Derrick Wilson shows no lull in extended minutes

Derrick Wilson wasn’t fully prepared Saturday afternoon against Pittsburgh to play his usual 14 minutes per game. And he surely wasn’t prepared to play 31 minutes, including all but 12 seconds in the second half and overtime as Marquette’s lone point guard. But none of that mattered.

Same old Derrick.

Earlier in the week, Wilson suffered a death in the family and, as Buzz Williams relayed following the game, the sophomore missed two and a half days of practice, presumably to be with his family. But as Wilson has done so many times in his young Marquette career, he put on another gutsy performance in crunch time to help Marquette pull off a 74-67 overtime win over the Panthers.

Wilson, who was on the lesser end of a head-on-head collision with Pittsburgh point guard Trayvon Woodall in the opening minutes, returned to the game shortly after, and later found himself in an extended role when starter Junior Cadougan rolled his left ankle in the first half. Cadougan returned briefly to close the first half, but didn’t play thereafter.

Despite the increase in minutes — the 31 minutes were nine more than his previous career-high — Wilson’s numbers didn’t relay his importance. He provided solid defense on freshman James Robinson, but had just one point, two rebounds and an assist. But what did matter was that the 6-foot-1 point guard committed just one turnover against a Panther team forcing turnovers on more than 23 percent of opponents’ possessions, the 42nd best mark in the nation.

Derrick Wilson shook off an early injury scare and led Marquette in a career-high 31 minutes. (USA Today Images)

Derrick Wilson shook off an early injury and led Marquette while playing a career-high 31 minutes. (USA Today Images)

The worst thing Wilson could have done was try and force the game out of his comfort zone, something Marquette has seen far too often this season when things begin to spiral out of control. Wilson attempted just three shots (0-3), all close range shots, and played game manager while Davante Gardner and Vander Blue went to work. He even made a free throw in the final minute of the second half, extending Marquette’s lead to four, 57-53, in what would wind up helping force overtime.

Buzz Williams made noise when he said Wilson deserved to start over Cadougan, but there were still undoubtedly moments where senior leadership could have been used at the point. On Pittsburgh’s final possession of the second half, Wilson and Trent Lockett had a miscommunication on who was to guard Lamar Patterson, who was left wide open and drained a 3-pointer to send the game to overtime. There’s no way of telling, but Cadougan — Marquette’s best decision maker in the clutch — likely would have had the play figured out.

So while Wilson remains a superb back-up, he’s not going to be Cadougan this year. Wilson may never be a scorer like him — or Dwight Buycks or Mo Acker or Dominic James before him — or average close to the 17.0 points per game he had as a high school senior. But if there’s one thing Wilson will be (aside from a pesky defender) is someone who understands his role and excels within a system.

His 2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio is tied for 43rd in the country, and only 12 of those players above him are underclassmen. Further, just five of those 11 are point guards. Last month we looked at how the Marquette offense runs more efficient with Wilson in the game than out. He’s got just two turnovers in 51 Big East minutes. The list goes on, but you get the picture.

Yesterday Wilson showed off his skill-set, proving that his impressive numbers aren’t just a product of playing scattered minutes. Marquette may be without Cadougan — Williams gave no update on his injury status — but if his Pittsburgh performance was any indication, the offense is still in a position to succeed with Wilson, the man Williams called Marquette’s best leader, at the point.

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