Pitt rallies past Villanova for overtime victory
Pitt’s Senior Day started the same way it ended, with Tray Woodall feeding fellow senior Dante Taylor.
The first was a bounce pass for a jump-hook, the last a long pass for a dunk that brought pandemonium to Petersen Events Center for its final Big East game.
Everything in between in Pitt’s 73-64 overtime victory over Villanova on Sunday afternoon encapsulated the Panthers’ season.
No. 23 Pitt (23-7, 11-6) rallied from a nine-point deficit to tie it with 32 seconds remaining in regulation on a 3-pointer by James Robinson. It got nine points in overtime from Talib Zanna, who had 14 points and a career-best 19 rebounds.
“To have a game like this in the last one was great,” said Taylor, who broke down in the postgame news conference. “When you have teammates that play like that for you, it means a lot.”
It also meant a lot for Pitt’s chances of earning a double bye in the Big East Tournament next week. The Panthers (23-7, 11-6) entered the game in a fourth-place tie with No. 12 Syracuse and No. 21 Notre Dame. Pitt’s final Big East regular-season game is at DePaul (11-17, 2-13), which lost at South Florida, 83-73, Sunday.
It was an enduring — and endearing — moment for Woodall and Taylor. In a stirring pregame ceremony that also honored retiring band director Jack R. Anderson, Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said, “We have never had two more unselfish players in this program.”
Then they showed why.
The 6-foot Woodall finished with 13 points and 11 assists, and the 6-9 Taylor made his first start of the season in place of Steven Adams (ankle) and produced seven points, six rebounds and two blocked shots.
Villanova (18-12, 9-8) was led by freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who scored 13 of his game-high 23 points in the first half for a 28-25 halftime lead. By 16:45 of the second, Villanova led, 35-26.
Pitt turned to redshirt freshman Durand Johnson, who led the Panthers with 13 points Jan. 16 in a 58-43 victory at Villanova. He made three 3-pointers, the second to cut it to 43-41. Woodall followed by driving right and banking a shot off the backboard to tie it with 10:04 left.
Villanova answered with a 5-0 run and led, 57-54, in the final minute. Then Lamar Patterson found Robinson open in the right corner.
Robinson, a 6-3 freshman, hadn’t made a 3-pointer since the Jan. 28 game at Louisville and had only five 3s in Big East play. But those included clutch treys against Connecticut and Providence.
Dixon wasn’t worried.
“He passed up a three earlier, and I said he must have wanted to wait until there was more drama,” Dixon said. “I think everybody in the gym that’s watched him play and watched him hit big shots knew it was going in, as well as the free throws (in overtime). That’s a good feeling to have.”
In overtime, Zanna had a three-point play, four free throws and a baseline jumper. Villanova cut it to 66-64 before Robinson hit another trey with 28.3 seconds left.
Pitt ended with an exclamation point on the Woodall-to-Taylor dunk. Dixon took them out with .3 seconds left to standing ovations.
“The first thing I’ll remember about this day is our seniors,” Dixon said. “I don’t know if it could have ended any better for those guys.”