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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Pittsburgh Defense Stifles UConn, Survives Kemba Walker Surge

Kemba Walker scored 31 points, but most of those were too little, too late, as his Connecticut Huskies lost their first game of the season. UConn (10-1, 0-1 Big East) entered the game ranked No. 4 in the nation, but had a tough task in facing No. 6 Pittsburgh on the road. The result was a 78-63 loss. 

Pitt (13-1, 1-0) suffocated the Huskies for much of the game. The Panthers controlled the game nearly from start to finish, building a 16-point lead midway through the second half before Walker's hot streak shrunk the lead into single digits. That lead was eventually pushed back up into the teens on late free throws. The game was never seriously in doubt. 

Pitt's offense was also impressive, as the Panthers got four players in double figures (compared to only one for UConn). Ashton Gibbs led the way with 19 points, while Brad Wanamaker added 14 and Gary McGhee and Nasir Robinson each had 11. Robinson added 10 rebounds, McGhee nine.

It was truly a game of polar opposites -- a great team effort trumping an incredibly talented individual. 

How It Was Won: Defense, defense, defense. Sure, it's easy to look at Kemba Walker's final point line and think the Panthers had no answer for him. But they actually did. He started the game 5-of-16 from the floor before getting hot late in the game to merely make the score a bit closer than it could have been. And the entire UConn team effort from the floor was abysmal. That's what happens when defense pressures the team into contested shots on nearly every trip down the floor. 

How It Was Lost: UConn can't expect to win a game with such a poor shooting display. Plus, the Huskies allowed Pitt's balanced offensive attack to post a fairly good shooting night (52.1 percent, including 5-of-12 from three) on the other end. 

Key Stat: UConn shooting 32.8 percent was pretty bad. Hitting just 5-of-20 from 3-point range was as well. How about Walker being the only Husky to score in double figures? 

What We Didn't Like: Walker struggled through much of the game before getting hot late, but he can't be expected to carry the entire team every game. Someone else has to step up and start making shots to take pressure off him. There aren't many one-man teams that have survived long in the rankings. And right now, that's exactly what UConn is.

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