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Big East battle pits Panthers against Wildcats

Pittsburgh, PA (Sports Network) - For the last time as Big East foes in regular season action the Villanova Wildcats and Pittsburgh Panthers will collide at the Petersen Events Center on Sunday.

The Wildcats had won three straight games before being stunned, 66-65, by Seton Hall last time out. The setback dropped the Wildcats to 18-11 overall and to a 9-7 mark in league action which has them right in the thick of things in the crowded Big East standings. Villanova will face another ranked opponent in its season finale on Thursday when it hosts No. 7 Georgetown.

Pittsburgh has quietly posted a strong campaign this season. The Panthers have earned back-to-back wins entering this contest, their final at home this year. Pittsburgh is 22-7 overall and with a 64-44 win over South Florida on Wednesday, Pitt is now 10-6 in league action. The Panthers have now won 10 conference games in the last 12 seasons making it the only Big East squad to do so.

These rivals from the Keystone State have an even split of the 64 previous meetings. Pittsburgh used a strong defensive effort to earn a 58-43 win when they met up earlier this season. The Panthers have now won five straight in the series.

Villanova had a 65-61 lead with 28 seconds left and looked to have the game wrapped up against Seton Hall. However the Wildcats allowed the Pirates to score the final five points to give up the decision. Ryan Arcidiacono had a chance to win at the end but missed a last-second jumper.

The Wildcats are one of the least efficient teams in the Big East on the offensive end of the floor. They are among the three worst teams in the conference in assists (12.4 pg) and field-goal percentage (.417). On the defensive end they have been solid, holding teams to fewer than 65 points per game and less than 40 percent shooting. JayVaughn Pinkston (12.7 ppg) is the leading scoring option for the Wildcats though he has spent a bulk of the season as a reserve. Pinkston has become a mainstay in the starting lineup down the stretch though. In his freshman season Arcidiacono (11.8 ppg) has shown no fear in taking shots, but is hitting just 35.4 percent from the floor. Darrun Hilliard (11.6 ppg) is the third and final member of the team averaging in double figures.

Yet again it was Pittsburgh's effort on the defensive end that carried it in the win over South Florida. The Panthers limited the Bulls to just 31.9 percent shooting in the matchup, while surrendering just six field goals in the final 20 minutes.

Defense has been the strong suit for the Panthers all season. They have limited teams to a paltry 54.6 and 9.9 assists per game. Each of those marks is among the top 20 nationally. The Panthers have also kept teams to just 38.9 percent shooting. On offense the Panthers don't pile up the points but they have been extremely careful with their passes and shot selection. The Panthers lead the Big East in field-goal percentage (.473), while handing out the 10th most assists in the country (16.4 apg). Tray Woodall (11.5 ppg, 5.1 apg) not only leads the team in scoring but has been the top distributor as well. Lamar Patterson (10.0 ppg) is the only other double-figure scorer on the roster. Talib Zanna (9.8 ppg, 5.7 rpg) is capable of lighting it up as he makes good on better than 50 percent from the field.

03/03 10:44:59 ET

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