NEW YORK — Within the first 50 seconds of Villanova’s win over St. John’s on Saturday afternoon, Jay Wright had to call a timeout.
“That was our key to the game,” Wright explained after the game. “Don’t let [D’Angelo Harrison] get threes in transition. And then, bang, bang.”
Harrison’s two three-pointers in the first minute of play underscored a fundamental truth about this year’s Wildcats: they’re young and they make mistakes.
Villanova ranks 211th in the country in turnovers with 14 per game, leading, in part, to the fact that they surrender 70 points per game, 242nd in the nation.
“I know it’s ugly and I know it’s hard for you all to take,” said Wright. “If you have to come watch us every night, it’s ugly. I’d rather them being aggressive, but it just comes from inexperience.”
And all that inexperience, so far, has translated into a 3-5 record in the Big East and a 10-10 record overall. Chosen to finish 8th in the preseason media poll, the Wildcats sit solidly at 12th. With games on the road against Louisville and at home against Marquette, they could fall to 3-7 and deeper toward the bottom of the Big East heap.
Villanova’s problem is a collection of skilled players who haven’t always taken individual performances and made something greater than the sum of their parts.
On the road at Cincinnati on Jan. 14, a 39-point, 13-rebound performance by Maalik Wayns was negated by 16 team turnovers, coming together for an 82-78 loss.
“We’re a young team and we’re going through some struggles,” said Wright. “This year, it’s not going to bother me. Next year, the year after that, if guys keep making mistakes, yeah. But we’re going to have to deal with [mistakes] this year.”
In the same conversation about strong individual performances, JayVaughn Pinkston won Big East Rookie of the Week and Wayns won Player of the Week in the conference this past week.
Wright sees a light in that fact, saying Wayns and fellow junior Dominic Cheek are “growing into leaders of the program.”
“Maalik is really learning how to be aggressive as a scorer and work as a distributor. He’s starting to put it all together,” he said.
Wayns has strung together an impressive streak in Big East play, posting 92 points in his last three games, two of which were Wildcat wins.
“My coaches and teammates have full confidence in me and that’s allowed me to play well,” said Wayns. “I have no fear of failure and my team has no fear of failure.”
Maybe that “no fear of failure” will bode well in the future, as Jay Wright builds and develops talent at Villanova.
“These are the things we have to go through as a team. Play ugly on the road and find a way to win.”