Despite leading by as many as eight points in the second half at No. 23 Pittsburgh (23-7, 11-6 Big East), Villanova (18-12, 9-8 Big East) dropped its second heartbreaker of the week, falling 73-64 in overtime to the gutsy Panthers.
Talib Zanna (14 points, 19 rebounds) and the Panthers were too much for the Wildcats, outrebounding them 41-28 and completely dominating the extra period.
The loss places the ‘Cats—who started the day as one of ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s last four teams to make the NCAA Tournament—in a precarious position before their regular season finale against No. 7 Georgetown on Wednesday.
From the opening tip, this game proved to be a physical Big East slugfest. Baskets were hard to come by for both squads in the opening 20 minutes at the rowdy Petersen Events Center, and the Wildcats entered the locker room nursing a 28-25 halftime lead.
The Panthers sorely missed 7-foot freshman Steven Adams, who sat out the entire game due to a sprained ankle sustained during Saturday’s practice. Arcidiacono accounted for much of Villanova’s offense in the early going, drilling three 3-pointers as part of his 13-point first half. The freshman point guard finished with a game-high 23 points and six triples.
However, although Villanova initially came out strong in the second half and extended its lead to a 33-25 advantage, Pittsburgh simply would not go away, hanging around behind the fearless guard play of Tray Woodall and James Robinson. The pace of play slowed down considerably, as a majority of the game’s 47 personal fouls were called after intermission, and this prevented Villanova from getting into any kind of offensive rhythm and pulling away from the Panthers.
Down 57-54 with under one minute to play in regulation, James Robinson made a huge 3-pointer, sending the game into overtime and dooming the momentum-depleted Wildcats. The overtime period was all Panthers, as they went on a 7-0 run and never looked back. Arcidiacono’s 3-pointer with 1:02 remaining pulled the ‘Cats within two points, but Robinson answered right away with a triple of his own, solidifying Pittsburgh’s comeback victory on senior day.
Woodall, a fifth-year senior, tallied 13 points and 11 assists for the Panthers to complement Zanna’s bigtime performance. Mouphtaou Yarou posted 14 points and eight rebounds for the Wildcats.
Villanova returns to the Wells Fargo Center to host No. 7 Georgetown Wednesday at 7 p.m. in the last game before the Big East Tournament.
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