WASHINGTON – One player was hurt during warmups and another was far from his best, yet somehow Villanova managed to put together a rally against No. 9 Georgetown. A 17-point lead was cut to four when Dominic Cheek hit a 3-pointer late in the first half.
Then Georgetown's Otto Porter took a 3-pointer that hit the front of the rim, tantalizingly bounced up and fell into the net. Momentum stopped. If it's possible to cite one crucial moment in a 21-point loss, that unlucky break would rank near the top in the Wildcats' 67-46 loss to the Hoyas on Saturday.
"That was a big play," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "Because that was the end of the shot clock. We had had a good defensive possession, they didn't have anywhere to go, and we just gave him a little bit too much space there. That was a big shot."
After that, it became another long day for the Wildcats (11-17, 4-12), who lost their four straight and can't seem to put together a healthy lineup. Maalik Wayns returned after missing three games with a sprained left knee, but he missed badly on his first shot and finished 1 for 10 from the field, scoring three points.
"You see those drives where he's not elevating," Wright said. "He's getting the ball stuck under the rim. He's not 100 percent, but we needed him out there. He just needs to play. He just needs to get confidence in his knee."
Also, JayVaughn Pinkston was able to play only 2 minutes after he hurt himself by landing on a ball while dunking during warmups, and James Bell missed his third straight game with a sprained left ankle.
"We're obviously piece-mealing things here," Wright said. "That's not an excuse. Other teams have been able to (overcome) that. We just haven't been able to do it recently."
The victory moves the Hoyas (21-6, 11-5) into sole possession of fourth place in the Big East, one-half game ahead of Cincinnati and South Florida, who play Sunday. The top four teams get a double-bye in the conference tournament.
"They, in all honesty, can't catch a break — they had a kid who gets hurt in warmups," Georgetown coach Johh Thompson III said. "You see all the injuries that they've gone through. They're not healthy right now."
Cheek scored 19 points to lead the Wildcats, who were outrebounded 43-25 and fell to 1-9 in true road games. Georgetown held Villanova to 28 percent shooting, quite a turnaround from the 61 percent that Seton Hall shot in its 18-point win over the Hoyas on Tuesday.
Porter and Jason Clark both had 15 points and six rebounds, but Porter had by far the more eventful day in just his second start of the season.
The freshman had to leave after 34 seconds, the victim of a flagrant elbow from Maurice Sutton that left Porter lying on the floor and bleeding from the mouth.
He was back in a few minutes, however, motivated by the nasty hit and ready to help lead the Hoyas to the big first-half lead.
"Yeah, I was fired up," Porter said. "And so were my teammates. I think they kind of read my mind."
Porter was in the starting lineup in place of Markel Starks, who didn't play at all after apparently finding his way into the coach's doghouse. Porter's only previous start this season came last month when Starks had a stomach ailment and sat out against DePaul.
Asked why Starks was benched Saturday, Thompson: "I just wanted to start Otto and not play Starks." The coach declined to elaborate, other than to confirm that Starks is healthy.
Asked if Starks will play Monday against Notre Dame, Thompson said: "We'll see."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP