November 22, 2010

Connecticut defeats Wichita State 83-79 in opening game of Maui Invitational

LAHAINA, Hawaii _ The game ended with Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall pointing at a referee and Shocker fans booing their lungs out.

No, the whistles did not go WSU's way in Monday's 83-79 loss to Connecticut in the first round of the Maui Invitational at the Lahaina Civic Center. Connecticut scored 32 points at the free-throw line _ 23 more than WSU _ with guard Kemba Walker making 14 free throws in the second half.

The Shockers couldn't guard Walker, who scored 29 points in the second half, and they couldn't guard the free-throw line.

"He really put us on his back once again and won the game," Connecticut center Alex Oriahki said. "Why run a play if you can get a lay-up every time."

That summed up the problem for Wichita State (1-1), dumped into the losers bracket to play either Michigan State or Chaminade today. The Shockers tried to stop Walker with every good option and threw a zone at him late in the game. Connecticut cleared out the middle of the court and let Walker dribble and drive. He moved too fast for any Shocker to stay with, and the help defenders helped just in time to foul.

"Walker is very hard to guard," Marshall said. "Obviously, that's a tough game to lose. The way we lost is more tough. We just didn't make enough plays to

overcome everything we had to overcome."

Nobody needed a decoder ring to figure out that meant the foul calls. The Huskies (3-0) made 32 of 44 free throws, 22 of 28 in the second half. WSU center Garrett Stutz fouled out, twice called for fouls while screening, and played 12 minutes. Three other Shockers ended the game with four fouls. WSU shot better than the Huskies, out-rebounded them and handed out 17 assists to their seven.

"Hard to describe,"Marshall said. "They were the aggressor with the ball. There were certainly some tough calls that could have gone either way, and they

seemed to go the wrong way for us."

The frustration peaked when Stutz, trying to set a screen for Toure Murry with WSU down 80-79, fouled out with 1:02 to play. The turnover gave the ball to Walker, who hit a floater over Graham Hatch for an 82-79 lead with 41 seconds remaining.

Murry's three-pointer missed badly with 19 seconds to play and Oriahki's free throw gave Connecticut a four-point lead.

Walker, a 6-foot-1 junior, scored 13 of Connecticut's final 14 points. The Huskies trailed 60-51 with 9:55 to play before Walker scored 21 of their final 32 points. He made one three-pointer, tying the game at 76-all with 2:47 to play.

"They couldn't find an answer for him," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "He just took a game over."

Foul trouble almost defined Walker's night. He played four minutes in the first half and scored two points because of two fouls. He picked up his third early

in the second half. He didn't foul again, despite a valiant try by WSU's J.T. Durley to draw a charge on a drive.

"I just wanted to be aggressive," Walker said. "I just took whatever the defense gave me."

The Shockers won't believe that. Walker took what he wanted and ruined what WSU hoped would be a breakthrough day in Maui.

"He's a veteran, and he knows a lot of things most guards don't even know about the game," WSU junior David Kyles said. "He can tell when you're relaxing

on defense. It's hard to stay in front of him."

Murry led WSU with 19 points. Kyles scored 18, all in the second half. Durley added 12.

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