Walker shoots No. 21 UConn past No. 3 Pittsburgh
Kemba Walker hit the winning basket on a classic stepback jumper
at the buzzer, and No. 21 Connecticut stunned third-ranked
Pittsburgh 76-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament on
Walker got the ball at the top of the key with 15 seconds left,
allowed the clock to melt under five, then made a move toward the
basket. He used a crossover and shoulder roll to dump his defender,
6-foot-10 Gary McGhee, right to the ground, then calmly drained the
The buzzer sounded just as the ball went through the net, and
freshman Shabazz Napier was the first to grab Walker by the waist
and hoist him into the air.
The Huskies (24-9) have won three games in three days after a
late-season slide sent them to the No. 9 seed in the Big East
tournament. They’ll face No. 5 seed St. John’s or fourth-seeded
Syracuse in the semifinals Friday night.
Walker finished with 24 points for the Huskies, his third
straight tremendous performance at Madison Square Garden. The
first-team All-Big East performer had 26 points in their opening
win against DePaul, then scored 28 in a rout of Georgetown on
Jeremy Lamb added 17 points and Alex Oriakhi had 13 for the
Huskies, including a key putback off a miss by Walker with just
over a minute left in the game.
The hoop gave Connecticut a 74-71 lead, but Pitt sharpshooter
Ashton Gibbs came down the court and calmly drilled his sixth
3-pointer of the game to knot it up with 47.9 seconds left.
Walker brought the ball up court and went right around Brad
Wanamaker to get an open look, but he left the jumpshot short and
Jamal Coombs-McDaniel pulled down only his second rebound of the
game. He quickly and alertly called timeout to set up the final
shot – and there was no doubt who coach Jim Calhoun wanted to take
Walker made it count.
Gibbs finished 10 of 13 from the field and scored 27 points for
the Panthers (27-5), who might as well forget about earning a
double-bye in the conference tournament. They’re now 0-3 when they
don’t have to play until Thursday.
Wanamaker finished with 17 points and Nasir Robinson had 11 for
The Huskies played the second half without guard Roscoe Smith,
who took an elbow to his face with 7:20 left in the first half and
was taken to the locker room for stitches and a concussion test. He
spent the rest of the game on the bench in his warmups.
The Huskies fell behind 35-23 moments after he left, their
biggest deficit of the game, before Napier started their big rally.
Coombs-McDaniel converted a three-point play a minute later, Walker
scored six points in a span of less than 2 minutes, and the Huskies
pulled ahead for the first time on his foul shot with 6.1 seconds
left in the half.
It wound up being a 17-4 run spanning more than 5 minutes.
Still, the Panthers managed a 41-40 lead at halftime when Travon
Woodall scored on a twisting layup just before the buzzer. It
appeared as though he traveled but no call was made.
The Panthers tried to put the game away with an early
second-half run, but the Huskies answered the call every time. They
forced the normally sure-handed Pitt guards into 11 turnovers and
turned them into 20 points, many of them on second-chance
UConn wound up with 17 offensive rebounds in the game.