Huskies advance to fourth straight Big East title game

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- The Connecticut Huskies took note of the upsets in the Big East tournament and wouldn't let it happen to them.

Tina Charles scored 21 points and Renee Montgomery added 15 to help top-ranked Connecticut cruise past Pittsburgh 74-47 on Monday night in the Big East conference tournament semifinals.

"We can't take anything for granted," Montgomery said. "The Big East is a hard league to play in and we can't assume we'll make it to the finals."

Connecticut will face Louisville (No. 23 AP), which beat West Virginia (No. 18 ESPN/USA Today, No. 16 AP) 67-60, in the championship game Tuesday night. The Cardinals had upset Rutgers in the quarterfinals Sunday.

"Everyone was waiting for a Connecticut-Rutgers rematch in the finals," Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma said. "It's not like the regular season when you look past the opponent and have another day."

UConn (31-1) jumped all over Pittsburgh, scoring 11 of the first 12 points. Leading 20-10 midway through the first half, Connecticut went on a 19-2 run over the next 6½ minutes to put the game away. Charles had seven points during the spurt.

"You have to take advantage of when the opportunities come," Auriemma said. "Rutgers, DePaul, tonight, I don't think we could player better defense then we did in the first half. Once we got rolling, that's how we practice. Go on a long run and don't let them score."

Connecticut held a 44-22 halftime lead, and Pittsburgh (22-10) could get no closer than 20 in the second half.

About the only drama of the second half was whether freshman Maya Moore would continue her double-figures scoring streak. The Big East player of the year was held to just seven points, marking the first time she didn't reach double figures. Moore was tied with Diana Taurasi for the school record with 31 straight games with 10 or more points.

"Forget the streak, she's disappointed in the way she played," Auriemma said. "She proved she's a freshman tonight. You can't play like you're a senior when you're a freshman."

Shavonte Zellous scored 11 points to lead the fifth-seeded Panthers, while Marcedes Walker added 10 points and nine rebounds.

"Connecticut came out and they were on all cylinders," Pitt coach Agnus Berenato said. "There's no shame in losing to Connecticut, 30 other teams did."

The Huskies routed Pitt 90-64 in their regular-season meeting on Feb. 17. Pittsburgh was able to hang in that game for the first 10 minutes before Connecticut went on an 18-2 run to close the first half and put the game away.

Pitt had no chance Monday night. The Panthers turned the ball over on five of their first six possessions and shot just 24 percent (9-for-37) from the field in the first half.

Pitt advanced to the semifinals of the Big East by beating Villanova and then-No. 9 Notre Dame. The Panthers are 0-8 all-time in the conference semifinals. They last made it there in 1996 when Pitt won its first two games before bowing to UConn.

UConn, which beat DePaul to advance to the semifinals, leads the all-time series with Pitt 36-9, including wins in the last 23 meetings.