Walker, UConn pull off a big Maui Invitational upset in a rematch of the 2009 Final Four
POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 24, 2010
LAHAINA » Last time they met, Kemba Walker was but the learner. Now he is the master.
In a rematch of the 2009 Final Four, Walker and the young Connecticut Huskies proved their mettle and then some, stunning No. 2 Michigan State 70-67 in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational yesterday.
Walker, the team's star point guard, went for 30 points and forward Alex Oriakhi had 15 points and 17 rebounds in the huge upset.
Walker was just a reserve freshman in 2009, and MSU guard Kalin Lucas, a sophomore star. Lucas had 21 points then, but 10 points and five turnovers last night.
Walker was asked how far he's come in his game between '09 and yesterday.
"How far I've come? I'm averaging 30 points right now," said the country's leading scorer with a large grin.
The 6-foot-1 junior had the game's biggest basket, a go-ahead drifting jumper on the left baseline that made it 68-67 with 52 seconds left.
With him, UConn (4-0) has come a long way, too. The Huskies, sporting six freshmen, were picked to finish 10th in the Big East. The veteran Spartans, meanwhile, are coming off back-to-back Final Fours and are expected to contend for the national title.
They haven't looked like that team on Maui. MSU (3-1) barely held off Division II Chaminade 82-74 in the first round on Monday. Yesterday, the Spartans played better — but not enough.
On MSU's last full possession down two, Lucas miscommunicated with guard Durrell Summers. Summers cut to the basket and Lucas' pass to the wing sailed out of bounds. It looked like UConn's Niels Giffey may have touched the ball on the way out, but it wasn't called and Lucas shrugged about that afterward.
"It was a bad play on my part," Lucas said.
UConn held on despite 2-for-6 shooting at the foul line in the final minute. A halfcourt heave to tie at the buzzer by Draymond Green (22 points, 12 rebounds) fell short.
MSU coach Tom Izzo pointed at two late turnovers when his players slipped on the slick midcourt as the turning point. That was when MSU went from up five points to down five at 66-61.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun knew what the difference was.
"We had Kemba Walker, and Tom didn't," Calhoun said.
The Huskies go for their second Maui title in six years today at 5 p.m. against No. 8 Kentucky.
No. 8 Kentucky 74, No. 13 Washington 67
What kind of game was it? Two earthquakes that struck off the coast of Maui (with magnitudes of 4.7 and 3.3) barely registered inside the raucous Lahaina Civic Center.
A semifinal matchup of hoops titans lived up to its billing. The Wildcats kept the highest scoring team in the country locked in a compelling slugfest.
The Huskies, who tied a school record with 17 3-pointers in the first round, managed just three against the freakishly athletic Wildcats.
Terrence Jones went for 16 points, 17 rebounds and four blocks against the team he originally committed to, only to back out at the last moment and choose Kentucky. Point guard Brandon Knight was alternately brilliant and bumbling with 24 points and eight turnovers.
More than Jones going against his would-be team, the second-half quake was a popular topic in the postgame.
"I didn't feel it. Seemed like sometimes the rim was moving anyway," Washington coach Lorenzo Romar said, referencing his team's 38.5 percent shooting and scoring output 40 below their nation-best 107 average coming in.
Kentucky coach John Calipari waved off the 4.7.
"Ahh, that's nothing," he said. He instead talked about his team's ability to win ugly: 39.1 percent shooting, including 17.6 on 3-pointers, and 15 turnovers against seven assists.
Washington guard Isaiah Thomas said he felt one of the earthquakes, but didn't know what it was.
The Wildcats will go for their first Maui title since 1993 today against Connecticut.
David Kyles scored 19 points on 8-for-13 shooting and J.T. Durley added 16 points to carry the Shockers past the host Silverswords and into the consolation championship game against Virginia.
WSU (2-1) of the Missouri Valley Conference dominated CU (3-2) 43-23 on the backboards and recovered after the Division II 'Swords cut a 20-point first-half deficit to six.
WSU responded with back-to-back 3-pointers and never let it get to single digits again.
Forward Mike Scott dominated with 27 points and 15 rebounds as the Cavaliers of the Atlantic Coast Conference topped the Big 12's Sooners in a consolation semifinal.