(5) Pittsburgh 61

(25-4, 13-3 Big East)

Boston College 48

(18-11, 10-6 Big East)

    7:00 PM ET, March 14, 2003

    Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

    1 2 T
    #5PITT 29 3261
    BC 17 3148

    Pittsburgh advances to third straight Big East final

    NEW YORK (AP) -- Defense has Pittsburgh back in the Big East Conference tournament championship game for the third straight year.

    Pittsburgh shut down Boston College 61-48 Friday night and extended its winning streak to eight games.

    The Panthers (25-4) and ranked fifth in the nation, will play Connecticut for the title Saturday night. UConn defeated Syracuse 80-67 in the semifinals Friday night and beat Pitt 74-65 in the title game a year ago.

    It was a technically admirable victory, achieved with airtight defense that limited BC to its lowest scoring game of the season and the fewest points the Eagles have ever scored in a Big East tournament game.

    And a technical foul may have been the turning point.

    It was a one-point game almost eight minutes into the first half when Boston's Craig Smith and Pitt's Donatas Zavackas drew matching technical fouls. The impact was far greater on BC because it was Smith's third personal and forced him to the bench.

    That opened the inside game and Pitt took advantage, surging to a 24-12 margin. The Panthers were never threatened after that.

    "Obviously, it took away a lot of our interior scoring, some of the stuff we like to do,'' BC coach Al Skinner said. "Defensively we couldn't do some of the things we wanted to do. It really just changed the game. It hurt us a lot more than it hurt Pittsburgh.''

    Pitt coach Ben Howland appreciated BC's dilemma.

    "Anytime you lose one of your best players, it helps the other team,'' he said. "So how did it change? It took their all-league player out of the game and they are not as good without him in the game.''

    BC (18-11) managed just four field goals in the first half and missed Smith's inside presence. The freshman, who scored 33 in the Eagles' quarterfinal victory over St. John's on Thursday, played just 26 minutes and scored 13 points. BC's Troy Bell led all scorers with 21 points.

    Bell said BC missed Smith's power game under the basket.

    "We definitely needed Craig inside,'' he said. "He's our best inside scorer and he's just a great presence in there.''

    Zavackas shrugged off the technical to lead Pitt's scorers with 19 points. He also had 11 rebounds as the Panthers controlled the boards, outrebounding BC 44-29. Julius Page scored 16 and Ontario Lett had 11. Zavackas said the double technical surprised him.

    "I knew I got fouled because he pushed me in the back,'' he said. "I didn't say anything. I didn't do anything. I really don't know what happened.''

    Skinner said the Panthers controlled the game's tempo.

    "They played their game,'' Skinner said. "They played the way they wanted to play. That's a credit to them. I'm not sure we were able to play the way we wanted to play. Some of that was in our control and some of that was out of our control.''

    It was the seventh time this season that Pitt's defense has held an opponent under 50 points.

    The Panthers played much of the second half without Brandin Knight, who turned his right ankle and went to the dressing room for treatment. Page injured his left leg midway throughout the second half but returned to the game after being treated on the sideline.

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    2002-03 Season

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