There were no NBA games to be watched on Monday night, which meant like everyone else, I had to view that poorly-played NCAA championship game between Butler and Connecticut. I sat down expecting to see the best from Connecticut’s Kemba Walker, and Butler’s Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack. I expected to see these experienced players lead their respective teams to a well-played, nip-and-tuck affair. Instead, I saw field-goal percentages that rivaled winter temperatures and turnovers that even the Washington Generals would not make.
Connecticut was able to shake off the poor play just long enough to make a late game run and come out victorious 53-41. Walker had a game-high 16 points to go with nine rebounds, Connecticut center Alex Oriahki had 11 points, 11 rebounds and four blocks, and in a losing effort, Mack had 13 points and nine rebounds. Howard added seven points and six rebounds for the Bulldogs, but he shot 1-13 and he was a non-factor throughout the game.
Although Walker led the team in scoring and made some timely shots throughout the night, the key to Connecticut’s victory was freshman Jeremy Lamb. After missing his only two field-goal attempts with no points in the first half, Lamb went 4-6 with 12 points in the second half, giving his Huskies a desperately needed cushion. When Connecticut faced its largest deficit of 25-19 after Butler’s Chase Stigall hit a three 20 seconds into the second half, Lamb scored 11 of his team’s next 18 points during a 18-3 run that saw UConn take the lead for good at 37-28 with 11 minutes left in the game.
As happy as I was for the freshman, I immediately became concerned that this strong performance in an otherwise mediocre game would inflate his ego — and more importantly, his NBA prospects. I worried that Lamb would ignore Kemba Walker’s shining example of how a good player leads his team from November to March, and attempt to ride into the NBA on the heels of an OK season and a one very good college game (although, worth noting that Lamb scored 97 points over six NCAA Tournament games, an average of 16.2 points that topped his 11.1 points per game during the season). At one point I even tweeted that I hoped Lamb had a sub par game, so he would be convinced to stay in college.
Read more »