Junior guard Kemba Walker had a stat-stuffing 18-point, seven-assist, six-rebound performance Saturday night to help the No. 3-seeded Connecticut Huskies defeat the No. 4 Kentucky Wildcats, 56-55, in a NCAA Tournament Final Four contest at Reliant Stadium in Houston, TX.
UConn (31-9) advances to play No. 8 Butler Bulldogs in the 2011 NCAA National Championship game on Monday (9:23 p.m. on CBS). This will be the UConn basketball program's first title-game appearance since 2004 when they beat Georgia Tech, 82-73. Earlier in the day, the Bulldogs defeated the VCU Rams, 70-62, to advance to their second consecutive finals appearance.
UConn led 31-21 at halftime, but Kentucky (29-9) used a 14-3 run in the first four and a half minutes of the second half to take a 35-34 advantage. Both teams went back and forth until UConn's Walker converted a transition layup and freshman guard Shabazz Napier scored a 2-point basket to help the Huskies earn a 54-48 lead with 2:09 to go.
After the final media timeout, UK's junior guard DeAndre Liggins nailed a 3-pointer then made one of two free throws to trim the disadvantage to 54-52 with less than a minute remaining. On UConn's next possession, Napier lost the handle on his dribble and the ball kicked off his foot. The loose ball was recovered by UK's Brandon Knight, who called timeout with 16.6 seconds remaining.
UK's final chance to take the lead fell short when Liggins missed a 3-point attempt and Napier collected the defensive rebound and was fouled with 1.7 second to play. Napier cemented UConn's victory by making both free throws for the four-point advantage, 56-52. UK's Knight capped the scoring with a meaningless last-second 3-pointer.