PITTSBURGH — A typical moment that decides a close game would be a big shot, crucial turnover, clutch foul shot or big run.
Pitt went to Villanova and won Saturday night by utilizing a rarely seen foul call as its turning point.
Wildcats’ forward Isaiah Armwood was called for an intentional technical foul after punching Panthers’ forward Nasir Robinson in the face. What resulted was a 15-2 run that changed the complexion of the game.
Gilbert Brown hit both free throws that were awarded to Pitt on the Armwood foul to close Villanova’s lead to 32-29. Brad Wanamaker followed with five quick points and Travon Woodall hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to give Pitt a 37-34 lead with 13:37 to play.
The Panthers led the rest of the way.
“We found a way,” Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said on 93-7 The Fan’s post-game broadcast. “We really pulled away in the second half.
“I liked how we did it. We were patient, grinded ‘em out.”
Nasir Robinson hit 8-of-12 free throws in the next 5:30 to help Pitt build a 47-37 lead with 6:58 remaining. After turning the ball over six times in the first half, Pitt went without a turnover for the opening 15 minutes of the second half.
With 4:39 remaining, Gilbert Brown turned the ball over for the first of three times in the next 1:19 to allow Villanova a chance to get back in the game. Brown’s turnovers resulted in six Wildcat points and ‘Nova pulled to within three, 52-49, with 3:10 remaining.
“We turned it over a couple too many times down the stretch,” Dixon said. “Usually we don’t do things like that.”
Pitt pushed the lead back to six twice, but Villanova had a chance to tie the game late, trailing 57-54 with 29 seconds remaining after a Wanamaker turnover. However, Dominic Cheek missed a 3-pointer and a second attempt went in but was waived off as it was well after the final buzzer.
“I thought we did a pretty good job (in the final seconds),” Dixon said. “I thought we could have had a little more pressure out front when he caught the ball. I thought we were a little too far off.”
The Wildcats seemed in disarray in the final seconds, which could be credited to the absence of starting guard Corey Fisher, who was on the bench after fouling out with 4:47 remaining.
Pitt and Villanova struggled to score in the first half. Pitt shot just 32 percent from the field and ‘Nova barely faired better as the Wildcats led 27-23 at the half.
Wanamaker took over in the second half, scoring 15 of his game-high 21 points. Robinson followed with 15 points and seven rebounds for Pitt.
Wanamaker’s point total pushed him over the 1,000-point mark in his career — just the 38th player ever to do so in program history. Both Wanamaker and Robinson were top contributors to Pitt snapping Villanova’s 46-game win streak at The Pavilion. Both hail from Philadelphia.
“Our Philly guys played like Philly guys tonight,” Dixon said.
Chris Gates | Area 4-1-Zoo Blog