WASHINGTON (AP)For Villanova coach Jay Wright, the lack of seniors this season hasn’t been a problem. His Wildcats keep rolling as they head into the most important time of year.
No. 14 Villanova clinched at least second place in the Big East Conference on Saturday when Jermaine Samuels had a 3-point play with 5.6 seconds left and the Wildcats survived a late scare to defeat Georgetown 70-69. They finished with a three-way share of the regular-season title when Creighton defeated Seton Hall later in the day.
Samuels was fouled on a drive by Georgetown’s Jamorko Pickett and Qudus Wahab blocked the shot. After a video review, the basket counted and Samuels made the subsequent free throw to put the Wildcats up by one.
Samuels, who had missed all four of his 3-pointers in the second half, knew he had to take it to the basket with time running down.
“I was shooting 3s down the stretch and they weren’t going in” he said. “I decided to make a strong move to end the game and try and be aggressive.”
Georgetown’s Terrell Allen got up a shot at the buzzer, but it clanged off the backboard as Villanova ended the game on a 5-0 run.
Saddiq Bey led Villanova (24-7, 13-5 Big East) with 18 points. Samuels finished with 13, as did Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.
“We have always had older guys,” Wright said about the Wildcats’ outlook going into the conference tournament. “That will be the challenge for this group, not having as many of those guys. That’s the challenge. Let’s go take it on and see how we do.”
Pickett led Georgetown (15-16, 5-13) with 20 points as the Hoyas lost their sixth straight game and fell under .500 for the first time in coach Patrick Ewing’s three season in charge. Terrell Allen had 17 points while Jagan Mosely added 13 points.
Villanova opened up on a 14-0 run and led by as many as 17 points before taking a 39-30 lead into halftime. The Wildcats shot 60% from the field and made 8 of 12 shots from beyond the arc.
“We just couldn’t make any shots,” Ewing said. “We were missing layups. If we made it, who knows what the outcome would have been.”
Georgetown opened the second half on an 11-0 run and took its first lead of the game at 41-39 on a putback dunk by Wahab with 17:25 left.
Georgetown was again without its top two scorers in Omer Yurtseven (left ankle) and Mac McClung (right foot). The Hoyas are 1-5 this season when neither play.
Villanova: Despite the lack of a scholarship senior, Villanova finishes no lower than second in the league for the seventh straight season. Wright and the Wildcats will try to improve their NCAA Tournament seeding in next week’s conference tournament in New York. Villanova has made the last seven tournaments, winning it all in 2016 and ’18.
Georgetown: Finished 5-13 in the league for the third time in the last four seasons. The Hoyas last had a winning conference record in 2015. Georgetown likely needs a few wins in New York for NIT considerations.
With Villanova down 66-62 late, Bey drilled a 3-pointer from near the Wildcats bench to close the gap to a point with 1:21 left. Last season as a freshman Bey connected on 37 % but was hitting 45% coming into Saturday.
“He’s always had guts,” Wright said about Bey. “He might not have been as good a shooter but he would not have feared taking it.”
GOALTENDING OR NOT
Samuels said he didn’t see the goaltending by Wahab but had a feeling something was wrong: “The way I shot it I felt like it was going to go in, so if the ball came off that way, I felt like it had to be something.”
In what has become the norm around Georgetown, two players went the entire 40 minutes while two others combined to miss just 13 seconds.
Allen and Jahvon Blair didn’t get a breather while Picked sat the final six seconds after fouling out. Mosely missed seven seconds late on an apparent injury but quickly recovered.
Villanova: Will play in the Big East quarterfinals on Thursday. The Wildcats have won the last three conference tournaments.
Georgetown: The Hoyas are locked into the No. 8 seed and will face No. 9 seed St. John’s on Wednesday night. Georgetown last won a conference tournament game in 2016.
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