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Updated: Monday, March 1, 2004 11:08 PM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(8) Connecticut 89, Seton Hall 67

STORRS, Connecticut (Ticker) -- Emeka Okafor is such an accomplished student that he is earning a degree in finance one year early. He aced his latest test on the court against Seton Hall on Senior Night.

Okafor produced another masterful performance against the Pirates, collecting 25 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks to lead eighth-ranked Connecticut to an 89-67 Big East Conference triumph.

Okafor, who was honored before the game because he is graduating in May, made 11-of-15 shots to help the Huskies (24-5, 12-3) secure a fifth straight victory and a first-round bye in the Big East tournament.

"It was something to remember," Okafor said. "I was walking out there remembering when previous seniors, hearing the song, and feeling sad for them, and now it's my turn. I got a little caught up. I didn't want to cry in front of everybody. I can't really explain it."

Okafor recorded his 48th career double-double and reached 1,000 career rebounds with an offensive board with 14:06 remaining.

"He's maybe as good a basketball player and total package person that's ever graced this university," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said. "Take pictures and put them away, because he's pretty special. And it showed tonight."

Ben Gordon added 23 points and Rashad Anderson 15 for the Huskies, who shot 52 percent (33-of-63) and limited the Pirates to 36 percent (26-of-73).

"We knew coming in they were a really tough team," Gordon said. "They beat Pittsburgh and beat some other quality teams. We knew they were no slouches. So for us to win like this makes us really happy about our performance."

"The only thing upsetting to me tonight was that it was Senior Night," Calhoun said.

UConn entered the contest in a three-way tie for first place in the Big East with Pittsburgh and Providence. The Panthers visit the Friars on Tuesday.

The game was tied, 30-30, before Anderson made a pair of free throws with 5:04 left in the first half to give UConn the lead for good. The Huskies, who held a 41-34 edge at the break, took a 65-53 lead on a 3-pointer by freshman Charlie Villanueva with 8:53 remaining and pulled away thereafter.

John Allen scored 17 points and Andre Sweet added 12 and 15 rebounds for the Pirates (19-8, 9-6), who had a three-game winning streak snapped and were dealt a serious blow in their efforts to clinch a first-round bye in the conference tournament.

"You've got to bounce back," Pirates coach Louis Orr said. "We haven't lost like this all year long and whether it is (by) 22 or two it is just one loss. We'll bounce back."

Seton Hall, which never led, trailed by 25-16 nine minutes into the contest before forging a 30-30 tie on a 3-pointer by James Samuels with 5:15 left in the half.

Playing his final home game at Gampel Pavilion, Huskies point guard Taliek Brown had seven points, five assists and four rebounds.


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