. Villanova extended its school record with its 48th straight win at the Pavilion.
Villanova guard Phil Booth hasn’t played since Nov. 17 because of left knee inflammation and no return seems in sight.
”Every day we don’t get him in practice, it looks worse for getting him back,” Wright said.
Georgetown plays No. 23 Creighton on Saturday at the Verizon Center.
The Wildcats play the first of three straight road games Saturday at No. 24 Xavier. Villanova has games at DePaul and Seton Hall before it plays another home game.
More AP college basketball: www.collegebasketball.ap.org