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Thursday, March 10, 2011
Rapid Reaction: UConn 76, Pittsburgh 74

By Dana O'Neil


NEW YORK -- A quick look at the quarterfinal between Pittsburgh and Connecticut.

Overview: Not a bad way to start the day. Kemba Walker didn't pass this time. No, he drained it at the buzzer and the Huskies upset top-seeded Pittsburgh 76-74.

Turning point: Hmmm ... tough one. OK, let's go with Walker's hesitation dribble, step back, nailed jumper as time expired. That work?

Key player: Walker. Were you expecting someone else? The kid epitomizes what this league is all about -- tough, unbelievably athletic, jaw-dropping shotmaker who also happens to be having a blast. If this is his last event the Garden (at least as a college player), he didn’t leave anyone wanting. Walker scored 24, plenty of them with an off-the-chart degree of difficulty.

Key stat: This game went the way it went because of the rebounding. Pittsburgh came to the Garden ranked second in the nation on the boards. Despite losing Roscoe Smith in the first half (he needed eight stitches to close a gash following an elbow to the head), the undersized Huskies went toe-to-toe with the Panthers, winning the board war 27-24.

Miscellaneous: Ashton Gibbs and Brad Wanamaker didn’t go down without a fight. The two Panthers stars scored 27 and 17, respectively. ... Freshman Jeremy Lamb is the perfect Robin to Walker’s Batman. Aggressive at the rim and fearless, he scored 17.

What’s next: The Huskies, looking more and more like the team that opened so many eyes in November and December, hit the next mile in their marathon when they play the winner of St. John’s-Syracuse in Friday’s semifinal. Pittsburgh, meantime, will have to see what the selection committee decides. Odds favored the Panthers for a No. 1 seed with a good showing here, but a one-and-done could hurt them.