UConn's Walker knocks off top seed Pitt at buzzer
NEW YORK -- Kemba Walker, like everyone in Madison Square Garden, knew he was going to take Connecticut's final shot.
Tied with top-seeded Pittsburgh with 15 seconds to go, Walker dribbled down the final seconds, and with 6-foot-11 center Gary McGhee guarding him, Walker made such a move his defender fell down, and he nailed a stepback jumper as time expired and the ninth-seeded Huskies eliminated the Panthers with a 76-74 win in the Big East quarterfinals.
"I wanted to take that shot," said Walker, a 6-foot-1 junior guard who had 24 points, his third straight game over 20 in the tournament. "I knew McGhee was going to switch and I know if I had him, it was going to be time to go. That's the way it was and I was able to break him down and get a clean look at the basket."
The game was a taut thriller, with Pitt leading by as many as 12 early and UConn (24-9) never leading by more than three points. Pitt's Ashton Gibbs going for a career-high 27 points, including 6-for-7 on 3-pointers, the last of which tied the game at 74-74 with 47 seconds left. Walker, who had missed two shots in the final two minutes, missed again with 20 seconds left, but Jamal McDaniel-Coombs got the offensive rebound, setting up the final shot for the win.
"We played, in my opinion, the best team in the league in Pitt," coach Jim Calhoun said. "Kemba has made a ton of big shots this year, and like I said, I think he's the most important guy for a single team in college basketball. I'm really proud of our kids."
The early exit for Pittsburgh (27-5) could put a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in jeopardy, though coach Jamie Dixon said he's confident the Big East regular-season championship and his team's body of work will carry more weight than a one-point loss to a ranked team.
"One game doesn't change the other 31," Dixon said. "(It) seems in the past there has been a history of conference tournaments not changing too much where you end up."