In 1999 and again in 2004, the UConn Men used Phoenix as a springboard to the Final Four and National Championships. That's where the 2009 Huskies were sent after losing a 6 OT marathon to Syracuse in the Big East Tournament. And once again, the Huskies took care of it's business..Mowing thru Chattanooga, Texas A&M and Purdue to reach the Elite 8. The opponents were the Tigers on Missouri, who beat Cornell, Marquette and Memphis to gain it's berth in the Regional Final..
The Huskies started fast...13-2 out of the gate as Jeff Adrien and A.J. Price each scored 4 points in the spurt. The Tigers rallied to within one at 30-29 with five minutes to go in the half...To the break they went with UConn up 44-38 at the break. Adrien and Price scored 10 points each, while a freshman added 9..His name ? Kemba Walker who had been a solid contributor off the bench all season. As had Stanley Robinson, the dynamic starting forward who was a force on the glass, had electric dunks and was a shot blocker of the defensive end.
When Walker scored in transition early second half, the Huskies led by 8 at 49-41..But Mizzou reeled off nine unanswered points and took a one point lead at the 13:36 mark. It stayed close for the next seven minutes until an 8-1 run with the help of a pair of free throws from Adrien and Robinson...plus field goals from Walker and Hasheem Thabeet extended the lead to 67-59 with 4:15 remaining.
Walker and Price hit clutch jumpers to keep the Huskies up by five at 72-67 with 1:35 to play before UConn made a perfect ten of ten free throws to ice the win and Final Four Trip number three for the Huskies. Kemba showed some moxie, a game high 23 off the bench. He was 7 of 9 from the field and 9 of 10 from the line..14 of those in the second half where he added 5 assists. Adrien 12-10 and 3 blocks, while Robinson scored 13 and had 4 of the 8 UConn blocks. And UConn held the advantage on the glass 47-32..
The trip to Detroit was short lived as Michigan State beat the Huskies in the Final Four at Ford Field. The ONLY Final Four loss in five trips for UConn Basketball....I'd say that's pretty good. As we'd see two years later, Walker would prove to be Mr Clutch in a record breaking Junior Year.
see this game at UConnHuskyGames.com