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Pinkston grows into bigger role for Villanova

It was a little play, meaningless really, in a game that was never in doubt. Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston stood open in the corner. A teammate saw him, sent the ball over.

Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston. (Jason DeCrow/AP)
Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston. (Jason DeCrow/AP)Read more

It was a little play, meaningless really, in a game that was never in doubt. Villanova's JayVaughn Pinkston stood open in the corner. A teammate saw him, sent the ball over.

A meaningless play that tells you a little something about why, Creighton debacle aside, this team is a handful on so many nights. Why Pinkston matters so much to this team even when he's not having one of his big nights.

"I didn't receive a good-enough pass to catch and shoot, so once I caught it, I bobbled it," Pinkston said last weekend after his team had beaten DePaul.

A blown play? No, Pinkston fought for the suddenly loose ball, wrested it free, turned his back to the defender, and . . . threw it to a teammate outside.

The next stoppage, Jay Wright took Pinkston out.

"When he gets tired, he'll bobble a pass, so I knew he was tired," Wright said.

As Pinkston walked by his coach, Wright said something to him before the junior forward sat down. Did Wright remember what?

"I said, 'That was actually a great play,' " Wright said after that game. "In the past, when he lost the ball, he would have just picked it up and done something crazy. . . . He would have tried to make up for the mistake by just going to the rim out of control. He's really playing slower, under control, and really much smarter."

When Wright talks about this team having the highest basketball IQ of any of his 'Nova teams, Pinkston, Villanova's leading scorer, is a big part of it. His line score in the 88-62 thrashing of DePaul was nothing special: Eight points, 2-of-5 shooting, 4 of 4 from the line, two assists, no turnovers.

On offense, there seemed to be no times when Pinkston was in the wrong place, and no times when the offense stopped when the ball got to him.

"Really, it's corny, we all say this as coaches, but he really has grown as a young man here, which really helps your decision-making as a basketball player," said Wright, whose 17-2 team is at Georgetown on Monday night. "Tonight, they came into the game saying he's not beating us. We got him the ball, but they doubled him every time. So he had to keep giving it up, giving it up, giving it up.

"Even we had to decide at times, just don't go to him; we know what's going to happen, we've done that five times. As a scorer, if you're not mature, that drives you crazy."

Maybe another sign of Pinkston's growing maturity: Officials clearly blew a last-second call Saturday at Marquette, calling a charge that wasn't a charge, costing Villanova a win in regulation. The Wildcats got it done in overtime, but Pinkston may have pulled off the game-winning play before the OT when he pulled Wright away from the refs as 'Nova's coach vented over the call.

A couple of years back, Villanova's offense often seemed to consist of getting the ball to Pinkston above the foul line and getting out of his way, seeing what he could create.

"Back then, we weren't good enough offensively," Wright said. "We needed him to have a 25-point night. And he knew it. And that was fun for him."

And Wright pointed out, a lot of players, even talented ones, when they get to 16 or 17 or even 20 points, they don't have "the killer instinct" to keep going, get more points.

"He does," Wright said. "Which is rare."

That's why an eight-point game was a big deal for a guy averaging 16. He knew he'd done his job.

"Coach always tells me I'm always going to get doubled, so I just need to make the best pass, which is the next-closest pass," Pinkston said. "That's what I've been trying to do this year."

What's the satisfaction-to-frustration level on making such plays?

"It's always there, it's always 50-50," Pinkston said. "I'm the playmaker when I'm getting doubled, so I've got to make the smarter pass."

He has emphasized other things, too. Getting in better condition, running the floor more. Gambling less on defense. In the DePaul game, there were only a couple of plays when Pinkston got into a bad spot defensively. On one of those, a teammate helped, and Pinkston got back to block the shot.

"I don't really judge myself off offense," Pinkston said. "I think I judge myself off defense, and I think I played a great defensive game."

He always knows where to find his offensive game since it never strays too far.

"Down the line, probably, I will get one-on-ones, where I can score 27 - or whatever points I can get," Pinkston said.