PHILADELPHIA (AP) — JayVaughn Pinkston scored 20 points to help Villanova beat a top-five team for the third time this season, 67-57 over No. 5 Georgetown on Wednesday night.
The Wildcats (19-12, 10-8 Big East) also beat then-No. 5 Louisville and then-No. 3 Syracuse and have put themselves in solid shape for at least an NCAA tournament at-large bid. All three wins over top-five teams came at the Wells Fargo Center, the site of tournament games the first weekend.
Otto Porter Jr. scored 17 points as the Hoyas (23-5, 13-4) had an 11-game winning streak snapped. The Big East leaders lost for the first time since Jan. 19, against South Florida.
Villanova students stormed the court in the first two wins and security lined the baseline again Wednesday. With students on break, only a few fans made the dash. That gave the Wildcats the chance to head behind the basket and salute the fans.
Darrun Hilliard scored 14 points, Ryan Arcidiacono had 11 and Mouphtaou Yarou grabbed 12 rebounds for the Wildcats, who finished 30 of 42 from the free throw line compared to Georgetown going 4 of 8 from there.
The Wildcats still have the Big East tournament ahead. But they have won enough big games to start thinking about the NCAA tournament.
It’s a swift turnaround after the Wildcats finished 13-19 last season and missed the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2004. The 19 losses were a season-worst for a program that started playing in 1920.
The Hoyas were playing for a No. 1 seed in the both the Big East and NCAA tournaments. But they committed a whopping 23 turnovers and never made the big shots down the stretch.
Pinkston’s 3-pointer midway through the second half pushed the lead to eight and the Wildcats held off a brief Hoyas’ run with seven straight points from the free throw line.
Hilliard shook off early foul trouble to bury a 3-pointer and make it 54-48. Arcidiacono followed with two free throws and the crowd of 13,685 went wild sensing yet another upset.
The Wildcats were one of the rare teams this season to crack Georgetown’s defense, one of the stingiest in the nation. The Hoyas held teams to 38 percent shooting and only Pittsburgh cracked 50 percent in a game this season. Led by Pinkston inside and James Bell outside, the Wildcats hovered around the 50 percent mark to torment the Hoyas. Plus 13 steals with 3:40 left in the game sure didn’t hurt the Wildcats.
Villanova’s defense tightened up and forced Georgetown into rushing shots with ticks of the shot clock left.
But Villanova’s 16th turnover led to an easy basket for Markel Starks to make it a four-point game.
Pinkston missed two free throws and the late meltdown so similar to ones in losses last week at Seton Hall and Pittsburgh appeared under way. Pinkston steadied himself from the line the next time down and hit two for a six-point lead. Hilliard forced a steal at midcourt, then drew Moses Ayegba’s fifth foul. He made one of two from the line and Villanova kept a comfortable lead the rest of the way.
The Wildcats had six turnovers in their first 12 possessions of the game but took the lead when Bell hit consecutive 3s. Arcidiacono hit Bell on a baseline fly-by for a highlight-reel dunk. Arcidiacono added a 3-pointer to send Villanova into halftime with a 33-29 lead.
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