Whistles ruled the first half of Senior Day between the Pittsburgh Panthers men’s basketball team and the Villanova Wildcats however in this overtime game it was the Panthers who came out on top by a 73-64 score.
It was a frustrating first half for both teams as more than 10 minutes into the first half it was an 8-8 deadlock.
Dante Taylor joined the starting lineup as Steve Adams was held out with an ankle injury. Taylor would score the first two Panthers baskets of the game.
Both teams got into foul trouble early, and with nothing going in early, it was a defensive battle.
Two difference makers in the first half for Villanova were Ryan Arcidiacono who nailed three shots from deep and had 13 points in the opening 20 minutes. Meanwhile, JayVaughn Pinkston was a consistent force from around the floor with his seven points.
After Taylor’s opening four points the big men were unable put the ball in the basket for the Panthers. Talib Zanna would continue his struggles and could not finish. The Panthers trailed 28-25 after 20 minutes as the action would pick up.
Villanova got the ball rolling in the second half and Mouphtaou Yarou was a factor as he put down a dunk over Taylor who could not get to the Wildcats center quickly enough.
A big difference in the game for Villanova was the free throw line. The Wildcats made the most of their opportunities, while the Panthers could not convert enough of theirs. This trend however would end up going the other way as the game progressed. The Panthers would go 18-24 from the line while the Wildcats went 18-26.
Durand Johnson’s two three pointers got the crowd and the team in better places and the second one led to the signature finger point to the brain. The Panthers battled back to tie the game when Woodall made a lay-up.
Then Arcidiacono who had been silent all half nailed a three and a two in consecutive possessions opening up the lead.
The Panthers in time would battle back and Johnson hit another three meaning he was 3-3 from deep at that point. Johnson again did the signature finger point.
When the going got tough, so did Yarou and late in the game he nailed two midrange shots to keep his team in the lead.
Still the Panthers would not surrender and when Johnson fouled Pinkston just one of two free throws went in making the Wildcats lead 57-54.
With 33.3 seconds left in regulation, James Robinson hit a three to tie the game.
Villanova had a chance to win the game in regulation, but it was unable to hold onto the basketball. Lamar Patterson had a half court heave that went long meaning another overtime period for the Panthers.
In the overtime period Zanna had a huge confidence boost when he had a three point play on a lay-up giving the Panthers a 60-57 lead to start the overtime period. After Villanova missed two from the free throw line, it was Zanna at the line again and he calmly sank both giving him a double-double, his second of the season. As if that wasn’t enough, the hot hand Zanna sank another two on the next Panther possession stretching the lead to seven with three minutes to play.
Not to be outdone, Arcidiacono kept his team in it with 23 points and a big three just when it looked as though Pitt would pull away, this led to a timeout.
On the ensuing Pittsburgh possession it was Robinson doing his ‘big shot’ Robert Horry impression once again nailing a three with 28.3 seconds left putting the Panthers up 69-64.
Villanova scrambled to get a basket and were unable to succeed forcing Yarou to foul out. Zanna made both free throws to seal the game. The Panthers seniors then combined on a final basket as Woodall found Taylor for a big slam.
With 0.9 seconds left in regulation, Dixon substituted out both seniors so they could be commended for their contributions.
The regular season wraps up for the 22-7 [11-6] Panthers next Saturday when they visit DePaul. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. and will be televised on WTAE.
Of note: Zanna had 19 rebounds his previous high was 15 11/27/11 against Robert Morris. Robinson’s 14 points tied a career high – a number he accomplished on 11/17/12 against Oakland.