UK Men's Basketball

UK beats UConn as Wall takes over

NEW YORK — John Wall proved he can do it in New York. So, as the song goes, he can do it anywhere.

Of course, Kentucky fans already knew that before Wall led the Cats to a 64-61 victory over Connecticut on Wednesday night.

In Madison Square Garden, which New Yorkers immodestly call "the world's most famous arena," Wall scored a career-high 25 points. He scored 12 of UK's final 15 points, including a game-winning driving layup while being fouled.

"We rode John Wall at the end of the game," UK Coach John Calipari said. "We were grasping for offense. We just gave it to him and said make some plays."

None was bigger than the game-winning shot, which came with the added tension of knowing the Cats had misfired on two earlier attempts to grab the lead in this gritty game.

After much shake-and-bake, Kemba Walker hit a pull-up shot over Wall to give Connecticut a 61-60 lead with 1:13 left.

Darius Miller's three-point attempt from the right wing fell short of the rim. Ramon Harris got the offensive rebound, but he had his put-back blocked out of bounds.

UK called a timeout with 48.7 seconds left in the game and 32 seconds on the shot clock. Not that Kentucky needed any strategy session.

"We all know who to get the ball to," said Patrick Patterson, who chipped in with 16 points. "... He's phenomenal. He's one of the best basketball players out there."

Wall, who earlier in the second half abused the smaller Walker, drove by his defender, Stanley Robinson, who is 5 inches taller than the 6-foot-4 UK freshman.

Wall rolled in a layup while falling backward after a bump from Alex Oriakhi. The three-point play put Kentucky ahead 63-61 with 30.8 seconds left.

Thus did Wall add another notch to a belt that already included a game-winner against Miami (Ohio) and clutch free throws at the end of regulation against Stanford.

"Just as I thought, John Wall is at least as good as Derrick Rose," UConn Coach Jim Calhoun said. "He's all of that. Whatever that is, he's all of that."

The game could hardly have started better for Kentucky.

The Cats scored the game's first 12 points. At the end of that flurry, Jerome Dyson drove hard along the baseline only to get his shot blocked by Daniel Orton and his backside deposited on the court.

In that span, the Cats made five of their first six shots inside the first four minutes. Three came on the fast break as UK limited UConn to no more than one shot on six of its first seven possessions.

Twice UConn called timeouts trying to stem the tide. Asked what he said to inspire UConn, Calhoun said, "A couple words I'm not going to repeat."

Suddenly, UK's dominance went away. For much of the rest of the first half, UConn set the tone physically.

After missing their first five shots, the Huskies made 10 of their next 18.

At the other end, Kentucky wilted.

Dyson, who led the Huskies with 17 points, took charge. He scored eight points in a 16-4 UConn run that tied the score at 16 with 11:16 left.

Dyson's free throw gave UConn its first lead — 19-18 — with 8:17 left.

When Wall picked up his second foul and went to the bench with 7:56 left, Kentucky wobbled severely.

Fueled by a 26-14 rebound advantage, UConn outscored Kentucky 26-6 to take a 26-18 lead with 5:53 left.

Kentucky mounted little inside. Two of Patterson's four first-half baskets came from the perimeter. Freshman DeMarcus Cousins, the team's most prolific inside scorer, did not score.

As a result, the Cats had only one basket in a span of more than eight minutes (12:46 to 4:02), and had only two in the final 12:46 of the half.

At the break, UConn led 29-23. That marked UK's lowest scoring first half of the season.

Kentucky opened the second half by trying to establish Cousins as a low-post scorer. He went to the bench at the 17:58 mark, which reflected the failure of that strategy. He missed two shots (one an air ball) and walked in the post.

UConn re-established an eight-point lead at 33-25 on an Edwards put-back.

A minute later, Wall appeared headed for a fast-break dunk, but Walker caught him from behind and stripped away the ball from the UK freshman. It bounced off Wall's thigh out of bounds.

Kentucky did not go meekly. Persistence paid off as Cousins returned and became a low-post scorer. His put-back and two dunks fueled a 7-0 rally. Patterson's two free throws put UK ahead 41-40 with 11:35 left. That marked the Cats' first lead since 18-16.

UK twice extended its lead to five points, the second time on two Cousins free throws with 9:47 left.

A memorable play by Wall gave Kentucky a 54-47 lead with 7:16 left. Wall stole Dyson's pass and sped toward the basket. Wall hesitated, giving a revenge-minded Dyson time to challenge the dunk.

But too late, Wall dunked while being fouled.

Liggins at home

UK sophomore DeAndre Liggins did not make the trip. He also did not travel to Mexico for the Cancun Challenge.

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