VIDEO: Walker sparks U-Conn past Kentucky in Maui Invitational final
By Fred Guzman
LAHAINA – In a tournament loaded with talented small men, none stood taller than Kemba Walker of Connecticut.
The 6-foot-1 junior guard completed a dazzling three-day run by scoring 29 points in leading U-Conn to an 84-67 win over eight-ranked Kentucky in Wednesday’s championship game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational. [flashvideo file=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PLHAC60wYdQ /]
Walker won the MVP award nearly as decisively as the Huskies won the final before a packed house at the Lahaina Civic Center and a national TV audience.
Walker didn’t do it alone, receiving significant support from Alex Oriakhi, who added a career-high 18 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for the unranked Huskies.
But it was Walker who caught the imagination of the fans and, most likely, those who vote in the various college basketball polls.
Walker scored 29 of his 31 in the second half of a tougher-than-expected 83-79 win over Wichita State in Monday’s opener.
He scored 30, including a game-winning shot over two bigger players, in Tuesday’s 70-67 semifinal upset of second-ranked Michigan State.
And Walker capped his productive stay on Maui by sparking a 20-2 run to close the second half that turned a close game into a 50-29 lead. He finished with 90 points for the event, just three shy of the tournament record of 93 by Chaminade’s George Gilmore in 1991.
You can make a strong case that the biggest upset of the tournament took place before the smallest crowd to witness this year’s event.
Led by tiny Steven Bennett, sweet-shooting Shane Hanson and 7-footer Mamadou Diara, Division-II Chaminade won a game for only the sixth time in the tournament it hosts by defeating Oklahoma 68-64 for seventh place.
Bennett was named to the all-tournament team. Hanson scored 23, converting five 3-pointers, against the Sooners. And Diara, a transfer from USC, provided a shot-changing presence in the post.
Chaminade’s win over Oklahoma shouldn’t be regarded as a fluke. Remember: The Silverswords gave Michigan State all in could handle on Monday before losing to the Spartans, 82-74.
In Wednesday’s other games: No. 2 Michigan State topped No. 13 Washington 76-71 for third place and Wichita State defeated Virginia 70-58 for fifth.
Joining Walker, Orikahi and Bennett on the all-tournament team were Terrence Jones of Kentucky and Kalin Lucas of Michigan State.
So we now wait a year before many of the nation’s top programs gather at the Lahaina Civic for the 2011 edition of the Maui Invitational. Next year’s field is one of the most promising in memory, including the likes of Duke, Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, Michigan, Tennessee, UCLA and, of course, Chaminade.
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