Three of the five BIG EAST games on Saturday were decided by five points or less. As the season heads into the final stretch, Pittsburgh holds a two-game lead in the conference with an 11-1 record.
No. 4/4 Pittsburgh (23-2, 11-1) notched a 57-54 victory over No. 9/10 Villanova at The Pavilion. The win snapped the Wildcats' 46-game winning streak at The Pavilion, while also marking the first win for Pitt at the building since 1994. Guard Brad Wanamaker led the Panthers with 21 points while Nasir Robinson added 15 points and seven rebounds. The Wildcats (19-6, 7-5) trailed by six in the final minute when Antonio Pena knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit in half. Pena then forced a turnover on the defensive end to give VU a chance to tie the game. Guard Dominic Cheek missed a game-tying 3-point attempt, but the ball came out to Maalik Wayns. Wayns swished a fade-away 3, but the shot did not count as it left his hand after the final buzzer had sounded. Forward Mouphtaou Yarou led Villanova with 15 points and 10 rebounds.
No. 16/15 Louisville (19-6, 8-4) held-off a ferocious comeback by No. 12/13 Syracuse, beating the Orange 73-69. Guard Kyle Kuric netted 23 points for the Cardinals while guard Preston Knowles added 22 including a career-high seven made 3-pointers. Kuric and Knowles combined for 12-of-22 shooting from beyond the arc to fuel the victory. Louisville led by as many as 20 points in the second half, but the Orange came storming back. SU went on a 20-5 run over a nine-minute stretch to pull with 69-66 on a Brandon Trick layup. Triche finished with 21 points to lead the Orange. Clutch free-throw shooting down the stretch sealed the win for the Cards, as Chris Smith and Peyton Siva each drained two from the line to give Louisville the win.
Guard Jeremy Hazell became the fourth player in Seton Hall history to score 2,000 points in his career as the Pirates (11-14, 5-8) defeated Rutgers 69-64. Hazell scored a team-high 19 points, while Jordan Theodore added 18 points and six assists. Rutgers' only lead of the game came early in the second half, as Jonathan Mitchell scored six of the team's first eight points of the second frame to give the Scarlet Knights a 35-34 lead. Mitchell had a game-high 24 points. Rutgers (13-12, 4-9) was within one at 52-51 with 4:18 to play, but a quick 7-2 run iced the game for the Pirates as they took a 59-53 with under three minutes remaining. Theodore hit a three and Hazell had a breakaway layup that put him over the 2,000-point mark in the stretch. Freshman Gilvydas Biruta added 18 points for Rutgers.
No. 8/7 Notre Dame (21-4, 10-13) used a 22-0 run in the first half to get past USF 78-55. The Irish trailed 3-2, outscored the Bulls 22-0 over the next 6:10 to go up 24-3 and never looked back. Jack Cooley scored a career-high 18 points while Carleton Scott added a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds. The win gave the Irish their best start since the 1980-81 season. Notre Dame's seven-game conference winning streak is its longest in Big East regular-season play since the Irish won their last five of 2006-07 and the first two league games the following season. It's the team's best stretch within the same season since 2000-01, when the Irish won eight straight BIG EAST games. The Bulls were led by Shaun Noriega who had 23 points including six 3-pointers.
No. 25/rv West Virginia (16-8, 7-5) took down DePaul 82-71. The Mountaineers, who averaged just 58 points per game over their previous six games, were led by a balanced offensive attack that surpassed the 80-point mark for the first time since Jan. 13. John Flowers scored 15 points to lead WVU as five players notched double figures. The Blue Demons never led in the game, but came as close as seven with 2:48 left at a 3-pointer by Jeremiah Kelly. The Mountaineers went 6-of-6 from the line after that and a Flowers' dunk with 49 seconds left sealed it. DePaul (6-18, 0-12) got 14 points from Brandon Young while Cleveland Melvin had nine points and seven rebounds.
Three games are on Sunday's BIG EAST slate, including Marquette at Georgetown on ESPN at 1 p.m. Eastern. With a 19-5 overall mark, the host Hoyas are aiming for their fifth 20-win season in the last six years. The Golden Eagles are trying to break away from a 6-5 logjam in the middle of the league standings. Their last five games have been decided by eight points or less.
Two other 6-5 teams, St. John's and Cincinnati, square off at Fifth Third Arena. Both teams won earlier in the week. The Red Storm defeated Connecticut 89-72 while the Bearcats won 71-68 at DePaul.
Still another 6-5 squad, UConn, hosts Providence tonight at Gampel Pavilion. After an 0-6 league start, the Friars have won three of their last five games. In Thursday's loss at St. John's the Huskies were led in scoring by freshman forward Roscoe Smith who had 16 points. It was the first time this season he was the team's scoring leader.