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Connecticut beats West Virginia in Big East tournament

Shabazz Napier rallies UConn with 9 straight points late.

Shabazz Napier rallies UConn with 9 straight points late.

NEW YORK — A year ago, Connecticut was the Big East's No. 9 seed and pulled off five wins in five days to win a conference championship, then six more for a national title.

This time around, two games in they are still the ninth-seeded Huskies after a wild 71-67 overtime win Wednesday against West Virginia.

"I don't think it can happen again, but then again, I said it could never happen in the first place," said UConn coach Jim Calhoun, whose team faces top-seeded Syracuse at noon today in the quarterfinals.

"Are there things out there we'd love to do? … Would we like to take a stab at it? Everybody out there would. We're just going to try to play (today's) basketball game to take it where it may."

Connecticut (20-12) trailed 63-54 with less than four minutes left before Huskies guard Shabazz Napier went on a personal 9-0 run, including back-to-back steals converted into fast-break layups. In overtime, Connecticut's defense took over, as West Virginia went 0-for-11 from the field and Jeremy Lamb hit a clutch 3-pointer with 1:05 left.

Napier had 26 points and six assists and Lamb had 22 points to go with eight rebounds.

West Virginia (19-13) got 25 points and 10 rebounds from Kevin Jones, but the eighth-seeded Mountaineers aren't a lock for the NCAA Tournament, despite playing 20 games against teams in the current RPI 100.

"They say play a tough schedule, we have. We've played more games against top 50 teams," coach Bob Huggins said. "We've done everything they've asked us to do other than maybe win a couple games."

Wednesday marked West Virginia's final game in the Big East, as they're leaving to join the Big 12 this fall. Huggins was unhappy about the disparity in calls — 21 for West Virginia, 14 for UConn.

"It's been a good run. We've enjoyed it, most of it anyway," Huggins said. "I mean, there's nothing like coming to the Garden to play in the tournament."

LOUISVILLE 61, SETON HALL 55: The Pirates, needing a win on the NCAA Tournament bubble, cut a 15-point Cardinals lead to four in the final minute, but Rick Pitino's team pulled out the win to advance to face second-seeded Marquette.

Louisville center Gorgui Dieng blocked six shots, giving him the Cardinals' single-season record with 104, and grabbed 10 rebounds. Seton Hall got 11 points and 15 rebounds from Herb Pope in his final game, but it wasn't enough to offset 3-for-19 shooting on 3-pointers. Pope and fellow senior Jordan Theodore combined for 12 of the Pirates' 17 turnovers.

GEORGETOWN 64, PITT 52: The fifth-seeded Hoyas took care of the Panthers, getting 20 points and 13 rebounds from center Henry Sims on the way to a 36-25 rebounding advantage. Pittsburgh (17-16), who trailed by as many as 19, got 14 points from senior guard Ashton Gibbs.

"We're pretty good when we get that kind of smart effort out of (Sims),'' Hoyas coach John Thompson III said.

Georgetown (23-7) faces fourth-seeded Cincinnati today at 2:30. The Bearcats won 68-64 at Georgetown in January, their only regular-season meeting.

Connecticut beats West Virginia in Big East tournament 03/07/12 [Last modified: Thursday, March 8, 2012 11:13am]
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