Down the stretch, Pitt (14-4, 2-3), which was coming off a home overtime loss to Marquette, got four consecutive baskets on either dunks or layups (one on a follow) before cementing it late at the foul line.
So what had been a seven-game Villanova winning streak is now a two-game losing streak. And after a trip to Providence on Saturday the Wildcats (11-6, 2-2) are looking at Louisville, a rematch with Syracuse (both in South Philly) and at Notre Dame.
Should we mention this was the fewest points the Wildcats have ever scored in their building? The previous low was 52, in a one-point loss to Saint Joseph's way back in December 1987, some 22 months after it opened.
"We just couldn't break through," said coach Jay Wright. "We couldn't . . . score. We didn't do a good job handling their defense. They stayed behind our forwards, which allows you to have rebounding position if you miss."
Which, of course, both teams did plenty of, a reality that's often epidemic in this league. Villanova went 14-for-44, while the visitors were 18-for-49. But the Wildcats, who had the top rebounding margin in conference play (plus 9.7), were beaten badly off the glass (39-27). They had only one at the offensive end, which is borderline impossible. Pitt also dominated the bench scoring, 31-8. And much of that difference came from unexpected sources.
Ninth man Trey Zeigler, who'd been averaging 4.6, had a career-high 13 in 25 minutes. Seventh man Durand Johnson (4.2) got his 13, another career-best, in 23. They combined to shoot 10-for-18. Pitt did match a season-high with 15 turnovers, but it was still three fewer than Villanova. Freshman lead guard Ryan Arcidiacono had six, for the second straight game, and shot 2-for-10. It is a process.
"We didn't make shots," Wright said. "But you hate to say that. It means the other team's playing good defense.
"They picked the right people to lay off of. But they were struggling, too. Then they hit some big shots.''
Darrun Hilliard was the only Wildcat to reach double digits, with 14. But he got all of them in the first 18 minutes, when he made all three of his three-pointers. He took only one shot in the second half, when he was hampered by foul trouble and a jammed right (non-shooting) thumb.
"They were tough," Hilliard duly noted of Pitt.
There are going to be games like this, because Villanova isn't quite good enough yet. But the Wildcats are already within two wins of matching last season's total, so it can't be all bad. But you can't waste opportunities when they present themselves, especially at home.
"It's no secret what you have to do in our league," said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. "Rebound. It's not easy winning on the road. Hopefully this is a step in the right direction for us."
The Wildcats are 4-3 on campus this season, having already lost to Columbia and Temple. They'll play four more there, starting Feb. 3 against Providence. We should know a lot more about where they're headed by then.
In the meantime . . .
"I love this [rivalry]," Wright said. "It's always a tough, physical game, a grind-it-out game. They always challenge your toughness. I do think about it [being over]. I will miss it."
But maybe not the recent results.