It was the kind of simple, unthinking act of leadership usually seen from seniors or coaches.

As Villanova was sealing an upset of Texas on Saturday, there was freshman Scottie Reynolds, walking down the court to make free throws with his steady hands on the backs of two teammates.

It was a perfect symbol of how, in just a few weeks, Reynolds has matured from a deferential rookie to a court-savvy leader.

"Sometimes in practice and sometimes in games, I would feel I couldn't do this or that," Reynolds recalled. "I [thought I] had the seniors looking over my shoulder, so should I be doing this? Now it's to the point where I have an understanding with the seniors that I can be aggressive within the offense."

Since that epiphany, Reynolds has helped the Wildcats (13-5 overall, 2-3 Big East) find their flow, leading the way in defeating two top-25 teams last week. He will try to keep it going tonight in a Big East meeting with Providence (13-5, 3-2) on the road.

Lately, it seems as if Reynolds is growing a year older with every game.

Last week was a benchmark stretch for the point guard from Herndon, Va. In a win over No. 20 Notre Dame on Wednesday, he scored a career-high 27 points. Three days later, in the upset of No. 21 Texas at the Wachovia Center, he led all scorers with 26.

Fans entered the Wachovia Center expecting a big game from Texas freshman Kevin Durant, but they left talking about Reynolds.

"I think Scottie is finding his role on this team," said sophomore Shane Clark. "He's doing whatever he can to help this team win."

After turning the ball over five times with just one assist in a 57-56 loss at West Virginia on Jan. 3, Reynolds said, he had "a wake-up call."

He followed up with 25 points in a 73-65 loss to DePaul, hitting seven three-pointers. In Villanova's last five games, Reynolds has averaged 21.6 points.

It's no surprise that Reynolds watches highlight films of last year's point guard, Kyle Lowry, whose energy and swagger were catalysts for the Wildcats.

"I'm trying to bring that energy and toughness without fear on the court," Reynolds said. "I look up to him a lot."

Reynolds came to Villanova trying to prove that he was not some show-off McDonald's all-American with an instant starting spot, but a team player willing to do the dirty work and let the seniors soak up the glory.

It was sometimes a detriment early in the season.

In postgame news conferences, Reynolds lowered his head when coach Jay Wright talked about his unnecessary selflessness.

When a reporter asked whether Reynolds was becoming the team's leader, Wright put the brakes on the talk lest Reynolds take it as a cue to slither back into the shadows.

"Don't," Wright said with a laugh after the Texas game. "I don't even like to talk about that too much, or he'll stop shooting. Scottie believes that [seniors] Mike Nardi and Will Sheridan and Curtis Sumpter should be the stars of this team. What he's starting to learn is they don't care who the star is."

Reynolds has started speaking up more in practice, which Wright says is a positive sign.

The other day, Wright said he and Reynolds "got into it in a positive way" when Reynolds offered an inapplicable suggestion. But against Texas, Reynolds suggested a certain Villanova defensive scheme on Durant, and Wright agreed.

"I like that he's thinking that way," Wright said. "That's what point guards have to do. When you're a freshman, usually you don't understand the system well enough to make a suggestion properly."

Wright calls Reynolds "a dream to coach."

"He doesn't drink," Wright said. "He doesn't smoke. He goes to church on Sundays and misses practice. He plays his butt off."

Reynolds has grown up in a hurry.

"This is a whole different level," he said. "You don't want to be known as just a high school all-American. I'm trying to be a Villanova guard."

Sumpter's status. Sumpter is listed as questionable for tonight's game with a deep bone bruise on his left shin.

Contact staff writer Shannon Ryan at 215-854-5503 or sryan@phillynews.com.