It took until the final two minutes, but the Pittsburgh Panthers finally pulled away from Villanova in Pitt’s final meeting with Villanova as a member of the Big East, beating the ‘Cats 58-43.
A quick look on a sports ticker might make this game look like a blowout, but the game was much closer than a 15-point defecit would normally indicate. Darrun Hilliard led the Wildcats in scoring, making his first 3 shots on his way to a game high 14 points.
He was slowed in the second half by both foul trouble and an injured thumb. "I wouldn’t have had him out if he hadn’t hurt his thumb there," head coach Jay Wright said. "We needed his perimeter scoring."
Both teams struggled from the start, with Pitt starting 7-21 from the field and Villanova 5-19. "We couldn’t score," Wright said with a flustered laugh.
"We just couldn’t score." Pitt outworked the ‘Cats on the glass, out-rebounding ‘Nova 39-27.
Pitt had 9 offensive rebounds to Villanova’s 1, which seemed to be the difference. "The way they defended, they stayed behind our bigs with their size so it made it difficult when we missed shots to get offensive rebounds," Wright explained. "They really dominated us on the glass."
The Panthers had two players who accounted for most of their scoring, with Trey Ziegler and Durand Johnson both scoring 13. Tray Woodall ended up playing a healthy amount of minutes, but was largely held in check.
Daniel Ochefu attacked the glass, inhaling a team high 8 rebounds.
Ryan Arcidiacono had an off night tonight, coughing up 6 turnovers, while dishing out just 2 assists. He only had 5 points on the night. Jay wasn’t worried about Arch’s back to back weak games.
"You have to understand, we’ve had freshman point guards start before, but they had All-Americans on either side of them," Wright said. "Ryan has two young guys next to him."
"As Darrun gets better, as Ash gets better, as everyone gets better, I think (Ryan) will continue to get better. As for his confidence, I’m not worried about that because of the type of kid he is."
This game marked the final time Pitt would visit the Pavilion as a member of the Big East. Would Jay Wright miss playing against the Pennsylvania neighbor?
"I wasn’t even thinking about it. But now that were playing the games, I am going to miss it. These Big East teams challenge your toughness, and I will miss it."
"Every time we play one of these games, I do think about it."
The ‘Cats only made 14 field goals all night, shooting a dismal 31.8% on the night.
Pitt didn’t fair much better, shooting 36.8% on 18 field goals. Pitt also shot 12 more free throws than Villanova.