Dyson, Walker combine to sink LSU in NIT Season Tip-Off

NEW YORK -- Jerome Dyson didn't think No. 13 Connecticut had anything to prove after three lackluster wins. Kemba Walker believed precisely the opposite.

They were in synch with just about everything else on Wednesday night.

Dyson and Walker scored 20 points apiece and combined for 10 assists, playing flawlessly alongside one another during an 81-55 rout of LSU in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off.

"We didn't have to come out here and show anything, we just had to play our game," said Dyson, who did most of his damage during the second half.

Walker made those final 20 minutes moot after helping UConn race to a 45-29 lead at the break.

"How we got that win and how we did it, we know we can be a good team now," he said.

Gavin Edwards added 15 points and nine rebounds for the Huskies, who advanced to play No. 7 Duke for the championship on Friday at Madison Square Garden. Stanley Robinson finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds for UConn.

"Getting beat by a team like that really exposes you," LSU coach Trent Johnson said. "That's the good thing about being in New York. When you get exposed, everyone sees it."

Connecticut held Tasmin Mitchell to nine points and Bo Spencer to five on 2 of 14 shooting. The Tigers' leading scorer, Spencer briefly left the game with about 15 minutes remaining after hurting his right ankle while losing control going up for a layup.

Of course, the Huskies grabbed the loose ball and ran the other way for their own easy layup.

That made it 59-36 and, despite the zealous cheers from a small group of purple-clad LSU fans sitting about 20 rows up, the Huskies were on cruise control. Dyson hit his second 3-pointer of the half, then added an open jumper and fast-break layup seconds later as the lead swelled to 67-38.

Dyson had struggled to find his shot after missing the final 12 games last season with a torn meniscus in his right knee, but everything he put up in this one had perfect rotation and a velvety touch. The 6-foot-4 senior finished 7 of 16 from the field.

"It was the first time I saw 'Connecticut' play this year," coach Jim Calhoun said. "We were aggressive."

Storm Warren scored 15 to lead the Tigers, who were making their first trip to the Garden for an NIT game since the consolation finals of the 1970 postseason tournament. Garrett Green played for LSU (3-1) but had only three points after spraining his left ankle working out on an off day last week.

The Tigers might have had more luck had they gotten more shots to the rim.

The Huskies forced a dozen turnovers and blocked 13 attempts, continuing a tradition of leading the nation in that category each of the last eight years. Many thought the streak would end this season after they lost 7-foot-3 shot-swatter Hasheem Thabeet to the NBA.

"You have to come out and be ready to play from the jump," Warren said. "It was a challenge, but you have to step up to the challenge and be ready to play."

The Huskies have had their problems in the preseason NIT, losing semifinal games in 1997 and 2003, but used superior size and athleticism to blitz LSU from the start.

UConn led 13-10 when Walker began a quick 8-0 run with a contested layup, and the Big East powerhouse methodically stretched the lead. A bucket by Donnell Beverly with 5:09 left made it 31-20, and Walker -- a standout at Rice High School in New York City -- hit a 3-pointer and pair of foul shots in the last minute of the half to make it 45-29.

The generous cushion made walking off the court a lot more pleasant than the last time UConn did it at the Garden, on the short end of a six-overtime thriller against Syracuse in March during the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament. UConn shrugged off that disappointment to make an inspired run to the Final Four a few weeks later.

"We answered some questions tonight," Calhoun said. "I liked the team tonight."