There were many side questions before the teams took the floor. How would Villanova bounce back after the last second loss to Rutgers? How would the teams react to the presence of the ESPN Game Day crew? Could Pitt put more distance between themselves and the top of the Big East standings? How much would Pitt miss Ashton Gibbs and Villanova miss Corey Stokes, both out with injuries. Once the ball went up, none of that mattered. #4 Pitt and #10 Villanova played one of the most intense battles seen here. All shots were contested, all rebounds were chased with intensity, all loose balls had players on the floor going after it. In the end a 12 – 2 Pitt Panther run in the second half coupled with cold shooting by Villanova resulted in a 57 – 54 loss for the Wildcats in front of 6,500 at the Pavilion. A last second three-pointer by Villanova Sophomore Guard Dominic Cheek was off the mark in what Villanova Coach Jay Wright called a Villanova – Pitt classic.
“They are a very good defensive team, and we made too many mistakes,” said Wright. “We settled for the easy, uncontested shot instead of making some extra passes. We did that and they got out in transition. There was a period in the second half when we didn’t score in a while. It was their good defense, and poor shot selection on our part.”
Villanova led 27 – 23 at halftime. The Wildcats held a lead despite being held scoreless for five and a half minutes in the first half. In that same stretch Pitt would only score one basket. Statistically, the teams were as close as the game. Pitt made 9 of 28 baskets, Villanova was 10 for 26. Pitt had 18 rebounds, Villanova 17. Pitt had 6 turnovers, Villanova had 5.
In the second half the Villanova made only one basket in the first six minutes of the half. Still, the Wildcats were tied at 34 at the 13:51 mark as Senior Guard Corey Fischer made a lay up. Pitt would take control behind a 12 – 2 run moving in front 46 – 36 with 8:44 on the clock. With 7:55 to play Villanova Senior Guard Corey Fischer was fouled by Pitt Guard Brad Wanamaker. Words were exchanged resulting in a double technical. It was Fischer’s 4th foul. He would foul out on an offensive foul with 5:01 remaining and Villanova trailing by 10.
The Wildcats began their comeback scoring the next 7 points. A three-point play by Sophomore Guard Maalik Wayns brought Villanova to within 3 at 52 – 94 with 3:09 to play. The Pitt lead would grow to 6. Villanova Senior Center Antonio Pena made a trey with 58.1 seconds on the clock making the score 57 – 54 Pitt in front. A Panther turnover by Wanamaker gave Villanova the ball back with 27 seconds to play. After a Villanova timeout, Cheek got off a three-pointer that missed. The resulting scramble for the rebound caused time to run out. Wayns got the ball and made a basket, but it was after the horn.
“Maalik (Wayns) got bumped off the ball, so we had to go for a three,” said Wright. “He had a great drive, I thought he could have got to the rim for a two, we call time out, and it would have been a better situation.”
Villanova was limited to 33.3% shooting in the second half making 8 of 24 field goal attempts. The Wildcats made 36% for the game (18 – 50), while the Panthers also made 18 shots on 46 attempts (39.1%). 54 points is the lowest point total that Villanova has posted this season.
Philadelphia native Wanamaker scored a game-high 21 points. Forward Nasir Robinson from Chester, PA added 15 points and 7 rebounds. 9 of his points came at the free throw line.
Villanova had four players score in double figures led by Sophomore Forward Mouphtaou Yarou with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Wayns added 13 points and 4 rebounds. Fischer scored 11 points and Pena 10.
The loss snaps Villanova’s Pavilion winning streak at 46. More important is that Villanova has lost four of their last six games. The seniors believe they know how to stop the slump.
“Our leadership,” said Pena. “Our leadership means a lot on this team/ We’ve got to go back to practice and focus on the little things and get better.
The next outing for the Wildcats is a February 15 game at Seton Hall.
Key Run of the Game
Pitt would take control behind a 12 – 2 run moving in front 46 – 36 with 8:44 on the clock. The run started on a three by Guard Travon Woodall with 13:44 to play. The last points in the run ame at the 8:44 mark on a dunk by Center Gary Mc Ghee. Fischer broke the run with a free throw with 7:55 remaining.
Key Stat of the Game
Sometimes it is simply making shots is the difference. In the second half Villanova made only 8 of 24 shots for 33.3%. Pitt made 9 of 18 for 50%. From the free throw line Pitt was 15 of 22 in the half, while Villanova made 9 of 13.
Key Players in the Game
For Villanova – Forward Mouphtaou Yarou scored a team-high 15 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds. He added 4 blocked shots. This game was his fourth double-double of the season.
For Pittsburgh – Guard Brad Wanamaker scored a game-high 21 points making 8 of 15 from the field, and made 5 of 6 from the free throw line.
Point Where the Game Was Decided
At the horn when the 3-Point attempt by Villanova Guard Dominic Cheek missed. The long rebound allowed the time to run out. Wayns got to the ball and put up a three, but it left his hand late.
Thoughts and Musings
It was another Villanova – Pitt classic. For Nasir Robinson and Brad Wanamaker it was a successful homecoming of sorts. The two Philadelphia are players led their team in the win against Villanova. Philadelphia native Wanamaker scored a game-high 21 points. Forward Nasir Robinson from Chester, PA added 15 points and 7 rebounds. 9 of his points came at the free throw line.
Written By: Glenn Papazian