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Connecticut’s Kemba Walker has taken the Maui Invitational by storm, scoring a combined 61 points in wins over Wichita State and then No. 2 Michigan State.
Walker’s Huskies meet Kentucky in the Maui finals tonight at 10 on ESPN.
In the two games, Walker has made 18 of 35 shots from the floor, including five of 15 three-pointers. He has made 20 of 22 from the foul line. He scored 31 against Wichita, and 30 against the Spartans.
Then Walker answered with his fadeaway and UConn had the lead for good. ”We had Kemba Walker,” Calhoun said. “And Tom didn’t.” And Walker had help. Giffey grabbed the rebound of Walker’s missed free throw seconds before Walker hit his decisive shot. Napier hit the three at the end of the half, was disruptive defensively and handled the ball, which freed Walker.
After scoring 29 in the second half against a good Wichita State team on Monday, Walker has now scored 59 points in the past three halves. Remarkable. Walker scored from everywhere in this one. He hit four 3-pointers, drove to the basket at will and was relentless in pushing the ball on the break. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo threw a number of different defenders at Walker. No one, but Walker himself, could slow him down.
Connecticut guard Kemba Walker played the first two years of his college basketball career with a constant smirk. He demanded the ball, taunted his opponents and talked trash whether he was making shots or missing them. Finally, as a junior, Walker is backing it up. The 2010-11 season is only two weeks old, yet after only four games, Walker has become a national story.
Kemba Walker wasn’t ready to assume the role a year ago. He didn’t want the job of leader. And he wasn’t asked to take it, either. But Connecticut could have used his personality on a team that never seemed to find its footing. The Huskies were erratic throughout the season, knocking off Texas, West Virginia and Villanova and yet stumbling to subpar teams like Michigan and Providence and never grasping the urgency of the moment. UConn’s season ended in the second round of the NIT.