Walker, Connecticut cruise past Bucknell, 81-52

March 17, 2011|By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON — Player of the Year candidate Kemba Walker and third seed Connecticut were back at it Thursday, five days after completing five games in five days to win the Big East tournament.

Multiple ice baths later, Walker and the Huskies showed no ill effects of their New York marathon as they rolled past 14th seed Bucknell, 81-52, and into the third round of the NCAA tournament.

"He didn't look tired at all," Bucknell guard Darryl Shazier said of Walker.

The Huskies, who ran their record to 16-1 in opening NCAA tournament games since 1990, will face the winner of Thursday's late game between Missouri and Cincinnati.

Walker -- who entered the game averaging 23.5 points, was content to set up his teammates early on. The 6-foot-1 junior, who says he enjoys his passing role when double-teamed, penetrated into the lane and dished to the wings, finishing with 12 assists. He had six points in the first half and finished with 18 before exiting with the Huskies (27-9) ahead by 30.

"It's because of the way the defense was playing me," Walker said of his assists, a school record for an NCAA tournament game. "I just told those guys to be ready."

Bucknell was within 27-20 when Connecticut scored the next 12 points to effectively end the competitive portion of the game. Jeremy Lamb and Shabazz Napier had 3-pointers during the run.

Bucknell coach Dave Paulsen said he told his players it was "a really bad way to end a terrific season. We were stuck on 20 (points) for -- it seemed like about two years."

Walker was loose throughout, smiling broadly after hitting a 3-pointer that pushed the lead to 42-22 in the opening moments of the second half.

Said Walker: "No way we could be tired. This is the best tournament on the collegiate level."

Mike Muscala, the Patriot League Player of the Year, led Bucknell (25-9) with 14 points.

Connecticut out-rebounded the Bison 49-23. Bucknell had only one offensive rebound.

"I thought we felt we were physically stronger," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said.

jeff.barker@baltsun.com

twitter.com/sunjeffbarker

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