Connecticut 80

(21-8, 10-6 Big East)

(11) Syracuse 67

(24-5, 13-3 Big East)

    9:00 PM ET, March 14, 2003

    Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

    1 2 T
    CONN 36 4480
    #11SYR 27 4067

    Anthony's big night not enough for Syracuse

    Semifinal Results
    Pittsburgh 61, Boston College 48

    NEW YORK (AP) -- For the fifth time in six years, Connecticut will be playing in the Big East tournament championship game.

    For the second straight year, the Huskies will play Pittsburgh for the title and it was team effort that got them the chance to defend their title.

    On a night when Connecticut's stars didn't have outstanding games, there were plenty of big performances from the rest of the team.

    Freshman Rashad Anderson had 21 points to lead Connecticut to an 80-67 victory over No. 11 Syracuse on Friday night, a game the Huskies had in command the entire second half at Madison Square Garden.

    Connecticut (21-8) will meet No. 5 Pittsburgh on Saturday night in a rematch of last year's title game which the Huskies won 74-65 in double overtime. It's the third straight year the Panthers have been in the title game and they are still looking for their first championship.

    The Huskies have won three titles in their current run and have five championships in all. They have a chance to match Georgetown's record total of six.

    "That means history for me,'' Connecticut junior guard Taliek Brown said. "I love playing Pittsburgh, it's like a battle for me.''

    Emeka Okafor and Ben Gordon, Connecticut's sophomore stars who led the Huskies to the semifinal win over Seton Hall, each had 12 points, while freshman reserve forward Marcus White had nine points and 14 rebounds.

    Connecticut assistant coach George Blaney said it shouldn't be a surprise that the Huskies have made another run deep into the Big East tournament.

    "It's the time of year Jim Calhoun teams get better,'' he said, referring to the Huskies head coach. "We're getting better. Jim Calhoun does not allow his teams not to compete every night. This is what he's about. This is what Connecticut basketball is about.''

    Conference rookie of the year Carmelo Anthony had 29 points and 15 rebounds for the Orangemen (24-5), who had won eight straight games and 11 of their last 12.

    Anthony was 9-for-28 from the field and Syracuse, which shot 21.4 percent in the first half (9-for-42) and finished 23-for-80 overall (28.8 percent).

    "We started with a game plan to take away everything from Carmelo Anthony as well we could,'' Calhoun said. "Now we have a chance to go against a great team and we're looking forward to it.''

    Anderson, who came in averaging 8.3 points and had reached double figures 10 times, finished one point off his career-high.

    "It was just huge, the basket looked as big as Madison Square Garden,'' said Anderson, who was 7-for-11 overall and 4-for-7 from 3-point range. "I felt I couldn't miss.''

    Hakim Warrick had 14 points and 14 rebounds for the Orangemen and Jeremy McNeil tied the tournament record with eight blocked shots.

    Connecticut took advantage of horrible shooting by Syracuse to take a 26-10 lead with 8:22 left in the first half. The Orangemen turned to their press to go on a 12-0 run and got within four points for the first of three times in the first half.

    But the Huskies scored the last five points of the first half and the first five of the second to go up 41-27 with 19:23 to play.

    "The coaches gathered us, settled us down and sent us back out to play basketball,'' Anderson said.

    The last points of the run were free throws by Gordon after Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim was charged with a technical foul when he ran onto the court to protest a non-call after Gerry McNamara was knocked to the court taking a 3-point shot.

    Syracuse was never able to mount any kind of charge at the lead, and Connecticut's biggest lead was 66-45 on two free throws by Okafor with 10:07 to play.

    "Early we had some opportunities and didn't connect and then we got back with the press but we may have spent too much energy doing it,'' Boeheim said. "When you shoot 9-for-42 you're going to struggle. Their defense was excellent.''

    Connecticut won the only meeting between the teams this season, 75-61 on Feb. 10, one of the five games Calhoun missed because of prostate surgery.

    Syracuse, which beat Georgetown in the quarterfinals, was trying to reach the championship game for the first time since 1998.

    "We struggled both nights here and you can expect that with young guys in their first Big East tournament,'' Boeheim said. "This team responded very well the last time we lost. That's part of college basketball and I think this team will bounce back.''

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2002-03 Season

    Feb 10, 2003 @CONN 75, SYR 61Recap
    » Mar 14, 2003 CONN 80, @SYR 67Recap