VILLANOVA, Pa. — It was a problem against Providence and happened again Saturday against St. John’s. Villanova’s inability to close out opponents was becoming a concern.
Surely, after a largely dominant first half and early 17-point lead in the second half, the demons were gone.
The Wildcats, who led, 43-28, at halftime but shot 9 of 29 from the floor in the second half, allowed Georgetown to turn that 17-point lead into a two-point lead before holding on — just barely — for a 75-64 win at the Pavilion Tuesday night.
And leave it to Josh Hart to put the game away.
The Player of the Year candidate had missed his first seven shots in the second half after scoring 17 first-half points. But with the Hoyas within four, Hart stung a trey from the top of the key to give Villanova a 66-59 lead with 1:20 to go, all but putting the game away, finally.
Hart, who later took a steal and went coast to coast for a layup, led all scorers with 25 points. Donte DiVincenzo scored 11 of his 15 points in the second half and also added six rebounds. Mikal Bridges, with a late dunk, got into double figures with 11 points.
L.J. Peak led Georgetown with 21 points, 18 of which came in the second half. Rodney Pryor added 20 and nine rebounds.
Hart’s three-pointer was the key play.
By the numbers
• Jay Wright is now one win shy of 500 for his career. At Villanova, Wright has amassed 377 wins.
• Villanova has won four straight against the Hoyas, including last year’s Big East Tournament. Georgetown now leads the all-time series, 43-36. Wright improved to 14-11 against the Hoyas.
• The matchup was the first time the two teams played at the Pavilion since 2006.
• After scoring just five points in the first 5½ minutes, Villanova closed the final 14½ minutes of the first half outscoring Georgetown, 38-19.
• The Wildcats missed all eight of their attempts from beyond the arc in the second half before Hart’s key three.
• A 23-11 Georgetown run got the Hoyas to within two, 60-58, with 3:51 to go.
• Jalen Brunson shot 2 of 11 from the field on the night and had four assists.
What it means
Villanova, which came in at No. 2 in the AP Poll this week, is now 23-2 and 10-2 in the Big East.
The Wildcats will need to get better closing out games with a tough stretch coming up.
Sixers center Joel Embiid was in attendance. And, unsurprisingly, the rookie was serenaded with “Trust the Process” chants from the Villanova student section.
Georgetown ran into a bit of trouble on its ride north from the nation’s capital. The bus carrying the Hoyas was involved in an accident on I-95 North in Maryland (see story). There were no major injuries to come from the incident but reserve guard Tre Campbell missed the game Tuesday with a right knee injury. Coach John Thompson III was also limping a bit on the sideline.
There are just six games remaining in the regular season for Villanova. The Wildcats begin a stretch of three road games with a trip to Cincinnati to play No. 24 Xavier on Saturday before heading to Chicago to play DePaul Monday.
Villanova narrowly squeaked by DePaul in late December and blew out Xavier by 25 on Jan. 10.
The road swing finishes next Saturday at Seton Hall, which Villanova bested, 76-46, in mid-January.