January 17, 2011
Whether or not somebody wrests college basketball's national player of the year award away from UConn's Kemba Walker, there's no doubt that he's earned the title of the nation's best crunch-time scorer.
Walker added to his legend on Monday afternoon by scoring UConn's final seven points including the go-ahead shot with 2.5 seconds remaining. He split a late-arriving double team, exploded toward the rim and dropped in a soft five-foot floater, snapping No. 7 Villanova's 11-game win streak and delivering the eighth-ranked Huskies a 61-59 victory.
"I was just waiting for the clock to go down so I could take the last shot," Walker told ESPN's Jay Bilas after the game. "I knew they were going to try to send two guys at me, but the other guy came kind of late and I was able to get by my guy and get it up."
Walker's late heroics overshadowed the job his teammates did keeping UConn in the game as the star point guard was struggling through an erratic shooting night. Big man Alex Oriakhi posted 14 points and 12 rebounds, freshman Jeremy Lamb scored nine of his 14 points in the second half and fellow freshman Shabazz Napier played his usual brand of stifling man-to-man defense.
Villanova's Corey Fisher was actually the better Brooklyn-born point guard for most of the game, but Walker never lost confidence even after missing 11 of 12 shots during one mid-game stretch. The nation's second-leading scorer made only 6 of 18 shots and missed two critical free throws to enable Villanova to tie the game at 59, though he still finished with 24 points.
Walker's performance against Villanova was similar to what he did at Texas earlier this month when he again struggled with his shot until sinking a circus three and the game-winning pull-up jumper in the final two minutes of overtime.
The most impressive aspect of Walker's game-winning bucket against Villanova was that everyone in the arena knew he was going to get the ball. Even so, Walker found a way to get off a good shot and keep UConn in the thick of the Big East race.