Kemba Walker had 36 points in Connecticut's Sweet 16 win over San Diego State. Yet his his biggest contribution came when the clock wasn't even moving.
At the under eight timeout with his Huskies trailing 53-49, Walker was slowly making his way to the UConn sideline when he was bumped by the Aztecs' Jamaal Franklin. In an Oscar-worthy performance, Walker flopped to the ground and drew a technical foul. It was fitting, seeing as how Hollywood is just 30 miles away from Anaheim.
If there's an NBA lockout next season, Walker could do quite well playing in an a European soccer league.
Franklin's shoulder dip was completely unnecessary and almost certainly a little dirty. He made no effort to get out of the way and seemed to relish in the contact. It's not a stretch to say that he did it on purpose.
The nudge wasn't enough to knock over Walker, though, not by a long shot. During the Big East tournament I saw that dude hit a runner in the lane after getting jostled around like a bumper car by three opponents and he still landed on his feet. Don't tell me a little shoulder bump is going to send him sprawling.
Walker flopped. It was a dirty move by Franklin, but Walker sold it perfectly. And you know what? That's fine with me. The in-game flopping is a pox on college basketball. It's happened more in this tournament than in any I can remember. But if an opponent is going to go out of his way to run into you when there's a dead ball, I say flop away. If you can get it past the refs (and that's a whole other post -- they looked at the replay and still gave Franklin a tech) then more power to you. Kemba Walker ended up with 36 points. He earned a little leeway.
Not that Kemba will admit to anything. "The contact was definitely enough to go down," he said after the game. That's why I was able to get the free throws."
He hit both of them and then went on to score 14 of Connecticut's next 16 points. What was a four-point deficit turned into an eight-point lead almost immediately. The technical foul was the turning point of the game.
Kemba's good fortune was even more apparent late in the game. With UConn clinging to a one-point lead with 1:45 left, he bobbled a hand-off at the top of the key and appeared to get away with a travel. He missed the subsequent jumper, but Alex Oriakhi came down with the board and fed it to Jeremy Lamb who hit a backbreaking three.
Hey, when you're on, you're on.
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- Kemba Walker