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Kemba leads surging Huskies past ‘Cuse, into Big East final

By: Matt McDonough

UConn Daily Campus News

NEW YORK – It may not have been six overtimes, but the Big East championship semifinal between the UConn men’s basketball team and Syracuse did go into an overtime period. And the winner, for the fourth time in four days, was the Huskies.

UConn defeated the Orange 76-71 at Madison Square Garden in a rematch of the 2009 six-overtime quarterfinal that Syracuse won 127-117. Kemba Walker continued his dominance in his hometown, being the catalyst for the Huskies (24-9) once again.

Walker had 33 points, setting a Big East and NCAA conference tournament record of 111 points. The junior captain also contributed 12 rebounds, five assists and six steals. He was the game’s leading rebounder, beating teammate Alex Oriakhi’s total of 11.

“He got long rebounds,” Oriakhi, who also had 15 points, said with a laugh. “He

Walker poured in 33 points in the Huskies' 76-71 overtime victory. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin)

wasn’t battling like I was.”

Jeremy Lamb was the only other Husky to score in double-digits with 11. Freshman Tyler Olander, who gave UConn 27 minutes off the bench, finished with seven points and six rebounds. Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine paced the Orange offense with 20 points apiece. Joseph led the team with nine rebounds and Rick Jackson grabbed eight boards and scored 12 points.

Syracuse (26-7) made quite an effort just to take the game to overtime. The Huskies played sloppy down the stretch, and managed to blow a six-point lead in the last 20 seconds. With under a minute to go, and UConn up three, Walker got a rebound off a missed three and made both free throws.

After another missed three, Oriakhi was fouled made 1-of-2 free throws. Off the miss, Syracuse went into transition and Jardine banked a three to cut the score to 68-65 with 19 seconds remaining. Shabazz Napier missed the front end of the one-and-one and Jardine made a 3-pointer with 4.6 seconds to tie the score. Oriakhi received the inbounds and passed it off to Donnell Beverly. The senior point guard dribbled up court and threw the ball out of bounds in Walker’s direction, sending the game into overtime.

“Of course I didn’t want to go into another six overtime game,” Walker said. “I was mad it went into the first overtime, but I thought about the six-overtime and I wanted to get the win in that first O.T.”

UConn jumped out to a 70-68 lead 20 seconds into the extra period. Jardine stripped Walker while attempting a three and took it the other way to tie the score. Lamb hit a floater with 1:52 to make it 72-70.

“I knew Syracuse was going to play me hard coming off the ball screens and I knew

UConn head coach Jim Calhoun has led Connecticut to four consecutive victories in Madison Square Garden. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin)

he was going to be open,” Walker said. “It was up to him if he was going to tag or not. He made three great moves.”

The Orange would never tie or take the lead again. Lamb and Walker would score the Huskies’ final six points. When Jardine’s three with nine seconds was off the mark, the ball went fittingly, to Walker’s hands, who held the ball for the final seconds.

“Great performance for us,” said coach Jim Calhoun. “We couldn’t be happier. The kids showed all the hard work they put into the last four days and caught a little bit of magic.”

Now UConn will have an opportunity at the title, playing Louisville for the third time this season, on Saturday at 9 p.m. The Cardinals have defeated the Huskies twice already this season. Calhoun is confident in this team to do what has never been done, win five games in five days for the championship.

“I couldn’t be prouder of this group and I’ve had some good groups I’ve sat on the podium with,” Calhoun said.

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