The winningest senior class in Villanova history was about 10 minutes from an early exit.
Then they started to play Villanova basketball. Its basic definition: attack the boards, drive to the basket, get to the foul line. With Dwayne Anderson and Dante Cunningham perfecting that strategy, American's upset threat was thwarted.
The seniors each scored 25 points, and Villanova rallied from a 14-point hole to beat the Eagles, 80-67, in the first round of the NCAA tournament Thursday at Philadelphia.
The third-seeded Wildcats (27-7), playing at one of their homes away from campus, needed a late 19-2 run in the East Regional to fend off the Patriot League champions.
"It wasn't that we took them lightly at all," Villanova Coach Jay Wright said. "We expected that. I think we just in the end had bigger, stronger, athletes. But they were probably better prepared and executed a little better."
The 14th-seeded Eagles (24-8) sizzled from three-point range early and pushed Villanova to the brink of a monumental upset.
Garrison Carr scored 22 points, Derrick Mercer had 17 and Brian Gilmore 16 for American.
Villanova will play UCLA on Saturday.
No. 2 Duke 86, No. 15 Binghamton 62 -- Jon Scheyer scored 15 points to lead six players in double figures, and the Blue Devils (29-6) made Binghamton's first appearance in the NCAA tournament a quick one by routing the Bearcats at Greensboro, N.C.
No. 7 Texas 76, No. 10 Minnesota 62 -- A.J. Abrams made eight three-pointers and scored 26 points at Greensboro to help the Longhorns (23-11) win their NCAA opener for the fifth time in six seasons. Damion James added 18 points.
Lawrence Westbrook scored 19 points for the Golden Gophers (22-11).