PITTSBURGH (NCAA) - A couple of players who grew up in the neighboring African countries of Benin and Nigeria took center stage in an important game of American college basketball on Sunday.
In a Big East showdown, the Pittsburgh Panthers hosted the Villanova Wildcats and won an overtime thriller, 73-64.
For Pitt, the team's gifted 2.06m Talib Zanna of Nigeria made his presence felt, and for the Wildcats, Mouphtaou Yarou of Benin stood out.
Both players moved to America several years ago and are now performing at the highest level of the college game.
Professional basketball careers beckon.
Zanna was outstanding on Sunday, the hero of the game with 14 points and an eye-popping 19 rebounds.
He also swatted a couple of shots.
“Talib Zanna was a beast,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said.
Zanna, a junior, plays a physical game.
Of the many qualities that he possesses, Zanna likes to put the ball on the floor when on the perimeter and explode to the basket.
Pitt coach Jamie Dixon is backing him to be a success.
"He played a little more of the five position today and that’s something that helps him at times,” Dixon said.
"He often has a slower guy on him, not as agile and that benefits him.
"His hard work, physicality, toughness and relentlessness came out today (Sunday) in numbers.”
The 2.08m Yarou only discovered basketball in his teens but has grown into a fierce competitor and could be headed to the NBA.
Known for having good hands and a soft shooting touch, he likes to face the basket on offense.
Against Pitt, he made seven of his nine shots from the floor and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.
Yarou is in his senior season at Villanova and is getting a double major in finance and international business.
"We talk about attitude to our guys a lot," Wright said recently.
"You can't control what happens to you, but you can control how you respond to it.
"Mouph is the epitome of that.
"He's an amazing guy and I think everyone at Villanova appreciates that."
Both players could end up making headlines in the NCAA Tournament, which tips off this month.