Thursday, March 17, 2011

UConn Avoids Being a Louisville

Don't think college basketball players pay close attention to what other teams are doing in the NCAA tournament? Think again.

Alex Oriakhi was watching Morehead State pull off its big "second-round" upset of Louisville in his hotel room Thursday afternoon and, admittedly, started getting a little fidgety.

“I was a little bit nervous, to be honest with you,” the sophomore forward confessed. “I didn’t know what to expect (from his own team later in the day).”

Roscoe Smith was watching, too, with his roommate, walk-on P.J. Cochrane.

“I watched the Louisville game, and a little bit of the Kentucky game," he said. "I thought Kentucky was going to get upset, also. When I watched that, I couldn’t believe it.”

Two teams from Kentucky moved on Thursday: the Wildcats (barely) and Morehead State. Louisville's season is all over, just like that.

“They had a tremendous season, battling us in the Big East championship," Smith said of the Cardinals. "But, that’s what happens when you don’t have the mindset or the determination of going hard.”

Ouch! Take that, Rick Pitino!

The Huskies certainly went hard Thursday night in their 81-52 whitewash of Bucknell. The numbers are so one-sided they're not worth getting into -- except maybe Kemba Walker's.

Walker scored a game-high 18 points to go with 12 assists (most-ever for a UConn player in an NCAA tournament game) and eight rebounds. He finished two rebounds shy of the seventh “official” triple-double in NCAA tourney history. There were eight “unofficial” triple-doubles in the tourney prior to the ranking of assists in 1984 and blocks and steals two years later. The NCAA considers “official” triple-doubles to have occurred from 1987 to the present.

When asked if he knew if he was close to a triple-double in the waning minutes, Walker smiled and said: “I knew ... Alex stole my rebound.”

Calhoun took him out of the game for good with 3:47 remaining.

Oh, one other stat is worth mentioning: Walk-on Benjamin Stewart scored on an inside hoop with about 30 seconds to go, his first-ever points as a Husky. His teammates were ecstatic on the bench, as they always are when a walk-on scores.

Asked who was happier for the basket, Stewart or himself, Walker said: “It might have been me."

And when told that Stewart appeared to have traveled on the play, Walker responded:
"Did he? It’s not a travel, unless the ref calls it.”

(Somehow, we don't think Kemba is as gracious when refs call fouls and travels on him ... but we digress).

Walker is also now 13 points shy of matching UConn’s single-season points record of 855, set in 1993-94 by Donyell Marshall. He also moved past Marshall and Khalid El-Amin into ninth place on the school’s career scoring list.

Bottom line for tonight: Bucknell's coach and players had said over the prior few days that they didn't really fear UConn's outside shooting. The Huskies certainly made them pay for that, burying nine 3-pointers.

Granted, it's only Bucknell, but UConn truly appears to be clicking on all cylinders right now. And the Huskies have done another thing: no longer can we media types ask them about any the "fatigue factor" from the Big East tournament.

"That's done," Walker said, emphatically.

So is Louisville.

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