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Ryan Greene

Kemba Walker is back ... but can he keep it up?

Ryan Greene
The Dagger

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Kemba Walker cannot erase some of the poor performances in Big East play that led to him fading almost completely from the National Player of the Year picture.

But at this point, the UConn star junior guard can do something about lifting up a team that's sputtered of late. That's far more important, anyway.

That Kemba Walker appears to be back. On Wednesday night, he guided the 13th-ranked Huskies to a much-needed 78-70 home victory over No. 9 Georgetown.

The 6-foot dynamo scored 31 points off of 13-of-23 shooting, had 10 assists across from only two turnovers and fit within the Huskies' framework instead of trying to overpower an opponent by himself.

When that version of Walker comes to play, UConn's lofty national ranking makes much more sense.

The Huskies overpowered the Hoyas in the second half after trailing at the break, 37-36.

Walker hit several tricky shots, with none more memorable than a close-range finish after tossing the ball to himself off of the backboard from the free throw line in order to evade some trouble.

"I had never done that in a game," Walker told ESPN's Andy Katz. "I had seen Kobe and LeBron do it, and at that moment it was my only play. The middle was wide open, so I had to make a play.

Added teammate Alex Oriakhi: "He's done it in pick-up, but never in a game. I thought 'What are you doing?' Then he put it in and we all went crazy."

The best thing going for Walker on this night, though, was his efficiency.

In UConn's first 11 Big East games, he may have been a little caught up in his own hype, and as he tried to do far too much at times, Walker shot better than 50 percent in only one of those outings.

Since that stretch, which was capped by an embarrassing 89-72 thumping at the hands of St. John's last Thursday, he's 20-of-33 with 53 points in back-to-back wins. The first came against Providence on Sunday.

He's also found a nice balance between his scoring and facilitating abilities. In the last two games, he has 17 assists and only three giveaways.

It can't be ignored, though, that Walker also had the same, reliable wingman on offense in each of the last two games.

Sophomore wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, coincidentally, had the two best offensive performances of his collegiate career in the last four days.

Against Providence, he scored a career-high 25 points, then followed it up with 23 on Wednesday, hitting eight of his 11 shot attempts.

Several guys at different times have stepped up to be Walker's No. 2, but no one's been able to hold onto the title for more than a game or two at a time.

The key to UConn — now 20-5 overall and 8-5 in the Big East — continuing to build off of this week, though, is Walker playing just like this. If he's as controlled as he's been, the law of averages says that everyone around him will play a little better.

He can continue to prove that he's turned a late corner when the Huskies travel to Louisville for a rare Friday night contest two days from now.

In the first meeting with the Cards — a 79-78, double-overtime loss — he was just 7-of-23 from the floor and couldn't match Peyton Siva's late-game heroics.

Walker probably can't catch the likes of Jimmer Fredette, Jared Sullinger and Nolan Smith at this point in the National POY race, but he is successfully putting the pieces back together after falling apart for a bit.

Forget the accolades, though. Keeping this going would be impressive enough.

Ryan Greene also covers UNLV and the Mountain West Conference for the Las Vegas Sun. Read his Rebels coverage and follow him on Twitter.

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