While "Snowpocalypse" may have cut down on the number of fans able to get down to the Verizon Center it did nothing to the offensive execution of the Georgetown Hoyas. John Thompson III's team did whatever they wanted in the first half, shooting 55.6% from the field (including 8-13 behind the arc) in taking a 50-31 halftime lead. The star of the half: Jason Clark, who scored seventeen points (4-4 3PT) fourteen minutes of action. Austin Freeman added twelve and Villanova played the role of willing prey by turning the ball over sixteen times. And while the Wildcats did a better job of executing in the second half it was no match for what the Hoyas were able to do offensively, not stopping until the scoreboard showed a final of 103-90.
Freeman (25 points) and Clark (24) led the way for Georgetown and three other players reached double figures on the afternoon, including Hollis Thompson scoring 12 points off the bench. It didn't even matter that Chris Wright scored just seven points in 28 minutes before fouling out; Clark did more than enough to help make up for the junior point guard's day. Scottie Reynolds shared the scoring honors for Villanova with Corey Fisher as both scored 24 points but that total can be a bit misleading in regards to how the game played out. Reynolds made just one field goal in the first half, not getting untracked until he played with more aggression in the second half.
"The answer is the same I gave at Villanova a couple of weeks ago, he's too good of a player, too experienced of a player and they collectively do too good of a job to get him shots," said Coach Thompson III after the game. "He didn't force anything in the first half and he came home in the second half clearly decided to be more aggressive and he was successful (quote courtesy of guhoyas.com)."
But what was more damaging to the Wildcats was Antonio Pena's foul trouble. Accepted by many as a key in the game if Villanova were to win, the senior from Brooklyn played just eleven minutes (seven points, three rebounds) before fouling out. With Pena on the bench for long stretches that made Jay Wright's team even more one-dimensional than usual and they paid for it outside of some good minutes from Isaiah Armwood in the second half.
"Antonio (Pena) was in foul trouble so that left us with no inside game," said Coach Wright after the game. "He was sitting most of the game and he played 11 minutes. So right there were relied on perimeter play (quote courtesy of guhoyas.com)."
In front of the dedicated students who made the trek from campus Georgetown put together what was arguably their best offensive performance of the season, and it's one that puts them in good shape down the stretch in regards to earning a double-bye in the Big East Tournament. Villanova, on the other hand, has to negotiate the quick turnaround with a trip to Morgantown for Monday's showdown with the Mountaineers on the horizon.
Three Key Happenings
1. Illinois may have put themselves back into the at-large discussion. If the Fighting Illini were to have any shot of working themselves back into the at-large discussion Saturday night's game against Michigan State was one they had to have. And when you add in the fact that the Spartans were without starting point guard Kalin Lucas (sprained right ankle) the case could be made that a loss would have been one of the first nails in the coffin for Illinois' hopes. But thanks in large part to point guard Demetri McCamey, Bruce Weber's team knocked off the Spartans 78-73 to add further intrigue to a conference race that looked to be about over just a week ago.
McCamey led the way with 22 points and 11 assists while Mike Davis added sixteen off the bench as the Illini picked up their first win over a Top 5 ranked Big Ten foe since 2001 (Michigan State was the victim then as well), also benefiting from eighteen Spartan turnovers. Draymond Green led the visitors with seventeen points off the bench but their 34-21 rebounding edge was negated by the turnovers, with guards Korie Lucious (six) and Chris Allen (four) combining for ten of those eighteen. Illinois' profile can still use some work (that loss to Utah sticks out) but Saturday's win is certainly a step in the right direction. And Wisconsin and Purdue send their thanks as well; all three trail the Spartans by one game in the Big Ten standings.
2. UNLV handles BYU with ease, creates a three-way tie atop the Mountain West. BYU entered the Thomas & Mack Center with hopes of finishing their three road games against the other contenders (SDSU and New Mexico as well) with a 2-1 mark. But they had another thing coming as the Runnin' Rebels blitzed them from the start, jumping out to a 15-2 lead (and leading 47-18 at one point) on their way to an 88-74 win that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate. Tre'Von Willis put on a show with UNLV great Larry Johnson sitting courtside, finishing with 33 points, eight assists and five rebounds while Matt Shaw added 13 points and Chace Stanback 14 rebounds.
Jimmer Fredette led the Cougars with 21 points but he struggled from the field, making just four of fifteen shots from the field and as a team BYU shot just 38.1%. UNLV didn't cool off much as the game progressed, knocking down 52.5% of their shots (52.1% from behind the arc) and assisting on 24 of their thirty-two field goals (offensive efficiency: 127.5). This was a big win for Lon Kruger's team in regards to winning the Mountain West. With games against New Mexico (Wednesday) and at San Diego State (Saturday), a 2-0 week could put them in the driver's seat with those being the last games they have against the other contenders.
3. Richmond's win over Temple makes five teams (or even six) out of the Atlantic 10 a definite possibility. Why six? Because the team few people have been talking about (Charlotte) is the leader with an 8-1 league record. But a solid case can be made for Chris Mooney's Spiders when it comes to an at-large bid, and they did nothing to hurt themselves in beating Temple 71-54 in a game they controlled from the start. Kevin Anderson, who's one of the more underrated point guards from a national perspective, led the way with 29 points and Richmond shot a scalding 17-22 (77.3%) in the first half on their way to a 44-26 halftime lead. Temple, on the other hand, made just 28.6% of their shots and the absence of Juan Fernandez (head injury) was quite noticeable.
Ramon Moore and Lavoy Allen (who grabbed 19 rebounds) led the way for Temple with seventeen points apiece but they didn't have enough on either end of the floor to avoid losing their second consecutive road game. The Spiders' victory helps the Atlantic 10 in two ways: the race now has five teams with one or two losses, and it provides further separation from the bottom half of the conference. And if Dayton, who's 5-3 after their win over rival Xavier, can get on a run you'd have six teams (likely the six best teams, no disrespect to Saint Louis) racing down the stretch towards NCAA Tournament berths. And with the way things stand now, five or six teams could end up playing their way into the Big Dance.
Top Three Games
1. St. Francis (NY) 88, LIU 84 (3OT) The Terriers won the Battle of Brooklyn in triple overtime in a game that featured six players fouling out and eight players scoring in double figures. Akeem Bennett led the Terriers with 22 points while Kyle Johnson's 21 led the Blackbirds.
2. New Mexico 88, San Diego State 86 (OT) The Aztecs came back from ten points down with four minutes left to force overtime but all that did was delay the inevitable. Darington Hobson scored eight of his game-high 29 points in the extra session, knocking down a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining to give the Lobos the win.
3. UT-Arlington 81, Northwestern State 80 Marquez Haynes capped a 32-point night with a 12-foot jumper with 4.3 seconds remaining to give the Mavericks the win. Haynes also surpassed the 1,000-point mark in the win while the Demons were led by Will Pratt's 16 points.
Three Notable Performances
1. G Jason Clark (Georgetown) People talk about the Hoyas' "Big Three" but what about Clark, who scored 24 points (6-7 3PT) in the Hoyas' 103-90 win over Villanova.
2. G Tre'Von Willis (UNLV) In the Runnin' Rebels' 88-74 pasting of BYU Willis scored 33 points while also racking up eight assists and five rebounds.
3. F Chris Gaston (Fordham) The freshman put together an outstanding performance in the Rams' 77-72 loss to Charlotte, posting a line of 32 points, 12 rebounds and six assists.