By Matt McDonough, Associate Sports Editor
As Corey Fisher’s contested long 3-pointer bounced off the side of the backboard and the buzzer sounded on the No. 10 UConn men’s basketball team’s 61-59 win over No. 7 Villanova at Gampel Pavilion, the Husky bench emptied and the sellout crowd erupted. Junior captain Kemba Walker, however, slowly walked off the court.
Walker, who played hero again for UConn didn’t get far, as he was mobbed by his teammates, freshmen Enosch Wolf and Tyler Olander. It was unlike Walker’s determined drive to the basket with 5 seconds remaining. The guard split two defenders and received the ball from freshman Shabazz Napier, then drove the lane and nailed a floater with 2.5 seconds left to break the tie.
“I want the ball in my hands being the leader of this team,” Walker told the Associate Press. “I wanted Shabazz [Napier] to run down some time so we would get the last shot. I got it and I knew another guy was going to come and I tried to go before he came, get by my man and get the shot off.”
Walker finished with a team-high 24 points and Alex Oriakhi notched a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Freshman Jeremby Lamb added 14 points. Everyone in attendance knew who was going to take the last shot with the game tied at 59.
“We wanted to double him but he’s so fast we couldn’t catch him,” said coach Jay Wright.
The Storrs crowd came out in full force and the team noticed.
“It was just an incredible crowd,” said coach Jim Calhoun. “I’m sure there has been a couple of occasions in the last couple of years where we’ve had that electricity in the crowd… I don’t know if we could have won that kind of game on the road with the kind of electricity the kids felt once we started to climb back into it and had a good chance to win it.”
After a poor first half shooting wise, both teams rebounded in the second half. Both the Huskies and Wildcats shot 24 percent in the first half. Villanova shot 52 percent in the second and UConn shot 48 percent.
“We couldn’t score on each other,” Wright said. “It was a typical old-school bloodbath. The first half was horrible. We were just banging each other and getting into foul trouble.”
Fisher led all scorers with 28 points.
“It was one of those games somebody was going to win and as I said to the kids in the huddle, ‘It might as well be us,'” Calhoun said. “Kemba made sure that we did win the game.”