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Graves leads Pitt into Big East tournament final

Mar 10, 2007 - 8:34 AM NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Antonio Graves shot Pittsburgh right into another Big East Conference tournament final.

Graves started the second half hot and keyed a decisive spurt as the 11th-ranked Panthers posted a 65-59 victory over No. 15 Louisville in a semifinal matchup.

With the win, Pittsburgh (27-6) advances to its sixth tournament final in seven years. The third-seeded Panthers will take on top-seeded Georgetown (25-6) for the championship on Saturday. Pittsburgh last won the tournament in 2003.

"I am very excited about the win and happy for our guys and happy for the way we responded especially in the second half," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "Obviously being in an 11-point deficit shows the character of our guys."

Louisville led 37-26 at the half but things went downhill quickly in the second half. Graves hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first 40 seconds of the second half to make it 37-32.

"We knew we had to be more assertive," Graves said. "Our set plays opened up their 2-3 zone. It was open and I was fortunate to knock down shots."

Graves's hot shooting sparked a 20-2 run that gave the Panthers a 46-39 lead with 14:32 to play. Graves had 10 of his 23 points during the spurt.

Mike Cook had 13 points and eight rebounds for Pittsburgh.

Terrence Williams had 18 points and seven rebounds for second-seeded Louisville (23-9), which did not attempt a free throw in the second half.

"We sort of ran out of gas in the second half and Pittsburgh made big shots," Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. "Our defense just wasn't crisp. We wanted to take away the 3-point shot and try to get Gray in foul trouble. We did our job in the first half, just did not do the job in the second half."

Williams scored five points in a 10-0 Louisville run to close the first half. The Cardinals were able to pull ahead with Pitt center Aaron Gray on the bench for most of the first half with foul trouble.

Gray played four minutes in the first half and Pittsburgh was outrebounded 25-12 with its star center on the bench.

Hampered by four fouls, Gray played just 13 minutes, scoring eight points and failing to collect a rebound for the first time this season.