NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 10: Matt Farrell #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish drives to the basket as Jalen Brunson #1 of the Villanova Wildcats defends during the second half of a college basketball game at Prudential Center on December 10, 2016 in Newark, New Jersey. Villanova defeated Notre Dame 74-66. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)

Amid the Wildcats’ run to a national title last season, head coach Jay Wright’s unit boasted tremendous defensive spurts.

Once again, No. 1 Villanova (10-0) reached back for the same intensity in a 74-66 comeback win over No. 23 Notre Dame (9-1), erasing an 11-point first half deficit.

With 13:17 left in the contest, the Fighting Irish held a nine-point advantage and appeared to possess complete control. Then, forward Josh Hart, a Naismith Player of the Year award candidate, began to assert his prowess. The senior went on to score 16 of Villanova’s next 22 points, which led to his career-high 35 points on the afternoon. No one else on the team even reached double-figures.

The 6-foot-6, 215-pounder’s most impactful play came off a dish, though. Just under the midway point of the second half, Wildcats’ forward Eric Paschall rejected Steve Vasturia’s three-point attempt. Seconds later, Hart led the fastbreak and found guard Jalen Brunson for a layup, handing Villanova its first lead of the game. Brunson finished with eight points and three assists, as well as hitting two massive free throws in the final minute to expand the lead to two possessions.

After shooting a substandard 36 percent clip in the first half, Villanova was broiling over the final 20 minutes with a 56 percent clip. On top of that, the Wildcats outrebounded the Irish 33-25, with 6-foot-7 guard Mikal Bridges rising above forward V.J. Beachem for the most impressive one.

During the first frame, the Irish seemed to draw anything but luck. Head coach Mike Brey’s group assisted on nine of its first 12 buckets, including eight points and five assists via point guard Matt Farrell. Overall, the junior scored a rock-solid 18 points and received assistance from the aforementioned Vasturia, too, who notched an identical 18 points.

In total, Notre Dame shot a respectable 46.6 percent from the field but made a mere 4-of-15 shots over the final nine-plus minutes. Moreover, the Irish only knocked down 6-of-22 threes (27 percent), as the Wildcats limited their penetration inside the lane throughout much of the second half.

Following the win, just seven schools (Villanova, UCLA, Baylor, Gonzaga, Creighton, South Carolina and USC) remain undefeated in college basketball. However, the Wildcats still evidently hold the top squad within the pack.

About Eli Hershkovich

Eli Hershkovich is a graduate of DePaul University. Along with writing, he also works at 670 The Score, a sports radio station in Chicago.