Jan. 16, 2013
VILLANOVA, Pa. - The Pittsburgh Panthers scored the final 15 points of the game in the final 5:13 to pull away to a 58-43 victory over Villanova here tonight in a BIG EAST game at the Pavilion. The Panthers are 14-4 overall, 2-3 in the conference while the Wildcats fall to 11-6 overall, 2-2 BIG EAST.
The 43 points were the fewest scored by Villanova in a game at the Pavilion since the building opened on Feb. 1, 1986.
"I have to congratulate Pitt on just an outstanding defensive effort tonight," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "We just couldn't break through. We couldn't go inside-out on them because their ball-screen defense was outstanding. We just couldn't score."
"The way they defended us by playing their bigs behind our bigs made it difficult to get on the offensive glass. They just dominated us on the glass."
Pittsburgh out-rebounded VU 39-27 on the evening, limiting the Wildcats to a single offensive carom.
Sophomore Darrun Hilliard was the game-high scorer with 14 points. Pitt got 13 points apiece from reserves Trey Zeigler and Durand Johnson.
In a replay of Villanova's first BIG EAST home game against St. John's, the first 10 minutes featured gritty defensive work and few points. The Wildcats got a 3-pointer on their first possession from Hilliard and crafted an early 5-1 lead before Pitt reeled off seven straight points to grab the 8-5 edge. Hilliard dropped in his second straight triple with just over 12 minutes left to knot matters at eight.
Hilliard's third three of the half gave VU a 13-12 lead with 7:39 to play but a Durand Johnson triple following an official timeout ignited a 7-0 Panther surge that gave Pitt a 19-13 lead with 5:11 to play in the period.
But Villanova closed the half on an 8-0 run of its own to take a 23-22 lead at the half. The Wildcats were 4-of-8 from beyond the 3-point arc but just 3-of-15 from inside the line (.308 total). Pitt, meanwhile, was just 8-of-26 from the field to match the Wildcats percentage (.308).
Hilliard's 14 points set the scoring pace for Villanova while Johnson's six points led the Panthers in the period.
"When it was 23-22 at the half, I felt like this was a typical Pitt-Villanova game," stated Wright.
Villanova outscored the Panthers 9-3 over the first five minutes of the second period to build a 32-25 lead. However, Johnson answered with a 3-pointer off of a steal and that became a catalyst for a Panther burst that pulled them even at 32 after Zeigler dropped in a short jumper with 13:40 on the second half clock.
The Panther burst grew to 14-2 as Pitt drained four consecutive free throws to craft a 39-34 lead. Villanova, though, battled its way back to even at 43 with 5:13 to play after a turnover led to a breakaway dunk by James Bell. Those, however, would prove to be the final points of the night for the `Cats. Pittsburgh was able to flex its offensive muscle and each Villanova bid to answer came up empty. The Panthers went on a 15-0 run that began with a Steven Adams dunk off a Zeigler feed in the paint. Zeigler then notched his own dunk to make it 47-43 with 3:22 left.
Pitt converted seven free throws as the Wildcats attempted to claw back into the contest in the final minutes.
"They had a great game plan. We didn't make shots but when you don't make shots it means the other team is playing pretty good defense," stated Wright.
The Wildcats return to the road at Providence on Saturday afternoon in a game that will get underway at 4:00 p.m. (PHL 17/610 WIP).