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Orange win first Big East tourney since '92

NEW YORK (AP) -- There was no wild celebrating. The nets are
still on the rims at Madison Square Garden.

Syracuse won its first Big East tournament championship
since 1992 on Saturday night with a 68-59 victory over West
Virginia. The postgame celebration wasn't far off what you would
see after a quality regular-season win.

"This was a great tournament win for us, especially for our
seniors, to be able to win this thing was a tremendous
accomplishment," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "I'm real happy
for them."

Then why no celebration that has become a ritual in leagues big
and small during "Championship Week?"

"I don't know," he said. "Maybe it's unfortunate but my
mind-set has probably changed and maybe it shouldn't but it has. In
my mind-set the only thing that matters is next week."

Hakim Warrick had 20 points and 13 rebounds -- his third
double-double in three games -- for the Orange (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today; No. 16 AP), who should be seeded
from third to fifth in the NCAA Tournament that starts next week.

Warrick, the conference player of the year, was selected the
tournament MVP. The only other player to have three double-doubles
in one tournament was Craig Smith of Boston College last year.

The last time Warrick and his teammates cut down the nets was in
New Orleans after the 2003 NCAA championship game.

"That's something you want to save for the Final Four, a
national championship," he said. "This is a really big things, a
big win, but we definitely want to be cutting down the nets in St.
Louis."

But the tournament title was something Warrick wanted once he
decided to return for his senior season.

"When I came back I thought of this," he said. "Big East
player of the year, Big East tournament champion and MVP. I
couldn't end my career any better, couldn't have scripted it any
better."

The third-seeded Orange (27-6) won their fourth Big East
tournament title in their 12th championship game appearance.

The loss ended a history-making run for West Virginia (21-10),
the first No. 8 seed to ever reach the championship game. No team
had ever won four games to take the title and the Mountaineers fell
one game short in winning their first conference championship since
winning the Atlantic 10 in 1984.

West Virginia had never gotten past the quarterfinal round
before this season. They Mountaineers got past the quarterfinals
this time by beating top-seeded Boston College.

"I've been fortunate enough to have similar times in my life
but not four times on this stage," West Virginia coach John
Beilein said. "But these kids are going to remember this
forever."

Syracuse again used its 2-3 zone defense and Warrick's inside
presence to take a big lead. The Orange dominated second-seeded
Connecticut in the semifinals that way but just like that game they
also let a big lead slip away.

"Our defense both nights was outstanding," Boeheim said. "I
just thought defensively we were really good and offensively we did
the things we had to."

Syracuse led Connecticut by 21 points with 12:47 to play and
wound up winning 67-63. The Orange opened the second half with a
10-2 run to take a 51-33 lead over the Mountaineers with 16:12
left.

But West Virginia finally started to hit 3-pointers -- the
Mountaineers were 35-for-74 in the first three games -- and the lead
shrunk to 55-50 with 8:20 to play.

Josh Pace tipped in a miss by Warrick with 4:57 left to make it
59-50 -- the first Syracuse points not scored by Warrick in 12
minutes -- and West Virginia didn't get closer than eight points the
rest of the way.

Gerry McNamara added 16 points and Pace had 13 for the Orange,
whose other titles came in 1981 and 1988.

Tyrone Sally had 13 points for the Mountaineers, while Mike
Gansey, who made two free throws with 0.2 seconds left to beat
Villanova in the semifinals, and Joe Herber each added 11 points.

Syracuse entered the game second in the conference in field goal
percentage defense at 39.1 percent and the Orange held West
Virginia to 35.8-percent shooting, including 9-for-29 from 3-point
range.

"Their zone is very, very hard to get shots against," Gansey
said. "On the perimeter you have guys 6-9 and 7-foot and it's kind
of tough to drive in there. Even when you get an open shot, you
have a guy running at you with a hand in your face. That was our
problem today, we just couldn't hit a shot."

The Orange, who won the only other meeting between the teams
this season, finished with a 41-23 rebound advantage, a statistic
West Virginia was next-to-last in in the 12-team conference.

"We just didn't get anything off the backboard with them,"
Beilein said. "Our kids gave every bit of effort that they could
but we were going to gave one of those games."

The title was Boeheim's fourth, two behind Connecticut's Jim
Calhoun and Georgetown's John Thompson.

"You just want to come out of New York playing well," Boeheim
said. "I think the most significant thing coming out of here is
that we were able to rebound better than we had and that our
defense has really picked up."

Sounds like a coach whose teams left the nets hanging on the
rim.