Pitt Gets Rematch With Villanova

The Pitt men's basketball team plays just three Big East opponents twice this season, once on the road and once at home, and after what happened when the Panthers faced Villanova the first time in Philadelphia it's no wonder they can't wait for the rematch tonight at 7 at the Petersen Events Center.

No. 18 Pittsburgh (16-4, 4-3) lost to Villanova (13-5, 3-4) in the initial matchup, 64-63, Jan. 6 at the DuPont Pavilion on the Wildcats campus. The Panthers had a chance to win the game in the waning seconds, but senior point guard Ronald Ramon couldn't make a play as the buzzer sounded.

"We felt that we had them the last game, but we just had a couple defensive lapses and a offensive conversions for them that made the difference,'' Pitt freshman forward Gilbert Brown said. "So, we're still very confident this game. That was our first Big East game and really our first game without Levance.

"So, we had to get used to playing together. And that was the cause of the turnovers in that last game. And throughout the past few games since then, we really haven't had as many turnovers. So, I really don't think we'll have a problem with turnovers against Villanova this time around.''

Ramon noted that he is much more comfortable at the point now and will be ready for Villanova's pressure on the offensive and defensive end.

"They're going to push us defensively, and their guards are very good,'' Ramon said. "They're going to go to the basket like Rutgers did, so we need to go hard in practice to be ready for that on defense.

"We have to keep our defensive intensity level up at all times. Offensively, we might not be on our game, like the way we shot against Rutgers, but our defense needs to play at a high level all the time.''

The Wildcats are led by sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds with 17.2 points, 3.1 rebounds and nearly four assists per game. Freshman guard Corey Fisher is at 13.4 points per game, while junior forward Dante Cunningham averages 10.4 points and 7.2 rebonds per contest.

Junior forward Shane Clark is at nine points and 5.4 rebounds per game. Casiem Drummond, a 6-foot-10 freshman center, has been injured but is expected to play. He averages 6.3 points and seven rebounds per game.

"They're the same team every year, as far as their guards are concerned,'' Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "They usually play small, and that's what they're doing now. So, the names have changed a little bit, but it's a similar style of play in what they do. They used a 2-3 zone in their last game (a loss to Notre Dame), but you'll usually see man-to-man in half-court from them.

"And Scottie Reynolds, he's a guy who wants to get out in transition and really go, and that's what we talked about. We need to watch them in transition, and they use ball screens in the half-court and have to keep him off the free-throw line. He likes to get there and likes contact on his drives to do that.''

Brown noted that the Panthers need to be patient on offense while Villanova changes its defense to keep them off-balance.

"They press and mix it up man to zone, but we just have to run our sets and get into our offense,'' Brown said. "I think all the Big East teams play aggressive defense and try to get into us, but we just have to be ready for it. I think Villanova will come out and press us, but I think they'll fall back into man.

"The first time, I felt that we should have won the first game. The same thing with Cincinnati. We play them again, too, and I felt like we should have won that game on the road as well. So, it's definitely a good feeling to get to come out here and play both teams again.''

Pitt has a big road game with Connecticut after this and doesn't get a rematch with Cincinnati until Feb. 27.

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