No. 19 Pittsburgh 70, No. 3 Villanova 65

No. 19 Pittsburgh controlled the tempo and the offensive

rebounding to hand No. 3 Villanova it second consecutive loss.

Ashton Gibbs scored 21 points, Gilbert Brown added 16 and Gary

McGhee’s 10 rebounds led the Panthers to the upset of the Wildcats

70-65 on Sunday.

The first meeting between the two teams since Villanova’s

dramatic NCAA tournament win last year turned out to be another

typical, physical Big East matchup. Last season, star guard Scottie

Reynolds’ last-second dash to the basket gave the Wildcats a 78-76

win to send them to the Final Four.

No last-second heroics on Sunday for Reynolds, who finished with

20 points.

“I wanted to win that game for the players that left last

year,” said Pitt guard Jermaine Dixon, one of only two seniors on

this year’s squad. “I felt bad for losing that game and I felt

responsible and I definitely wanted to win that game for

them.”

This time, the Panthers (21-6, 10-4) built up enough of a

cushion to hold up against the Wildcats (22-4, 11-3), who lost

back-to-back games for the first time in two seasons and fell a

game back of Big East leader Syracuse.

“I think the good thing about our team is that they understand

how to move on to the next game,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.

“When we were winning, that’s what we told them. It’s what we

always talk about.”

Villanova was expected to contend for the Big East title from

the start of this season. For Pitt its successful season is a

surprise given all the talent it lost from last season’s team,

including big man DeJuan Blair.

But Pitt’s third victory over a top five opponent this season –

the Panthers have also beaten the Orange and West Virginia – has

coach Jamie Dixon’s team brimming with confidence.

Pitt pulled into a tie for third in the Big East with West

Virginia, two games behind Syracuse.

“We stepped closer to winning the Big East regular season,”

Jermaine Dixon said. “Last year, we put it past us now that this

game is over, and that’s just a step to us getting the Big East

regular season.”

Reynolds spent most of the first half on the bench with two

fouls and had to fend off harassing defense from the Panthers,

including Dixon, much of the afternoon.

Brown’s thunderous dunk off a baseline move with 1:29 left gave

the Panthers (21-6, 10-4 Big East) a six-point lead.

Still, the Wildcats have showed they can’t be counted out in

tight games, not with Reynolds on their side.

He scored 17 points in the second half, hitting 3s and drawing

fouls to keep Villanova within striking distance. But Pitt had an

answer every time the Wildcats came within a basket.

The Panthers missed a few free throws late to keep things

interesting. Reynolds’ three foul shots with 7 seconds left got the

Wildcats within three, but Pitt withstood Villanova’s late

pressure.

Reynolds’ layup with 1.4 seconds left got Villanova within

68-65.

Gibbs was fouled almost immediately and hit both foul shots to

relieve the Pitt crowd.

Villanova, which averaged 85 points coming into Sunday, was out

of its offensive element. Pitt limited its mistakes.

“We wanted to shorten the game. We tried to press,” Wright

said. “They were never beaten by our press.”

The Panthers controlled the rebounding, especially on the

offensive end, where they held a 21-12 advantage. That gave Pitt

some crucial extra possessions to keep the ball out of Reynolds’

hands.

When Villanova did have the ball, it had trouble finding good

shots.

“They went deeper into the shot clock than we did because we

were able to control them defensively,” Jaime Dixon said. “We had

a handle on their penetration to the basket as well as their

screens. It wasn’t until the end … when they started

scoring.”

Corey Fisher added 12 points for the Wildcats.

With Reynolds on the bench much of the first half, Villanova’s

high-octane offense grounded to a halt. The Wildcats shot 9 of 26

over the first 20 minutes (34.6 percent) – well below their season

average of 46.7 percent.

Led by the raucous student section dubbed the “Oakland Zoo,”

the full house at the Peterson Events Center cheered wildly when

Reynolds took a seat with his second foul at 9:21 of the first

half. The attendance of 12,920 set a school record for the largest

on-campus crowd.

Already upset by a string of foul calls, Wright stomped on the

sideline, then got whistled for a technical after jawing with the

official.

His team has a couple days to regroup before returning home to

face South Florida on Wednesday, with a showdown against the Orange

at the Carrier Dome looming next weekend.

“It’s been a long time since we lost back-to-back games,”

Reynolds said. “I can’t hang my head and I can’t let the other

guys hang their (heads) either.”