The Pitt Panthers (23-2, 11-1 Big East) narrowly held on to edge the Villanova Wildcats (19-6, 7-5 Big East) 57-54 in a Big East brawl that snapped Villanova’s 46 game win streak at the Pavilion.
Led by Philadelphia area players Brad Wanamaker (with 21 points) and Nasir Robinson (with 15 points), the Panthers almost coughed up an 11 point lead, with 5:12 left to play, when Villanova ran off 8 straight points to cut the Panther’s margin to 52-49 at the 3:09 mark. Wanamaker scored a basket and converted a foul shot to keep the Panthers in front 55-49. The Wildcats were still not finished and when Antonio Pena hit a three pointer (only his second of the season) with 58.1 seconds to go it was a one possession game 57-54.
Pena stole the ball from Wanamaker on the ensuing possession giving the College Game Day crowd visions of a tie to force overtime or even a miracle finish. But alas, Dominic Cheek missed a three-point shot and the clock ran out a split second before Maalik Wayns hit a three pointer that would have sent the game into overtime and the crowd into a frenzy.
Both teams were shorthanded for the game. Ashton Gibbs sat out for the Panthers with an injury and Corey Stokes (with a turf toe injury) was a no go for the Wildcats in what would have been his final game at the Pavilion.
Villanova and Pitt both shot poorly from three point range. Villanova converted 3 for 15 or 20% for the game. Pitt hit only 1 for 10 or 10% for the game. Overall Pitt converted 18 of 46 field-goal attempts (39.1%), while Villanova shot 18-50 or 36%. Pitt lost the battle of the boards by a 36 to 28 margin. However Pitt converted 20 of 30 foul shot attempts compared to Villanova hitting 15 of 20.
Villanova, which led at the half by a 27-23 margin, lost its second straight game. The loss at the Pavilion was the first suffered by the Villanova seniors in their career.
Villanova was paced by Mouphtaou Yarou who had 15 points and 10 rebounds. Maalik Wayns added 13 points, Corey Fisher, who was plagued by foul problems and eventually fouled out, scored 11 points, and Antonio Pena contributed 10 points. For the Panthers only Wanamaker and Robinson scored in double figures. Robinson also collected 7 rebounds to pace the Panthers.
In the final analysis, Pitt’s 15-2 run in the second-half,which began after a tecnical foul was called on Villanova’s Isaiah Armwood, was the key to breaking the Wildcats 46 game winning streak at the Pavilion. The Wildcats were leading 32-27 at the time the technical was called. By the time the run ended, Pitt had built a 42-34 lead, which the Wildcats valiantly tried to overcome, to give the enthusiastic Game Day crowd (and a national television audience on ESPN) a fitting conclusion to a great day on campus.
Next up for the Wildcats is an away game against Seton Hall at 8 p.m. on Tuesday night, February 15th. Pitt returns home to play South Florida on February 16th.
At halftime, former Wildcat great Randy Foye was honored. Earlier in the day his jersey was retired and hung in the rafters alongside the jerseys of other great Villanova players. Kerry Kittles, Villanova’s all-time scoring leader, participated in the halftime ceremony honoring Foye. Ryan Howard, the Phillies star first-baseman, was also in attendance.
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