by David Cassilo / @dcassilo
What a difference a trip to Hawaii makes?
When Walker went off for 42 points last week, it got some attention, but it was against Vermont, and as a result, was written off as a rarity, rather than the expected. After 30 points against No. 2 Michigan State and 29 points against No. 8 Kentucky in the Maui Invitational, Walker has gotten everyone’s attention. His 30 ppg have him the early leader for National Player of The Year.
Meanwhile, his team has shown that it isn’t just a one man show. With Wednesday’s 84-67 beatdown of Kentucky and Tuesday’s 70-67 wins against Michigan State, the Huskies now have arguably the most impressive collection of wins so far this season.
The key to it all has been finding a supporting cast for Walker and filling that role has been sophomore big man Alex Oriakhi. In the team’s last two wins, he finished with 15 points and 17 rebounds against the Spartans and followed that with 18 points and 11 rebounds against the Wildcats.
His emergence is making UConn look like a legit contender for the Big East crown.
From The Hartford Courant:
Terrence Jones dominated early, but soon enough, the first half began to belong to another big man — Oriakhi. A night after posting 15 points and 17 rebounds, he was all over the place early against the Wildcats.
His putback of Napier’s miss while fouled led to a three-point play and a 22-18 UConn lead. Later, after another putback while being fouled, Oriakhi pounded his chest, screamed to the UConn section of fans and yelled repeatedly, “Let’s go!” That three-point play made it 29-22 with 9:01 left in the half.
The Huskies will without question be ranked next week and could even find themselves in the top-10. With five mid-major opponents at home before conference play, the success should continue for Connecticut. Can Walker’s scoring and the Huskies’ winning keep up in the physical Big East? That’s a question for another day.