WASHINGTON, D.C. – There’s no easy way to put it.
Georgetown has faltered heading down the stretch in each of the past few seasons.
So after suffering through its worst defensive effort and most lopsided loss of the current campaign against Seton Hall on Tuesday, all eyes would be on Georgetown’s response as they returned home to take on Villanova on Saturday afternoon.
It didn’t start out as smooth as the season-best crowd of 19,277 at the Verizon Center would have liked, but in the end Otto Porter, who made just his second career start in the absence of Markel Starks, responded with a career-high 15 points and six rebounds in ninth-ranked Georgetown’s 67-46 victory over struggling Villanova.
Jason Clark matched Porter with 15 points and six rebounds of his own as Georgetown (21-6, 11-5) cliched at least a first-round bye in the upcoming Big East tournament at Madison Square Garden.
The 11 conference wins are the most for Georgetown since the Hoyas went 15-3 in winning the 2008 regular season.
“We were not good against Seton Hall defensively,” Thompson III said about the 61 percent shooting his Hoyas gave up in that 73-55 loss to the Pirates.
“I thought we were very good today. I thought we were 180 degrees from where we were the other day.”
The numbers back up Thompson III’s post game claim as the Hoyas limited Villanova (11-17, 4-12) to a season low in points as well as 28 percent shooting. Georgetown remains undefeated (5-0) when holding conference opponents to under 50 points.
Just 34 seconds into his first career start at home, Porter -who previously started at DePaul on Jan 17 when Starks fell ill- found himself laid out on the court after catching an elbow from Maurice Sutton.
The foul, which was later deemed flagrant after a monitor review, drew blood and kept Porter out of the game for a few minutes but it only worked as a motivator for both the player and his team.
“Yeah, I was fired up and so were my teammates,” Porter said about result of that early foul.
Georgetown jumped out to a 25-8 lead but Villanova used a 15-2 run to claw back into the game just moments before halftime as Dominic Cheek had 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first twenty minutes.
With less than a minute remaining in the half, the main ball handling duties fell on Porter as both Clark and Starks found themselves glued to the bench. Porter responded by calmly running out the shot clock before draining a top of the key three pointer that took a fortuitous bounce off the rim to give Georgetown a 30-23 halftime lead.
The second half was all Hoyas as the balanced Georgetown attack just wore down an undermanned Villanova roster that actually lost an important player during warm-ups.
JayVaughn Pinkston, who averages 10 points per game, twisted his ankle after going up for a pre-game dunk and was limited to just two minutes with a noticeable limp.
“In all honesty, [Villanova] can’t catch a break,” Thompson III said about the pre-game injury.
Georgetown held Villanova to just ten points over a twelve minute stretch in the second-half but for all of the defensive problems the Hoyas gave his Wildcats; Coach Jay Wright could only talk about one player – Jason Clark.
“I really think Jason Clark…I think he’s one of the best players in country, I really do,” Wright said about the Hoyas leader.
“If his goal was to get 30 a night, he could but I think his goal is to win.”
Henry Sims (12 points) and Hollis Thompson (ten points) rounded out the Hoyas in double figures.
Georgetown held a 41-24 advantage on the glass as five players finished with six rebounds. The 21-point win was the most lopsided victory in the series since 1996 when Georgetown defeated Villanova 106-68.
Up Next: Georgetown hosts Notre Dame (20-9, 12-4) at 7pm on Monday in the last home game of the season. The game can be seen as part of ESPN’s final Big Monday coverage of the season. Both teams are still in the running for a double-bye in the Big East tournament.
Hoyas Notes: After the game Coach John Thompson III wasn’t giving many hints as to why he benched his normal starting point guard in Markel Starks. Said Thompson III: “I just decided to start Otto and not play Starks.” His availability for Monday’s game is unknown as Thompson III’s only response was, “We’ll see.”