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Big East Conference Roundup

March 15, 2003 at 1:28 AM   |   Comments

NEW YORK, March 14 (UPI) -- Rashad Anderson scored 21 points Friday night to lead Connecticut to an 80-67 victory over 11th-ranked Syracuse in the semifinals of the Big East Conference Tournament.

The Huskies will face Pittsburgh on Saturday, trying to win their sixth conference tournament crown and the automatic NCAA Tournament berth that goes with it.

If Connecticut wins, it will tie Georgetown for the most tourney titles in league history. Last year, the Huskies won over Connecticut in the final.

"It's the time of the year that (Connecticut Coach) Jim Calhoun's teams always get better," said Huskies assistant George Blaney. "We feel it, we understand it. We are a fast-break team. We are one of the fastest teams in America."

"We spent an hour-and-a-half in the hotel room and an hour on the floor today," said Calhoun about the game plan. "We felt good about it. We really prepared to take away everything from Carmelo Anthony."

Connecticut (21-8) never trailed, jumping to an early 16-6 lead. It had four players in double figures.

Anthony, the freshman sensation, had 29 points and 15 rebounds for Syracuse (24-5).

"Their defense was excellent," said Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim. "We shoot 9-for-42 in the first half, we're going to struggle. We just didn't play well offensively."

"It was hard for us to get going as a team," Anthony said. "We were taking good shots, they just weren't going."

Hakim Warrick finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds for Syracuse, which misfired on 16-of-18 shots from beyond the arc.

In the semifinal opener, Donatas Zavackas collected 19 points and 11 rebounds as the fifth-ranked Panthers moved into the championship game for the third straight year with a 61-48 victory over Boston College.

Pittsburgh (25-4) has never won the Big East tournament, losing to Boston College and Connecticut in the last two finals. The Panthers won their eighth straight game.

"There's no way I'm going to lose this one," Zavackas said. "It's our third in a row, it doesn't matter who we play."

Zavackas followed up on his 16-point performance in Thursday's quarterfinal victory over Providence with a strong first half, collecting 11 points and seven rebounds.

The Panthers held a 44-29 edge on the glass, simply manhandling the Eagles.

"We talked about how important the rebounding is," Panthers Coach Ben Howland said. "We were up 24-10 at the half and ended up winning the rebounds by 15."

The victory may have been a costly one for Pittsburgh as point guard Brandin Knight landed hard on his right ankle with less than seven minutes to play and suffered a strained peroneal tendon. Knight was hobbled for last year's championship and is a game-time decision for Saturday.

Jaron Brown grabbed nine rebounds and Julius Page and Ontario Lett each added six as Pitt assaulted the backboards. The Panthers scored 16 points off 16 offensive rebounds.

Boston College (18-11) was hurt by a double technical whistled on freshman Craig Smith and Zavackas with 11:18 left before halftime. Smith, who scored 33 points in Thursday's overtime win over St. John's, picked up a personal before the technical and had to watch from the bench for the rest of the half with three fouls.

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