WASHINGTON - What Villanova wants to do is as obvious as it is simple. These Wildcats aim to create chaos.
They major in disorientation. It could come early, in the middle or late. But it is coming.
It came early at the Verizon Center last evening in the BB & T Classic against Maryland.
The ball was going end to end and side to side so fast the fans could have gotten dizzy trying to follow it. Not so long ago, Maryland had the kind of NBA-level players who would have reveled in that kind of game. Not now.
That is Villanova's game these days. Missed shot, outlet, pass, layup/three. When these Wildcats make long shots, they are just about unbeatable. They made long shots last night.
The Wildcats had an insane 11 treys by halftime and finished with 16.
They led by 15 early in second. The Terrapins fed off the chaos for a time, closed to within three and had two shots to tie that did not go. Villanova started defending and running again. It was back to 13 way faster than it got to three and ended, 95-86.
It was essentially a home game for the Terrapins. It was not as frenzied as the Comcast Center in College Park, but it had many of the same elements, with the students, all decked out in red, beyond one baseline.
"That was a real quality win," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We have great respect for the Maryland team . . . It wasn't really like playing at Maryland, but it was close."
It was the student end where Villanova's basket was located in the first half. No. 3 Villanova (8-0) did not appear overwhelmed by the surroundings. The Wildcats started playing fast and then went faster, faster, faster. Blink and you would have missed the blur. And there were all those treys.
Late in the first half, the 'Cats had as many threes (10) as the Terps (5-3) had field goals. This is not good math for a team trying to beat No. 3.
Maryland trailed by 11 after 6 minutes because they had more turnovers than shot attempts. That is also bad math.
Playing not far from his home in Herndon, Va., Scottie Reynolds looked like a first-team All-America. He had 25 points and eight assists.
More than the numbers, he was completely locked into the moment, seeing everything, feeling everything and making everything happen. He was equal parts crafty, accurate and smooth. That it was near his home only added to the moment.
"This is like my Madison Square Garden," Reynolds said of the Verizon Center. "But when you step on the court, it's for the Villanova that you wear on the jersey."
Corey Stokes has the best stroke in the city. When he gets time to get set, he doesn't miss much. He got time against the Terps and had 18 points, including five treys.
When Maryland finally charged the shooters, the 'Cats super-quick perimeter players (and that certainly includes the bench players who would be starting for 95 percent of America's programs) put the ball on the floor and roared to the rim. Corey Fisher (20 points) was living in the gaps, creating his usual havoc on defense and, on this night, like his teammates, making threes (four).
"When I get into the lane, I'm always going to draw attention," Fisher said.
When he does, the court opens up. And good things happen.
The 'Cats have been winning early this season with their defense, always a constant in the program. This was about offense, lots of offense.
"We give our guys a lot of freedom shooting the ball, as everybody sees," Wright said. "We really haven't been shooting the ball [well]."
They shot 16-for-39 from deep, which more than makes up for 40 percent overall shooting. The extra pass led to some great looks from the arc.
"That's the first time this year we've done that," Wright said. "We really did move the ball."
Yes, Villanova did get a bit excited and sort of forgot about defense for a time. Maryland did shoot 52.8 percent against a team that had allowed just 36.6 percent shooting through seven games.
But that is human nature. When the ball is going in the basket, you sometimes don't mind taking it out of the other basket so you can get it back in yours.
Villanova won all the hustle stats, getting 23 offensive rebounds to just seven for Maryland, 32 points off turnovers to just nine for Terps and 29 second-chance points to 10 for Maryland.
In a game against a good opponent not far from that oppenent's campus, it was all quite enough for another win in a season that promises many more for a team that could play deep into March again. Or maybe even April. Again.