Hart Leads No. 1 Villanova Past No. 22 Notre Dame in Never Forget Classic
Villanova guard Josh Hart had a career-high 37 points and shot 71 percent from the field as No. 1 Villanova rallied from an 11-point deficit to defeat No. 22 Notre Dame at the Prudential Center on Saturday afternoon.
Hart, who is considered and early favorite to contend as the National Player of the Year also tallied four assists for and two steals. He was also 14 of 14 from the charity stripe.
“I honestly didn’t know how many points I had,” Hart said. “I was just trying to make the right play.
“You have to take what the defense gives you. If all you want to do is get points and the defense takes that away, then you’re frustrated and you’re not at your best. … I really attribute that to my teammates and my coaches for really helping me develop my decision making, definitely this offseason, and reading the defense and taking what I can get.”
To end the first half, Hart registered 10 of the Wildcats’ 12 points heading into the break down just five.
With seven minutes remaining in the game, the Wildcats were down eight and looking for a spark. Hart delivered tallying 16 of the Wildcats’ next 21 points including two critical free throws to put the game away.
“His game is just matured and he makes the right play every time,” Mikal Bridges said of Hart. “If he sees an opening he’s going to go strong and aggressive. But if somebody steps up he’s going to make the right pass.”
Hart received great praise from both sides.
“He’s as good as any player in the country and he’s so complete,” head coach Jay Wright said. “He will do whatever it takes to win a game and he’s got the ability to do it and at the right time. He got big rebounds at the end of the game. He got offensive rebounds. He scored, passed it, made free throws. He defended [Steve] Vasturia. He did everything. He is as complete a player as we’ve ever had.”
“He’s got great strength,” Notre Dame head coach Mike Brey said. “Just from watching him last year and now seeing him live in front of me for two hours, there is a great mental and physical toughness and he really drives that group. He’s a great story. Here’s a guy that just got better every year.”
Although the top team in the country, Villanova did show that they are not invulnerable.
“Not at all,” Hart said when asked if Villanova feels as if it can’t lose. “We came in and they punched us in the mouth. When you’re down 11, 12 you don’t have the mentality that you can’t lose. So we know we have to keep getting better. We can’t get complacent no matter where we are, no matter what our record is. … If we do that and play a 40-minute Villanova basketball game and a team is able to pull it out at the end, we’ll tip our hats and the next day we’re going to go and get better.”