Walker, UConn beat SDSU to reach Elite EightMar 25, 2011 - 5:51 AM Connecticut Huskies on his shoulders and carried them all the way to the Elite Eight.
If the Big East's best player was overlooked before, he won't be any longer.
"He always reaches the second gear," said Huskies head coach Jim Calhoun.
Scoring in bunches, Walker poured in 36 points as Connecticut continued to roll through the NCAA Tournament with a 74-67 victory over San Diego State in the Sweet 16 on Thursday.
Jeremy Lamb added 24 points for the third-seeded Huskies (29-9), who advanced to the West Region final on Saturday, where they will face Arizona. The Wildcats upset defending champion Duke, 93-77, in the nightcap at Honda Center.
With star forward Kawhi Leonard in foul trouble during the second half, D.J. Gay led San Diego State (34-3) with 16 points and was the hot hand for the second-seeded Aztecs during a run early in the second half.
Billy White added 14 points in the loss, Malcolm Thomas scored 13 and Leonard finished with 12 after playing with four fouls for much of the second half.
The biggest foul, though, was committed by another Aztecs player.
Guard Jamaal Franklin threw a shoulder into Walker as players headed to the sideline for a timeout with 9:19 remaining in the second half. Walker hit the ground in front of the San Diego State bench and Franklin was whistled for a technical foul after referees looked at video of the incident.
Walker hit both free throws, cutting the San Diego State lead to 53-51 and beginning a stretch where he scored 14 of the Huskies' 16 points to take control of the game.
"I felt that they were trying to frustrate me, but I didn't fall into it," said Walker. "I just played basketball, and I was able to make a couple of shots."
He knocked down a three-pointer at the end of the spurt, giving Connecticut a 65-56 lead inside five minutes. The Aztecs scored eight in a row, and Gay's three pulled them within a point.
Then, Lamb took over for Walker -- on both sides of the court.
After the Huskies hustled for an offensive rebound, Lamb knocked down a three-pointer from the left side to make it 68-64. Then, he leapt near the backcourt to steal a pass Gay probably intended to be an alley-oop.
Walker ended up with the ball, but passed it back to Lamb for a dunk that made it 70-64.
Leonard hit a three-pointer for the Aztecs, but Walker drained a pair of fouls shots and Lamb finished the scoring with a dunk for the final points.
Walker scored 22 of his 36 points in the second half for the Huskies, who have won eight straight games -- a run that began with five wins in five days to capture the Big East Tournament two weeks ago.
So far, they haven't seemed tired despite playing so many high-level games in such a short time.
"We have something huge in front of us. We have a huge goal as a team, and we're not going to let fatigue beat us," said Walker
San Diego State had its seven-game winning streak halted, losing for only the third time this season. The other two setbacks came at the hands of Jimmer Fredette and BYU.
"When your season comes to a screeching halt like it will for every team with one exception, it hurts. It should hurt, regardless of when, where and how," said Aztecs head coach Steve Fisher. "For our team this year, for what they've accomplished, it hurts exponentially more."
The Huskies, trying to make the Final Four for the fourth time in 13 years, climbed out of a five-point hole in the first half with a 10-0 run, capped by Walker's three-pointer from the left side to make it 27-22 with 4 1/2 minutes remaining.
It was part of a 19-5 Connecticut run to close the half. Shabazz Napier buried a long jumper from the top of the key to give the Huskies a 36-27 lead at the break, their largest of the first half.
Walker nearly made it 39-27.
Dribbling over halfcourt as the clock ticked off the final seconds, the junior guard let go a desperation shot that hit off the backboard and the front of the rim, nearly dropping in.
The Aztecs rallied around the hot hand of Gay to take the lead in the second half.
San Diego State made 5-of-6 shots during one stretch, culminating in Gay's three-pointer from the right side to cut Connecticut's lead to 42-41. Gay swiped Walker at the other end, leading to a fast break and two foul shots for the senior guard that gave the Aztecs a 43-42 lead.
It was the first-ever meeting between the teams...The Aztecs earned their first-ever victories in the NCAA Tournament with an 18-point win over Northern Colorado and a double-overtime victory over upset-minded Temple last week...The Huskies beat Bucknell and conference foe Cincinnati to reach the Sweet 16...Connecticut won national titles in 1999 and 2004 and also made the Final Four in 2009.
- CONNECTICUT: 74
SAN DIEGO STATE: 67
Mar 24 9:19 PM
- CONNECTICUT: 36
SAN DIEGO STATE: 27
Mar 24 8:01 PM
- CONNECTICUT: 0
SAN DIEGO STATE: 0
1st Half - 20:00
Mar 24 7:16 PM
- UConn adds New York guard to 2016-17 recruiting class May 18
- UConn to spend $10 million for new roof at Gampel Pavilion Mar 30
- Playing in the Garden nice consolation prize for Aztecs Mar 25
- Ellis, Kansas take another swing at unfriendly 2nd round Mar 18
- Ollie and 0: UConn's coach is 7 for 7 in NCAA Tourney games Mar 18
- Purvis spurs UConn comeback for 74-67 win over Colorado Mar 17
- Can UConn start another title run with an afterthought seed? Mar 16
- Fisher's Aztecs looking for 7th straight NCAA tourney berth Mar 9
- SDSU tops San Jose State 78-56 to clinch share of MWC title Feb 21
- UConn basketball APR not perfect, but well within guidelines Feb 18
- San Diego St. 9-0 at halfway point of Mountain West schedule Feb 1
- No. 23 UConn falls to Temple 55-53 on Brown's jumper Jan 5