NEW YORK (Ticker) -- It must be March if Connecticut is gaining momentum.
Freshman Rashad Anderson led a balanced attack with 21 points as the Huskies moved into the championship of the Big East Conference tournament for the second straight year with an 80-67 victory over No. 11 Syracuse.
Despite relatively quiet nights from stars Ben Gordon and Emeka Okafor, Connecticut (21-8) never trailed and led by as many as 19 points as it displayed the fast-breaking form of Huskies' teams of the past.
"It's the time of the year that Jim Calhoun's teams always get better," Huskies assistant George Blaney said. "We feel it, we understand it. We are a fast-break team. We are one of the fastest teams in America."
Syracuse (24-5) entered with an eight-game winning streak - since a 75-61 loss at Connecticut on February 10 - and featured spectacular freshman Carmelo Anthony, who finished with 29 points and 15 rebounds. The 6-8 Anthony was a one-man show at times, but was also harassed into misfiring on 19-of-28 shots.
"We spent an hour and a half in the hotel room and an hour on the floor today," said Calhoun about the game plan. "We felt good about it. We really prepared to take away everything from Carmelo Anthony."
Defending champion Connecticut (21-8) will face Pittsburgh in a rematch of last season's thrilling 74-65 double-overtime victory in the final. The Huskies are seeking their sixth Big East crown, which would match Georgetown's record total.
"I love to play Pittsburgh," said point guard Taliek Brown, who drilled a memorable 30-footer to key last season's victory. "It's like a battle between us."
Anderson made 7-of-11 shots, including 3-pointers to start each half. The Huskies built a 16-6 lead on Marcus White's dunk with 13:29 left before halftime and led by as many as 15 points in the first half.
"The basket felt like it was just huge," Anderson said. "As big as Madison Square Garden. I felt like I couldn't miss."
Anthony drilled a 3-pointer to bring Syracuse within 31-27 with 1:33 to go before the Huskies unleashed a 10-0 spurt that bridged both haves and provided a comfortable 14-point lead.
The Orangemen shot a season-low 29 percent (23-of-80) and their 80 shots matched a tournament record. Hakim Warrick was 5-of-17 and the backcourt of Kueth Duany and freshman Gerry McNamara combined to make 3-of-17 shots.
"Their defense was excellent," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We shoot 9-for-42 in the first half, we're going to struggle. We just didn't play well offensively."
Brown netted 11 points and engineered many of the Huskies' rushes to the rim by beating McNamara down the floor. Gordon and Okafor each finished with 12 points. Seldom-used reserve Marcus White pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds as UConn held a 54-50 edge on the glass. The Huskies received 24 points and 23 rebounds from their bench.
"Marcus is just learning how to play," Calhoun said. "Maybe before we didn't play him and now we're learning how good he is."
For Syracuse, the game was far too similar to its regular-season loss to UConn. The Orangemen shot a shade under 30 percent (20-of-67) in that one and Anthony had to shoulder too much of the scoring burden with 29 points.
"It was hard for us to get going as a team," Anthony said. "We were taking good shots, they just weren't going."
Warrick finished with 14 points and 14 rebounds for Syracuse, which misfired on 16-of-18 shots from beyond the arc. Backup center Jeremy McNeil matched a tournament record with eight blocks, joining Georgetown's Alonzo Mourning and Syracuse's Etan Thomas to accomplish that feat.
UConn won for the sixth time in eight games and will make its fifth appearance in the championship in the last six years.
"This is what he (Calhoun) plays for," Blaney said. "This is what Connecticut basketball is all about."