Villanova upset by Georgetown in Big East quarterfinals

Georgetown Villanova
Georgetown Hoyas forward Chudier Bile (4) hugs guard Dante Harris (2) after defeating the Villanova Wildcats in a Big East tournament game at Madison Square Garden.
Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

No Collin Gillespie, a limited Justin Moore, a ton of problems for Villanova.

The conference’s No. 1 seed and three-time defending champions fell 72-71 to No. 8 seed Georgetown on Thursday afternoon to bow out at the quarterfinal stage of the Big East Tournament from Madison Square Garden.

Dante Harris’ most valuable two points of his 18 came at the free-throw line with 4.7 seconds left, converting both to give Georgetown the one-point lead they would win by.

Georgetown went a perfect 23-for-23 at the line with Harris’ game-winning free throws coming when he was fouled by Villanova’s Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who had a nightmare final seconds despite being a driving force of the Wildcats’ efforts on Thursday with a team-leading 26 points.

After he was fouled with just 18.5 seconds left with things tied at 70 apiece, the forward hit just one of two free throws to help set up Georgetown’s upset.

The Hoyas overturned a 10-point second-half deficit with a 13-1 run to set up the final five minutes of madness that saw Villanova go up five with 1:30 remaining after back-to-back threes from Cole Swider and Robinson-Earl.

Villanova was plenty shorthanded after their starting point guard, Connor Gillespie tore his ACL last week. Moore toughed out an ankle injury he sustained Saturday that initially made his participation for the entire Big East Tournament doubtful, posting 10 points and two assists in 27 minutes of action before fouling out with three minutes left in the game.

Jermaine Samuels, who posted 20 points in the loss, shot Villanova out of a cannon to start, dropping their first six points of the day to spark an initial 9-0 run, but momentum stolen by a four-point play from Donald Carey after he was fouled hitting a left-corner three allowed the Hoyas to respond with a 13-2 run of its own.

It was clear early that Moore was hampered by the ankle as he struggled to keep up with Georgetown’s Qudus Wahab — who had a career-high 19 points in the Big East quarterfinals against Marquette on Wednesday — drawing the ire of head coach Jay Wright on the bench during that stretch.

Wahab had seven of the Hoyas’ points during that run on his way to 17 points on the day.

As Georgetown proved difficult to shake — especially with Jahvon Blair hitting a trio of three-pointers — the combination of Samuels and Robinson-Earl paced Villanova with 14 and 10 points respectively in the first half. But the Wildcats’ shooting from deep was dismal, going 3-for-19 from beyond the arc while they missed their last nine shots of the half.

Meanwhile, Georgetown went on a late 7-0 run to take a two-point lead heading into the intermission.

Beginning a minute into the second half, Villanova reeled off 10 unanswered points, featuring five points from Moore as they started the final 20 minutes shooting 7-of-10 from the field while picking up their three-point shooting game. The Wildcats hit 6-of-11 three-point attempts in the second half.

Despite the loss, Villanova is a shoo-in for the NCAA Tournament, but they have now lost three of their last four games heading into the do-or-die portion of their postseason slate.