Walker Leads UConn To 82-81 Victory Over Texas
AUSTIN, Texas (AP) For 40 minutes, Texas made life hard for the nation’s leading scorer.
Overtime, however, was Kemba Walker’s time.
Walker made a desperate from-the-hip 3-pointer, then nailed the game-winner from about 15 feet with 5 seconds left in overtime Saturday to lift No. 8 Connecticut to a tough 82-81 victory over the No. 12 Longhorns.
“I felt like I owed it to my team,” Walker said of his effort in overtime. “I felt like I would get my shot and make it.”
Walker, who came in averaging 26.1 points, finished with 22 against Texas on 8-of-27 shooting. He scored seven in overtime. The 3-pointer came with a second left on the shot clock and put the Huskies ahead 80-77.
“I threw it up,” Walker said, “and God was on my side.”
Texas (12-3) had a final chance to win, but after getting the ball to midcourt and calling timeout, freshman Cory Joseph juggled the inbound pass and misfired a 3-point attempt at the buzzer. Joseph had made the winning shot in the final seconds to beat North Carolina earlier this season.
Alex Oriaki had a career-high 21 rebounds for Connecticut (12-2), which exploited Texas’ focus on stopping Walker to score 42 points in the paint. The Huskies also ended the Longhorns’ 27-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents.
Jordan Hamilton and J’Covan Brown each scored 20 points to lead five Texas players in double figures. Hamilton had given the Longhorns the lead before Walker’s game winner.
Guard Dogus Balbay, so effective in the defensive effort on Walker in regulation, said he was hesitant to contest the winning shot because he was called for a foul against Walker on the previous play. He got a hand up but Walker shot over him.
“I tried my best and he hit it,” Balbay said.
UConn blew a chance to win the game in regulation. Oriaki blocked a shot by Texas’ Gary Johnson and Roscoe Smith grabbed the rebound with about 11 seconds left. Instead of holding the ball for a final shot, Smith launched a wild crosscourt shot that sailed over the backboard and into the Texas pep band.
That gave the Longhorns the ball back with 7.5 seconds to play, but Brown missed to send the game into overtime.
“It was just a mistake,” UConn’s Shabazz Napier said. “Everyone said, ‘Oh God, Roscoe.'”
Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun called the win the Huskies’ best of the season.
“Yeah, we’ve beaten Michigan State and Kentucky,” Calhoun said. “(But) we held our own on the boards and we scrapped our way through it. What a terrific game.”
With Texas focused on stopping Walker, the Huskies had plenty of easy looks at shots close the basket. The Huskies shot just 38 percent for the game but grabbed 23 offensive rebounds and scored 24 second-chance points.
“In my mind, I keep playing through the easy ones they got,” Texas coach Rick Barnes said. “Defensively we did some good things … but when you give up 23 offensive rebounds, you can’t feel good about that.”
Texas held Walker scoreless for the first 17 minutes and led by as many as nine points late in the first half. Connecticut rallied in the second behind more strong play inside and Napier’s three 3-pointers.
And Walker, as frustrated as he was in the first half, kept working for his shot.
Connecticut held its biggest lead at 68-59 in the second half when Walker finished a slashing layup and Napier made a 3-pointer.
“Kemba Walker is Kemba Walker and he’s going to make a play,” Calhoun said.
Texas fought back to cut the lead to 70-69 on Tristan Thompson’s bank shot with 2:36 to play. Hamilton blew a dunk on a fast break, but the Longhorns grabbed the lead on Brown’s short jumper before the teams ended regulation tied at 73.
When it came down to the final seconds of overtime, there was little doubt the ball would be in Walker’s hands.
“I’ve seen that shot so many times,” Calhoun said. “You can go through a whole game and Kemba is about winning, and that was just a big-time win.”