Villanova coach Jay Wright likes to use the term “teaching moment.”
His Wildcats certainly received one Wednesday night against Michigan.
This wasn’t Morgan State or Quinnipiac.
This was a rematch of last season’s title game vs. Michigan, and the No. 8 Wildcats were no match for the 18th-ranked Wolverines, suffering a 73-46 loss Wednesday night at Finneran Pavilion as part of the Gavitt Tipoff Games.
Yes, Villanova lost its four top scorers from last season’s squad, but Michigan lost three of its top scorers in Moritz Wagner, Allentown’s Muhammed Ali Abdur-Rahkman and Duncan Robinson.
“Whatever the final score was, it wasn’t that close,” Wright said. “They know that. When you play in that game, you know that. Hopefully it’s a great learning experience for us.”
After winning its first two games by 23 and 33 points, Villanova suffered its worst loss ever in its on-campus arena, which opened in 1986. The previous was a 100-74 defeat to Providence in February 2004.
It’s the Wildcats’ worst loss overall since the 28-pointer to Creighton (never forget Ethan Wragge) at the Wells Fargo Center in January 2014.
“You try as a coach and with leaders, not to have to learn this way,” Wright said. “There’s a possibility to learn without having to get blown out.”
The loss also broke the Wildcats’ streak of 35 straight wins in November; they hadn’t lost in the month of November since 2012, a 77-74 loss to La Salle in overtime.
This one was over by halftime.
The Wildcats were out of sync on offense and barely saw any open looks.
The Wolverines, not considered an offensive juggernaut, found plenty. The Wildcats couldn’t stop them.
With the sparkling new scoreboard above him reading Michigan 44, Villanova 17 at halftime, Bill Finneran, the arena’s namesake, took the floor.
Finneran, whose $22.6 million gift helped fund the arena’s renovations, addressed the shell-shocked fans. The Villanova alum (class of ’63) called out the freshmen in the stands and said this was worst half they’d see in their time at the university.
They’d better hope he’s right.
Villanova needed 4:32 to make its first field goal.
In the first half the Wildcats had six field goals had 10 turnovers. They allowed Michigan to shoot 56.3 percent (18 for 32) and pile up five blocks and four steals.
Things didn’t get better in the second half. The deficit quickly hit a game-high 32, and with 9:48 to go, the Wildcats trailed 60-30.
Villanova finished with 14 field goals and 21 turnovers.
“We knew they were a great defensive team coming in,” Wright said. “I think I said to a couple of you before the game I thought this could be [coach John Beilein’s] best defensive team ever.”
This game simply came at a bad time for Wright, who is still experimenting with various lineup combinations.
“We’re running guys in and out. We’re not as organized as we want to be,” Wright said. “We’re just trying to find a lineup here early in the season, and then when you play a good team and you’re doing that, it doesn’t look good.
“We were too disorganized out there to play against a team like that.”
Wright started seniors Eric Paschall and Phil Booth along with three sophomores in Collin Gillespie, Jermaine Samuels and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree.
“Phil and Eric felt the pressure to kinda get us going,” Wright said. “We weren’t in sync, so they felt like they had to get it going. They’re too good of a defensive team — they read that.”
Paschall was the only Wildcat in double-figures — and barely. He had 10 points on 3 of 14 shooting.
“Like Coach said, I definitely felt that pressure,” Paschall said.
Booth had nine points on 2 of 8 shooting, both 3-pointers.
“They executed the offense way better than we prepared to play defense,” Booth said. “They caught us off-balance. … We weren’t ready to handle what they were bringing to us offensively.”
Gillespie had just five points on 1 for 3 shooting and frequently was exploited on defense.
The Wildcats had trouble getting to the basket and even more trouble stopping the Wolverines from doing so.
Michigan guard Charles Matthews scored a game-high 19 points and had three blocks, forward Ignas Brazdeikis had 18 points and seven rebounds, and guard Zavier Simpson had nine points, six assists and five steals.
“We couldn’t get by them. They just chested us and kept us in front of them,” Wright said. “Just a really good defensive team.”
On the other end ...
“They got by us a lot,” Wright said.
The Wildcats made mistakes in their first two games, but players don’t always listen after wins. Especially young players.
“You get beat by 30, that’s a wake-up call, now we’re going to listen. You try not to do that,” Wright said. “You try to say ‘OK look, we’re winning, but this stuff’s important, and please listen. That’s youth you know, that’s youth.”
There certainly will be a lot of listening before the Wildcats’ next game, at home Saturday against Furman.