The smaller Wildcats out-rebounded the Cardinals 42-34, and out-scored Louisville in the paint 38-26 to win the Big East Conference opener for both teams.
"Villanova had great athleticism," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Size doesn't make you a great rebounder. Villanova rebounds because they scramble so much. They're very tenacious. They challenge every shot, and they know how to play the game."
Villanova jumped out to an 8-0 lead and never looked back. Randy Foye scored 24 points and Allan Ray pitched in 17, and the Wildcats never trailed in the game. Jason Fraser also had 13 points and 10 rebounds for the winners.
"Villanova is certainly deserving of their ranking," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said after the game. "They are a great basketball team that is difficult to guard. They have experience and great tenacity."
The Cards hung tough throughout the game, and cut the Wildcats margin to one late in the first half. But Villanova steadied itself just before halftime and took a 36-30 margin into the break.
"Our effort was terrific, our guys played as hard as they could and their effort was good," said Pitino. "Villanova was just a better basketball team."
Louisville tried mightily in the second half to cut into Villanova's lead, but every time the Cardinals got close Foye or Ray hit big shots. With Taquan Dean in foul trouble most of the game – he picked up 3 fouls in the games first 10 minutes – Louisville got big contributions from reserve forward Chad Millard and center David Padgett.
Millard scored a career-high 11 points, including 2 three-points and Padgett led all Louisville scorers with 17 points on 8-9 shooting from the floor. Brandon Jenkins also added 12 points, but it wasn't enough against the quicker Wildcats.
"I knew we had to do 3 to 4 things to beat VU," Pitino said. "We had to go backdoor, which we never did. We had to handle the full-court and half-court pressure which I though we did well. And we had to out-rebound them or else we had no chance to win the game. We knew what we were up against. We watched the game last year and knew what type of team they are."
Things won't get any easier for Louisville. Next up is a tough road Big East road test at Providence Saturday.
"We will get better and better and better," Pitino said. "Providence on Saturday is going to be tougher than tonight because it's on the road. It's a very difficult conference."