UConn advances to the Final Four

RYAN WOLSTAT, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:14 PM ET

TORONTO - The Wildcats went for the win and it cost them.

With a spot in the Final Four on the line, trailing by two, Arizona missed two three pointers in the dying seconds and fell to Connecticut 65-63 to take the West Regional in Anaheim.

For the Huskies, a shocking late-season run continues. One of a record 11 Big East schools in the NCAA tournament, UConn was just ninth in the conference in the regular season but has now won nine straight behind unstoppable guard Kemba Walker.

Walker scored 20 more points and is now averaging 26.8 in the tournament and freshman Jeremy Lamb added 19.

The Huskies needed all of those points and some early foul trouble to counter the latest exploits of spectacular Wildcats forward Derrick Williams, who collected 20 points and five rebounds, most in the second half.

UConn played poorly early and fell behind, but battled back thanks to a 9-0 run which coincided with Williams leaving the game with his second foul. He returned but quickly picked up his third with 5:52 to go in the first half. He played just seven of the opening 20 minutes.

Minus Williams, who has made himself a contender for the top spot in the upcoming NBA draft, Arizona found itself trailing at the half 32-25.

But Williams returned in the second with a vengeance and was the best player on the floor, collecting 14 of his points, mainly by throwing down highlight reel dunks while owning the glass.

It looked like Williams, who grew up 10 minutes away, and the Wildcats would keep on rolling to Houston, but Williams, an excellent three-point shooter for a big man (60% for the season) made the mistake of going for a deep shot, which missed.

Arizona got the rebound and another chance, but Jamelle Horn bricked one of his own allowing Walker and the Huskies to escape.

The Wildcats had stormed back from a nine-point second-half deficit, taking advantage of foul trouble on the other side.

When Huskies big man Alex Oriakhi had to check out because of fouls, Arizona went on an 8-0 run led by Williams.

But another win was not to be for a team that had looked highly impressive in knocking off three very good tournament opponents in Memphis, Texas and top-seeded defending champion Duke.

Poor shooting

Neither team could hit many shots — Connecticut shot 41% from the field to Arizona’s 39% — but Walker and Lamb connected when it mattered.

Walker, knocked for his perceived lack of playmaking ability, added seven assists, showing a new, dangerous wrinkle to his game.

He was coming off of a UConn tournament-record 36 points in the team’s regional semifinal win over San Diego State.

Third-seeded UCONN (30-9) missed the tournament entirely last year, but is back in the Final Four for the second time in three years.

Walker has been the major reason why. He helped the team win five games in five days to take the Big East tournament and has been just as good in the main dance.

UConn’s lack of size might catch up to it in Houston, but thanks to the diminutive barely six-foot Walker, it might not matter.

Not if he keeps finding ways to help his team win.

ryan.wolstat@sunmedia.ca


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