The last question for Arizona Wildcats coach Sean Miller at Thursday’s postgame press conference was about UA’s regional final opponent, UConn.
“I don’t know a lot about UConn,” he said. “But I do know Kemba Walker.”
That would be the junior point guard who is an All-American … who scored 36 points in the Sweet 16 against San Diego State … who had 33 points in an NCAA Tournament win over Cincinnati … who had 12 assists and nearly a triple-double in an tourney win over Bucknell … who led the Huskies to five wins in five days to win the Big East Tournament … who is averaging 27.1 points in the team’s eight-game winning streak.
Yeah, that Kemba Walker.
“Our goal was to try to contain him,” said San Diego State forward Billy White. “You know, he’s almost impossible to stop.”
If Arizona’s Derrick Williams isn’t the star of the NCAA Tournament so far, Walker is.
“They just totally dominate the ball, because he’s so good,” Arizona assistant coach Archie Miller said on the postgame radio show Thursday after UA beat Duke.
“They control the pace of the game. They are hard to turn over. And you are going to have to deal with him at the end of the clock 20 to 25 times. We are really going to have to be good in terms of our perimeter defense.”
Walker’s array of drives, pull-ups, 3-pointers and a Williams-like ability to get to the free throw line comes with a swagger that is familiar to Arizona fans. As you well know by now, Walker and Arizona sophomore point guard MoMo Jones are long-time friends from New York City.
“That’s like my brother,” Jones said Thursday. “That’s off the court. When you on the court you’re enemies.”
Jones and Walker were teammates at Rice High School for two years before Jones transferred, and they were together on the New York Gauchos AAU team (as was the Wildcats’ Kevin Parrom) when now-Arizona assistant Book Richardson was the director of that program.
We’re sure to hear more about that Friday at the team’s interview sessions from the Honda Center in Anaheim.
Until then, he’s a quick look at the Huskies beyond Walker:
–UConn’s other biggest parts are sophomore post Alex Oriakhi, who was especially good in the Big East tournament, and freshman guard Jeremy Lamb, who will make opponents pay for the extra defensive attention on Walker. He scored a career-high 24 vs. San Diego State.
–Lamb, at 10.9 points per game, is the only other double-digit scorer for the Huskies behind Walker (24.0).
–Said Miller on Walker: “I know they have a lot of other good players. Like us with Derrick Williams, I’m sure his supporting cast doesn’t get nearly the credit they deserve.”
–Jim Calhoun has been the head coach at UConn since the 1986-87 season, so he coached plenty of games against Pitt when Sean Miller was the point guard. “He’s developed into a terrific coach and they have terrific players,” Calhoun said.
–UConn is 29-9 and has not lost to a non-Big East opponent. Non-conference wins include Michigan State, Kentucky, Texas and Tennessee.
–UConn, as of Friday morning, was favored by three points.