Woodall dishes out Panthers’ OT victory

PITTSBURGH – Pittsburgh still doesn’t have a defined player to take the final shot in a big game, but it certainly has a player it wants with the ball.

Tray Woodall scored 13 points and dished out assists on all four Pitt field goals in the overtime period of a 73-64 victory over Villanova at the Petersen Events Center Sunday.

Woodall saved his best assist for last, finding fellow senior Dante Taylor open in the final seconds and setting up an emphatic dunk to close out the Wildcats and bring home a senior day win.

“Once I’d seen [Taylor] streaking ahead, it was the perfect way to close the chapter on a great home career,” Woodall said. “I was glad to see him get out for a breakaway. For him to get the crowd involved and to do all the things that he’s been doing since he’s been here, it was a great feeling.”

Woodall also played a role in reinvigorating the offensive game of Talib Zanna, who finished with 14 points and 19 rebounds. Zanna scored the first seven points of overtime and finished with nine in the extra period after struggling offensively the past few games.

“We came out strong for the seniors in overtime,” Zanna said. “We had a good talk about wanting to play for them, and we stayed focused on that. Tray has always been there for me if I was down, and he’s always picking me up. He’s a good leader.”

Pitt survived a second-half in which it never led and trailed by as many as nine points.

The two teams combined for 47 fouls, but only Villanova’s Mouphtaou Yarou actually fouled out.

The Wildcats led by three until James Robinson hit his first 3-pointer in seven games to tie the score with 31.9 seconds left.

“With the game clock running down, I pretty much had to take the shot,” Robinson said. “Like I said, Dante and Tray have trusted me all year. It really showed how much trust we have in each other for them to be able to trust me enough to pass the ball to me in the corner.

“I just knocked it down for them. I just really wanted them to win on their senior night.”

On the Wildcats’ next possession, contact that wasn’t called a foul with less than 10 seconds to play changed the game. Villanova guard Ryan Arcidiacono, who scored a game-high 23 points, drove to the basket into two defenders, but there was no whistle and the ball went out of bounds off Pitt. With 3.3 seconds left, Villanova inbounded the ball but never got a shot off after a short scrum in which the Panthers came away with the ball.

“That was a great college basketball game. It was fun to be a part of, but I didn’t particularly like the ending,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I give Pitt a lot of credit. They gutted it out down the stretch. We had the ball on the last possession of the game. We get a baseline out of bounds and don’t get a shot off. Right there you don’t deserve to win.”

The win pushed Pitt’s overall record to 23-7 and made the Panthers 11-6 in the Big East. Pittsburgh is in fourth place in the Big East, a game ahead of Notre Dame and Syracuse. Syracuse has already lost to Pitt and must play DePaul and at Georgetown to close the season. Notre Dame, which beat Pitt, hosts St. John’s and plays at Louisville. Meanwhile, the Panthers have nearly a week off and close out the regular season at DePaul, who they beat 93-55 earlier this season.

If Pitt can remain in the fourth spot, it would secure a double-bye in the Big East tournament. Playing one less game could be big for the Panthers, who played without 7-foot center Steven Adams Sunday due to an ankle injury.

“Coach [Jamie] Dixon said a double bye could really help us,” Zanna said. “We’ll probably need that double bye to get healthy. It’s the difference between playing three games and four games, so we need it.”

Dixon said he considers Adams’ injury minor, but he was happy with how his team played without the preseason Big East Freshman of the Year.

“Our guys responded in so many ways and without Steve being available to go and everyone in foul trouble,” Dixon said. “We had different guys step up and make plays.

“The first thing I’ll remember about this day is our seniors. I’ve talked the past couple weeks about the steps they’ve taken. They have brought this team along and have made that commitment all year. Our defense, no question, has improved because of them and that’s why we’re getting better.”

VILLANOVA (18-12): Yarou 7-9 0-0 14, Pinkston 3-11 7-10 13, Bell 1-7 0-0 3, Hilliard 1-8 4-5 6, Arcidiacono 6-14 6-6 23, Chennault 2-4 1-5 5, Ochefu 0-1 0-0 0, Yacoubou 0-0 0-0 0, Sutton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-54 18-26 64.

PITTSBURGH (23-7): Patterson 3-7 2-2 8, Zanna 4-8 6-7 14, Taylor 3-7 1-2 7, Robinson 4-6 4-6 14, Woodall 4-11 4-5 13, Wright 1-2 0-0 2, Johnson 3-3 0-0 9, Zeigler 0-2 1-2 1, Moore 2-8 0-0 5. Totals 24-54 18-24 73.

Halftime-Villanova 28-25. End Of Regulation-Tied 57. 3-Point Goals-Villanova 6-20 (Arcidiacono 5-8, Bell 1-7, Pinkston 0-1, Hilliard 0-4), Pittsburgh 7-17 (Johnson 3-3, Robinson 2-2, Woodall 1-4, Moore 1-4, Patterson 0-4). Fouled Out-Yarou. Rebounds-Villanova 32 (Yarou 8), Pittsburgh 41 (Zanna 19). Assists-Villanova 15 (Arcidiacono, Chennault 4), Pittsburgh 17 (Woodall 11). Total Fouls-Villanova 25, Pittsburgh 22. A-12,553.