PHILADELPHIA — Notre Dame had every reason to feel squeamish about another Saturday road game after two blowout losses in that situation had the Irish wondering what was wrong.
Once Kyle McAlarney found his outside shot early and Luke Harangody scored the tough baskets inside, the Irish could finally relax and put an end to their road woes.
McAlarney scored 30 points, and Harangody had 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead Notre Dame to a 90-80 victory over No. 18 Villanova.
"We were sick of getting blown out on the road," Harangody said.
Rob Kurz added 12 points for the Irish (14-4, 4-2 Big East) who hit nine 3-pointers and shot 51 percent from the field to earn their first conference road win of the season.
The Fighting Irish were crushed in each of their last two Saturday road games: 92-66 at No. 21 Marquette and 84-65 at No. 9 Georgetown. This time, it was Notre Dame that applied the pressure, taking a 17-point lead in the second half.
"It was a big win on the road and it's a great feeling," McAlarney said.
Antonio Pena scored 17 points, and Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds each had 13 for slumping Villanova (13-5, 3-4). The Wildcats allowed 80-plus points for the second straight game after an 80-68 loss at Rutgers on Wednesday, capping a miserable week that will surely knock them out of the Top 25.
Malcolm Grant, who provided a late burst of scoring and energy off the bench, connected on a 3-pointer with 1:13 left that brought Wildcats within seven. Harangody, though, sealed the win with an open, thunderous dunk off the break.
"We can get better and I think we will," Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
McAlarney, held to only 10 points in Notre Dame's 19-point loss at Georgetown last week, spurred the Irish to their first win over a ranked team in three games this season. He was 10-of-16 from the field and went 5-for-9 from 3-point range to help bust the game open early.
"We could not play how we like to play on the offensive end against Marquette and Georgetown," Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said. "They took away our inside-outside game. We were able to play inside-out off of Harangody. When we can do that, we're really pretty good and can play with just about anybody."
McAlarney hit a 3 and Ryan Ayers, whose dad once coached the Philadelphia 76ers in the same arena, followed with a 3-pointer to stretch Notre Dame's lead to 57-41 midway through the second half.
The Wildcats don't have a senior on the roster and their regular rotation is stocked with freshmen and sophomores. The game-to-game inconsistency is one reason why the Wildcats have a win against No. 13 Pittsburgh and the loss to Rutgers.
"This is new for us but that's part of what we're going to learn," Wright said. "We have inconsistent play so we're trying to ride the hot hands sometimes. It's all those things we're trying to get together. I was hoping we would work our way out of it."
The Wildcats have never really been out of games, rallying from 21 points down to beat LSU and from 16 back to knock off DePaul.
Sure enough, Villanova made another late run in this one. Corey Stokes hit two 3s and Reggie Redding hit a runner that pulled the Wildcats to 59-49. Unlike in those earlier wins, the Wildcats simply didn't have enough big shots or key stops left to complete the comeback.
"I've seen them come back and I was thinking that it can't happen against us," McAlarney said.
McAlarney burst through heavy traffic in the lane for a tough layup and Harangody converted a three-point play that made it 65-51. McAlarney followed with another 3 that sent the Wildcats into a timeout hearing boos from a packed Wachovia Center.
Harangody grabbed an airball and went up hard for a layup. He was fouled and easily hit the free throw, making the late-game lead just a bit more comfortable for Notre Dame.
McAlarney hit a 3 during an early 10-0 run that helped the Irish take a 39-29 halftime lead.
"We just came out in a good frame of mind and it helped us," McAlarney said.