HOUSTON — When the options boil down to winning or heading home, nobody’s better than Kemba and Connecticut.
Kemba Walker scored 18 points Saturday night to lift UConn to its 10th straight victory since finishing off a .500 Big East regular season, a 56-55 win over cold-shooting Kentucky that moved the Huskies a victory away from their third, and most improbable, NCAA title.
UConn find ways to win
UConn’s maturation has led the team to the NCAA tournament title game, writes Andy Katz. Story
The third-seeded Huskies — lowest seed left in a tournament that has been as unpredictable as any in history — will face No. 8 Butler, a 70-62 winner over 11th-seeded VCU in the first semifinal, on Monday.
“The guys decided they didn’t want to go home; this is too much fun,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said.
But this win, which improved Calhoun to 5-1 in his four Final Four appearances, was not a work of art on either end.
UConn and Kentucky combined for 111 points, the third-fewest combined points in a Final Four game since the shot clock was introduced in 1986.
DeAndre Liggins made a 3-pointer for the Wildcats to cut the deficit to three, and Kentucky had its chances. But Brandon Knight, one of John Calipari’s three sensational freshmen, barely drew iron on a 3-pointer. After Kentucky got the rebound, Liggins drew a foul but only hit one of two free throws.
Kentucky forced one more turnover and went for the win, but this time, it was Liggins whose 3-pointer was short.
“I should have drove it,” Liggins said. “It was a good shot, but it fell short.”
Napier made two free throws to make it 56-52, then Knight ended the game with a 3-pointer at the buzzer — a meaningless make and a cruel close to what has otherwise been a remarkable season for Calipari and Co. — Kentucky’s first trip to the Final Four since winning it all in 1998. The Wildcats, the nation’s all-time winningest program, stayed stuck on 105 NCAA-tournament wins in the program history, still tied for first with North%2