WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Even playing its first true road game in more than eight months, with a sellout crowd of 14,804 filling Mackey Arena with noise, third-ranked Villanova showed Monday night that it hadn't forgotten how to respond in a hostile environment.
The Wildcats hit their first seven shots of the second half to take an 11-point lead, held off a host of comebacks by the 15th-ranked Boilermakers, and got four free throws from Jalen Brunson in the final 23.2 seconds to seal a 79-76 victory in a Gavitt Tipoff Games matchup.
It wasn't an easy game for the Wildcats (2-0), who were at a size disadvantage against the Boilermakers' 6-foot-9, 250-pound Caleb Swanigan and 7-2, 290-pound Isaac Haas. But they did an admirable job on the boards, losing the rebounding battle by just 33-30, and outscored Purdue in the paint, 40-36.
Josh Hart hit several driving shots in the lane on his way to 24 points, seven of them coming in that opening four-minute flurry of the second half.
"I thought we handled the adversity well," Hart said. "It was a crazy environment here. Like Coach said, every time we did something they came back with a run. We opened a lead and they came back. I think the biggest part of that was handling that adversity. We've got to get a little bit better at the defensive end."
That was the message from coach Jay Wright. Haas scored 22 points and Swanigan 20 as they combined to make 16 of 23 shots from the field. The Boilermakers (1-1) were credited with 26 assists on their 28 field goals.
"We made a lot of adjustments and none of them worked," Wright said. "Honestly, we did everything. We tried zone. We tried to trap them. We tried to play behind them. We tried to front them. We just outscored them, really. I'd like to sit here and say I was a genius, but it didn't work tonight.
"Sometimes it doesn't and the players just make plays and win the game. I think that's what happened. But we've got to get better so we can make adjustments."
The noise was something the Wildcats hadn't experienced in a long time. After playing their final true road game last season on Feb. 27 at Marquette, the Wildcats went 12 games - the final 11 of last season and their 2016-17 season opener Friday night - before encountering a hostile crowd once again.
The crowd was really juiced when P.J. Thompson banked in a three-pointer from halfcourt at the first-half buzzer to tie the game at 39. But Villanova came out after halftime and hit its first seven shots in a 17-6 run that gave the visitors an 11-point lead.
The Boilermakers answered by outscoring the Cats, 12-2, to draw to within 61-60. But they never went ahead, not then or the four other times they trailed by one point.
Hart hit a driving scoop for 'Nova's last field goal with 4:08 to play and sank two free throws with 2:43 remaining to give the Wildcats a 73-68 lead. Swanigan hit two free throws and Haas scored from close range, and Purdue trailed, 73-72.
With 'Nova up 75-74, Brunson sank both ends of a one-and-one with 23.2 seconds to play, and after Haas made a basket inside to make it 77-76, he hit two more free throws with 12.1 seconds left.
Purdue took a pair of three-point shots, by Swanigan and Carsen Edwards, on its last possession but both failed to hit iron, and the Wildcats walked out with a win.