76 - 71 Final - OT
  for this game

Walker carries UConn over Syracuse in OT

Mar 12, 2011 - 5:48 AM New York, NY (Sports Network) - Connecticut and Syracuse fittingly needed overtime to decide their Big East Conference Tournament battle, only this time Kemba Walker carried the 21st-ranked Huskies past the No. 11 Orange, 76-71, and into Saturday's final.

Two years ago in this tourney, the Orange needed six overtimes to outlast the Huskies in a memorable test of wills. But Walker, just a freshman then, didn't allow history to repeat itself, recording 33 points, 12 rebounds, six steals and five assists while hitting the game-sealing free throws.

"We let Kemba get too much penetration," Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. "We tried to double him every chance we could but he's very difficult -- he's as good a player as there is in college basketball right now. He just made tremendous plays."

UConn (25-9) will play its fifth game in five days against Louisville in Saturday's final, while Syracuse (26-7) will wait until Sunday to see where it is placed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament.

The Orange's Scoop Jardine finished with 20 points and hit a pair of three- pointers in the final 21 seconds of regulation to send the game to an extra session.

Prior to Jardine's heroics, Alex Oriakhi's tip-in broke a 60-60 tie, and on UConn's next time down, Jeremy Lamb drained an open three with 2:11 left.

The Huskies continued to play in front and led, 68-62, following an Oriakhi free throw with 25 seconds left -- somehow enough time for Syracuse to tie the game.

Jardine banked in his first three from well beyond the NBA line, and after Shabazz Napier missed the front end of a 1-and-1, the junior guard took his defender off the dribble and drained another three with 4.6 seconds left.

An out-of-control Donnell Beverly turned the ball over trying to find Walker on the right wing, and the Madison Square Garden crowd was treated to another five minutes of back-and-forth action.

"I [didn't] want to go into another sixth overtime. I was mad when it went into the first overtime, but I thought about the six-overtime game and I wanted to get the win in that first OT," Walker said.

Lamb hit the go-ahead jumper with just under two minutes left in OT, and Kris Joseph made 1-of-2 from the foul line to pull the fourth-seeded Orange within 72-71 with 50.8 seconds to go.

Lamb followed with a tear-drop runner in the lane, and following Jardine's missed straightaway three, Walker appropriately sealed the game for the No. 9 seed with two free throws.

"I think he's the MVP on any college basketball team in America and I'm going to keep saying that because you've got a chance to witness what we have witnessed over the past 30-somewhat games," UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said of Walker.

Both teams shot a woeful 27 percent from the floor in the first half, and the Huskies held a 26-25 advantage at the break.

The largest lead for either team in the first half was seven, and UConn eclipsed that by scoring eight straight points in less than a minute to break a 37-all tie.

After Walker's two free throws ended the quick flurry with 12:28 showing, Joseph hit a three-pointer to spark Syracuse's turnaround.

Joseph completed an 11-2 response a little later with another three-ball while getting fouled, adding the free throw for a 55-52 lead with 8:26 to go.

The Huskies recovered and went ahead briefly before a Jardine three-pointer tied it yet again, at 60-60, with 3:36 remaining.

Game Notes

Walker, who beat top-seeded Pittsburgh with a buzzer-beating jumper on Thursday, broke the record for most points in one Big East tourney. He has 111 and counting...Jim Calhoun recorded his 600th career win as UConn head coach...UConn is searching for its seventh conference tourney title and first since 2004...Oriakhi ended with 15 points and 11 rebounds...Joseph had 20 points and nine boards for Syracuse, which got 12 and eight from Rick Jackson...UConn outscored the Orange, 22-5, at the foul line.