Connecticut's Caron Butler passes around Chevon Troutman in the first half of the Big East final, Saturday night.
March 9, 2002
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
NEW YORK - Connecticut hit the desperation shot in the second overtime. Pittsburgh missed its miracle heave at the end of the first overtime.
A classic Big East tournament championship game will be remembered for a lot more than those two shots, however, as the 19th-ranked Huskies beat No. 7 Pittsburgh 74-65 in double overtime Saturday night for their fifth conference title.
Two very good defensive teams played excellent defense for 50 minutes in a game that symbolized what the conference has been about since its inception.
It was the first meeting of the season between the league's division winners.
Caron Butler, the tournament MVP, gave Connecticut (24-6) the lead for good at 66-64 on a turnaround jumper with 1:59 left in the second overtime.
After Pittsburgh (27-5) missed two shots, Connecticut tried to run down the shot clock, and freshman Ben Gordon was tied up by two Panthers. The possession arrow was in the Huskies' favor, but there were only two seconds left on the 35-second clock.
Taliek Brown took the inbounds pass, had nowhere to go and hoisted a 30-footer from straight on that went in and gave the Huskies a 69-64 lead.
It took the air out of Pittsburgh, which had its chance for college basketball lore at the end of the first overtime.
Brandin Knight, the league's co-player of the year along with Butler, slipped on the court and injured his right knee just as Pittsburgh tied the game at 52 with 31 seconds left after his assist led to Jaron Brown's basket down low.
Knight stayed down on the court for several minutes and was taken to the locker room after Connecticut missed two chances at winning it in regulation.
He came out of the same tunnel an injured Willis Reed did in 1970 for the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden and went to the bench with 1:02 left in the overtime and Connecticut leading 60-58.
Ontario Lett tied it for the Panthers on a drive with 23 seconds left. The Huskies ran down the clock, but Gordon was tied up and the arrow gave the ball to the Panthers with 1.7 seconds to go.
Knight limped to the scorer's table and reported in. Jaron Brown inbounded the ball near midcourt, got it to Knight and his 40-footer as the buzzer bounced off the rim as Knight fell to the floor in obvious pain.
He didn't play at all in the second overtime, sitting on the bench with an ice bag on his knee.
Butler finished with 23 points for the Huskies, who have won nine straight, while Taliek Brown had 13 and Gordon 11.
Lett had 17 points for the Panthers, who had won their last eight. Knight and Donatas Zavackas each added 15.
Knight had eight assists, tying the school record for a season with 229.
The title is Connecticut's fifth, putting it one behind Georgetown for most championships in league history. The Huskies' last title was in 1999 when they went on to the national championship. It was their seventh title game and sixth in eight years.
Pittsburgh, which has set a school record for wins, was in the title game for the second straight year. The Panthers lost to Boston College last year in their first try at the championship.
It was the second-longest title game in league history. Syracuse beat Villanova 83-80 in three overtimes in 1981.