MERNAGH: FAB 5 RUN BY UCONN
I got to New York City on Monday afternoon, went out for a great dinner with my cousin and then went back to my hotel and went to bed.
I knew the next day was going to be the beginning of a whirlwind that was scheduled to start with the UConn vs DePaul game.
The Huskies dispatched the Blue Demons by getting out in transition. It was, Jim Calhoun was hoping, a get in rhythm type win. One that in the best circumstances could propel UConn to a good showing against Georgetown the following day.
And it did.
On Wednesday the kids from Storrs busted up Georgetown’s zone by running some of the best half-court offense I’d seen all year.
Kemba Walker was fantastic in both games, going for 26 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists against DePaul and 28, 6, 3 and 2 steals against the Hoyas.
By the end of day two, Wednesday, I was fatigued a bit — eight games in two days will do that to you (not to mention internet problems as you unsuccessfully try to write about said games).
I figured UConn must be tired too.
I figured wrong.
The next day at noon, having been bounced from my court-side perch by a freelancer, I settled down in the ramps to see how UConn would deal with their third noon game in three days — not to mention #1 seed Pitt.
Jeremy Lamb picked up the scoring slack for Walker — who was chased and hounded into an iffy-shooting night by Brad Wanamaker — by scoring 17 points. Shabazz Napier provided help as well with 10 of his own.
Alex Oriakhi was a monster, playing through foul trouble to put up 13 and 7 while getting huge offensive rebounds inside the last 5 minutes. Ashton Gibbs was going bananas for 27 and Walker started making some shots down the stretch.
Then, with the game tied and time running out, Kemba Walker sealed his place in Big East Tournament history with a step-back jumper that will live on as long as their is video tape.
Friday was finally a night-time game for the Huskies against Syracuse and their vaunted 2/3 zone.
Walker spit all over it. In a performance for the ages Kemba Walker scored 33 points, grabbed 12 rebounds, dished for 5 assists and stole the ball 6 times.
Oriakhi once again helped out with 15 and 11.
“I just want a Big East ring man,” the sophomore big told me afterwards, “hopefully we all have something left in the tank tomorrow night.”
I asked him if he thought Walker was tired?
“Nope, he doesn’t get tired,” said Oriakhi, “he’s like the energizer bunny.”
And last night, on Championship Saturday in New York City, Kemba Walker was indeed tired, bending over often late in the game to try and catch his breath.
But he fought through it, delivering a gorgeous wrap-around pass to Jeremy Lamb for a layup — after slicing through 3 or 4 Louisville bodies — that gave UConn all the points they would need in a 69-66 win over the Cards.
Oriakhi, Lamb and Roscoe Smith (huge 12 and 7 night for the rookie) joined Walker in double figures.
Five wins in five days is an incredible feat.
Oriakhi got his ring…and Kemba Walker secured his place in Big East history.