PITTSBURGH (Ticker) -- After falling into a big hole in the first half, Pittsburgh climbed out with its trademark defense and physical play.
Chevy Troutman scored 13 of 17 points in the second half as the sixth-ranked Panthers rallied for a 59-45 victory over Villanova that clinched the top seed in the Big East Conference tournament.
The Panthers (27-3, 13-3 Big East) trailed by 14 points midway through the first half and five at halftime, but used a 13-0 run early in the second half to take a 30-24 lead with 14:01 remaining.
"Villanova has always had a tough man-on-man defense, but I think our guys showed that they can adjust to what's given to them and do what it takes to win," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "You can't play 40 minutes of perfect basketball, the key is to stick to it and get through the times when it's not going so well. We started slow but we stuck to it."
Pittsburgh outscored Villanova, 42-23, in the second half to claim a share of its third straight Big East regular-season crown despite managing only three points in the first 12 minutes.
"We've won this three years in a row because of our defense," senior guard Julius Page said. "Defense is the key to the game. As long as you stop a team from shooting, you win. It doesn't matter what our offense does."
The Wildcats jumped out to a 17-3 lead with 8:32 left as freshman Mike Nardi drained a 3-pointer, but Pittsburgh closed out the half with a 14-5 spurt. The Panthers shot just 29 percent (7-of-24) and were unable to take advantage of eight turnovers by Villanova before intermission.
Pittsburgh turned things around in the second half. After Allan Ray started the half with a basket for the Wildcats, the Panthers answered with a 14-0 run in which Troutman scored seven points.
Nardi's free throw tied it at 37-37 with 8:27 to go, before Pittsburgh went on a 13-0 burst to go ahead, 50-37, with 2:05 left.
The Panthers shot 42 percent (10-of-24) in the second half, while scoring 19 points on eight turnovers. They finished with 22 points in the paint, compared with eight by the Wildcats.
Freshman Chris Taft added 16 points and 11 rebounds and Carl Krauser contributed 12 for the Panthers, who were playing at Petersen Events Center for the first time since having their 40-game home winning streak snapped last Sunday with an overtime loss to Syracuse.
"We are going into the Big East tournament at No. 1 and we're proud," Dixon said. "But, there is always room to improve and we're going to work hard the next couple of days to do just that."
This was the final home game for seniors Page, Jaron Brown and Toree Morris, who combined for 17 points. The class has a 103-28 record for the best four-year mark in school history.
Ray scored 20 points for Villanova (14-15, 6-10), which extended its losing streak to five games and fell to 0-5 against ranked opponents.
"We just didn't make our shots when we needed to, to get the win today," Wildcats coach Jay Wright said. "It's a new season now, we have to keep getting better at practice and execute in the Big East tournament or we'll be going home quick."