STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Rashad Anderson took Connecticut's latest
trophy on a quick road trip.
Minutes after the second-ranked Huskies beat Louisville 84-80 on
Saturday to clinch at least a share of the Big East regular season
championship, the senior swingman took the hardware into the
student section at Gampel Pavilion and let the fans pass it around.
"I wanted to let them feel the trophy too," Anderson said.
"They mean a lot to us with all the support they give us. I'm
going to miss this place."
The Huskies' latest Big East regular season title -- this was the
10th they have won or shared -- was a struggle right to the end.
Marcus Williams went 6-for-6 from the free throw line in the final
48 seconds to clinch Connecticut's fifth straight win overall and
16th of 17.
"The Big East championship means a lot to us," said coach Jim
Calhoun, who has been in charge for all of them. "If you can go
through 16 games in this league and have to go to the places you do
and beat the teams you have to beat, it's really tough. This is a
terrific league and to come through it 14-2, I couldn't be prouder
of our kids."
Connecticut, which was No. 1 in The Associated Press' Top 25 for
four weeks before losing to Villanova on Feb. 13, could move back
to the top of the poll since No. 1 Duke lost at Florida State on
Denham Brown had 17 points and 11 rebounds in his final home
game for the Huskies, who finished 16-0 at home this season. They
were 10-0 at the Hartford Civic Center and 6-0 at on-campus Gampel
Pavilion where they played Saturday.
Rashad Anderson and Hilton Armstrong, two other seniors, had big
games. Anderson finished with 15 points and Armstrong had 10 points
and a career-high nine blocked shots.
"I just said to them `I've been in a room with some talented
teams and some teams that bordered on greatness, but I don't know
if I've been in a room before with so many kids that have
sacrificed so much," Calhoun said of his postgame talk. "This is
the epitome of what a basketball team is all about. Watching kids
grow -- Rashad, Denham, Hilton -- that's what college basketball is
Anderson faked being shocked when told what Calhoun said.
"Coach Calhoun said something good about us?" he asked. "It
will all be back to the nitty gritty on Monday."
The Huskies will play in the first quarterfinal game of the Big
East tournament on Thursday against the winner of the opening-round
game between Syracuse and Cincinnati.
Juan Palacios had a career-high 29 points for the Cardinals
(18-11, 6-10), who had already clinched a berth in next week's Big
East tournament. This was Louisville's first season in the Big East
and the Cardinals came in off a Final Four appearance last year and
were ranked No. 7 in the preseason AP poll.
They played Saturday more like the team that was considered a
national contender than the one that struggled to be one of the 12
teams to reach New York.
"That was an extremely disappointing loss for us, about as
disappointing as we've had," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said.
"To play such good basketball and come away empty-handed is an
empty feeling to say the least. We played well enough to get a `W'
and we didn't."
Pitino said a win could have put the Cardinals back in the
picture for a possible at-large berth in the NCAA tournament.
"Look at Florida State and us and we're pretty much in the same
ballgame," he said. "They beat Duke at home and all of a sudden
they're on the bubble. If we beat Connecticut on the road, we're
there because of all the quality wins we've had. It's extremely
Palacios, a sophomore forward who came in averaging 10.1 points
per game, tied the game for the final time at 78 with two free
throws with 54 seconds left.
Williams, who had 11 points and seven assists, then started his
free throw run, making two with 48 seconds left.
Williams, who was 7-for-7 from the line for the game, made his
last two with 15 seconds left and Louisville struggled to get off a
shot with Palacios missing a 3-point attempt at the buzzer.
"I stole that," Brown said when asked if the ball slipped out
of Dean's hands for the big turnover when it was a two-point game.
"I didn't know he was going to pass it, but I saw it in the air
and I knew I could grab it so I did."
The Connecticut senior class has a 106-26 record with three Big
East regular season titles, one conference tournament title and the
2004 national championship.
"Two in four years at a school of this caliber," Brown said
when asked about a possible second national title, "it's the day
and age that we are in right now that two in four years is really
Dean added 17 points for Louisville, which was outrebounded
39-32 but came up with 18 offensive rebounds. The Cardinals forced
Connecticut into 17 turnovers, 12 in the first half.
The Huskies shot 50 percent for the game from the field
(26-for-52), and they were 21-for-25 from the line in the second
"It's just about winning at this stage," Pitino said. "Now we
have to get to the [Big East] finals and that won't be easy to
Connecticut won the earlier meeting with Louisville this season,
71-58 on Jan. 21.