College Hoops Player of the Day for Monday, February 15, 2010
With the post-season staring them in the eye, the UConn Huskies had their head coach, Jim Calhoun, back from medical leave and a trip to Villanova standing between a lost season and respectability. The Huskies had lost 8 of their last 11 games and needed a road win over the Big East leaders to salvage any hope of making it to the Big Dance come March.
What they got was a career-best game from point guard Kemba Walker and a resounding 84-75 triumph that signaled to the rest of the Big East that the Huskies were not yet dead. Walker scored 29 points, hitting 14 of 16 free throws in the process, to go with 9 boards, 3 assists and a pair of steals. The sophomore guard's frequent forays into the lane turned into baskets, free throws and 11 offensive rebounds (4 by Walker) while the swarming Husky defense limited Villanova's shooters to just 40% from the field and a 40-29 rebounding edge.
Villanova's loss was just their second in the conference, dropping them into a tie with Syracuse at 11-2 for the Big East lead.
Where the Huskies tread from here is a matter of the calendar. At 5-8 in the conference, but 15-11 overall, they still are not under the radar of the selection committee. They have an upcoming road game vs. Rutgers, then host West Virginia and Louisville before finishing off the regular season at Notre Dame and South Florida. Winning at least four of their final five games looks to be essential, ensuring that UConn would finish up at least .500 in the conference. A good showing in the Big east tournament then might get them into the field of 65.
What should concern the Huskies is the overall depth of the Big East. Only two teams - DePaul and Providence - have losing records, meaning there are 14 Big East teams eyeing post-season fun. UConn will likely have to get some help.