ROSEMONT, Ill. - With Villanova again on national network television, playing on the court of a ranked opponent, Josh Hart found himself with another chance to influence those who select college basketball's national player of the year.
Hart finished with 11 points, equaling a season low, in the second-ranked Wildcats' 73-57 victory over Xavier Saturday at the Cintas Center in Cincinnati. But if the folks with influence in the voting saw only the points, then they missed the point.
The 6-foot-5 senior, named a finalist last week for the Naismith Trophy and the Wooden Award given to the sport's player of the year, grabbed seven rebounds, handed out five assists and posted four steals. In addition, with rugged defender and rebounder Darryl Reynolds sidelined with a rib injury, Hart also defended Xavier's two 6-9 forwards, RaShid Gaston and Tyrique Jones, for much of the second half, and held his own.
Hart would be happy to contribute to another win by the Wildcats (24-2, 11-2 Big East), who get another chance at one Monday night without Reynolds against DePaul (8-17, 1-11) at Allstate Arena, with the same all-around game.
"Everyone thinks if you're a player of the year candidate, you've got to go out there and score 20 or 25," Hart said after the game. "I'm sorry to break it to some people, it's not the award for who scores the most. It's about going out there and being a Villanova basketball player, getting everyone involved.
"I can't come out here and just think about scoring. As one of the guys at the top of the other team's scouting report, I've got to get other people involved, doing little things, having my offense be derived from that. Obviously you want to score 20 or 25, but I can't focus on that. I've got to focus on making the right play. Probably 70 percent of the time it won't be shooting."
With three weeks left in the regular season, Villanova has started a player-of-the-year push for Hart, a link its website called "All Hart" that includes sections like Hart Beat, Follow Your Hart and Hart Monitor.
Certainly Wildcats coach Jay Wright, who won his 500th game Saturday, wants people to see everything Hart can do, that there's much more to his game than scoring even as he continues to lead the Big East in scoring at 18.8 points per game.
"I want people to know that about him," he said. "We switch him [defensively] on to whoever we think has got it going. We had trouble guarding the post, so we put him on the post. Offensively down the stretch, we went to him. They were doubling him early on the perimeter so we told him to go to the offensive glass, play off the ball. He'll do whatever it takes to win. He's such a winner."
Hart's class already has a program record 121 wins, and he'd like to get as many more as he can before he leaves.
"Trust me, if we win the rest of our games in my college career and I have the numbers I had [against Xavier], I will be more than happy with it," he said.
Wright said Reynolds did not participate in the team's practice Sunday at the Chicago Bulls' facility and described him as "doubtful" for Monday night. He said "we're going to trust him when he says he can go" but doesn't think that will be against DePaul.
With six players logging a total of 197 minutes Saturday, Wright said the team was doing "everything to keep them fresh," Wright said. He said there was some light shooting and a walk-through on what to expect from DePaul, but nothing live.