WASHINGTON, D.C. — Villanova head coach Jay Wright called forward Daniel Ochefu “probably our best defensive player” after the Wildcats beat Georgetown 65-60 Monday in a physical Big East Conference game.
And Wright said Ochefu, from nearby Baltimore, is also a standout passer. But Ochefu is adding another weapon to his arsenal, as he made all five shots from the field and scored 12 points as he reached double figures for the third time this season — all in the past five games.
“Now he knows he can score,” Wright said. “He has worked really hard. I am very proud of him.”
Ochefu entered the game averaging just 4.9 points per contest this season. But the 6-foot-11 sophomore had eight points at halftime as the No. 9 Wildcats built a five-point lead.
“(My teammates) are a lot more confident in me. That just improves my confidence,” Ochefu noted.
Senior guard James Bell had 16 points for Villanova and forward JayVaughn Pinkston had 12 points and seven rebounds for the Wildcats, who are 18-2 and 7-1 in the Big East Conference after making 22 of 28 shots from the foul line.
“Coach has great confidence in me and so do my teammates,” said Bell, who played with four fouls down the stretch but hit several big 3-pointers.
The Hoyas (11-9, 3-6) lost their fifth game in a row and coach John Thompson III was dismayed with just nine trips to the foul line — and his team’s 18 turnovers.
“We are getting penetration. We are getting drives. We shot nine foul shots. They shot 28,” he said. “We are getting in the paint. We have to figure out a way to get to the foul line. We are in a hole right now.
“We are going to look under every rock (for a solution). We have to get to the line more.”
Georgetown guard Markel Starks had 20 points and five assists and forward Reggie Cameron had 12 points for the Hoyas.
“We have to go out and play. We are still a confidence team,” Starks said. “We have to play better.”
Ochefu hit a basket with 2:30 left that gave the Wildcats a 61-56 lead before Starks scored in the paint to make it 61-58 with 2:05 to go.
Bell missed a 3-pointer with less than a minute to play and the Hoyas called time with 44.9 seconds remaining after getting the defensive rebound.
Georgetown was whistled for a foul with 34.6 seconds to go. Villanova guard Tony Chenault was fouled with 33.8 seconds to go and made one of two free throws to push the lead to 62-58.
Georgetown missed several inside shots before fouling the Wildcats and Bell hit one free throw with 14.8 seconds left to seal the win. Chenault broke a 46-46 tie with a layup to give Villanova a 48-46 lead with 10:02 left. Bell, who picked up his fourth foul with 9:22 to go, returned to the game and hit a long 3-pointer to give the Wildcats a 59-54 lead with 3:30 to play.
Georgetown was coming off a loss at Creighton on Saturday. The Wildcats play Saturday at Temple and Georgetown faces Michigan State the same day at Madison Square Garden.
NOTES: Georgetown senior C Moses Ayegba was suspended one game by the NCAA and he sat out Monday against Villanova. He is averaging 12.8 minutes and 2.1 points per game. “We received notice of the suspension Monday afternoon and it stems from his pre-enrollment reconciliation,” Georgetown athletic director Lee Reed said in a statement. … The Hoyas will also play the rest of the season without 6-foot-10, 350-pound Joshua Smith, who was declared ineligible on Friday because of academic issues. The UCLA transfer averaged 11.5 points in 13 games. … Georgetown F Jabril Trawick, who was out indefinitely after breaking his jaw against Providence on Jan. 8, entered the game in the first half and played four minutes, scoring three points in the game in 12 minutes overall. … The Wildcats have two freshmen from the nearby Maryland suburbs who played high school ball for Washington schools: Kris Jenkins (Gonzaga) and Josh Hart (Sidwell Friends). Hart and Jenkins each had one assist as subs.
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