Not even the greatest Georgetown player of them all, Patrick Ewing, knew the name of Villanova’s latest “Hoya Destroya.”
That’s how unexpected 6-foot-3 sophomore guard Collin Gillespie’s 30-point explosion was for the Wildcats in a much-harder-than-it-sounds 77-65 win over their fiercest Big East rival in Philly on Sunday.
That’s who made the difference, as Jay Wright’s No. 14-ranked 18-4 gang made it 10 in a row, nine straight over Georgetown stretching back to 2013 to the delight of a Wells Fargo Center crowd that included Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.
“Giving up 30 to um…uh…” said a bewildered Ewing, after his 14-8 club hung with Nova until the last six-and-a-half minutes, when the Hoyas went cold while Villanova went on a 16-2 run to break open what had been a 53-53 game early in the second half.
“We focused on him and knew that he can shoot,” said Ewing. “But we just gave him too much air space and he was able to knock down all those threes.”
The kid from Archbishop Wood in Warminster, Pa., went 6-for-11 from beyond the arc, picking up the slack for the rest of his struggling teammates, who shot a combined 3-for-20 on three-pointers. It was a performance reminiscent of another Villanova guard of similar build, who specialized in knocking down clutch shots at one end while diving on the floor for loose balls at the other.
Yes, there’s a lot of Ryan Arcidiacono in Gillespie.
“In a lot of ways he does remind me of Arch (Arcidiacono),” agreed Jay Wright, who credited Georgetown’s defense with most of Villanova’s shooting difficulties.
“He’s got that Northeast Philly mentality I love. It’s a simple-mindedness,” he said.
“Do the right thing. Give a great effort. Be a good teammate. He does things that are the essence of our program.”
Naturally, Gillespie downplayed his part. “I did a good job catching and shooting,” said the sophomore guard, who basically kept the Wildcats afloat until Phil Booth snapped out of a 1-for-10 shooting funk to score eight points during Nova’s decisive late run.
“Guys got me shots when I was off the ball. I was able to play off my shot and play with confidence.
“I tried to take pieces of Arch’s game,” continued Gillespie. “I didn’t really know him personally, but I’ve grown up with a lot of his cousins so I know his family pretty well. His toughness is something not a lot of people have in them.”
Villanova’s toughness as a team has become apparent as well. While Wright admits he has no idea where the Wildcats will wind up, he likes the direction they’re headed.
With the shots not falling in this one, they turned it up on defense, shutting out Georgetown’s leading scorer, Jessie Govan, while holding the Hoyas to just 33.8 percent shooting from the field.
“I know this team has a great upside,” said Wright, as Eric Paschall scored 13 of his 24 in the second half, while Booth added 12 of his 14 to help erase Georgetown’s 34-33 halftime lead.
“I know we lack some experience. I just want to see how far we can take this ride and we’ll do it one game at a time.”
Furthermore, having improving sophomores like Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels (16 rebounds) and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree (seven points and six boards) along with freshman Saddiq Bey and Jahvon Quinerly could pay dividends down the road.
“I kind of feel like our sophomores are really starting to step up and we need it,” said Wright, whose club hosts Creighton on Wednesday, before next Saturday’s Big East first-place showdown at Marquette.
“That’s what a season is. Sophomores and freshmen are different from when they started the year. I think ours are starting to get it.”
So much so that maybe next time, the opposing coach might even know their names.