Traffic on the Blue Route was Friday-night heavy, which meant late arrivals inside Villanova's Pavilion pretty much missed the show, the competitive portion of things anyway.
Ninety minutes before the tip, Villanova's students had lined up almost out to Ithan Avenue, a new development befitting a national title. (Some "Party Like It's 1985" T-shirts seemed positively old-school.) Inside the place, the defending NCAA champs came out revved up. A 6:30 p.m. start to Villanova's season simply meant the Wildcats had put Lafayette away by 7.
Call this a seven-game winning streak now, after the group that starts this season ranked fourth by Associated Press voters sent Fran O'Hanlon's Leopards away, 88-48.
"It works very well against us in practice," O'Hanlon said of the sets run by his young team, picked ninth in the Patriot League. "But we played a different animal tonight."
Kris Jenkins hadn't lost his form since making the last shot of 2015-16. Some early threes for Jenkins gave him 11 points before Lafayette got its second basket. Less than ten minutes in, Villanova had a 25-2 lead. Almost seven minutes bridged Lafayette's first and seconds hoops.
For the record, Jenkins, who finished with 16 in 28 minutes, had the first 'Nova hoop of 2016-17 too, after his tip of a Lafayette pass at midcourt during a press led to a break and a Jenkins hoop inside.
Jalen Brunson had 11 points of his own in the first half, hitting pull-up jumpers and open threes, but that was just part of what he was doing out there. The sophomore point guard was fully in control of things, finishing with a game-high 17 in 22 minutes, adding seven rebounds, committing no turnovers.
"He played so well, I didn't want to put him back in," Wright said of Brunson's 22 minutes. "I wanted him to come off that game - he was so efficient, so intelligent."
Mikal Bridges had his dominant minutes, too. Villanova's sixth man had 16 points on 6 of 9 shooting in 20 minutes, with a game-high 8 rebounds. Josh Hart? The preseason first-team all-American rose to pluck a looping pass out of the air on the break, spun through traffic, hit a few shots. He heated up a bit right after halftime, hitting inside and out, finishing with 13. He also picked up a technical for a stare after a dunk. A new point of NCAA officiating emphasis. No staring.
"I feel personally playing a game was probably the best thing we could do to get past last season,"
Wright said later. "I really feel a difference now, we're a game in, it's a new season. It's a good feeling for me. I haven't talked to the guys about it yet, but it's probably the best thing we can do."
Why did O'Hanlon agree to open against his own alma mater? "Jay didn't say he was going to win the national title," O'Hanlon said.
Lafayette's coach added that Wright had talked about coming up to play in Allentown this season, not too far from Lafayette's campus in Easton, that the Pavilion was going to be renovated. "I don't trust these recruiters," O"Hanlon said. "Midway through, they said we're not renovating but come up to Allentown next year and we'll do you a favor, we'll play you this year, too. That's really some favor Jay."