Villanova to meet Georgetown, hopes defense continues to improve

Villanova’ Phil Booth drives on DePaul’s Justin Roberts.

With postseason play right around the corner, Villanova is having trouble making shots. It established season lows for shooting percentage in Big East competition in each of its last two games while making just 26.7 percent (20 of 75) of its three-point attempts.

But the fourth-ranked Wildcats (26-4, 13-4 Big East), who close out their regular season Saturday against Georgetown (15-13, 5-12) at the Wells Fargo Center, actually split the two games, both of which went overtime on the road. So that is somewhat encouraging to coach Jay Wright.

“We’re not playing great right now but I think we’re going in a good direction,” Wright said Friday after practice at the Davis Center.

The Wildcats will know before tipoff whether they still have a chance to be Big East regular-season co-champions with Xavier or if they’ll finish out of the top spot for the first time in the five-year history of the reconfigured conference. The Musketeers close their season at DePaul.

Wright said the shooting struggles from deep were twofold – tough defense by both Creighton and Seton Hall and his team missing some good looks. But the defense looked better at Seton Hall, and he hopes that it will continue to improve.

“What we’re trying to work on is on nights when our shots don’t fall and our defense keeps us in it,” said Wright, who can tie Al Severance’s record for most wins (413) by a Villanova coach. “It almost did at Creighton. We’re not happy with the result, but there were some good things there. There were some tough breaks down the stretch.

“Then Seton Hall, I thought we did a good job. Defensively, we did a pretty good job.  Rebounding, we got beat by two. That’s actually good for us. We’re getting better.”

The Wildcats shot 41.1 percent at Creighton and 36.4 percent at Seton Hall. The three-pointers have not gone in, but that hasn’t stopped them from shooting from deep. Almost 54 percent of their field-goal tries have been from beyond the arc the last two games.

“We want to get threes, but we don’t give ourselves a number that we want to get to,” Wright said. “We probably would be more concerned if we were getting less attempts and someone was really doing a good job taking them away from us, but we don’t.

“We have confidence in our shooting. We have a ‘shoot-em-up-and-sleep-in-the-streets’ mentality. I know that bothers some people. I get it. But when we’re missing shots we want to rely on our defense and rebounding, which isn’t there yet.”

The Wildcats seemingly made everything in their 88-56 win over Georgetown on Jan. 18 in the season’s first meeting of the teams in Washington. They shot 60 percent and knocked down 17 threes.

The Hoyas, who will play on Wednesday’s opening night of the Big East tournament, have lost three straight. Junior center Jessie Govan leads the team in scoring (17.1 points per game) and rebounding (10.1, second in the Big East).

Nova junior forward Eric Paschall, who did not play during the overtime against Seton Hall because of cramps, will be good to go on Saturday.

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