by RAY MERNAGH
Brad Wanamaker's play is classical Philly Soul.
It's as if the 6'4" Pitt guard is a basketball playing Delfonic if you will.
So imagine the feelings inside Wanamaker tonight when he stepped off the bus, headphones on blast, and realized this is my city and this is the last time I'm going to play here in a Pitt uniform.
Wanamaker and his teammates -- especially fellow Philly head Nas Robinson -- had spent all week hearing about what the atmosphere would be like at Villanova's on-campus Pavilion (a cozy gym where Nova had won 46 straight games). They had heard all about the excellence of Corey Fisher and Maalik Wayns, of the highly-rated talent that Villanova would trot out on the floor against their Panthers. Mostly, they had heard all about how they wouldn't beat Jay Wright's Wildcats, due to the reasons covered above.
Yes, Nova had broken their hearts two years ago in Boston.
But that was two years ago.
And to paraphrase Rick Pitino, Scottie Reynolds wasn't walking through that door.
This Pitt team, despite it's shiny record and up to this point a certain #1 seed come March, has been overlooked in a lot of ways. Sure, they're used to being ignored in the Steel City, especially when the Steelers make a deep run as they did this season, getting all the way to the Super Bowl.
But it's more than that. They've pretty much taken on all comers -- save Tennessee and Notre Dame (neither is a bad loss) -- and prevailed. They've won high scoring affairs and defensive struggles alike because they're so efficient offensively. And maybe that's what rubs them the most. This idea that this Pitt team, the one that regularly plays nine guys, averages 77.4 points a game, dishes out 18.4 assists and shoots almost 48% from the field continues to be portrayed as a slow-it-down, bang you around (read not very skilled) unit.
It couldn't be further from the truth. Across the statistical board Pittsburgh is better than Villanova offensively, but you'd never, ever know that from listening to the experts that monopolize the college basketball content out there. In fact, you might get punched in a bar if you try to argue it with the wrong drunk guy.
So, I guess Wanamaker and Robinson figured screw it, if the media is going to continue this false propaganda, let's go back to the good old days and see if we can't get under Jay Bilas' skin a little bit. And that's what the Panthers did tonight in Philadelphia. They went old school.
Already minus their star scorer Ashton Gibbs, Pitt struggled to hit shots. Open shots, contested shots, layups, you name it. But they also guarded the hell out of Villanova. And in the end they relied on Wanamaker (their Philly Bull) -- who got help from Robinson and Travon Woodall -- to make enough plays to hold off Villanova 57-54.
Wanamaker was the best player on the floor. His up-fake that got Maalik Wayns in the air -- before hitting the shot and drawing the foul on his ex-Roman Catholic teammate -- will no doubt earn a text from a guy named Young who now does his thing in Memphis. Wanamaker finished with 21 points and 4 rebounds, plus 2 steals, an assist and a block.
Nasir Robinson finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds, 1 punch to the face and 2 Mouph Yarou blows to the head. I thought they were honoring Rayndy Foye by retiring his jersey, but I think they rescheduled that for a later date and instead went with the first annual "Hit Nas Robinson in the Head Night."
Robinson took it, and to his credit, didn't respond foolishly.
Woodall finished with 8 points, hit two huge shots and most importantly, didn't turn the ball over against Nova's unrelenting pressure.
It was an ugly game.
A Philly-type game, gritty, with bodies flying all over the floor.
And as Jamie Dixon said so eloquently to Erin Andrews afterwards: "Our Philly guys played like Philly guys."
So true. Robinson, at 6'5", was the toughest guy in the paint.
You could excuse him if, as he walked off the court, he didn't break out into a little old school jam.
Didn't I blow your mind this time, didn't I?
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