(16) Pittsburgh 68

(24-6, 10-6 Big East)

(3) Villanova 54

(25-4, 14-2 Big East)

9:00 PM ET, March 10, 2006

Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

1 2 T
#16PITT 32 3668
#3VILL 21 3354

Top Performers

Pittsburgh: A. Graves 18 Pts, 5 Reb, 1 Ast, 1 Stl

Villanova: R. Foye 26 Pts, 8 Reb, 2 Ast, 1 Stl, 2 Blk

Pitt continues run of upsets in Big East tournament

NEW YORK (AP) -- The Big East started its tournament with the top two teams in the country expected to meet for a third time with the championship at stake. It will end instead with sixth-seeded Pittsburgh and ninth-seeded Syracuse playing for the title.

Pittsburgh (No. 16 ESPN/USA Today; No. 15 AP) reached the Big East title game for the fifth time in six years with a 68-54 victory over No. 2 Villanova on Friday night. That came a day after Syracuse beat top-ranked Connecticut 86-84 in overtime in the quarterfinals.

It's just the fourth and fifth times a team won three games to reach the championship in the Big East. None of the previous three, including West Virginia last year, won it all. Either the Panthers (24-6) or defending champion Syracuse (22-11) will end that streak Saturday night.

"I didn't think someone would do it this year because of the depth of the conference, because of how much every game is going to take out of you," Villanova coach Jay Wright said of winning four games in as many days. "This is real impressive for both teams. It doesn't surprise me, any of the upsets, because we knew we could get beat any night."

It was almost a lot more than a just a loss for the Wildcats.

Allan Ray, a first-team all-Big East selection and Villanova's second-leading scorer and rebounder, was hit in the right eye early in the second half and taken to St. Vincent's Hospital.

"He couldn't see when he was here," Wright said. "And being there, they did a great job there. Everybody did a great job. Our trainer got right to him. ... An ophthalmologist rushed across town and examined him. Now they said his vision's good and they're going to release him."

Wright said "it actually looked a lot worse than it was. It'll be a day-to-day prognosis now, but it's much, much better than they initially anticipated."

The Wildcats (25-4) joined top-seeded Connecticut, third-seeded West Virginia and fourth-seeded Marquette on the list of this year's losers.

The Wildcats should still hold on to a No. 1 seeding for the NCAA tournament, as should Connecticut.

"I thought our guys had a whole team effort, and our defense, rebounding and decison-making was solid all the way through," Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon said. "We were fortunate to beat a very good team and we've got to get ready for Syracuse now."

Reserve guards Antonio Graves and Levance Fields led the Panthers, who had a run of four straight title game appearances from 2001-04, winning it all in 2003.

Graves, a junior who started 25 games last season and none in 2005-06, had 18 points, one off his career high, while Fields, a freshman, had a career-high 14. The two combined to go 13-for-25 from the field, including 5-for-12 from 3-point range.

"We feel we have a good group of guards also. Me and 'Tone come in for Carl and Ron, and they start off and do a good job," Fields said, referring to starters Carl Krauser and Ronald Ramon. "I think we held our own."

The Panthers finished with a 45-22 advantage in rebounds and they did a good job defensively, holding the Wildcats, who came in averaging 76.2 points per game, to their second-lowest point total of the season.

"We really haven't had a game like that this year where we just felt like we couldn't get things going offensively," Wright said. "I thought that Pittsburgh, once they got a hold of the game, did a great job of just controlling the tempo and hitting big shots."

Randy Foye, the conference's player of the year, had 26 points for Villanova, which shot 35.2 percent from the field (19-for-54), including 29.2 percent on 3s (7-for-24).

Pittsburgh led 32-21 at halftime and just 32 seconds into the second half, Ray was hit in the face as he and two Pittsburgh players battled for the ball on the floor near the Villanova bench.

The senior guard remained on the floor for several minutes, kicking his legs in obvious pain.

Wright said there was "no scratched cornea and the official injury is soft tissue injury to right eye."

The Panthers led 50-38 when they started to milk the shot clock on each possession. They made it work for four straight baskets with less then 5 seconds left on the 35-second clock. The last of the four was a drive by Fields with 3:21 left that made it 60-45.

That was the Panthers' final field goal and they went 8-for-12 from the free throw line over the final 1:55.

"I think our players on the bench ... you have to watch out for us now," Graves said. "Everybody should know that they have to watch out for us now. We're a deep team, we play well together and share the ball. That's all that counts."

Pittsburgh forward Levon Kendall, who missed the West Virginia game with back spasms, had six points and seven rebounds in 23 minutes on Friday.

Pitt beat 11th-seeded Louisville 61-56 in the opening round and West Virginia (No. 21 ESPN/USA Today; No. 19 AP) 68-57 in the quarterfinals.

Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


Team Stat Comparison

Points 68 54
FG Made-Attempted 23-56 (.411) 19-54 (.352)
3P Made-Attempted 7-23 (.304) 7-24 (.292)
FT Made-Attempted 15-21 (.714) 9-13 (.692)
Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 14 (0/0) 22 (0/0)
Largest Lead 18 7

2005-06 Season

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