Walker puts up more impressive numbers
Hartford - Try telling junior Kemba Walker that he could finally slow down nearing the end of a blowout victory Friday.
There's no off button in Walker's makeup.
Walker, generously listed as 6-foot-1, went after a rebound like a dog after hamburger, tying up a Maryland-Baltimore County player and earning the Huskies another possession. Seventh-ranked UConn led by 28 at the time late in the second half.
Seconds after burying a 3-pointer, Walker retired to the bench with 4:22 remaining after recording the program's eighth triple-double, finishing with 24 points, a career-high 13 rebounds and 10 assists. He also became the 45th UConn player to hit 1,000 career points.
He did more than enter the school record books in a 94-61 rout at the XL Center. He helped instill confidence in his teammates.
"It's about that time I need to lower my scoring and get more guys involved and just give guys confidence," said Walker, who came in averaging an even 30 points per game. "Once guys see the ball going into the hole, it gives them confidence.
"I love having games like this because my teammates benefit. Their confidence is high right now."
It was definitely a feel-good game for the Huskies (7-0), who rebounded from a sluggish performance in Tuesday's win over New Hampshire.
The Huskies ran a balanced attack with a season-high six players hitting double figures. Freshman Jeremy Lamb had a season-h
igh 12 points and freshman Roscoe Smith, making his first start, had 11 points and seven rebounds.
The Huskies shared the basketball, dishing out a season-high 26 assists on 33 field goals. Senior Donnell Beverly had a career-high seven assists. Good ball movement led to high-percentage shots, as UConn converted 55.9 percent from the field.
Coach Jim Calhoun praised Walker for unselfishly looking for his teammates.
"When you see a guy averaging 30 points a game pass up on layups to give other people shots, I know everyone is praising Kemba, but he's deserving of that praise," Calhoun said. "He's capable of so many different things. … He created for his teammates and also created for himself."
Calhoun was pretty darn happy with just about everything the Huskies did in the second half.
UConn had trouble shaking UMBC (0-7), leading 44-32 at the break. The Retrievers grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to stick around but had only four after intermission.
At the start of the second half, the Huskies took off, increasing the tempo, finding open shooters, playing smothering defense and wearing down their overmatched America East foes.
Freshman Niels Giffey (11 points) started a 13-2 spurt with a 3-pointer. Walker followed with another 3 and Giffey scored again from 3-point land. Freshman Shabazz Napier grabbed a rebound, dribbled down court and threw a long pass to a streaking Alex Oriakhi for a fast-break basket, pushing the lead to 55-35 with 17:34 remaining.
The Huskies hit a season-high 12 3-pointers out of 23 attempts.
"We played a terrific second half," Calhoun said. "We ran well. We started to rebound and defend well. We looked like a more complete team."
Thanks to Walker's pursuit of his first triple-double, there was still some drama left. When he re-entered the game with 10:12 left, he needed just two assists to hit the mark.
Walker set up Lamb for a 3-pointer and later found Giffey on the wing for a 3-pointer for his 10th assist with 7:28 remaining. Hasheem Thabeet is the last Husky to record a triple-double, going for 15 points, 11 rebounds and 10 blocks against Providence on Jan. 31, 2009.
"That's pretty special to be one of eight," Walker said. "There are a lot of great players who could have accomplished that. I was fortunate enough to do it. It's definitely special."
With the win, Calhoun tied former Mount St. Mary's coach Jim Phelan for sixth on the all-time Division I coaching win list with 830.
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