- Wednesday, December 9 2009 -
SEC/Big East Invitational (at New York, NY)
Kentucky - 64 (Head Coach: John Calipari) - [Ranked 4th by AP and 4th by ESPN/USA Today]
Connecticut - 61 (Head Coach: Jim Calhoun) - [Ranked 14th by AP and 12th by ESPN/USA Today]
Halftime Score: Connecticut 29, Kentucky 23
|Prior Game|||||Next Game|
|North Carolina 68 - 66|||||Indiana 90 - 73|
Game Writeup - Written by Matt May; Courtesy of The Cats Pause, (All Rights Reserved)
Wall's 25 points lift Cats over UConn
NEW YORK, N.Y. - Playing in the most famous arena in the world John Wall continued making the clutch plays that could one day make him a household name in the same way Madison Square Garden is.
Wall converted a three-point play with 30.8 seconds remaining to push Kentucky past Connecticut 64-61, etching his name in the historic arena's lore the same way decades of basketball greats have done. The game was played in front of a crowd of 15,874 that was befitting a New York Knicks NBA Finals game, with the rabid fan bases hanging on every play right from the opening tip.
Wall, as he's now done three times in his eight career games, left everyone breathless yet again.
"He's phenomenal, one of the best basketball players out there," UK forward Patrick Patterson said. "We're used to him doing things like this. We know he'll take advantage of the opportunity he has at hand. We just needed baskets and we knew who to get the ball to. If we need a big basket we look to John."
It seemed as if Wall was all anyone had their eyes on down the stretch. The freshman scored 12 of the Cats' last 15 points over the final 7:30, producing an improbable bucket every time UK needed one.
"We rode John Wall at the end of the game," UK coach John Calipari said. "We were groping for our offense so I gave it to him and said go get some baskets."
Wall saved his best for last, stunning UConn with his final drive to the basket. UConn guard Kemba Walker gave the Huskies a 61-60 advantage with 1:12 left when he shook Wall near the top of the key, dribbled left, gave a head fake and buried an elbow jumper. The bucket erased a seven-point second half deficit and put UK in a precarious position yet again.
Like he did in victories over Miami (Ohio), Stanford and North Carolina Wall took center stage with the game on the line. Calipari called a timeout with 48.7 seconds on the clock and set up a play for Wall to try and his man off the dribble. Wall drove left, met 6-foot-9, 240-pound forward Alex Oriakhi on the block, took the contact and banked home a shot while hanging in the air before adding a free throw.
"He's all that," UConn coach Jim Calhoun said. "He's a tremendous, tremendous player. He's no freshman, he's a great player is what he is."
Wall finished with 25 points on the night and left The Garden buzzing but the game with a postseason feel over until Gavin Edwards missed an open three from the left wing and Walker's desperation shot from the corner came up well short.
UK sped out of the gates like a New York City taxi at a green light, blitzing the Huskies with a 12-0 run fueled by Wall's theatrics. The freshman that was the talk of the city coming into the game slammed home an alley-oop from fellow freshman guard Eric Bledose, swished an elbow jumper and went coast-to-coast for another lay-in to cap the run. The final play forced UConn coach Jim Calhoun to burn his second timeout in less than four minutes - the first came 33 seconds into the game - and left the large contingent of Huskies' fans stunned.
Whatever Calhoun said in the second timeout must have struck a nerve because UConn was a different team for the rest of the half. Dyson, the Huskies' leading scorer, scored six straight points during a 10-0 run that cut the lead to two. As the Cats kept missing shots (3-of-25 to end the half), getting beat in transition defense and piled up foul trouble UConn rushed past and built a 26-18 lead on the strength of a 26-6 run reminiscent of the spurt UK put on North Carolina in its previous game. The Cats managed to stay within 29-23 at the half despite being hammered on the glass and playing the final the eight minutes without Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton.
Eric Bledsoe scores
Darnell Dodson shoots
John Wall leads the break as UCONN's Jerome Dyson tries to catch up