- Associated Press - Saturday, March 12, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Louisville and Connecticut should both be a little tired when they meet for the Big East tournament championship.

After all, it was the first time in the history of the conference tournament that both semifinals went overtime.

There’s a little more to the fatigue factor, however.

No. 14 Louisville will be playing for the third straight day. That’s the benefit of finishing in the top four in the 16-team league, a double-bye into the quarterfinals.

No. 21 Connecticut took a much longer trip to the title game.

The ninth-seeded Huskies have won four games in as many days, tying the record for any conference tournament. No team has ever played five straight days, let alone win them all.

“It’s tough, but we’re ready for the challenge,” said Kemba Walker, who led the Huskies (25-9) to the 76-71 overtime win over fourth-seeded and No. 11 Syracuse with 33 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and five assists. “We’re mentally tough and we’re just going to stay together.”

Louisville (25-8) stayed together well enough to overcome a 14-point halftime deficit in the 83-77 overtime win over second-seeded and fourth-ranked Notre Dame.

Preston Knowles, despite playing the final 10 minutes of regulation and overtime with four fouls, scored 20 points to rally Louisville.

The overtime was certainly nothing new to Louisville and Notre Dame as six of their past 10 games have gone to the extra 5 minutes, including this season’s meeting, an 87-79 Notre Dame win on Feb. 9.

“In the second half I said, ‘You guys got one shot at winning this game, you have to take their legs from under them, and it’ll pay off at the end,’” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “‘You have to deny them and you have to press them and in the end, if we make our comeback, they won’t have any legs.”

They didn’t, especially conference player of year Ben Hansbrough.

He struggled through one of his worst games of the season for the Irish (26-6), who had won 12 of 13. The senior guard finished 3 of 16 from the field for 13 points and had six turnovers.

“I just did not have a very good night tonight. I just never got open,” he said. “Even though they were in zone a lot, it never seemed like I could get open.

“I think it was just one of those nights. I’ve made those shots I took before. They just didn’t fall tonight.”

The Cardinals will go from defending Hansbrough to trying to slow down Walker, who has already smashed the tournament scoring record with one game to go. He has 111 points, well beyond the record of 84 set by Syracuse’s Eric Devendorf in 2009.

“Tell me any other guard who is getting 12 rebounds, six steals, five assists,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. “I’ve never seen a guard dominate a game inside and out.”

Louisville is looking for its second title to go with the one from 2009.

Connecticut is looking for title No. 7, which would tie it with Georgetown for the most ever, and its first since 2004.

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