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Friday, March 11, 2011
Rapid Reaction: UConn 76, Syracuse 71

By Kieran Darcy

NEW YORK -- A quick take on Connecticut's 76-71 overtime win over Syracuse on Friday night at Madison Square Garden.

What it means: UConn (25-9), the No. 9 seed, wins its fourth game in four days and advances to the Big East championship game by knocking off the No. 4 seed Syracuse (26-7). The Huskies were 0-8 in the regular season against the teams seeded No. 1 through No. 6 in this tournament. Now they've beaten No. 1 Pitt and No. 4 Syracuse back to back.

Star watch: Kemba Walker, who had 78 points in his first three games of this tournament, poured in 33 more -- shattering the Big East single tournament scoring record in the process. Walker shot 9-for-18 from the field, and 13-for-14 on free throws.

Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine had big games for the Orange, finishing with 20 points each.

The skinny: The first half of this one was an intense, low-scoring battle. Syracuse jumped out to a 12-5 lead. UConn bounced back and took command, leading 26-21. Syracuse scored the last four points of the half, cutting it to 26-25 at intermission. Syracuse shot a woeful 10-for-37 from the field (27 percent); UConn was even worse, at 8-for-30 (26.7 percent).

Both teams shot the ball much better in the second half. Connecticut appeared to have control, leading 68-62 with 25.1 seconds left in regulation. But two clutch Jardine 3-pointers sandwiched around a missed 1-and-1 by Shabazz Napier enabled Syracuse to send the game into overtime.

In the extra period, the Orange missed the front end of two one-and-one's at the foul line, freshman Jeremy Lamb made two critical buckets late, and Walker finished it off with two free throws.

Number crunch: Let's take a look at the rest of Walker's stat line, in addition to his 33 points. The diminutive 6-foot-1 guard had 12 rebounds, to go along with five assists and six steals. Simply spectacular.

What's next: UConn will play its fifth game in five days on Saturday night at 9 p.m. ET, against the winner of No. 2 seed Notre Dame and No. 3 seed Louisville, for the Big East championship. Syracuse heads home to central New York, and awaits Selection Sunday.