Scottie Reynolds put himself into Villanova lore with his shot that beat Pittsburgh and put the Wildcats into the Final Four last year.
The Big East powerhouses meet for the first time since that memorable contest Sunday when the third-ranked Wildcats try to end a six-game road losing streak against the No. 19 Panthers.
Reynolds was named East Regional MVP after he raced in from halfcourt and scored with 0.5 seconds left for a 78-76 victory over the top-seeded Panthers. The basket, dubbed “The Shot,” put Villanova in its first Final Four since its lone national title in 1985.
“That shot’s going to be remembered around here for a long time,” said Villanova coach Jay Wright at the time.
Villanova (22-3, 11-2) lost three starters from that team, and Pittsburgh (20-6, 9-4) was forced to replace four. Both teams have done a terrific job, with the Wildcats trailing No. 5 Syracuse by one-half game for the Big East lead and the Panthers already securing their school-record ninth straight 20-win season.
With so few players back from last year’s game, revenge may not be a huge motivator for the Panthers. Villanova, meanwhile, is trying to avoid consecutive losses for the first time after falling 84-75 at home to Connecticut on Monday.
The Wildcats have lost both previous visits to the Petersen Events Center, and have not beaten the Panthers on the road since Feb. 17, 1996. This is their second visit to Pittsburgh in six seasons.
“Now we’ve got the Pitt Panthers, playing them in the Pete. We haven’t had much success there,” Wright said. “But the thing about this league is you just gotta get to the next game and get better in between games and go out and compete every night.”
Villanova turned in its worst shooting game in the Big East this season against UConn, finishing at 40.0 percent. Reynolds scored a team-high 18 points.
Three Wildcats fouled out as the Huskies shot 44 free throws.
“You gotta learn in this league, everyone is bringing it every night and you’re going to be in a battle every night, and if any little part of your game slips, you’re going to get beat,” Wright said. “Now it’s getting to be a reality. I think it’s really helping our team.”
The Panthers are averaging 29.5 free throws during a four-game home win streak. Pitt has won four straight overall after limiting Marquette to 35.0 percent shooting in a 58-51 road victory Thursday.
“For the most part, we did a pretty good job,” coach Jamie Dixon said. “They didn’t get many open looks.”
The strong defensive effort was needed with no Panther scoring more than 10 points. Leading scorer Ashton Gibbs, averaging 16.2, missed all six shots and was held to a season-low two points.
Pitt is 6-0 all-time against top-five opponents at the Petersen Events Center, where it has won 35 of its last 36.
“In this league, the environments that you play in are so difficult,” Wright said. “The road environments are so tough, especially for college kids.”