UConn headed to Final Four after win over Arizona
Published: Sunday, March 27, 2011
Updated: Sunday, March 27, 2011 23:03
ANAHEIM, Calif. – It was a fairytale ending for the UConn men's basketball team in Disneyland.
Two three-point attempts in the final seven seconds by No. 5-seed Arizona's Derrick Williams and Jamelle Horne were off the mark, and the third-seeded Huskies punched a ticket to their fourth Final Four in school history, defeating the Wildcats before 17,856 at the Honda Center.
"It looked like it was on target, but it came up a little short," Shabazz Napier said of Horne's final shot.
Napier scored 10 points and grabbed four rebounds. West Regional MVP Kemba Walker scored 20 points for the 27th time this season while dishing out seven assists. But Walker, who shot 7-for-17, told coach Jim Calhoun to call Lamb's number in the late-game huddle, and politely told the freshman that he would make the shots.
"Now, I've had a lot of great players, and great players want the ball in their hands, and [Walker] did some great things down the stretch obviously, but he's saying to the coaches, ‘Let's not run cage, let's run circle for Jeremy.' And obviously it paid off great," Calhoun said.
Lamb answered the call, scoring 19 points including two critical baseline baskets and a steal and slam with three minutes to play that stretched the lead to seven. Lamb was 2-of-4 from behind the arc and was voted on the West Regional All-Tournament team along with Walker, Williams, Arizona's Jesse Perry and Duke's Kyrie Irving.
"He was big-time today," Walker said. "Honestly, we needed everything that he did for us. He did everything perfect…He scored the baskets for us. He got big stops. He grew up today."
All of UConn's Final Four berths have come from the West Region. The Huskies (30-9) head to Houston to play Saturday against Kentucky. The Wildcats ended the season at 30-8.
UConn led 32-25 at the half, but the Wildcats stormed back, cutting the deficit to three less than three minutes into the second. After Lamb deflected the ball out of bounds, Kyle Fogg hit a three-pointer to tie the game at 34 with under 16 minutes to play. Williams gave Arizona a one-point lead a minute later, but an Alex Oriakhi-offensive rebound and putback swung the score back in the Huskies' favor at 38-37.
By the 10:10 mark, UConn led 50-41. But three-consecutive baskets, including a strip and score by Perry and a fastbreak dunk by Williams, pulled the Wildcats to within three with 9:17 remaining. With 7:45 left, Williams dunked the ball over Smith and Okwandu to pull Arizona within one. Then after an Okwandu miss, Perry jammed it inside to make the score 53-52. The deficit grew to three after two free throws from Williams.
"They were up three and there was a lot of time left, and that's the thing about this team is our poise," Oriakhi said. "When teams make runs, we don't let it get to us, because I guess we know we're going to make runs back with Kemba and Jeremy Lamb being able to score the ball the way they're able to."
The Huskies would roll off 10-straight points over the next three minutes. The run culminated in Lamb's steal and dunk.
Williams led Arizona with 20 points, despite playing only seven minutes in the first half after committing three fouls. Perry scored 14 points, and Fogg added 11. Solomon Hill had a low-scoring output – just two points – but snatched 10 rebounds. The Wildcats led 9-1 after three minutes and 18-12 at the 10:36 mark in the first half, but the Huskies would go on a 9-0 run after Williams' second foul.
Arizona outrebounded UConn 42-31. The Huskies are now 5-0 all-time against the Wildcats, and 4-6 in Elite Eight contests.