Syracuse basketball fans now know how Cincinnati, UConn, Georgetown and Pittsburgh felt after the 2006 Big East Tournament.
The comparison cannot be far off as the No. 9-seed Connecticut Huskies used a 32-point,12-rebound, 6-steal, 5-assist performance from junior guard Kemba Walker to beat No. 4 Syracuse Orange, 76-71, in overtime Friday night in the semifinals of the 2011 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. In four days, Walker has scored 26, 28, 24 and 32 points, respectively. (I did mention that Walker would need 30-plus to defeat SU.)
Walker was fantastic in the Huskies (No. 21 in the AP poll and No. 19 in the USA Today/ESPN Coaches poll) fourth win in four days, which ties the record-setting performance of the ‘06 Syracuse squad that won the program’s fifth tournament title. The 6-foot-1 guard from the Bronx, NY made every clutch fade-away shot, free throw (13-of-14 overall and 4-of-4 in OT), steal, and play, while making it look easy against a 2-3 zone defense that shuts down (and has) players like No. 15.
Syracuse’s loss was what it was: A good team being beat by a great player. Nothing more, nothing less.
It was good to see red-shirt senior Scoop Jardine nail two clutch 3-pointers at the end of regulation to tie the game, 68-68, and send it into OT. It was nice to see the Orange (26-7) competing without sophomore guard Brandon Triche, who played himself into Jim Boeheim’s dog house Friday night. It was nice to see another solid Big East Conference Tournament game (this event never disappoints).
UConn (25-9) is riding Walker like SU rode guard Gerry McNamara in 2006. Orange supporters may hate it now, but will respect it Sunday morning when UConn wins its seventh Big East Tournament title.
Make sure to check out SB Nation New York’s Selection Sunday coverage of Syracuse University and the rest of the Big East Conference.