3:45 PM ET, February 26, 2005
Petersen Events Center, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
PITTSBURGH (AP) -- The rosters change, the scenario stays the same. It's late in the season, which means it's time for Big East rivals Connecticut and Pittsburgh to go in opposite directions.Marcus Williams put Connecticut (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today; No. 17 AP) ahead to stay with a driving layup off the glass with 3½ minutes remaining and the Huskies stayed in contention for the Big East regular-season title, beating skidding Pittsburgh 73-64 Saturday.Williams, a sophomore point guard whose quickness and ability to cut through traffic repeatedly frustrated the Panthers (No. 17 ESPN/USA Today; No. 18 AP), had several key baskets during a second-half rally as UConn (19-6, 11-3) atoned for an earlier home-court loss to Pitt (18-7, 8-6)."We had to get them back," Williams said. "We secured a bye in the Big East (tournament) and that's big."Despite Chevon Troutman's 22 points and 12 rebounds in his final regular-season home game, Pitt's freefall continued with its third consecutive loss -- its longest losing streak since it dropped four straight in February 2001.The end of this season is playing out much like last season, when Pitt won the Big East regular-season title but UConn came on strong to win the NCAA Tournament."I'm not surprised at all, I knew all along what we're capable of doing," said Charlie Villanueva, who had 14 points and 13 rebounds in UConn's seventh consecutive conference victory. "I've always said once we put it together, it was going to be a scary thing."Williams had consecutive baskets during a 10-2 UConn run to begin the second half, then started a game-ending 9-1 run with his go-ahead basket. Josh Boone and Rudy Gay followed with baskets and Denham Brown added two free throws with 2:08 remaining to make it 70-63, effectively ending it.Gay scored 17, Brown 16 and Williams 13 as the balanced Huskies prevented No. 3 Boston College (23-2, 12-2) from clinching the Big East regular-season title. The Eagles beat Seton Hall 70-58 earlier Saturday.Boston College has games remaining against Pitt and Rutgers, while UConn plays Georgetown and Syracuse.Last month, Pittsburgh overcame a 17-point deficit to win at UConn 76-66 as Troutman scored a career-high 29 points. The Panthers have also beaten No. 15 Syracuse twice, but they've lost to St. John's, Georgetown and West Virginia (twice)."I think Pitt's a little different now," Villanueva said. "Normally, Pitt puts these kind of games away. When we played in our place, they overcame a 17-point deficit, but we refused to let that happen."Pitt, which wasted a late 14-point lead in losing 70-66 to West Virginia on Wednesday, dropped consecutive home games for the second time this season, following up January losses to Bucknell and Georgetown. Pitt went 13-4 at home after losing only once in its first two seasons at the Petersen Events Center.This game was critical to Pitt, which is in danger of missing a first-round tournament bye. Pitt has played in the last four Big East championship games, losing three times."A bye would definitely help -- it's tough to play four tournament games (in four days)," said point guard Carl Krauser, who had 21 points and seven assists. "But I believe in everybody on this team and I think we're going to do a good job of coming back and putting everything together."The Panthers' soft early schedule and late slump have endangered their NCAA Tournament hopes, especially with tough games at No. 3 Boston College (Monday) and Notre Dame (March 5) remaining.With three consecutive losses, Pitt could fall out of the Top 25 for the first time in 60 weeks."The guys are hurting," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "You need for some things to go right, but we seem to be coming up short in some areas. We've just got to come back -- we're going to try to get this thing untracked Monday."Again, Pitt's opponent was poised and made more key shots down the stretch, while the Panthers were erratic and looked out of sync. They missed 10 of their final 15 free throws, shooting 48.3 percent (14-of-29) while losing a six-point lead in the second half. Pitt also missed all but four of 22 3-point attempts.It didn't help that 6-foot-10 Chris Taft played most of the game in foul trouble and was held to seven points and three rebounds in 25 minutes. Pitt also had only two baskets in the final 5½ minutes after not getting any in the final 7:26 against West Virginia.
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||25-52 (.481)||23-59 (.390)|
|3P Made-Attempted||3-11 (.273)||4-22 (.182)|
|FT Made-Attempted||20-30 (.667)||14-29 (.483)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||22 (0/0)||24 (0/0)|