UConn Upsets Pitt on Walker’s Winner

by David Cassilo / @dcassilo

The Big East tournament got a moment for the ages on Thursday afternoon when Kemba Walker hit a buzzer-beater to give Connecticut a thrilling 76-74 win over top-seeded Pittsburgh.

With the game tied at 74, the Huskies inbounded the ball to Walker for the final possession. A screen made the Panthers switch defenders on Walker from Brad Wanamaker to the far slower Gary McGhee. After the swap, Walker brought the ball to the top of the key and began to drive on McGhee. After crossing McGhee up and causing him to fall, Walker stepped back and unleashed a jumper that sank through the net as time expired (video).

Walker’s shot capped what was one of the best Big East Tournament games in recent memory. After trailing by as many as 12 points early, the Huskies battled back and went into halftime down just one. During the final 9:30 of the game, no team led by more than three points.

Soon it became a showcase of each team’s star with Ashton Gibbs scoring a career-high 27 points on 10-of-13 shooting for Pittsburgh and Walker finishing with 24 points. But while he lost the scoring battle, his team was victorious.

From the Hartford Courant:

Walker’s jumper from about 18 feet fell softly through the net as time expired, giving the ninth-seeded Huskies a 76-74 victory over top-seeded Pittsburgh Thursday in a wildly entertaining, dramatic quarterfinal that left UConn players dashing onto the court to mob their unflappable star.

“They told me to take the last shot and win the game for us,” said Walker, who grew up dreaming of moments like this just a few miles away in the Bronx. “That’s what I did, and there is nothing like doing it in your hometown.”

Walker is now averaging 26 ppg in the Big East Tournament, perhaps giving second thoughts to voters who didn’t give him the conference’s player of the year. He will now lead the Huskies into the semifinals to take on Syracuse on Friday night. The last time the two teams met in the postseason was their historic six overtime game in 2009. Syracuse won their first meeting 66-58, the only game in which Walker was held to less than 10 points.