No. 21 Villanova beats No. 3 Pittsburgh 67-57
PHILADELPHIA (AP)—A Philly guy had a career night in the last college basketball game to be played in the Spectrum.
That will be Reggie Redding’s only memory of the place as he never saw a game in the building where he had a career-high 18 points and grabbed seven rebounds as No. 21 Villanova beat No. 3 Pittsburgh 67-57 on Wednesday.
“My father is a big basketball fan. When I was younger, he would talk to me about Dr. J, Moses Malone, Andrew Toney. I never got the chance to watch a game here. But I knew about it coming from a basketball background,” the junior guard said of the building that opened in 1967 and will be torn down later this year. “But coming from Philly, it’s the Spectrum. Everyone loves the Spectrum, respects it. It’s just great to finish it off like that.”
Dante Cunningham added 15 points for the Wildcats (16-4, 4-3 Big East), who beat a ranked team for the first time in five tries this season and they did it by coming up big on the boards and playing good perimeter defense in the second half.
“The reason we wanted to get this was because they’re really good,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “It wouldn’t have got us down if we didn’t come back and beat a ranked opponent. We pride ourselves on not letting one game turn into a problem.”
Sam Young had 14 points for the Panthers (18-2, 6-2), who had one field goal over the game’s final 5 minutes and were outrebounded 19-16 in the second half. Pittsburgh entered the game averaging 40.6 rebounds per game and it lead the Big East with a plus-9.3 rebound margin.
Redding made two free throws with 8:03 left to break the game’s final tie and start a 7-0 run that gave the Wildcats a 55-48 lead with 5:26 to play.
Pittsburgh, which came into the game fifth in the conference in 3-point shooting at 35.4 percent, missed all 10 of its attempts from behind the arc in the second half and with center DeJuan Blair saddled with foul trouble throughout the game, the Panthers didn’t have an inside or outside game.
Blair finished with seven points and eight rebounds in 23 minutes. He entered the game fourth in the nation in rebounding with a 12.7 average and he was limited by foul trouble in the Panthers’ other loss, at Louisville.
“We missed DeJuan a lot, just his presence helps,” Pittsburgh guard Levance Fields said. “Obviously the two losses have been with him in foul trouble. We’ve got to do a better job of playing without him.”
Panthers coach Jamie Dixon agreed with Fields.
“All our guys were in foul trouble and we just had to play through it. You can’t put yourself in that situation,” he said. “We have to learn after a loss and we did after Louisville. Tonight we just couldn’t play our game and do the things we do. That’s for us to figure out.”
Pittsburgh closed within 59-53 with 2:32 to go on a free throw by Fields, but the Wildcats, the best free throw shooting team in the Big East, went 8-for-10 from the line over the final 2:17 to seal the win. Redding finished 10-for-10 from the line and the Wildcats were 19-of-28.
“The home team wins that game. Just two really tough teams,” Wright said. “We were really tough tonight, we were physically tough.”
The Spectrum opened in 1967 and was the home for almost 30 years for the NBA’s Sixers and NHL’s Flyers. It hosted two Final Fours (1976 and 1981, both won by Indiana) as well as what many consider one of the best NCAA tournament games, the 1992 East Regional final when Christian Laettner hit a turnaround from the top of the key at the buzzer to give Duke a 104-103 victory over Kentucky.
Villanova played 59 games at the Spectrum, winning 31. Pittsburgh and Villanova had met here one other time, a 75-72 victory for the Wildcats on Jan. 30, 1991.
The Wachovia Center opened across the parking lot from the Spectrum in 1996.
“I know it was a big night in this building,” Wright said. “I looked up at the end and it was awesome.”