for this game

Young, Pittsburgh avoid second straight home loss

Jan 31, 2008 - 4:34 AM By Brad Everett PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- Pittsburgh made sure Villanova would not become the second straight team to defeat it on its home floor.

Sam Young had 15 points and Tyrell Biggs scored 14 as the 21st-ranked Panthers bounced back from its only home loss of the season to defeat the Wildcats, 69-57, in a Big East Conference matchup on Wednesday.

Freshman DeJuan Blair added 10 points and 14 rebounds for the Panthers, who were coming off a rare home loss to Rutgers on Saturday.

"I was extremely proud of the way our guys played throughout the night," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "It wasn't the Rutgers game. What happened to us in those 12 minutes against Rutgers doesn't happen to us, and didn't happen again tonight."

But Pittsburgh (17-4, 5-3 Big East), which has now won 41 of its last 49 conference home games, took control midway through the second half after Villanova had rallied to take a brief lead.

Leading throughout the contest - including by as many as 13 points in the first half - Pittsburgh saw its advantage disappear after a driving layup from sophomore guard Scottie Reynolds gave Villanova its first lead, 38-37, with 13:39 left.

The Panthers then responded with a 22-3 run sparked by six points each from Young and Biggs to give the Panthers a commanding 59-41 lead with 4:33 remaining.

"I think we played a hungry team tonight," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "They did a great job. I thought their effort just kind of wore us down. We hung for awhile, but I think Blair up front and Biggs on offensive glass as the game went down, they hit some big shots."

Pittsburgh's leading scorer, Young put the exclamation point on a 12-0 spurt inside the bigger run by blocking a shot that led to a dunk with the foul, giving the Panthers their 18-point bulge.

Reynolds finished with 26 points to pace the Wildcats, who failed to top the 60-point mark for the first time all season. The sophomore guard shot 9-of-15 from the floor but Villanova was just 23-of-63 (37 percent) as a team.

Pittsburgh also avenged an earlier defeat to Villanova, which squeaked by the Panthers, 64-63, in Philadelphia on January 6. It was the third consecutive loss for the Wildcats (13-6, 3-5), who had not lost three straight since a five-game skid late in the 2003-04 season.

"Teams go through stretches like this," Wright said. "What's important is how you handle it. Not to dwell on three straight losses. It's how we come back against Syracuse. That's what's going to be important."

Pittsburgh outrebounded Villanova, 43-32, for the game and had a 24-7 advantage in made free throws.

"If we outrebound a team and play defense, our offense is going to be there," said Blair, who had his eighth double-double of the season. "We'll win most of our games if we do those two."

The Panthers looked like they would run away with things early, as they took advantage of the cold-shooting Wildcats, who made just six of their first 26 shots.

"We had our chances early," Wright said. "We had good shots early in the game. We were missing layups. You can't do that against a good team on the road."

Pittsburgh led 11-2 and took its biggest lead at 24-11 after Biggs made one of two free throws with 5:12 left in the first half.

But Villanova managed to stay close, scoring the final four points of the period and only trailed, 29-23, at the break.

The Wildcats were down by eight before using a 9-0 run - seven from Reynolds - to take that 38-37 advantage.