A broken foot suffered in the summer limited Johnson's playing time early in the season, which kept a needed ballhandler off the court to play with Wayns.
"I'm like a scorer at heart," Wayns said after he made 8 of 13 shots. "He helps me. He's a great point guard. He can get me shots, and that allows me to get off the ball and still get other people shots and get my shots."
DePaul arrived coming off a big win over Pittsburgh. The Blue Demons brought a frenetic playing style that seemed to be just what Villanova needed. It's hard to say when the last time 'Nova - or anybody else - scored 87 points while committing 28 turnovers. But the Wildcats continually got to the basket after breaking DePaul's pressure and made 56 percent of their shots. They also held DePaul (10-5, 1-2 Big East) to just 38.2 percent shooting, including 8 of 27 on three-pointers (29.6 percent).
Most important, Villanova (8-8, 1-3) put Thursday's dreadful performance against South Florida behind it heading into Wednesday's Wells Fargo Center visit from top-ranked Syracuse.
"The thing about the South Florida game for us, we were getting better, and we took a step back," Wright said. "But we had to do it to get some things straight within our family, and it was worth it today."
Wayns and Cheek didn't start against South Florida.
"We had a film session," Wright said, explaining what was behind the move. "I said we needed to do some things in practice. They didn't do it the way I wanted them to as leaders. So being a leader is a lot of responsibility, and it's a privilege to start, so we just made the point. But we were fine."
Wright took the way the three juniors responded Sunday as a great sign.
"I said to them the other day, 'If we had seniors, you wouldn't have to do this, but I'm asking you to act like you're 22 and lead like you've been here for four years,' " Wright said.
Johnson had his share of the turnovers in the second half, but his biggest contribution came early. He had five assists and two turnovers along with five points as the Cats grabbed a 48-36 halftime lead. It also released Cheek to play a little more freely. He got 11 first-half points, scoring inside and out.
Wright said the goal all along has been to get Johnson more playing time, "but the dude was out for five months. He didn't know what we were doing. He was out of shape. . . . Ty just wasn't ready."
Nobody is claiming Villanova's problems are solved. Wright said that mature teams can miss shots and not have it affect their defense. Against DePaul, 'Nova's defensive pressure was higher, and the Cats won the rebounding war, 45-23.
"If you're like us, inexperienced, as we continued to miss shots against South Florida I think it demoralized us defensively, which it shouldn't, and it can't. But on this team so far, it does," Wright said. "We got energy tonight. We were making shots. It got us excited defensively."
Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter.