Saturday, March 28, 2009

Kemba Walker propels UCONN to Final 4

UCONN is hatching yet another new star as it gained another big victory in the 2009 NCAA tournament. NCAA basketball analyst Jay Bilas made the comment during UCONN's game against Missouri that UCONN freshman Kemba Walker came from the Bronx, New York, where some of the roughest streetball is played. That toughness and intensity enabled the young Walker to play a fearless brand of basketball, leading the Huskies to their 3rd final 4 appearance in a span of 10 years. In one play in particular, Walker drove quickly down the court charged into the midst of the Missouri players then flew underneath two defenders with a beautiful scoop shot layup. Perhaps a slight bit of Air Jordan mixed in for good measure.

The game wasn't easy for Connecticut as Missouri played ferociously all game. Bodies hit the floor, hands were contesting every shot, every dribble, every pass. It was perhaps the toughest, swarming defense that UCONN has seen all season long. However, UCONN persevered and outlasted yet another opponent. The end result was an 82-75 win behind Kemba Walker's career high 23 points. The beauty of this UCONN team is there's always a player ready to step up and take the lead, whether it's 7'3 center Hasheem Thabeet blocking shots and scoring inside, or point guard AJ Price draining 3's and driving to the hoop to dish to the open man. The West region's #1 seed UCONN now awaits the winner of Sunday's Louisville versus Michigan State matchup.

In the nightcap game, an all-time tournament classic game was had. The game went right down to the wire between two other Big East opponents UCONN is quite familiar with: #3 seed Villanova and #1 seed Pittsburgh. Pitt had been exhibiting some sloppier play in the NCAA tournament despite looking brilliant during the regular season. That sloppiness was surely exposed Saturday night as a constantly improving Villanova team took advantage and scored a basket with under a second to go, breaking a tied game. The 3/4 court drive by Nova's Reynolds was the deciding factor in a game which featured plenty of grit and an amazing stretch of 21-21 free throw shooting by Villanova. Nova now advances to the Final Four in a run reminiscent of their 1985 run, and will wait to meet the winner of Sunday's UNC vs. Oklahoma winner. This also makes at least 2 of 4 Big East teams in the Final 4, with a potential third coming if Louisville wins its game against Michigan State on Sunday.

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