UConn defeats San Diego State 74-67; will take on Arizona in Elite Eight

At times it wasn’t pretty, but the UConn Huskies defeated the San Diego State Aztecs by a final score of 74-67, to advance to the Elite Eight.

The Huskies will take on the Arizona Wildcats, who defeated the Duke Blue Devils by a score of 93-77.

Kemba Walker led the way for the Huskies with 36 points.  He was ably assisted by Jeremy Lamb, who chipped in with a career high 24 points.  Incredibly, Walker and Lamb combined for 60 of the Huskies’ 74 points.

After starting slowly, the Huskies finished the first half on a 19-5 run to take a 36-27 lead into the locker room.  Walker actually missed a last second half-court three that would have given the Huskies a 12 point lead at the half.

Unfortunately, the Huskies started slowly in the second half, and San Diego State took a 43-42 lead with a 16-6 run over the first 7+ minutes.  The game stayed close for a while, until the Aztecs pulled out to a 53-49 game.

Then came the turning point of the game.

Going to a timeout, San Diego State’s Jamaal Franklin bumped Kemba Walker, and was called for a technical foul.  Walker made both free throws to cut the lead to 2.  After a Walker miss, though, San Diego State was fouled, and made one shot to build the lead to 54-51.
The Huskies then went on a 9-0 run, taking a 60-54 lead.  After an Aztec bucket, the Huskies went on a 5-0 run to take a 65-56 lead, and it seemed that the Huskies might have the game put away at the 4:50 mark.  But the Aztecs had one more run left.

A foul on Jeremy Lamb put Kawhi Leonard at the line, and he made 1-2 free throws to cut the lead to 8.  After Walker missed a tough shot, Roscoe Smith grabbed the offensive rebound, but stepped out of bounds.

Then came a UConn meltdown.

San Diego State’s D.J. Gay hit a 3, and was fouled from behind by Shabazz Napier, giving the Aztecs a chance for a 4-point play.  After missing the free throw, San Diego State grabbed the rebound, and had a chance to turn it into a 5-point possession, but Malcolm Thomas made only 1-2.  Then a Kemba Walker turnover gave the ball back to the Aztecs and D.J. Gay hit another 3, to cut the lead to 65-64.  After Walker missed a tough 3, San Diego State, incredibly, had the chance to take the lead.  But after a missed 3 by Kawhi Leonard, Alex Oriakhi got the rebound.  After Walker missed a layup, Oriakhi juggled, then caught the offensive rebound and threw the ball out to Lamb, who hit a clutch 3-pointer, giving the Huskies a 4 point lead with under 2 minutes remaining, and the Huskies would eventually pull away for the 7 point win.

My take on the game:

The Huskies continue to be a very streaky team.  They started slow, finished the first half strong, fell apart early in the second half, then pulled away.  It’s frustrating to watch them give away leads.  Today, it was careless play, including ridiculous turnovers and dumb fouls.  But when it really counted, they played tough, and pulled out the win.

I have to say, the technical foul called against Franklin from San Diego state looked like a cheap foul.  I never really saw the full “play”, but it didn’t look like much of a bump, and Walker really took a dive.  The announcers said that the officials reviewed it on tape, so maybe it was more than it seemed.

On the other hand, I thought that Walker’s offensive foul was highly questionable – the defender was moving sideways as they collided; Walker was fouled on a layup when the game was close, with no foul call, and Napier had a breakaway steal stopped by a San Diego State foul that looked like an intentional foul to me – the guy was on the floor and grabbed at his leg.

Two plays really stood out for me tonight: The hustling, diving, sliding grab by Walker on a loose ball, which gained possession for UConn; and the two handed steal, I think by Jeremy Lamb, that resulted in a dunk to put the Huskies up by 6 with about 20 seconds remaining.  The last time I saw a two handed interception like that was in 1999, in the NCAA Championship against Duke, when Khalid El-Amin picked off an errant pass late in the game.


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