NEWARK, N.J. – Villanova wasn’t ready to surrender its No. 1 ranking that quickly.
Despite trailing No. 23 Notre Dame for the first 30-plus minutes of action Saturday, Josh Hart and the Wildcats kept the Fighting Irish at striking distance and stormed ahead late for a 74-66 win in the Never Forget Tribute Classic at the Prudential Center.
The Wildcats wouldn’t take their first lead of the game until the nine-minute mark of the second half, which would put the teams on the seesaw for the next few minutes of action. Trailing the Fighting Irish, 62-61, with over six minutes remaining in the game, Villanova went on a 12-5 run to close out its 10th win in as many tries.
Hart continued his spectacular senior season, pouring in a career-high 37 points, pulling down 11 rebounds and dishing out four assists, all team highs. Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Eric Paschall each chipped in eight points behind Hart.
Colson Bonzie and Matt Farrelll each scored 18 points each for the Fighting Irish.
Leading 68-66 with under two minutes remaining, a Kris Jenkins three pointer clanked off the back of the rim and fell to the ground as a loose ball. Jalen Brunson corralled the ball before it went out of bounds and was fouled by Matt Farrell. Brunson hit both free throws to extend the Wildcats’ lead to four.
Bonzie missed an open look at a three on the other end and Darryl Reynolds was fouled after grabbing the rebound off the miss. Reynolds sunk both free throws to put the game on ice.
Big men on campus
Villanova: Josh Hart
Hart kept Villanova in striking distance in the first half, scoring over half of his team’s points (19) and chipping in four rebounds and three assists. Hart continued his dominance in the second half with another 18 points and seven rebounds. The senior was 10 of 14 from the field, three of four from deep and a perfect 14 for 14 from the free throw line.
Notre Dame: Matt Farrell
The Bridgewater, New Jersey, native had an impressive homecoming. Farrell gave Villanova’s defense fits all afternoon with his scoring and playmaking abilities out of the pick-and-roll, as he finished with 18 points on 8 of 13 shooting from the field and six assists.
Inside the box score
• Both teams struggled from deep. Notre Dame shot 6 of 22 and Villanova hit 4 of its 16 attempts
• Notre Dame led for 30:54 of playing time.
• A lot of the game was played in the half court, as both teams combined for just 13 fast-break points.
Villanova returns to The Pavilion for its fourth Big Five matchup of the early season, as the Wildcats play host to Temple on Tuesday.