For a second game in a row, Pitt overcame a sluggish start to pull out an important win on the road, as the Panthers defeated Villnova 57-54. The win is Pitt's first win at The Pavilion since a 81-70 win on January 22, 1994. The Panthers are 5-10 all-time at The Pavilion.
Brad Wanamaker, returning to his hometown, led Pitt with 21 points including 15 in the second half, followed by Nasir Robinson with 15. The Panthers improve to 23-2 overall, 11-1 in the Big East. Villanova drops to 19-6, 7-5 in the Big East. With the win, the Panthers still hold a game and a half lead over Notre Dame in the Big East standings, who defeated South Florida earlier on Saturday.
Despite getting outrebounded 33-21, Robinson led Pitt with seven rebounds. Mouphtaou Yarou led the Wildcats with 15 points and 10 rebounds in the losing effort. Both teams struggled from three-point range, combining for 4-of-25 from long-range. The absence of Ashton Gibbs and Corey Stokes was evident. Three other Villanova players finished in double-figures; Maalik Wayns with 13, Corey Fisher with 11 and Antonio Pena with 10.
Wanamaker scored Pitt's first six points on three easy layups, as the Panthers built a 6-3 lead, just two minutes in. Villanova started off just 1-for-3 from the field, before hitting their next three shots. Still, Pitt led 10-9 after Travon Woodall—off a screen, banked in a layup to give Pitt a 10-9 lead, despite the Wildcats coming back.
Villanova built a five-point lead in the first half, going up 27-22 after a pair of foul shots. The Panthers forced a quick three-point attempt from Pena, but Robinson came up with the rebound. Looking to hold for the last shot, Robinson was fouled underneath. He converted 1-of-2 free throws, as the Panthers trailed 27-23 at the half. Robinson led Pitt with seven points in the first half, followed by Wanamaker with six—all of which were Pitt's first three field goals of the game. Mouphtaou Yarou led Villanova with eight points, followed by Pena with seven.
Pitt only had three field goals over the last 14 minutes of the first half, and was 0-for-5 from three-point range, as they had difficulties with Villanova's 2-3 zone.
Pitt still had problems from three-point range in the second half, as Wanamaker missed one, as did Brown. Pitt was 0-for-7 from beyond the arc. Still, Villanova led by no more than five. Yarou went up for what looked like an easy dunk, that would have put Villanova up by seven, but the ball bounced off the rim, and out of bounds.
On the next possession, Wanamaker came up with a steal, then took it all the way for a dunk, as Pitt trimmed the deficit to 30-27. Wanamaker stole the ball from Pena, who went down with what looked like an ankle injury. He did return on the next series.
On that next series, after a whistle, Isaiah Armwood was called for a technical foul for taking a swipe at Robinson after the loose ball. Yarou was initially fouled, and he made both of his free throws giving Villanova a 32-27 lead with 16:22 left. Gilbert Brown connected on both of Pitt's free throws, trimming the deficit to 32-29. Pitt got possession after the technical foul, but couldn't capitalize. Villanova still led by three, but Armwood's swipe at Robinson would prove to be the big turning point of the game.
On Pitt's next possession, Wanamaker drove the ball down the lane for a layup, as Pitt trailed 32-31 with 15:08 left. Wanamaker kept Pitt's run going on the next possession. He leaned into Wayns on a shot fake, drawing contact. When he pulled back, he banked one off the glass. With his free throw, Pitt went up 34-32 with 14:23 left. It was Pitt's first lead since a 18-17 lead with 5:30 left in the first half.
On Pitt's next possession, Woodall hit a three-pointer from the corner, giving Pitt a 37-34 lead with 13:30 left. It was Pitt's first three-pointer of the game, ending an 0-for-7 slump.
Robinson extended Pitt's lead to 38-34 after making 1-of-2 free throws, where he was fouled by Pena, his third foul of the game.
Pitt extended the lead to 42-34 thanks to more hustle from Robinson. He came up with a steal on the defensive end, then was fouled on the offensive end. Robinson converted both free throws, giving the Panthers the eight-point lead. Pitt was in the midst of a 15-2 run since the technical foul on Armwood.
Robinson came up big at the line later in the half. He converted 1-of-2 free throws as Pitt went up by 10, 47-37, with 7:10 left. On the next possession, he was fouled by Yarou—Yarou's third foul of the game. This time, Robinson converted both shots, as Pitt led 49-39 with seven minutes left.
Then, it was Wanamaker coming up big at the line. He converted a pair of free throws to give Pitt a 51-41 lead with 6:25 left.
Villanova got in more foul trouble as the second half went on. The Wildcats took a big hit, as Fisher fouled out with five minutes left, and Pitt still up by 10 at 52-42. However, the Wildcats had one last run in them, thanks to Pitt turnovers.
Pitt went without a turnover in first 15 minutes of second half without a turnover, before three turnovers in a span of a minute and a half. The Wildcats capitalized with an 8-0 run, and suddenly Pitt's 10-point lead dwindled to a 52-49 lead with three minutes left.
Wanamaker, again, answered the call in front of his hometown crowd, putting in a jumper and drawing another foul. His three-point play gave Pitt a 55-49 lead with 2:46 left.
Pena's second three-pointer of the half with 58.1 seconds left made it a three-point game again, at 57-54. With under a minute to play, Wanamaker had the ball in his hands. He was stripped of the ball by Pena—very similar to the 2008 game, where Villanova held on for a 64-63 lead. Down by three, the Wildcats had one more chance to tie the game.
Villanova called a timeout with 12.5 seconds left to set up one last play. A three-pointer by Dominic Cheek bounced off the rim. Wayns had one more shot for the Wildcats from NBA-range. His shot was good, but he did not get the shot off before time expired.