When the highlights of past Big East Championships run on ESPN and SNY, they are dominated by theatrics from Ray Allen, Allen Iverson, Ben Gordon and Gerry McNamara. But what Kemba Walker has done over the last four days might be the most impressive Garden Championship Week performance of any.
Walked dropped 33 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished out five assists and came up with six steals to lead UConn past Syracuse last night, 76-71 in overtime, to advance the Huskies to the tournament finals tonight.
“He’s the most valuable player in America, bar none, not even close,” said UConn coach Jim Calhoun after the game.
UConn led for much of the second half, but with six seconds left and UConn up 68-65, Syracuse guard Scoop Jardine drilled a three from the left wing to force overtime, just two years after the Huskies and the Orange went to six extra sessions in a Big East Tournament quarterfinal.
To make matters worse for the Huskies, their leading rebounder, Alex Oriakhi, who posted 15 points and 11 boards, fouled out at the end of regulation, leaving UConn with just Charles Okwandu and Tyler Olander on the interior.
But in overtime, the Huskies held Syracuse to just three points, and Walker and teammate Jeremy Lamb each scored four to earn UConn its first trip to the Big East Championship finals since 2004.
“I didn’t want to go into another six overtimes,” Walker joked. “When that first overtime came, I definitely thought about the six-overtime game.”
With his bucket at the 3:53 mark of the first half, Walker surpassed Eric Devendorf’s previous record of 84 for most points scored in a Big East Championship, and still has one game to play.
UConn is the third team in the conference’s tournament history to win four games in four days (Pitt in 2008 and Syracuse in 2006) and will look to make history tonight.
What do you think? Will UConn take home the hardware?
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