Jalen Brunson scored 26 points and Josh Hart had 21 to help No. 1 Villanova hold off La Salle, 89-79, on Tuesday night at the Palestra in Philadelphia.
The Wildcats (9-0) failed to dominate in their first game of the season as the top-ranked team in the country. The national champions led La Salle (4-3) by only single digits late in the game and played little like the team that had steamrolled to the top.
Coach Jay Wright had worried that Villanova’s ascension to No. 1 would give La Salle a little more incentive and the Explorers nearly came through.
A three-point basket by Jordan Pirce pulled La Salle to within 77-73 with 1 minute 19 seconds remaining but Villanova made all eight of its free throws down the stretch.
Pookie Powell scored 27 points for La Salle.
at No. 3 Kansas 105, Missouri Kansas City 62: Frank Mason scored 30 points to match his career high and the Jayhawks (8-1) gave Coach Bill Self his 600th win.
No. 5 Duke 84, No. 21 Florida 74: Amile Jefferson had career highs of 24 points and 15 rebounds for the Blue Devils (9-1) in the Jimmy V Classic at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Luke Kennard scored 29 points and freshman Jayson Tatum added 22 for Duke, whose only loss was to Kansas on the same court in the Champions Classic in November. Kevaughn Allen scored 21 for the Gators (7-2).
at No. 14 Virginia 76, East Carolina 53: Kyle Guy scored 13 points and four others reached double figures for the Cavaliers (8-1), who rebounded from their loss Saturday against West Virginia. London Perrantes had 12 points and five assists for Virginia. Jeremy Sheppard scored 17 for the Pirates (7-3).
at No. 20 Arizona 79, UC Irvine 57: Dusan Ristic and Lauri Markkanen each scored 18 points for the Wildcats (7-2). Jaron Martin had 12 for the Anteaters (4-5).
at No. 23 Notre Dame 87, Fort Wayne 72: Bonzie Colson had 17 points and 14 rebounds for the unbeaten Fighting Irish (9-0).