Thursday, March 24, 2011
Rapid Reaction: UConn 74, San Diego St. 67
By Diamond Leung
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Connecticut’s Kemba Walker tied a school tourney record with 36 points, willing the Huskies to a 74-67 win against No. 2 seed San Diego State that sends them to the Elite Eight. Freshman Jeremy Lamb added 24 points, tying a career high. San Diego State got 16 second-half points from D.J. Gay after he was shut out in the first half. Kawhi Leonard had 12 points and nine rebounds and Malcolm Thomas had 13 points and eight boards, but it wasn’t enough. The Aztecs played in front of a hometown-type crowd, but Walker stole the show and couldn’t be denied. After averaging 30 points in a 5-0 UConn run through the Big East tournament, he's averaging 29 in three NCAA tourney wins.
Turning point: Lamb hit a 3-pointer with 1:39 to play that put Connecticut up 68-64, capitalizing on a second-chance opportunity after Walker’s miss. The shot gave the Huskies breathing room and sufficiently responded to a Gay 3-pointer that had cut the lead to a point.
Key player: Walker was masterful, going 12-for-25 from the field. There was little San Diego State could do to stop him. The Aztecs put Chase Tapley, Billy White and Jamaal Franklin on him, and Walker still managed to take over the game. He hit step-back shots, ran off screens well for open looks and at times seemingly went against the entire defense on his own. He was 4-for-8 from beyond the arc and UConn also shot 50 percent (8-16) as a team.
Key stat: Lamb was 9-for-11 from the field, providing the Huskies with a much-needed second option to Walker. He had two dunks in the final minute to help seal the game, one coming after he stole the ball on a pass from Gay.
Miscellaneous: It didn’t help San Diego State that it picked up two technical fouls. Leonard was whistled for one in the first half that gave him a second personal foul. In the second half, Franklin made contact with Walker after a timeout, and was called for one as well. The Aztecs would later get into foul trouble as Leonard played with four fouls for the final 7:25.
What’s next: UConn, after its first-ever Sweet 16 win over a higher-seeded team, moves on to play the winner of tonight’s Arizona-Duke game for a chance to go to the Final Four for the fourth time.