BY DAN GELSTON
Durand Johnson and Trey Zeigler each scored 13 points to lead Pittsburgh to a 58-43 win over Villanova on Wednesday night.
The Panthers (14-4, 2-3 Big East) snapped a tie with a 15-0 run to end the game and they held Villanova without a point for the final 5 minutes, 13 seconds.
The Panthers opened conference play with consecutive losses before a 28-point win at Georgetown. The Panthers lost at home the last time out to Marquette. They didn’t play much better against the Wildcats, missing 12 of 15 3-point attempts and shooting 36 percent from the floor.
Against the struggling Wildcats, it was enough. Darrun Hilliard scored all 14 of his points in the first half. The Wildcats (11-6, 2-2) committed 18 turnovers.
With each team unable to score, the game was close, if not ugly. James Bell’s steal and bucket – off Pitt’s 14th turnover – tied the game at 43-all.
Villanova’s tight double team nearly forced turnover No. 15, but Zeigler found Steve Adams alone near the basket for the uncontested dunk. Zeigler followed with a layup to make it a four-point lead, and Villanova called timeout. Lamar Patterson, who averaged 9.6 points, banked a runner for his first field goal of the game and an eight-point lead, and the run was on.
The Wildcats would not score again after Bell’s bucket.
Ryan Arcidiacono’s short jumper gave Villanova a 32-25 lead and got a rise out of the usually staid crowd. The Wildcats, coming off a loss at Syracuse, just never found their shooting touch. They followed an eight-basket first half with only six in the second, hardly a recipe for a win.
Tray Woodall scored eight points for Pitt. In Pitt’s last game, Woodall’s head smacked into the knee of Marquette’s Derrick Wilson while scrambling for a loose ball, and he didn’t return.
The Wildcats couldn’t shoot or hold onto the ball for most of the first half. At one point, the Wildcats had eight turnovers and only four field goals, one reason Pitt pulled ahead thanks to a 9-0 run.
But Hilliard kept them afloat with defensive hustle and sharp shooting beyond the arc. He hit all three of his 3-point attempts and was active on defense. He turned a steal at the top of Pittsburgh’s key into a three-point play. On his next steal, he found Arcidiacono in transition for a 3-pointer that put Villanova ahead 23-22 at the break.
This was the final Big East matchup at Villanova between the two intrastate rivals before the Panthers bolt for the ACC next season.