This week, Daily Campus Sports remembers the nostalgic highs of the old BIG EAST Conference, while also asking ‘where did it all go wrong?’ This is Big East Week.
Date: March 10, 2011; Big East Tournament Quarterfinals
Location: Madison Square Garden, New York City
Participants: The UConn Huskies, coached by Jim Calhoun, and the Pittsburgh Panthers, coached by Jamie Dixon
The Outcome: UConn 76, Pittsburgh 74
Flash back to seven years ago and the Huskies were in the midst of March Madness.
The No. 21 UConn Huskies entered the Big East Tournament Quarterfinals as the severe underdogs against No. 3 Pittsburgh. It was a chess match between coaching legends Jim Calhoun and Jamie Dixon. On the court it was a battle between point guards Kemba Walker and Ashton Gibbs.
Pittsburgh got off to a hot start, going 9-11 from the field and leading the Huskies by 12 points. Gibbs was impressive throughout the game and even scored a career-high 27 points, including the game-tying 3-point shot with 47.9 seconds remaining. However, it was Walker who ended up putting the team on his back.
Walker was having a decent game, but far from phenomenal. The heart and soul of the Huskies had scored 21 points on 7-21 shooting before he sank the shot that engraved his name as a UConn legend.
The score was tied at 74 and the Huskies called a timeout with possession at 18 seconds, meaning they would have the last shot in regulation. It was all on Calhoun to tactfully draw up a game-winning play and for his star player to execute his plan.
Walker inbounded the ball, but quickly got it back and returned to the top of the half-court mark. Teammate Jamal Coombs-McDaniel put a screen on Brad Wanamaker to create a mismatch where big-man Gary McGhee was forced into guarding the shifty Walker. It was over at that moment.
The stage was set for history in the Mecca of basketball arenas. Walker waited as time ticked off the clock before he baited McGhee and it appeared as though the defender had him covered. That was when Cardiac Kemba went at McGhee once more and put a filthy step back on him, which caused the defender to fall in retreat as Walker sank the basket as time expired.
The gritty Huskies would go on to beat Louisville in the Big East Championship and defeat Butler in the NCAA Tournament Championship. It was quite the year for the Huskies and one that will continue to be cherished for years to come.
Michael Logan is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.