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Huskies Rally Past Syracuse

Ricky Moore led a fierce defensive effort as No. 3 Connecticut shut down Syracuse and charged into the Big East championship game with a 71-50 victory Friday night.

The Huskies (27-2) go after their second straight tournament championship Saturday night against the winner of the game between No. 9 Miami and No. 10 St. John's.

It was the 10th tournament victory in the last 12 games for UConn and one of the easiest.

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  • Connecticut, which had a 19-game winning streak snapped by Syracuse last month, made fast work of this one. With Moore spearheading a ball-sniping defense, the Huskies allowed Syracuse just six field goals in the first half and charged to a 20-point lead.

    An 18-3 run in the last 8½ minutes of the half put the game away for the Huskies. It was punctuated by Richard Hamilton's 3-point basket 2.5 seconds before the halftime buzzer.

    Syracuse (21-11), which lost last year's championship game to the Huskies 69-64, had no answers for the suffocating UConn defense this time and never came close after that. The Huskies forced 15 turnovers, converting that statistic into 15 points in the first half and a 16-2 edge for the game.

    It was a far different game for UConn than Thursday's 57-56 quarterfinal scare against Seton Hall. Connecticut never trailed in this one, racing to an 11-2 lead and opening a 20-point margin that Syracuse never could dent.

    Even six blocks by Syracuse center Etan Thomas, the Big East Defensive Player of the Year and No. 2 in the nation in blocked shots, barely disturbed the Huskies, who went about their business with workmanlike resolve.

    Hamilton finished with 17 points and Kevin Freeman had 21 for the UConn, hoping for a No. 1 seeding in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

    Damone Brown and Jason Hart led Syracuse with 12 points apiece and Thomas had 11 and 10 rebounds.

    P>It was the perfect ending to a big day for Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun, who became a grandfather for the first time 2½ hours before gametime when his son's wife gave birth to a baby girl.

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