NEW YORK (Ticker) -- Ben Gordon put himself and Connecticut in the Big East Conference record books.
Gordon's runner with 30 seconds left was the winning basket as the ninth-ranked Huskies rallied from a 12-point deficit to claim their sixth Big East championship with a 61-58 triumph over No. 6 Pittsburgh.
Connecticut (27-6) matched Georgetown's record for Big East title behind another gritty performance by Gordon. The junior shooting guard scored 17 of his 23 points after halftime to finish with 81 points in the tournament, breaking the three-game record of former Georgetown star Allen Iverson.
"I think it puts him in that category of the great players that we've had here before," Huskies coach Jim Calhoun said of Gordon. "To break Allen Iverson's record here with three straight wins for us makes it very special."
Big East Player of the Year Emeka Okafor returned after missing two games with back problems, but Connecticut trailed through most of the second half. Okafor fouled out with 2:19 left, putting the onus squarely on Gordon to help the Huskies pull through.
The 6-3 Gordon gave the Huskies the lead for good, 59-58, with his big basket. He drove past Chevy Troutman, stopped in the lane and put in a one-handed leaner over 6-10 Mark McCarroll.
"We actually had a mismatch," said Gordon, who was named tournament MVP. "One of the big guys (Troutman) was on me. I was gonna shoot the jump shot. I saw it open, I just drove it to the basket, kind of got undercut. Put it up, it just went in."
Pittsburgh (29-4) had a pair of chances to win, but Jaron Brown missed a turnaround jumper with nine seconds left and McCarroll misfired on a long jumper five seconds later.
Gordon was fouled with a half-second left and drained two free throws for the final margin as Connecticut won the third installment of this rivalry in as many years. The Huskies won the 2002 title game over the Panthers, who returned the favor last year and captured their first championship with a 74-56 triumph over UConn.
"We responded and did everything we wanted to do," Pitt coach Jamie Dixon said. "We just came out short."
"I've watched Pittsburgh now for three years now and three great games with them," Calhoun said. "They're as tough and physical a team as anybody's ever going to face, yet our kids persevered."
The Huskies, who played without injured freshman Charlie Villanueva, were buoyed by Okafor's presence early and bolted to a 13-2 lead. The Panthers dominated the rest of the first half, taking a 34-25 lead into halftime and extending it to 40-28 on a layup by Toree Morris with 14:59 to go.
Gordon was held in check in the first half by Julius Page, who limited the Huskies star to 2-of-10 shooting. But Gordon found a way to get loose down the stretch and scored nine points in the final 8:02.
"He played great defense against me," Gordon said. "But after the 11-minute mark, I kind of decided that nobody's gonna win or lose but me. I knew I had to take the game over somehow and get something going for my team."
McCarroll and freshman Chris Taft each netted 11 points for Pitt and Brown matched a tournament record with seven steals. Carl Krauser had trouble against the defense of UConn point guard Taliek Brown and was 4-of-13 from the floor for 10 points.