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Sunday, February 21, 2010
Pitt 29, Villanova 23 at the half

By Dana O'Neil

PITTSBURGH -- No surprise here, but it's been a very physical, scrappy game with both teams struggling on the offensive end. Villanova has managed just nine field goals and Pittsburgh 10, with both teams connecting only just 34 percent from the floor.

Truth is, Pitt -- which led by 10 -- ought to be up a lot more than six. Villanova has played without two of its best players for significant minutes and has shot the ball poorly. But the Panthers, never a great shooting team, have had their own share of struggles scoring buckets and keeping things going offensively.

Some things to keep an eye on the in the second half:

*Both Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher have two fouls for Villanova and though the Wildcats are deep in the backcourt, they aren't deep enough to go long term without both of them. Reynolds played just nine minutes and Fisher eight. Maalik Wayns has done an admirable job filling in but Villanova needs one of the veterans in the backcourt to handle the defensive intensity Pitt brings. In part because of the fouls and limited playing time, Reynolds only has taken three shots. He's been more productive in the second half all season so it will be interesting to see if he lights up after the break.

*Gary McGhee has been very active on the inside for the Panthers, with six rebounds and six points. Though the Wildcats aren't as strong in the frontcourt, they're going to have to find a way to battle with McGhee. Pitt is really hurting Villanova with second-chance points, 10-4.

*Will this game turn at the foul line as well? In the Elite Eight game, Villanova sank 22 of 23 free throws versus 21 of 29 for the Panthers. This time the Wildcats, the league's best from the charity stripe, are only 4 of 9 in front of the raucous Petersen Events Center crowd and rocking student section. Pitt, meantime is a perfect 9 for 9. This game hasn't been called too tight - 9 fouls on each side - but the free-throw line once again could be the spot that means the difference between winning and losing.