STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- The people who have been around the Big East for decades and those who are fairly new to the conference agreed No. 1 Connecticut's 80-76 victory over No. 9 Pittsburgh on Tuesday night was physical even for a league known for that style of play.
"I was tired with three minutes left. That's about as tough as it gets," said Huskies guard Marcus Williams, who made five free throws over the final 30 seconds in Connecticut's eighth straight win. "That was a physical game. I made those free throws because there were a couple of timeouts there that made it easier. I'm tired."
There were bodies on the floor throughout the game, the defense was tenacious as both teams tried to go inside because no one was hitting from 3-point range and there was even a technical foul called on each head coach for animated objections to non-calls. Two of the best teams in the 2005-06 Big East played a game similar to those played by the league's power teams of the mid-1980s.
"Two tough teams went at it and they just came out on top," Pittsburgh center Aaron Gray said. "They're not the No. 1 team in the country for nothing."
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun called the game "emotionally draining."
"This was a terrific win for us," he said. "This league is not going to let you breathe."
Rudy Gay had 22 points for the Huskies (19-1, 7-1), who improved to 6-0 this season against ranked teams and to 32-5 when playing as a top-ranked team.
Gray had 23 points and 12 rebounds for the Panthers (17-2, 6-2), who dropped to 0-13 all-time against No. 1-ranked teams.
"This team, we're winners. We hate to lose. We don't know how to lose," Gray said. "We've got 11, 12, 13 guys that can do whatever this team needs. For us to go out there and some shots didn't fall for us and that's attributed to a great defense they had. Playing [UConn] 10 times, it could swing either way every time.
"There wasn't a second we thought we were going to lose. Even until that last buzzer went off, we believed we could win," he said.
Keith Benjamin hit a floater in the lane with 1:45 left to bring the Panthers within 72-71.
Gay capitalized on a Pitt turnover for a three-point play with 51 seconds left to make it a four-point lead; after Antonio Graves missed a 3, Williams made one free throw with 30 seconds left to make it 76-71.
Freshman Levance Fields hit a 3, Pittsburgh's second of the game in 19 attempts, to make it 76-74 with 19 seconds left. Williams made two sets of two free throws around two by Gray to close the scoring.
Josh Boone had 16 points, six in a two-minute span of the second half when the Huskies were able to take a 67-61 lead with 5:05 to go. Rashad Anderson added 12 points for the Huskies, Williams had 11 points and 11 assists and Denham Brown scored 11 points.
Boone's teammates have been looking for him to play the whole game the way he did in that second-half spurt.
"The person who believes less in Josh is Josh," Calhoun said. "It's a daily progress with him to get him to believe."
Boone said he's starting to play the way he's capable of playing and then talked about going against the 7-foot, 270-pound Gray, who is two inches shorter and 33 pounds lighter.
"It's tiring trying to deny him the ball and going against him," Boone said. "You can't let up for a minute."
Connecticut had nine blocked shots, just under its NCAA-leading 9.2 per game. Boone and Hilton Armstrong each had three.
Connecticut, which came in shooting 37.3 percent on 3s, was 2-for-13 from beyond the arc.
The Panthers, who came in hitting 36.6 percent on 3s, were 2-for-20, missing their first 16 before Ronald Ramon made one on an inbounds play with 2:24 left that made it 71-69.
"We know our offense is good in the halfcourt but we thought that we were going to need a couple of deep shots, a couple of 3s to stretch us over them," Fields said. "Tonight they didn't fall but we were able to hang in there."
Three players fouled out of the game that saw 44 fouls called, 26 on Pittsburgh. With few jumpers falling, the teams combined for 80 points in the paint.
"I thought we battled, we played hard, we got through some adversity with the foul trouble," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We made some shots at the end but we didn't make them consistently throughout the game. They're a good team, but we need to play better."
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