Saturday , Mar , 13 , 2004 C.Y. Ellis

Round 3: UConn-Pitt set to battle again for Big East title

=== Round 3: UConn-Pitt set to battle again for Big East title ===

New York, NY (Sports Network) – Ben Gordon poured in 29 points for the second
straight game, as ninth-ranked Connecticut rolled to an 84-67 victory over
Villanova in the semifinals of the Big East Tournament at Madison Square
Garden.

UConn star center Emeka Okafor again did not play because of back pain, but
freshman Josh Boone stepped up in his absence with 11 points, 15 rebounds and
six blocked shots.

Rashad Anderson added 19 points for the second-seeded Huskies (26-6), who will
play top-seeded Pittsburgh in the title game for the third straight year. The
Panthers advanced to their fourth straight championship game with a 62-53 win
over Boston College in Friday’s first semifinal.

UConn won the first meeting between the two in double-overtime two years ago,
before Pittsburgh prevailed last year.

“We just feel like this is the real championship,” said UConn’s Taliek Brown.
“They beat us once, we beat them once. For me, this is my senior year so this
where I end it, right here, so we’ll have to get a win.”

The Huskies, who will play in the championship game for the sixth time in
seven years, will try to match Georgetown’s record of six Big East Tournament
titles on Saturday night.

“We talked about a Saturday night in New York City, and we got ourselves a
Saturday night in New York City,” said Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun.

Randy Foye scored 20 points for 11th-seeded Villanova (16-16), which had upset
Seton Hall and Providence to reach the semifinals for the first time since
1997. Jason Fraser contributed 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Wildcats,
while Curtis Sumpter added 17 points.

“You got to beat three great teams to win this tournament,” said Villanova
head coach Jay Wright. “We weren’t able to do that. We beat two outstanding
teams, and I think tonight we just didn’t have enough to beat a third
outstanding team.”

UConn built a 37-24 lead at the break and scored the first five points of the
second half. Villanova, though, responded with a 15-2 run and pulled within
44-39 on a three-pointer by Foye with 14:14 remaining.

A pair of Sumpter free throws again made it a five-point game at 48-43 two
minutes later, but the Huskies followed with a 22-7 run.

Boone started it with a three-point play and Anderson scored nine points
during the surge, capping it with a three-pointer to give UConn a commanding
70-50 lead with 5 1/2 minutes to play.

The Wildcats got only as close as 12 from there.

UConn shot 52.7 percent from the field and hit 7-of-16 three-point tries,
while Villanova struggled at 37.5 percent. The Wildcats were also just 3-of-14
from beyond the arc.

Villanova held a 10-9 lead early and trailed just 14-11 a few moments later,
but Connecticut used a 12-2 run to open some breathing room. Gordon, who
scored 29 points in Thursday’s quarterfinal win over Notre Dame, hit a pair of
three-pointers to key the burst.

“Ben carried us on offense for two nights in a row,” said Calhoun. “Every shot
he made, it seemed like a dagger towards Villanova.”

Brown’s jumper capped it and gave the Huskies a 26-13 lead. UConn led by as
many as 15 in the first half and settled for a 37-24 edge at the half.

UCONN VILLANOVA