Villanova Basketball: 5 Things to Feel Good About After Syracuse Loss
Villanova's young team hosted undefeated Syracuse on Wednesday night. After a promising start, The Orange really took it to the Wildcats. Jay Wright's squad fell to 8-9, 1-4 in the Big East.
They have four freshmen that play significant minutes, with one sophomore, three juniors and no seniors. It was a real long shot that Villanova could even give them a game, let alone win, but despite being outclassed, there were reasons for encouragement.
Here are five positives to take out of Wednesday's 79-66 loss.
5. Got More Scoring Outside of Maalik Wayns
Prior to Wednesday night's game, Villanova was averaging 72.7 points per game. That's not bad, but the problem was, 17.4 were coming from their point guard, Maalik Wayns. The rest of the team was only combining for just 55.3.
Wayns is almost the sole focus of every defense he faces, making it increasingly difficult for him to carry the load.
Against Syracuse, only three of their 63 points came from Wayns. Three players scored 12 points and five players scored at least eight.
If they can get that production on a nightly basis, with Wayns hitting his average, they could be a lot more competitive.
4. JayVaughn Pinkston
Pinkston is one of five freshmen on the roster. He was a McDonald's All-American, so there were some expectations for him.
After averaging just 5.9 points per game over the first 13 games, he has really started to pick up his play.
Over the last four games, Pinkston is scoring 12.5 points per game on 56 percent shooting. He has also gotten to the free-throw line 28 times, hitting 20 of them.
More than the numbers is the way he is playing. Pinkston is attacking the rim and showing aggression and making good use of his 260-pound body.
3. Ty Johnson
Another freshman, Johnson was the most highly touted off the bunch. A broken foot over the summer really slowed his early-season progress.
Starting the last two games to take some pressure off Wayns, he has shown some spark.
He is averaging 7.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists as a starter. He's hit 5-of-9 from the field, and all three of his three-point attempts.
He's had some issues with turnovers, giving it away 13 times, but he will only get better as he gets more comfortable.
2. They Never Quit
As tough as this season has been for Villanova supporters, it has to be even tougher for those kids on the court.
They have struggled and been inconsistent, and it just can't be a lot of fun the way some of the games have gone.
No matter what they've been through, no matter how frustrating or how far down, they never quit. They never hang their heads or bicker or start an altercation with the other team.
This is a group of kids that plays together as a team, and eventually they will start winning as a team.
1. Team Defense
If you've watched Villanova this season, you've seen a lot of defensive breakdowns.
Once a Villanova staple, defense has not been their forte. As athletic as they are, they are able to play strong on-ball defense, but they have struggled in other areas.
When teams move the ball, drive and kick or run ball screens, it almost always has ended up in a wide-open shot. Too many of those wide-open shots have been back-breaking threes.
Against Syracuse, Villanova played their best game defensively, contesting every shot and holding the Orange to just 5-of-18 from three-point range.
The 79 points they allowed is misleading, as 40 of them came off turnovers and second-chance points.
So while they are below .500 and have lost four of five in conference play, this young team is starting to put some things together.
You will see a different team by February.