Connecticut 83, Wichita St. 79
Kemba Walker scored 29 of his 31 points in the second half and hit a key jumper with under a minute left to help Connecticut open the Maui Invitational with an 83-79 win over Wichita State on Monday.
Connecticut (3-0), the 2005 Maui champion, rallied from a sloppy first half behind Walker, who made 14 of 15 free throws and hit a pull-up jumper with 41 seconds left to put the Huskies up three.
Connecticut had a huge free throw advantage, making 32 of 44 while the Shockers shot just 13. The Huskies next face No. 2 Michigan State in the semifinals on Tuesday.
Toure Murry had 19 points and David Kyles scored 16 of his 18 points in the second half for the Shockers (1-1), who didn't score over the final 2:01.
Connecticut is in a rebuilding mode for one of the few times in coach Jim Calhoun's 25 seasons, coming off an 18-16 season and a loss in the second round of the NIT.
The Huskies are so young and inexperienced - with five freshmen and two sophomores on the roster - that Calhoun joked he was still trying to learn the players' names. UConn was plenty good enough in the first two games, rolling over Stony Brook and Vermont.
Wichita State provided more of a challenge.
The Shockers are long, athletic and filled with interchangeable parts, quickly developing into one of the country's keep-an-eye-on mid-major programs.
Wichita State has received votes in each of The Associated Press Top 25 polls and opened the season with a 79-67 win over Texas Southern behind Kyles' 20 points.
Whether it was lingering jet lag or the myriad of distractions outside, neither team was able to find much of a rhythm early.
Both teams shot 36 percent in the first half and combined to go 5 of 17 on 3-pointers, the Huskies taking a one-point lead only because freshman Roscoe Smith's straightaway 3-pointer banked in at the buzzer.
Wichita State tried to pull away in the second half behind Kyles.
The junior wasn't a factor at all in the first half, missing the two shots he took. Kyles took over to start the second, scoring 13 points in the first 7 minutes, including three 3-pointers and a layup off a stolen inbounds pass to put the Shockers up 54-46.
Walker helped the Huskies claw their way back.
Coming off a career-high 42-point game against Vermont, he was unusually quiet in the first half, taking just two shots.
Walker was much more aggressive in the second, beating the Shockers off the dribble to get to the rim and free-throw line. He tied it at 76 with just under 3 minutes left on a long 3-pointer, then put the Huskies up two with a pair of free throws off a steal.
Walker later hit the decisive basket in the lane and Alex Oriakhi sealed it by hitting 1 of 2 free throws with 19 seconds left.