UConn survives against Mizzou

NCAA Missouri Connecticut Basketball GLENDALE, Ariz. – The UConn Huskies had a tougher test than maybe they had anticipated in their 82-75 Elite Eight win over the Missouri Tigers.

All the hype leading up to the Sweet 16 had the top-seeded Huskies matching up with the Memphis Tigers, and in that matchup, UConn would have been the hands-down favorite. Regardless of all the pre-tournament talk of Memphis possibly getting a No. 1 seed, it just wouldn’t have matched up as well player for player with UConn.

CBS and the NCAA might actually thank Mizzou for the Sweet 16 upset and giving neutral viewers a possibly better game.

Even without Hasheem Thabeet in the game for almost eight minutes in the first half, the Huskies were able to maintain a lead, and equally as impressive still scored in the paint.

Mizzou used its pressure to control the pace despite trailing nearly the entire game, but the naivety of one player might have been the difference.

UConn freshman Kemba Walker just didn’t care how much pressure the Tigers piled on. He was more concerned with getting his Huskies to another national title game. He used his speed and the idea that if the Huskies were going to advance, someone had to step up.

Walker scored a game-high 23 points with 14 coming in the second half. The Huskies led by as many as 11 in the game, and Mizzou took its first and only lead (50-49) six minutes, 25 seconds into the second half on a layup by Keith Ramsey. It lasted a whole 25 seconds.

The win gives UConn another Final Four appearance, but how long with its luck last?

As dominating as the Big East appeared to be throughout the season, the Huskies stumbled in the conference tournament against Syracuse, gave Purdue every opportunity possible in Thursday’s Sweet 16 game, and blew a fairly comfortable lead against Missouri.

UConn is a No. 1 seed for a reason – among others the idea that it finished at the top of the Big East and in the top five of the overall rankings – but as good as this team might be, Calhoun has to be scratching his head wondering when his players are going to put an opponent away when they have the chance.

The 2008-2009 NCAA season has been unpredictable and relatively up for grabs. No team has ever stepped forward to show it is the dominant player this year.

Win big, win close, win pretty, win ugly. Win however you can. Just win. That’s the message coaches always relay to people outside of the locker room. But deep down, there has to be at least a hint of worry lingering around the locker rooms of the tournament’s top teams.

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