Georgetown upsets Big East top seed Villanova 72-71 at MSG

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Georgetown center Qudus Wahab (34) fists bumps head coach Patrick Ewing during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Villanova in the quarterfinals of the Big East conference tournament, Thursday, March 11, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

NEW YORK – Patrick Ewing and Georgetown are making some noise at Madison Square Garden again.

It has been a while.

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The Hoyas are back in the Big East Tournament semifinals for the first time in six years, with the former Georgetown and Knicks star leading the way.

Dante Harris made two free throws with 4.7 seconds left to cap a perfect game from the line for Georgetown, and the Hoyas upset No. 14 Villanova 72-71 in the quarterfinals on Thursday.

The eighth-seeded Hoyas (11-12) will play fifth-seeded Seton Hall on Friday night. Georgetown last reached the Big East semifinals in 2015. The Hoyas have not won the tournament since 2007.

“We took another step — in my house, by the way. This is my house,” Ewing said in a postgame television interview. “It’s a great win. Huge win.”

Before Ewing became a Hall of Fame center for the Knicks, his Georgetown teams in the mid-1980s were the beasts of the Big East. Villanova has taken over that role in recent years, winning the last three tournament titles and dominating the Hoyas in the process.

Villanova had won four straight meetings and 13 of 15 against the Hoyas before Thursday.

“We played against the Cadillac, the Bentley, whatever you want to call them, of the Big East — the class of the Big East. And once upon a time that was us. But we took a huge step to be able to knock them off,” Ewing said.

Harris led the way with 18 points and drew a foul on Jeremiah Robinson-Earl driving to the basket with 4.7 seconds to go and the Hoyas down one.

Harris rattled in the first and swished the second to make Georgetown 23 of 23 from the line, the first time a team has shot 100% on at least 20 attempts in the Big East Tournament.

With no timeouts left, Caleb Daniels rushed up court and got off a long 3-pointer in traffic for Villanova, but it missed badly. The top-seeded Wildcats (16-6), playing without injured star Collin Gillespie, had advanced to the Big East semifinals the last five times the tournament was completed.

Last year’s ended halfway through the noon quarterfinal, when the pandemic brought the college basketball season to a halt.

The quarterfinal day at the Garden is often the best of the Big East Tournament. The marathon quadruple-header keeps MSG buzzing from noon to midnight. Not this year.

With COVID-19 restrictions still in place, the Garden was mostly empty for an old-school Big East rivalry between Wildcats and Hoyas. Ewing’s booming voice echoed through the rafters. “Rebound! Rebound!” he shouted after just about every Villanova shot went up.

Each quarterfinal team was given 100 tickets to Thursday’s games. There were maybe a few dozen people in the stands for the noon tipoff. A “Let’s Go Nova!” chant didn’t last long or find many takers.

“It was pretty cool to have some fans in there,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “Not a lot.”

COVID protocols even made it difficult for Ewing to move freely inside the Garden. He said he would have to ask Knicks owner James Dolan about the frequent stops to check his credentials.

“Everybody in this building should know who the hell I am,” Ewing said. “I was like, what the hell? Is this Madison Square Garden? I’m going to have to call Mr, Dolan and say, ‘Jeez, is my number in the rafters or what?’”

MSG Entertainment released a statement saying Ewing and Dolan have a long-standing relationship and the two spoke later in the day.

"We all know, respect and appreciate what (Ewing) means to The Garden and New York. Good luck to him and his Hoyas in the Big East semifinals,” the statement said.

Robinson-Earl led the Wildcats with 26 points and Jermaine Samuels added 20.

The Wildcats went up 70-65 with 1:29 left on consecutive 3s by Cole Swider and Robinson-Earl.

Villanova couldn't close. The Hoyas tied it when Qudus Wahab was fouled by Swider while dunking and completed the three-point play with 40 seconds left.

Robinson-Earl made one of two from the line to make it 71-70 with 18.2 seconds left, and Ewing called a timeout to put the ball in Harris' hands.

“Down the stretch it got down to a one-possession game and they executed those last two possessions a little bit better than us,” Wright said. “We had a tough time controlling Harris.”


Georgetown: The Hoyas are 8-4 since a COVID-19 pause. They had not won even a single Big East Tournament game since 2016 before beating Marquette in the first round Wednesday.

Villanova: Playing its second game without Gillespie (knee), their senior point guard and co-conference player of the year, the Wildcats started Chris Arcidiacono — whose big brother Ryan led the Wildcats to a national title in 2016 — for the first time.

The sophomore contributed three points, five rebounds and four assists. Villanova did have third-leading Justin Moore (left ankle) available. He started the game on the sideline, riding a stationary bike, but ended up scoring 10 points in 27 minutes.


Villanova awaits its NCAA Tournament assignment.

Georgetown split two games against Seton Hall during the regular season.


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