Sophomore slump? Certainly not. Step forward? Not exactly. If you only looked at the counting stats, you might conclude that Justin Moore’s second season as a Villanova Wildcat was a continuation of the first. Moore put up nearly the same points per game on a per minute basis as he did when he was a freshman. And while he saw a 3% uptick in shooting percentage, that improvement was evened out by an 8% drop in three point shooting. However, digging beyond the basic stats, Villanova’s sophomore combo guard took important strides forward as both a scorer and an on-ball playmaker, and that bodes well for him and for the Wildcats next season.
Justin Moore Career Stats
Justin Moore Stats
Sophomore Year Breakdown
If when Collin Gillespie leaves Villanova, the Wildcats will need a steady hand at the wheel to lead the offense. Justin Moore has been the heir apparent to Gillespie ever since he commanded a spot in the Villanova rotation next to the then-Junior guard. However in his freshman season, Moore was mainly called upon to catch and shoot or attack closeouts. His assist rate of 12.4% registered below that of Gillespie, Saddiq Bey, and Jermaine Samuels, a clear indication that Coach Jay Wright wanted to bring Moore along slowly. According to KenPom’s “Most Frequent Lineups” tool, Moore at lead guard was utilized just 12% of the time last season.
Fast forward a year and it’s obvious how much Justin Moore’s role on offense has changed. As a sophomore, Moore bumped his assists up from 1.9 to 3.0 per game. As a percentage, Moore assisted on 17.9% of all baskets when he was on the floor, which ranked second on the team behind only Gillespie. Almost equally as important, Moore bumped his assist rate without seeing any corresponding increase in turnovers. In fact, Villanova’s starting shooting guard saw a decrease in turnovers, from 1.8 to 1.5 per game.
On the scoring side, the letdown this season came from beyond the arc. Justin Moore caught our attention when he (purportedly) rained threes down in a “secret” scrimmage against UNC. That shooting continued into the actual games, where Moore knocked down 39.6% of his 5 threes per game. As a sophomore the three point shooting dropped off a cliff, falling to just 31.0% on 5.2 attempts per game.
It’s not all bad news on the scoring front though. Firstly, Moore took the same quantity of threes and took more difficult attempts as a sophomore. Those are both good things for his development, and his shot mechanics still look good as ever. Secondly, and most encouragingly, Moore improved dramatically as a scorer at the basket. As a freshman, Moore relied too heavily on craft and would often get forced into a difficult attempt at the rim if he was unsuccessful with his hesitation move. The stats bear this out: Freshman Moore took 28.1% of his shots at the rim and shot just 50.0%, good for fourth and last on the team, respectively.
In his sophomore season, Moore got to the rim more often and converted with a high level of efficiency. Not only did Villanova’s two guard get stronger with his hesitation drives, but he also quite literally got stronger and learned how to utilize his strength and bully smaller guards. Like a true Wildcat ballhandler he even worked some post-ups into his repertoire. As a result Justin Moore took 37.5% of his shots at the rim and shot an impressive 65.7% there. The last guard to get to the rim for 37% of their shots, make more than 65% of their attempts, and take at least 270 shots over a season was none other than, you guessed it, Jalen Brunson, who did so as a sophomore.
There are plenty of aspects of to Justin Moore’s game that need improvement. Moore is still a below average defender that rarely makes plays on that end. He will need to improve on the 16 steals and 9 blocks he produced in 25 games this season. Villanova’s combo guard should also leverage his great patience and craft in the lane and turn those strengths into more free throw attempts. His 19.9% free throw attempt rate ranked second to last on the team ahead of just Cole Swider.
That said, Justin Moore has all the tools he needs to excel on the offensive end of the floor, and his improvement as a defender will continue as he grows into the system. Moore’s 3PT shooting will bounce back, maybe not to the level of his freshman season, but enough to skyrocket his scoring efficiency if it even ticks up to just 35%. His playmaking, which improved as a sophomore, should continue as he becomes more confident and better on the ball. As a scorer, Moore’s development as a drive and finish guard will open up the floor for teammates and provide Villanova with an effective scoring option when the offense bogs down.
Expect great things from Justin Moore in 2021-22.