Philadelphia, PA – Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - After earning the Big East Conference regular season title on Thursday night, the sixth-ranked Villanova Wildcats will finish off the campaign against an old rival when the Georgetown Hoyas come calling on Saturday afternoon.
With a 77-70 road win over Xavier on Thursday night, Villanova improved to 15-2 in league play and captured its first outright Big East regular season title since the 1981-82 season. The Wildcats' only two losses in league play came in double-digit blowouts against Creighton, the team just behind them in the conference standings, but they have been stellar outside of those setbacks.
Four straight wins in early February seemed to bolster Georgetown's weak NCAA Tournament hopes, but the Hoyas have gone just 2-3 in their last five games. Although they were coming off a convincing 75-63 victory over Creighton, the Hoyas' 17-12 overall record, including an 8-9 success rate against the Big East, still needs a lot of work to earn them a spot in the Big Dance.
These long-time rivals played in another classic earlier this season, when Villanova pulled out a 65-60 win in Washington D.C. The Wildcats have won the last two matchups, but Georgetown still holds a sizable 49-30 edge in the all- time series.
On the back of double-doubles from both D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Markel Starks (17 points, 11 assists), Georgetown was able to coast past Creighton for one of its most impressive wins of the season. The Hoyas did allow 10 3-pointers to the Bluejays, but held them to just 39.7 percent shooting overall.
Starks (17 ppg, 4.1 apg) and Smith-Rivera (16.9 ppg) are far and away the most productive contributors to Georgetown's cause. Starks is scoring at a career-best rate in his senior season, but he is shooting just 41.6 percent from the floor and 32 percent from beyond the arc, both below his career averages. However, some of that has to do with the added weight on his shoulders as the go-to option. Smith-Rivera, a solid performer off the bench a year ago, has carved out an important spot in the rotation this season by nearly doubling his scoring average. Jabril Trawick (8.9 ppg) is the next-best scoring threat on the squad, while Nate Lubick (5.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and Mikael Hopkins (6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg) patrol the interior.
Darrun Hilliard led the way for Villanova in its title-clinching win over Xavier, netting 19 points. The Wildcats connected on 46.9 percent of their shots from the field, while limiting the Musketeers to 38.3 percent. They also won the rebounding battle, 38-30.
There has been very little weakness in Villanova's game this season. The Wildcats rank second in the Big East in both scoring (79.1 ppg) and assists (15.9 apg), while shooting 46 percent from the floor. They lead the conference in rebounding (37.3 rpg) and they hold their opponents to 66.9 ppg on 40.4 percent shooting. James Bell (15 ppg, 6 rpg) is the top scoring threat for a group of four averaging in double figures. JayVaughn Pinkston (14.4 pg, 6.1 rpg) provides strong support from the interior, and Hilliard (14.2 ppg) and Ryan Arcidiacono (10 ppg, 3.6 apg) fill in around Bell in the backcourt. Pinkston added 15 points against Xavier, Bell had 12 and Arcidiacono chipped in with 11 points and seven assists.