No. 19 Wildcats Claw Up No. 22 Panthers, 67-58
March 10, 2005
By JIM O'CONNELL
NEW YORK - There's no secret to Villanova's late-season success. Defense.
The 16th-ranked Wildcats beat No. 22 Pittsburgh 67-58 on Thursday in the Big East quarterfinals, the sixth time in their eight-game winning streak they held an opponent to fewer than 70 points.
And this latest defensive effort meant holding the Panthers to their second-lowest point total and worst shooting game of the season.
"We played great team defense," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "We knew Pittsburgh would be tough and they were. This was an old school Big East game, a blood bath."
The fourth-seeded Wildcats (22-6) advanced to the semifinals for the second straight year, and will face eighth-seeded West Virginia. The Mountaineers (20-9) beat top-seeded Boston College 78-72 Thursday.
"This shows what our goal was after losing in the semifinals last year," Wildcats forward Curtis Sumpter said. "We want to win it all and we've been working on that since last summer. Defense is the key to our success."
The loss ended Pittsburgh's four-year run of championship game appearances. The Panthers' only title in that span came in 2003.
"For a number of guys this is their first Big East tournament so it's completely different," Panthers coach Jamie Dixon said. "The bad feeling for this team is just in this game."
Pittsburgh (20-8) entered the game as the second-best shooting team in the conference at 47.8 percent. The Panthers shot a season-worst 35 percent (20-for-57) against Villanova, going 5-for-25 in the first half.
Villanova entered the game as the Big East's second-leading defensive team, allowing 62.3 points. The Wildcats were third in field goal percentage defense at 39.6.
The Wildcats beat Pittsburgh 80-72 in the team's only meeting this season.
"It's a disappointing loss, but we know how good Villanova is," Dixon said. "They were very aggressive, but that's the way they play. Early on we had some good looks but didn't make any of them."
"Coach has showed us if you play defense and rebound you're going to win games regardless of how well you shoot," Sumpter said. "That's the foundation of this program, we want to play defense and get stops."
Pittsburgh didn't have a field goal over the final 8 minutes of the first half, going 0-for-9 and committing four turnovers. The Wildcats closed the half with a 14-5 run to take a 31-19 lead.
Villanova got the lead to 17 points twice, the last time at 42-25 on two free throws by Foye with 13:15 left.
The Panthers finally started to hit some shots, and after missing their first nine 3-point attempts, Carl Krauser and Antonio Graves made consecutive 3s to pull Pittsburgh within 46-39 with 7:50 to play.
Sumpter hit a 3 on the next possession, then a long jumper to start a 13-4 run that ended with a turnaround by Sumpter that made it 59-43 with 3:53 to go.
"We need to shoot it better, do a lot of things better than we did today against a very good team," Dixon said.
Krauser had 18 points for the Panthers, Chris Taft had 10 and Chevon Troutman 8 on 0-for-5 shooting and 10 rebounds.
"They was just all over," Troutman said. "They made it real hard to pass to the inside or get the ball wherever you needed it to go."
Villanova has a 6-1 all-time record against Pittsburgh in the Big East tournament.