VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) -- Villanova's Allan Ray hit one 3-pointer
after another with the ease of a layup during a game-changing run.
Then he showed he can make clutch shots from inside the arc,
Ray hit five 3-pointers and scored 21 of his 23 points in the
second half to lift Villanova (No. 25 AP) to an 80-72 win over Pittsburgh (No. 15 ESPN/USA Today, No. 17 AP) on Sunday.
Ray's biggest three points late in the game weren't from behind
the line, though. They came from a three-point play off a tough
turnaround jumper with 1:05 left that stopped a 10-0 run by the
Panthers and ended their chance at yet another comeback victory.
"I hadn't scored in a while and I knew we needed a big shot,"
Ray said. "I wasn't scared to take the big shot. I went in and hit
the shot and got the and-1."
Coach Jay Wright never hesitated to call the play for Ray,
Villanova's top scorer and the team's leader with 64 3-pointers.
"He's made those plays a lot for us and we expect him to do
that," Wright said. "He loves that position."
Curtis Sumpter scored 18 points, Randy Foye added 15 and
Villanova went 12-for-23 from 3-point range, helping the Wildcats
(17-6, 7-5 Big East) win for the eighth time in 10 games and
bolstering their chances of making their first NCAA tournament
appearance since 1999.
Aaron Gray, a 7-foot center, continued to get major minutes off
the bench and scored a career-high 15 points for the Panthers
(18-5, 8-4). Carl Krauser had 16 points with six turnovers. Chris
Taft added 11 points.
With a noticeable size difference thanks to Villanova's
three-guard lineup, the Wildcats won by doing what they do best --
shooting well from the perimeter. Ray hit three 3s during a 17-2
run early in the second half that turned a two-point halftime
deficit into a 12-point lead.
With Pitt ahead 43-30, Ray hit consecutive 3-pointers, then
Sumpter added one and Kyle Lowry chipped in a three-point play
during the decisive spurt.
"I just found a way to get some shots and I knocked them
down," Ray said.
But the Panthers, who seem to thrive when facing large deficits,
never were really out of the game. They rallied from 17 points down
to beat both Syracuse and Connecticut in January and they beat the
Orange a second time last week after being down eight points with 7
Trailing by 13 with 5:35 left against Villanova, the Panthers
went 8-for-11 from the free throw line and got a fast-break dunk
from Taft to pull to 71-68.
"They just never die and we knew it," Wright said. "We were
never, ever comfortable that it was over."
The Wildcats also went cold from the floor, missing eight
straight shots until Ray came through with only his second 2-point
bucket of the game.
"We felt we still could win when we were down," said Chevon
Troutman, who scored nine points. "We've come back a lot, but we
just came up short. It seemed like their 3s were coming from
Ray was only 1-for-3 for two points in the first half against
Pittsburgh's tight man defense. When the Panthers switched to a
zone, Ray found himself open outside and he took advantage,
finishing 7-for-16 overall.
"I found ways to find my shot," Ray said. "The guys were
leaving me open. They were playing me to drive. I don't know why.
They were giving me the shot, so I was taking it."
As security surrounded the student section in the final seconds,
the students mocked the opposition with chants of "It's Only
Pitt!" and "Not An Upset!"
Security backed off and the fans stormed the court and wildly
celebrated. Wright shook hands with fans on his way to a postgame
The Panthers shot 52 percent in the first half and Krauser
banked a halfcourt shot as time expired, giving them a 36-34 lead.
Villanova earned its third win this year against a Top 25 team,
all in similar fashion. Ray hit five of Villanova's 10 3s against
West Virginia and he and Sumpter combined to make nine in a victory
The Wildcats get another shot at a ranked team when they host
No. 6 Boston College on Wednesday.