NEW YORK (AP) — Kemba Walker hit the winning basket on a classic stepback jumper at the buzzer, and No. 21 Connecticut stunned third-ranked Pittsburgh 76-74 in the quarterfinals of the Big East tournament on Thursday.
Walker got the ball at the top of the key with 15 seconds left, allowed the clock to melt under five, then made a move toward the basket. He used a crossover and shoulder roll to dump his defender, 6-foot-10 Gary McGhee, right to the ground, then calmly drained the shot.
The buzzer sounded just as the ball went through the net, and freshman Shabazz Napier was the first to grab Walker by the waist and hoist him into the air.
The Huskies (24-9) have won three games in three days after a late-season slide sent them to the No. 9 seed in the Big East tournament. They’ll face No. 5 seed St. John’s or fourth-seeded
Syracuse in the semifinals Friday night.
Walker finished with 24 points for the Huskies, his third straight tremendous performance at Madison Square Garden. The first-team All-Big East performer had 26 points in their opening
win against DePaul, then scored 28 in a rout of Georgetown on Wednesday.
Jeremy Lamb added 17 points and Alex Oriakhi had 13 for the Huskies, including a key putback off a miss by Walker with just over a minute left in the game.
The hoop gave Connecticut a 74-71 lead, but Pitt sharpshooter Ashton Gibbs came down the court and calmly drilled his sixth 3-pointer of the game to knot it up with 47.9 seconds left.
Walker brought the ball up court and went right around Brad Wanamaker to get an open look, but he left the jumpshot short and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel pulled down only his second rebound of the game. He quickly and alertly called timeout to set up the final shot – and there was no doubt who coach Jim Calhoun wanted to take it.
Walker made it count.
Gibbs finished 10 of 13 from the field and scored 27 points for the Panthers (27-5), who might as well forget about earning a double-bye in the conference tournament. They’re now 0-3 when they
don’t have to play until Thursday.
Wanamaker finished with 17 points and Nasir Robinson had 11 for Pittsburgh.