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March 9, 2007
NEW YORK -Antonio Graves scored 10 of his 23 points during Pittsburgh's 20-2 run to start the second half, and the 13th-ranked Panthers advanced to the Big East tournament championship with a 65-59 victory over No. 12 Louisville on Friday night.
Pittsburgh (27-6) will play in the title game for the sixth time in seven years, and second in Jamie Dixon's first three seasons as coach. The third-seeded Panthers will take on top-seeded Georgetown (25-6) for the championship. The No. 9 Hoyas edged No. 20 Notre Dame 84-82 in the earlier game.
Mike Cook added 13 points and eight rebounds for Pittsburgh, which last won the Big East tournament in 2003.
Terrence Williams had 18 points and seven rebounds, and Earl Clark added 12 rebounds for second-seeded Louisville (23-9). Rick Pitino's Cardinals were looking for their first Big East final appearance since joining the conference two years ago.
Louisville led 37-26 at halftime, but saw a big lead disappear for the second straight game. After blowing a 17-point advantage against West Virginia before winning in double overtime Thursday night, the Cardinals watched their 11-point halftime lead slip away quickly against the Panthers.
Pittsburgh was 0-for-6 from 3-point range in the first half, but Graves came out firing after the break. He coolly sank a 3 on the Panthers' first possession and followed with another on their next, cutting the deficit to 37-32.
After Clark's layup at 18:37 made it 39-34, the Panthers scored the next 12 points. Graves made one of two free throws with 14:32 left to make it 46-39 and cap the big run. The senior guard finished 7-of-10 from the field, including 4-of-6 from 3-point range.
Pittsburgh wouldn't relinquish the lead, although Louisville made it close.
Edgar Sosa, the Cardinals' star against the Mountaineers, made a 3 with 6:53 left to make it a one-point game at 52-51. Aaron Gray had a chance to increase the lead, but missed three straight free throws. Levance Fields made one of two foul shots with 3:26 left, and Graves made another 3 - his fourth of the game - to make it 56-51 with 2:44 remaining.
Pittsburgh got the lead back up to six on two free throws by Gray with 56.4 seconds left, but Williams' 3-pointer cut it to 59-56 with 40.9 seconds remaining. After two free throws by Levon Kendall, Sosa hit a 3 to make it 61-59 with 21.7 seconds left.
Graves made two more three throws a second later and then sealed it with an emphatic dunk with less than a second left.
Louisville, which finished second in the Big East because of its Feb. 12 win over Pittsburgh, has lost 10 of its last 11 at Madison Square Garden.