Georgetown vs. U-Conn.: Kemba Walker scores 31 points to snap Hoyas' eight-game winning streak
Thursday, February 17, 2011; 12:10 AM
HARTFORD, CONN. - Clutching the ball near the top of the key, Connecticut's Kemba Walker had run out of options. So with Henry Sims hounding him, Walker faked the Georgetown forward to his side, pounded the ball off the backboard, jumped into the lane, caught it and converted the layup.
Walker, who had 31 points, 10 assists and 7 rebounds, was a virtual one-man show Wednesday at XL Center. And ninth-ranked Georgetown, whose defense had been its calling card during an eight-game winning streak, had no answer for the demonstrative guard in a 78-70 loss to the 13th-ranked Huskies.
"Our defense was horrible today," Georgetown Coach John Thompson III said. "He is a very good player. They put him in position to make plays. I don't think we did a good job helping each other in rotating and supporting."
The Hoyas (20-6, 9-5 Big East) saw an early 10-point lead quickly evaporate as Walker remained intent on driving to the basket and not settling for jump shots, as he said he had been doing during a month-long shooting slump.
The junior dazzled fans with slashing moves and acrobatic, contested shots around the basket. He played with a flair, flexing his biceps, wagging his tongue and shaking his head after scoring. The arsenal of moves delighted a spirited crowd of 16,294 and frustrated a Georgetown team that could not keep him from the lane.
Chris Wright began the game covering Walker, who often used ball screens to get a chance to penetrate against the Hoyas' slower big men. He usually found the lane and ultimately the basket. "I knew coming off the ball screens that their bigs were not going to be able to take me one-on-one," Walker said.
When Georgetown double-teamed or trapped Walker, the Hoyas committed fouls or Walker found open teammates with passes. When Georgetown mixed in zone defense, Walker still penetrated with abandon.
"He is crafty with the ball," Wright said. "The thing that he does is he stretches the ball screens out very well. It forces the big to keep stretching and it's hard for the guard to get back in front. Once he got in the lane, he did pretty much whatever he wanted."
Walker had been at the forefront of the national player of the year race until his numbers dipped in January. U-Conn. Coach Jim Calhoun said Walker was his usual self Wednesday, despite Georgetown making a concerted effort to stop him, and that he had been "overwhelmed" trying to carry a young team in a challenging conference.
"I keep hearing, 'He shoudn't be the Big East player of the year,' " Calhoun said. "They are probably right about that. He is probably the national player of the year. I guess he is not allowed to be human."
Walker made a number of plays Wednesday that were fit for a highlight reel. And his two baskets in the game's waning moments - a layup to help the Huskies regain the lead and a step-back jumper with two minutes to play - were critical to the game's outcome.
But the play that had the fans most buzzing was the off-the-glass pass with 13 minutes to play. Walker said it was a move he had done before in pickup games, but he never had the courage before to try it in a game.
"I didn't have any options," Wednesday, he said. "It was just me and the rim. I've seen Kobe [Bryant] do it before."
Wright led four Hoyas in double figures with 19 points. Austin Freeman scored 12 points and made just 4 of 13 shots from the field.
In the game's final minutes, Freeman and Jason Clark (13 points) each missed relatively open three-pointers that could have tied the game or given the Hoyas the lead. In all, Georgetown missed its final seven shots.
But the game was decided by Georgetown's defense, which let the Hoyas down for the first time in a long time. The Huskies (20-5, 8-5) shot 56.7 percent in the second half and 54.2 percent overall.
"The offensive end was not the issue," Wright said. "It was more the defensive end and containing off screen and roll. We didn't play our usual defense."