PITTSBURGH — Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright couldn’t have drawn it up any better.
Heading into the final minute against No. 23 Pittsburgh on Sunday, the Wildcats needed either a defensive stop or a basket in the final minute of regulation to win at a place where they never had in five previous trips.
Only Villanova got neither in a 73-64 overtime loss that put a dent in the program’s NCAA tournament resume.
Pitt freshman guard James Robinson hit a 3-pointer with 33 seconds left to tie it up and the Wildcats threw away two chances to win in the final moments.
The Panthers controlled the extra period behind Talib Zanna, who scored the first seven points to send Villanova to its second straight loss.
“Give Pitt a lot of credit, they gutted it out down the stretch,” Wright said. “We had the ball, last possession of the game. We hold it down, we don’t get a shot off. We have a baseline out of bounds and don’t get a shot off. Right there, you don’t deserve to win.”
Ryan Arcidiacono led the Wildcats (18-12, 9-8 Big East) with 23 points, but the Wildcats failed to collect a key road victory that would have bolstered its chances of making the NCAAs after missing it for the first time in eight years last spring.
“You know you’re running out of time,” Wright said. “Yeah, it’s tough, but it’s a season. We’ve got to bounce back and prepare for the next game, that’s what a season is all about.”
Mouphtaou Yarou scored 14 points and grabbed eight rebounds for Villanova and JayVaughn Pinkston scored 13 points but the Wildcats looked deflated after they couldn’t protect a nine-point second-half lead.
Robinson, who’d made just five 3-pointers in Big East play, made two huge ones for Pitt (23-7, 11-6) in its final Big East home game.
The first came from the right corner to help send the game into overtime. The second came from the left corner with 30 seconds left in overtime to give Pitt a five-point cushion.
“We wanted to help off of Robinson, we helped too much,” Wright said. “We ran everything the way we’re supposed to.”
, we just made poor decisions.”
Zanna finished with 14 points and a career-high 19 rebounds for the Panthers. Robinson also had 14 points for Pitt while senior point guard Tray Woodall had 13 points and 11 assists in his final game at the Petersen Events Center. Classmate and best friend Dante Taylor added seven points and six boards in a rare start and put an exclamation point on the victory with an emphatic dunk in the final seconds.
Taylor played 24 minutes while filling in for freshman center Steven Adams, who was forced to sit with a sprained left ankle.
The Wildcats led 35-26 the second half but couldn’t make it stand up. Pitt rallied behind the play of Woodall and freshmen Johnson and Robinson.
Villanova appeared to be in control after Yarou turned two straight possessions extended by offensive rebounds into buckets. The 6-foot-10 senior hit a pair of 17-footers, the second of which put Villanova up 56-52 with 1:21 to play.
Woodall countered with two free throws and after Pinkston made just 1-of-2 at the line, Robinson drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 33 seconds to go that tied it at 57.
The Wildcats wound the clock down but Arcidiacono’s runner in the lane glanced off Taylor’s hands and out of bounds. Villanova inbounded underneath the basket, but the entry pass to squirted away from Yarou as the clock wound down.
“We didn’t execute down the stretch,” Wright said. “That’s on all of us. We didn’t get it done.”
Zanna, who dominated during nonconference play but has almost disappeared the last two months, took over in overtime. He opened the extra session with a traditional three-point play then added two free throws and a short jumper to give Pitt a 64-57 lead.
The final regular-season game in a rivalry that dates back to 1960 looked a lot like the 64 meetings that came before. Neither team could muster much momentum early as things turned physical quickly.
The first half featured more fouls (21) than field goals (18) as Pittsburgh was unable to maintain an emotional lift from Taylor, making his first start of the season on senior day with several members of his extended family in attendance.
Things didn’t get much prettier in the second half, though Wright figures it may be fitting for a series that dates back to 1960.
“We have great respect for their program, have great respect for Jamie and I’ve always felt because of the way they played, their toughness, their physical play, we can always get a judge of where we are as a program when we play them,” Wright said. “I’m going to miss this.”