Pitt's defense clamped down on Villanova midway through the second half and pulled away for a 58-43 road win Wednesday night at the Pavillion.
"We won with our defense. The defense is coming along," Dixon said. "We didn’t play great, but we played hard and we defended. That’s what you have to do on the road."
Pitt's defense held Villanova to 31 percent shooting from the floor and also forced 18 turnovers. The offense did not score its first field goal until over five minutes into the game when Trey Zeigler hit a layup in traffic.
The rebounding script held true for the Panthers. They lost every Big East conference game when they were out-rebounded and they won every game when they out-rebounded their opponent.
They out-rebounded the Wildcats 39-27 including giving up only one offensive rebound the entire game. Villanova entered the game as the best rebounding team in the Big East.
"We spent the whole pre-game talk screaming about rebounding and we came out and did it. [Villanova] had one offensive rebound. That speaks volumes," Dixon said. "We haven't been getting it done. In our losses, we haven’t rebounded. We've been preaching it. Villanova was out-rebounding their opponent by ten coming into the game."
It was a game of runs before Pitt (13-4, 1-3 Big East) held Villanova (11-5, 2-1 Big East) to two field goals in the final 11 minutes. The Panthers had a 9-0 run late in the first half to take a 19-13 lead. Villanova responded with an 8-0 run to end the half with a 23-22 lead. The Wildcats were helped by the Panthers' ten turnovers in the first half, one more than their game average.
The Wildcats continued to roll in the second half by tearing off a 9-2 run after the break and extend their run to 17-2 and were up 32-25 five minutes into the second half. The Panthers then responded with a 7-0 run to tie the game less than two minutes later.
Pitt then scored the final 15 points of the game to pull away for a vital road conference win. The breakout was ignited by a Zeigler assist in the lane. He was double-teamed but broke through and fed a wide open Steve Adams who slammed home a dunk to break a 43-43 tie.
With the game still undecided, and Pitt clinging to a 49-43 lead with 1:15 left, Lamar Patterson hauled in an offensive rebound and drove around the lane for a layup to give Pitt a 51-43 lead. It was his first points of the night and it game at a good time.
On the offensive end, it was Pitt's bench that carried the load. Zeigler and Durand Johnson scored 13 points each. Zeigler also added six rebounds. Steve Adams added nine. Tray Woodall added eight points.
"We had great performances from Durand [Johnson], Trey [Zeigler], and Steve [Adams]," Dixon said. "Adams is getting better figuring it out. This is a whole new world for him."
Pitt shot 3-15 from three-point line but scored 11 second-chance points. Villanova did not have any second chance points.
"We took good three-point shots. We just didn't make them," Dixon said. "I thought we were the aggressor today. We were more physical, more active."
Villanova was led by Darrell Hilliard with 14 points, but he scored all of them in the first half. Pitt's defense shut him out in the second half.
The Panthers return home to host Connecticut on Saturday at noon at the Petersen Events Center.
"We have to continue to grind," Dixon said. "That's who we are."