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Walker's runner boosts UConn over Villanova

Jan 18, 2011 - 7:20 AM Storrs, CT (Sports Network) - Kemba Walker missed two critical free throws in the final minute, but atoned for the mistake by hitting a game-winning runner with 2.5 seconds left in regulation, lifting No. 8 Connecticut to a slim, 61-59, victory over seventh-ranked Villanova at Gampel Pavilion.

Walker and Villanova's Corey Fisher served as doppelgangers down the stretch, with the latter scoring the Wildcats' final 12 points, including two free throws that tied it, 59-59, with 22 seconds left.

Coming out of a timeout, the Huskies gave it to Walker at the top of the key, and the nation's second leading scorer took Corey Stokes off the dribble and dropped in a floater over Antonio Pena with 2.5 seconds remaining.

"Of course the ball was going to be in my hands. Being the leader of this team, I wanted it to be in my hands," said a confident Walker. "I was able to get a nice little shot off."

Villanova opted not to draw up a final play, and Fisher's one-footed heave from just past midcourt clanged off the backboard, effectively ending the Wildcats' 11-game winning streak.

Walker finished with 24 points, Alex Oriakhi scored 14 to go with 12 rebounds and Jeremy Lamb added 14 and eight for the Huskies (15-2, 4-2 Big East), who have reeled off four straight wins.

Fisher carried Villanova (16-2, 4-1) with 28 points and six assists.

His backcourt companion, Stokes, struggled again, missing all six of his field goal attempts and finishing with just three points in the setback, the team's first since a 78-68 loss to Tennessee on November 26.

"Great game to be a part of. Great atmosphere. It was a great Big East basketball game. We just came up on the short side of it," Villanova head coach Jay Wright said. "They did a great job on Stokes...We had to spread them out and get Corey Fisher to make some plays and he did a great job."

Production on the offensive end picked up considerably in the second half, and a Pena jumper gave the visitors a 45-38 lead with 9:10 to play.

The Huskies, though, scored 14 of the next 17 points to jump in front.

A give-and-go in transition between Lamb and Walker ended with the former laying one off the glass to cut the deficit to one, and Walker added a free throw at the 5:32 mark to knot the game at 46-all.

After trading baskets, Walker made the go-ahead free throws with 4:28 showing, and a Villanova turnover preceded Lamb's layup for a 52-48 contest.

Fisher kept the Wildcats in it, penetrating for a pair of buckets to tie the game at 54-54 with just under two minutes to play.

Walker answered with a deep three over Stokes from the left wing, then tacked on two free throws after Maalik Wayns was off the mark from behind the arc.

Fisher pulled up for a trey to cut the margin to 59-57 with 35.4 seconds on the clock, and Walker's errant tries at the stripe led to the tight finish.

The Wildcats made just two of their first 19 shots from the floor, but the Huskies were nearly as inefficient and only led 12-6 after 10 minutes.

Both teams shot a putrid 24 percent over the opening 20 minutes, with Villanova inching out to a 22-21 edge at the break.

Game Notes

Connecticut has won the last three meetings...Stokes had averaged 17 points per game prior to a comeback win over Maryland on Saturday, when he went 4- for-14 from the field for nine points...Wayns netted nine points for the Wildcats, who shot 3-for-14 from three-point range...Connecticut plays out of conference on Saturday against Tennessee, while Villanova continues its tough road slate against No. 3 Syracuse the same day.