Sunday, March 14, 2004

Big East: Connecticut claims sixth league title


Tourney MVP Gordon has 23 points

The Associated Press

NEW YORK - Ben Gordon made it his Big East Tournament.

The junior guard scored 23 points to lead No. 9 Connecticut to a record-tying sixth conference title in a 61-58 victory over sixth-ranked Pittsburgh Saturday.

Gordon was the star for the Huskies (27-6) in the previous two games while center Emeka Okafor was out with back spasms. He struggled with his shooting in the championship game, but it was his jumper in the lane with 30 seconds left that gave Connecticut a 59-58 lead and then he added two free throws with 0.5 seconds to play to cap the win.

Gordon scored 29 points in each of the two earlier games and set a tournament record for points with 81, two more than Georgetown's Allen Iverson had in 1996. He was named the event's MVP.

Okafor returned Saturday and had 11 points, 13 rebounds and three blocked shots.

It was the third straight year the defending champion Panthers (29-4) and the Huskies met in the title game.

Gordon's jumper in the lane was the third lead change in the game's final two minutes.

Rashad Anderson's 3-pointer gave the Huskies a 57-56 lead with 2:01 remaining, their first since opening the game with a 13-2 run.

Mark McCarroll hit a bank shot with 1:35 left to give the Panthers a 58-57 lead. Each team had a scoreless possession before Gordon capped a 7-for-22 shooting night with the tough shot in the lane.

Carl Krauser's drive with 8 seconds left was blocked by Josh Boone and the loose ball was grabbed by McCarroll, who missed a jumper. The buzzer sounded and Gordon threw the ball into the stands to start the celebration, but the teams came back on the court when a review by the officials had a foul on McCarroll with a half-second left.

When Gordon made the two free throws, Pitt's final chance ended with a missed jumper by Julius Page at the buzzer, and the real celebration started at Madison Square Garden.

McCarroll and Chris Taft each had 11 points for the Panthers, and Jaron Brown and Krauser each scored 10.

CONNECTICUT (27-6)-Anderson 5-13 0-0 14, Boone 2-5 1-2 5, Okafor 5-13 1-2 11, T.Brown 3-6 2-2 8, Gordon 7-22 6-6 23, D.Brown 0-3 0-0 0, Armstrong 0-0 0-0 0, Tooles 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-62 10-12 61.

PITTSBURGH (29-4)-J.Brown 4-10 2-2 10, Troutman 2-3 1-2 5, Taft 4-8 3-6 11, Krauser 4-13 2-2 10, Page 1-6 0-0 2, Morris 3-4 0-1 6, McCarroll 5-10 0-0 11, Graves 1-1 0-0 3, Demetris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 8-13 58.

Halftime score-Pittsburgh 34-25. 3-Point Goals-Connecticut 7-19 (Anderson 4-10, Gordon 3-9), Pittsburgh 2-7 (Graves 1-1, McCarroll 1-2, Krauser 0-1, Page 0-1, J.Brown 0-2). Fouled out-Okafor. Rebounds-Connecticut 41 (Okafor 13), Pittsburgh 33 (Krauser 8). Assists-Connecticut 13 (T.Brown 6), Pittsburgh 13 (J.Brown 6). Total fouls-Connecticut 14, Pittsburgh 13. A-19,528.




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