They missed more than 82 percent of their three-pointers. They turned the ball over with verve. They shot barely better than 40 percent.
They did everything except lose. The Wildcats, seeded seventh in the Big East Tournament, beat 10th seed St. John's, 66-53. They continued a surprising run which, barring an avalanche of upsets around the country this weekend, almost assuredly will end with a dance card Sunday evening. Thursday night, they face Louisville, the tournament's No. 2 seed and the No. 4 team in the country.
That would be a tough, improbable win, what with Louisville idle Wednesday; and what with Louisville being a vastly better team. Losing cannot hurt Villanova's NCAA chances.
However, even with three huge wins this season (including one over Louisville), had Villanova lost Wednesday, and had the committee then deemed Villanova's season a mirage, the committee would have been justified. As would have Villanova's outrage.
"I knew there was a chance we could lose this one," said coach Jay Wright. Had that happened, Wright said he and his team would have returned to the Main Line, continued to drill their evolving squad and "take whatever the committee decides."
Villanova, somehow, did not lose. Then again, it almost could not lose. St. John's, gutted by the suspension last week of leading scorer D'Angelo Harrison, is as toothless an opponent as the Wildcats could have drawn in the Big East Tournament.
"They lost their leading scorer," Wright said. "You're not just going to find one . . . You lose your leading scorer? That's huge."
As such, losing to St. John's without Harrison on the floor might have destroyed Villanova's dream of madness.
Wright only gave his team credit for total effort in the second half, but, really, all game the Wildcats defended like maniacs. They dived for every loose ball. They rebounded viciously, if not always successfully.
Usually, they understood their limitations - their many, many limitations - and they played within them.
When the Wildcats are good, that is how they win. It is how they beat Louisville when Louisville was ranked fifth, and how they beat Syracuse when Syracuse was No. 3, both in the same week back in late January.
It is how they beat No. 5 Georgetown last week, the win that reclaimed their relevancy. They lost that relevancy because, in between upsetting the best teams in the conference, they lost to Seton Hall and Cincinnati. They lost to Providence, twice.
All of those teams entered the tournament as lower seeds than Villanova, which won 10 times in the conference for the first time in three seasons - and were expected to finish with fewer than 10 wins again. Picked by the Big East coaches to finish 12th in the conference after a five-win showing last season, after which they lost their two leading scorers, the Wildcats are a testament to how inaccurate preseason polling can be.
Maybe they are a testament to the poor quality of the last real season of Big East basketball. Maybe those big Villanova wins weren't so big after all.
Maybe none of that matters.
It probably won't matter after Thursday night, either. After losses at Villanova, Georgetown and Notre Dame, Louisville has righted itself with seven straight wins.
"They're really hot," Wright said. "They're playing much better now."
So much better that, if his 'Cats sputter the way they did Wednesday, it could be embarrassing.
At one point in the second half Darrun Hilliard leapt from outside of the lane and channeled DeAndre Jordan. Unfortunately, Hilliard is gifted with the leaping ability more similar to that of, well, Akeem Jordan, so Hilliard's dunk attempt looked absurd. "Just wanted to be aggressive there," he said.
Freshman point guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who one day will be a fine shooting guard, committed five turnovers in the first half, after which the teams were tied at 24.
"I just kind of left my feet a couple of times," said Arcidianoco, who threw it away three more times in the second half - but who also dealt five assists and scored 15 points. "I was sloppy with the ball a couple of times."
St. John's was just as sloppy, matching Villanova's 17 turnovers and skewering itself for good with 8 minutes, 21 seconds to play, down by just six points.
That was when Jakaar Sampson, anticipating a tip-slam rebound, grabbed hold of the rim while a teammate gathered the rebound 2 feet from the hoop. Villanova made both technical free throws. By rule, such a technical results in a held ball. The arrow favored the Wildcats, who scored a field goal. Within 11 seconds, instead of cutting it to 46-42, the Red Storm trailed by 50-40.
In other words, sloppy, dumb basketball helped the Wildcats to their largest lead since midway through the first half.
They cannot expect that sort of help from Louisville.
Not that it matters.
On Twitter: @inkstainedretch