WASHINGTON -- James Bell scored 16 points, and No. 9 Villanova prevailed in a messy, foul-plagued game of stops and starts Monday night for a 65-60 victory over Georgetown, the Hoyas' fifth straight loss.
Daniel Ochefu added 12 points on 5-for-5 shooting for the Wildcats (18-2, 7-1 Big East), who forced 18 turnovers while committing 16. Villanova made 22 of 28 free throws and moved into a tie with first-place Creighton atop the Big East.
Markel Starks scored 20 points for the short-handed Hoyas (11-9, 3-6), whose roster underwent two more changes before the game. Georgetown has its longest losing streak since 2011 and has dropped three straight at home for the first time since 2009.
The game included 34 turnovers, 41 field goals and 39 fouls. At least it was competitive: The biggest lead was eight points -- and that's only because Georgetown scored the first eight points of the game.
After topping off at No. 4 in the Top 25, Villanova has had all it can handle in its last three games. No opponent shot 50 per cent or better against the Wildcats in their first 17 games, but they allowed Creighton to shoot 57 per cent in a loss and Marquette to hit 50 per cent in an overtime win. Georgetown was at 55 per cent at halftime, but the Hoyas went cold late and finished at 44 per cent.
Georgetown fell short again on a day of more ups and downs with player moves. Jabril Trawick returned after missing five games with a broken jaw and played 12 minutes. The Hoyas learned shortly before tipoff that senior centre Moses Ayegba had to sit out due to a one-game NCAA suspension.
Ayegba's suspension looked like a bureaucratic mess, even by NCAA standards. It was related to the nine-game suspension he received as a freshman for violating pre-enrolment rules, an infraction that the Hoyas have said was connected to a plane ticket that brought him from Nigeria to the United States years ago -- before Georgetown even started recruiting him.
The Hoyas are playing without centre Joshua Smith, who was recently ruled out for the rest of the season due to academic issues. Bradley Hayes, who had played 13 minutes all season, got some crucial playing time in both halves.
Villanova led 35-30 at halftime. The Hoyas' game-opening 8-0 run was answered immediately by a 9-0 spurt by the Wildcats. Consecutive three-pointers by Villanova's Ryan Arcidiacono created the closest thing to momentum over the first 20 minutes.
Starks drove baseline to tie the game at 35, and he gave the Hoyas their first lead of the second half, 41-39, with two free throws with 14:42 to play.
From there, it was back-and-forth. Georgetown's Aaron Bowen saluted the crowd after a three-pointer that tied the game at 46, while Ochefu stretched every bit of his frame to make a layup that gave the Wildcats a 61-56 lead.
Starks' floater cut the deficit to 61-58 with 2:08 to play, but he was called for an offensive foul after making a pass under the basket with 35 seconds remaining. Villanova then made a series of free throws to hold on for the win.