Pitt beats Villanova, earns first win at The Pavilion in 17 years

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VILLANOVA, Pa. -- Looking for its victory at The Pavilion in more than 17 years, Pitt turned to a couple of players from the Philadelphia area to point the way to victory.

Brad Wanamaker and Nasir Robinson combined for 36 points to lead fourth-ranked Pitt to a 57-54 triumph Saturday night against ninth-ranked Villanova with leading scorer Ashton Gibbs on the bench for a second consecutive game with a knee injury.

Wanamaker, from Philadelphia Roman Catholic, had 21 points. Robinson, from nearby Chester, had 15.

"This game means a lot to me," said Wanamaker, a senior who was playing in front of friends and family. "Anytime you can come and play well and win it's special. I was a Villanova fan growing up."

Pitt (23-2, 11-1) needed the victory to keep a comfortable lead atop the Big East Conference standings. The Panthers maintained a 1 1/2-game lead over Notre Dame, which defeated South Florida earlier.

By winning, the Panthers achieved a program first. They won 11 of their first 12 Big East games for the first time in school history.

The Panthers continued their impressive road winning streak. They have won six consecutive games on the road to start Big East play -- also a first for the program -- and have won 19 of their past 25 games away from home.

The Panthers also halted Villanova's 46-game winning streak at The Pavilion. The Wildcats had not lost at their on-campus arena since January 2007. The contest marked the 114th consecutive sellout of the 6,500-seat cramped arena the Wildcats call home.

Pitt had lost six consecutive games at The Pavilion and nine of the past 10 at the facility. The Panthers have three more road venues to conquer this season -- at St. John's, at Louisville and at South Florida -- in order to finish with a perfect record on the road.

It was the fifth victory this season against a ranked opponent in seven tries, and Pitt coach Jamie Dixon improved to 23-9 against teams ranked in the top 10. The Panthers have won 12 of their past 14 against teams in the top 10 of the polls.

Wanamaker was 8 for 15 from the field and 5 for 6 from the free-throw line. Robinson was 3 for 6 from the field and 9 for 14 from the line. Robinson, a junior power forward, entered the game shooting 53 percent from the line.

"Our Philly guys played like Philly guys," Dixon said afterward. "That's why I'll be staying in Philly and recruiting [Sunday]."

Both teams played without one of their top players. Villanova's second-leading scorer, Corey Stokes, missed his first game of the season with a turf toe injury.

Sophomore Travon Woodall got his second consecutive start in place of Gibbs at point guard. Sophomore Maalik Wayns started in place of Stokes for the Wildcats.

Pitt trailed by four at halftime, but the Panthers shot 50 percent from the field in the second half to turn the tables on Villanova. Wanamaker had 15 points in the second half.

It was Wanamaker who gave Pitt its first lead since midway through the first half when he converted a three-point play with 14:23 remaining. And it was Wanamaker again who converted another three-point play with 2:46 remaining after Villanova had trimmed an 11-point deficit to three with eight unanswered points.

"Brad really stepped up for us," Robinson said. "He's a senior. He's a leader. He's tough. He's played real big for us."

It looked as if Wanamaker's three-point play was going to put the game away for the Panthers, but the Wildcats had one final gasp in them.

Antonio Pena made a 3-pointer with 58 seconds remaining to make it 57-54. On Pitt's ensuing possession, Wanamaker committed a turnover with 27 seconds remaining.

Villanova coach Jay Wright called a timeout with 12.5 seconds left. Wright wanted Wayns to drive to the basket for a 2-point basket, but his path to the hoop was cut off.

Dominic Cheek was forced to attempt a 3-pointer with four seconds left. His shot caromed off the rim. Maurice Sutton rebounded and got it back in the hands of Wayns, who drained a deep 3-pointer, but it was a second after the final buzzer had sounded.

Ray Fittipaldo: rfittipaldo@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1230.


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