Final OT

(21) Connecticut 76

(25-9, 9-9 Big East)

(11) Syracuse 71

(26-7, 12-6 Big East)

    Coverage: ESPN/WatchESPN

    7:00 PM ET, March 11, 2011

    Madison Square Garden, New York, New York

    1 2 OT T
    #21CONN 26 42 876
    #11SYR 25 43 371

    Top Performers

    Connecticut: K. Walker 33 Pts, 12 Reb, 5 Ast, 6 Stl

    Syracuse: K. Joseph 20 Pts, 9 Reb, 3 Ast, 1 Stl

    UConn reaches Big East finals behind Kemba Walker

    Associated Press

    NEW YORK -- Kemba Walker immediately flashed back two full years the moment the buzzer sounded, just like everyone inside Madison Square Garden who remembered that night.

    Connecticut and Syracuse were headed to overtime in the Big East tournament. Again.

    This time, there'd be only one.

    Walker had 33 points and 12 rebounds in another phenomenal performance Friday night, and the Huskies (No. 19 ESPN/USA Today, No. 21 AP) held on after blowing a late lead to beat No. 11 Syracuse 76-71 in the semifinals -- two years after their six-overtime marathon in Manhattan.

    "I didn't want to go into another six overtimes, I know that," Walker said. "I was mad we went to the first overtime. As soon as the first overtime came, I thought about six. I wanted the win and didn't want to go to another one and another one."

    Especially with another game to play Saturday night.

    The ninth-seeded Huskies (25-9) improved to 10-3 in Big East semifinals with their fourth win in four days. They'll face No. 14 Louisville, which also needed overtime to get by No. 4 Notre Dame 83-77, for their first championship since 2004.

    "It's tough, but we're ready for the challenge," said Walker, who also had six steals and five assists. "We're mentally tough and we're just going to stay together."

    Scoop Jardine had 20 points to lead the fourth-seeded Orange (26-7), including a pair of 3-pointers at the end of regulation that sent the game to overtime.

    The first shot came with 21 seconds remaining and drew Syracuse within 68-65. After freshman Shabazz Napier missed a free throw with 15 seconds left for Connecticut, Jardine came down and hit another 3 with 4.6 seconds remaining to extend the game.

    "I was just worrying about getting it to overtime," Jardin said. "I gave my team a chance."

    UConn led 72-71 when Alex Oriakhi, with 15 points and 11 rebounds, fouled out with 51 seconds left. Jeremy Lamb picked up the slack by calmly hitting a floater from 15 feet that pushed the lead back to three, and this time Jardine couldn't hit the deep shot.

    Walker grabbed the rebound with 13 seconds to go and made both free throws, finally putting the game away about five overtimes shy of what many fans -- including former President Bill Clinton -- had probably come to expect.

    "Tell me any other guard who is getting 12 rebounds, six steals, five assists," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "I've never seen a guard dominate a game inside and out."

    Kris Joseph scored 20 points and Rick Jackson had 12 for Syracuse, which had won 21 of its last 24 overtime games. The Orange had also won the last four meetings against Connecticut in the Big East tournament, several of them classics.

    This one looked anything but that in the first half.

    Connecticut missed all eight of its 3-point attempts and was 8 for 30 from the field, only getting to the foul line twice and struggling mightily against Syracuse's 2/3 zone defense.

    The Orange, meanwhile, shot just 27 percent from the floor (10 of 37).

    "We had some really good opportunities and we just didn't convert them, and you have to do that," Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. "We'll learn from them."

    Walker didn't make his first field goal until about 12 minutes were gone, but he ended the first half with 10 points, allowing him to eclipse former Syracuse star Eric Devendorf's Big East single-tournament scoring record of 84 points set in 2009.

    Walker has 111 points and counting -- without a six-overtime game to help him along.

    "We let Kemba get too much penetration. We tried to double him every chance we could, but he's very difficult," Boeheim said. "He's as good as any player there is in college basketball right now. He just made incredible plays."

    Walker was among several players who were also on the court at Madison Square Garden two years ago, when these two programs played a quarterfinal game for the ages.

    It was his basket with 1.1 seconds remaining in regulation that kept going what turned out being the second-longest Division I game. The teams went back and forth until the wee hours of the morning, four players from each side fouling out, in a 127-117 victory for Syracuse that has been immortalized on T-shirts that many fans were wearing Friday night.

    Maybe the UConn fans will make some shirts commemorating this one.

    They could start with a picture of Walker.

    Passed over for Big East player of the year in favor of Notre Dame's Ben Hansbrough, Walker opened with 26 points in a first-round game Tuesday against DePaul. He followed that up with 28 points in a win over No. 22 Georgetown and had 24 in an upset of third-ranked Pittsburgh.

    He saved his best -- so far -- for Friday night against Syracuse.

    "Someone must have questioned if he is the best player," Calhoun said. "I think he is the most valuable player on any college team in America."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Team Stat Comparison

    Points 76 71
    FG Made-Attempted 25-66 (.379) 28-76 (.368)
    3P Made-Attempted 4-17 (.235) 10-24 (.417)
    FT Made-Attempted 22-28 (.786) 5-11 (.455)
    Fouls (Tech/Flagrant) 14 (0/0) 19 (0/0)
    Largest Lead 8 7

    2010-11 Season

    Feb 2, 2011 SYR 66, @CONN 58Recap
    » Mar 11, 2011 CONN 76, @SYR 71Recap

    Research Notes

    Held to a season-low 8 points in Connecticut's first meeting with Syracuse this season... Kemba Walker got revenge Friday, outplaying the Orange's starting backcourt by himself. Walker outscored the duo of Brandon Triche and Scoop Jardine by 9 points while making as many shots from the field on 13 fewer attempts. Walker also added 12 rebounds and 6 steals while Triche and Jardine combined for just 4 rebounds and a steal.
    Not 6 OT this time...
    Connecticut advances to Big East Championship Title Game for the 10th time and first time since 2004. From 1995-04, UCONN appeared in the Final 8 times in 10 years.
    The Huskies will be going for their 7th Big East Championship title, which would tie Georgetown for most.
    Connecticut advances to Big East Championship Title Game for the 10th time and first time since 2004. From 1995-04, UCONN appeared in the Final 8 times in 10 years. The Huskies will be going for their 7th Big East Championship title, which would tie Georgetown for most.
    Entering this year, 15 teams have won four games in exactly four days to capture their conference tournament title. Connecticut would be the first to win 5 games in 5 days. However, only 6 of those 15 teams went on to win at least one game in the NCAA Tournament.

    ESPN Stats & Information