PITTSBURGH—Tray Woodall and Dante Taylor ended their Pitt career in storybook fashion Sunday afternoon. In the final seconds of overtime, Woodall threw a half-court outlet pass to Taylor who threw down a thunderous exclamation point. The dunk ended the score in Pitt’s 73-64 overtime win on senior day at a raucous Petersen Events Center.
“I will always remember this game since it was my last here,” Taylor said. “To finish my last game like that was great.”
Woodall’s eyes lit up when he rebounded a miss with 13 seconds left, turned up the court, and saw Taylor out in front of everybody.
“On that last play, I knew I was going to get the rebound,” Woodall said. “Once I saw [Taylor] running down the court, it was a great feeling to set him up for such an exciting play.”
Pitt head coach Jamie Dixon seemed just as happy after the game about having .3 seconds left to allow Woodall and Taylor leave the court for a curtain call, as he did about the important home conference win.
“To have Tray [Woodall] hit Dante [Taylor] for a dunk at the end was great,” Dixon said. “Then to be able to have them taken out with .3 seconds left, it couldn’t have ended any better.”
Actually, it almost ended much worse. The Panthers (23-7, 11-6 Big East) were bothered by Villanova’s (18-12, 9-8 Big East) stymieing defense throughout most of the game. They shot only 37 percent in first half and trailed the Wildcats 28-25 at the break.
Less than four minutes into the second half, Villanova led by as much as nine points at 35-26 but Pitt tied the game at 43-43 midway through the second half on a Woodall jumper.
The Panthers stayed close but the Wildcats took a four point lead with 1:26 left in the game. Villanova shot 90 percent from the free throw line in the first half (9-10) and 6-10 from the free throw line in the second half, but JayVaughn Pinkston only made one of two from the line which left Pitt trailing by only three points with a minute left in the game.
James Robinson missed a jumper with 48 seconds left but Talib Zanna rescued the possession with an offensive rebound. Robinson had another chance 16 seconds later and hit a three-pointer to tie the game 57-57 with 32 seconds left.
“With the game clock running down I had to take the shot. [Woodall] penetrated the gap and that forced defensive help. It could have been a defensive breakdown,” Robinson said. “My team trusted me to shoot all year. I just tried to make the best basketball play out there and I knocked it down for them.”
The Wildcats held for the last shot but never got a shot off. He credited Pitt’s defense on the inbounds pass with 3 seconds left that Mouphtaou Yarou was not able to handle.
“It was a great college basketball game. It was fun to be a part of even though I was not particularly pleased with the end,” Wright said. “Give Pitt credit. They gutted it out. We had a chance to inbounds the ball for the winning shot and we didn’t execute.”
Robinson came up big in overtime too in almost the same situation. Following two Villanova free throws, Pitt was leading by a slim 2-point margin in overtime (66-64) with 30 seconds left. Woodall once again penetrated the defense and kicked the ball out to an open Robinson on the wing. He buried the three to give Pitt a five point lead at 69-64.
“[The second three-pointer] was similar to the first one. Tray [Woodall] told me when he penetrated for me to drop down low,” Robinson said. “He penetrated and drew the defense again.”
Even though Robinson’s three-pointer, and also two free throws, were big in overtime, Talib Zanna was the hero in the extra period. He scored Pitt’s first five points in overtime, seven overall, and pulled down three rebounds down in the overtime period. He scored 14 points and pulled down 19 rebounds overall.
“I knew we needed this win so I just tried to come out strong in the overtime,” Zanna said. “I think they were kinda tired in the overtime and we were able to outhustle them and get the ‘w’.”
Robinson also scored 14 points. Woodall joined him in double figures with 13. Woodall also had 11 assists.
Durand John came off the bench and shot 3-for-3 from three-point range for nine points.
Villanova was led by Ryan Arcidiacono who scored 23 points including 5-for-8 from three-point range. He was joined in double figures by Moughtaou Yarou who scored 14 and Pinkston who added 13
The Panthers now play at DePaul on Saturday for their last regular season conference game of the year. They are still in the running for the fourth seed in the Big East Conference Tournament.