VILLANOVA, Pennsylvania (Ticker) -- Carl Krauser gave Pittsburgh a lead at the break with a halfcourt shot. Allan Ray's 3-point shooting in the second half provided Villanova the win.
Ray scored 21 of his 23 points after halftime and Curtis Sumpter added 18 as the Wildcats used a strong outside shooting performance to knock off the No. 15 Panthers, 80-72, in a Big East Conference clash.
Villanova (17-6, 7-5 Big East) trailed by eight points midway through the first half but rallied behind a 14-6 run to take a 34-33 lead with eight seconds left. Krauser ended the half by banking in a 40-foot shot to return the advantage to Pittsburgh (18-5, 8-4).
"(Krauser's shot) didn't upset us at all," Villanova coach Jay Wright said. "That team has played in the NCAA (Tournament) the last three years. That's what great teams and great players do."
Held to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the first half, Ray sparked the Wildcats early in the second, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to start a 14-0 run that lifted Villanova to a 54-43 cushion with 13:02 remaining.
"(Pittsburgh) played man-to-man in the first half," Ray said. "They went to a zone in the second half and I found a way to get some shots."
Pittsburgh, which overcame 17-point deficits against Connecticut and Syracuse in the last month, nearly clawed back in this one.
After Villanova built its biggest lead, 71-58, with 5:38 remaining, the Panthers scored 10 straight points and closed to within 71-68 on two free throws by Krauser with 98 seconds left. But Ray answered with a three-point play on a jumper in the lane to rebuild the margin to 74-68 with 65 seconds remaining.
"That was huge. It got us up by six," said Wright of Ray's shot. "He's our go-to guy. He was awesome in the second half. We were never, ever comfortable, even with the 14-0 run, that it was over."
"Coach had called my number," Ray said. "I knew we needed a big shot. As long as we win, even if I score (only) two points, I'm happy."
Ray finished 7-of-16 from the field and tied a career high with five 3-pointers for the Wildcats, who shot 52 percent (12-of-23) from the arc.
"We didn't guard the three well," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "It's difficult to beat a good team that goes 12-for-23 on threes."
With its fifth win in its last six games, Villanova moved one step closer to securing its first NCAA Tournament bid since the 1998-99 season.
"That means absolutely nothing," Wright said. "You still have to prove yourself in the Big East. That's what is great about this league."
Krauser scored 16 points, but hit only 3-of-10 shots and had eight of his points from the charity stripe. He also finished with six turnovers.
After losing two teeth in a win over Notre Dame on February 12, Krauser took a number of physical hits in this one.
"I kind of felt like a six-foot-two 'Shaq' out there, getting hacked a lot," said Krauser referring to the NBA's Shaquille O'Neal. "It was frustrating. That's not the reason we lost, but it helped."
"We recruited Krauser," Wright said. "He's what college point guards are all about."
Aaron Gray had a career-high 15 points and Chris Taft added 11 for Pittsburgh, which has lost five of its last six games at the Pavilion.
Randy Foye and Mark Nardi chipped in with 15 points and 13, respectively, for Villanova, which hosts Boston College on Wednesday.