LAHAINA, Hawaii -- In the first half of Connecticut's opening-round game against Wichita State here at the Maui Invitational, the Huskies had to play without team leader Kemba Walker. Plagued with two quick fouls, Walker played just four minutes and scored just two of UConn's 33 first-half points.
In the second half, Walker was the UConn Huskies.
In front of a couple of dozen NBA scouts, Walker scored 29 of his team's 50 second-half points and 13 of the Huskies last 14 to lead UConn to a 83-79 victory over the preseason favorite in the Missouri Valley.
"Kemba Walker is hard to guard," a despondent WSU head coach Gregg Marshall said after the game.
Walker was relentless getting to the basket in the second half, using his quickness to penetrate the Wichita State zone. But it was a big 3-pointer with 2:46 left in the game to tie it 76-76 that changed the momentum.
After the game, UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said it was the best game Walker has ever played.
"I know he had 42 last game [against Vermont], but this is no comparison," Calhoun said. "He took the game over. They tried to change it up on him -- big, small -- they had no match for him."
"He was the maestro," Calhoun continued. "He used his speed and played through every play."
Walker said it was difficult to wait out must of the first half as his teammates, four of them freshmen, were trying to keep them in the game.
"It was tough. I just wanted my teammates to keep the game close," Walker said. "I'm proud of them."
In the second half, Walker had plenty of pent up energy to expend.
"I was kind of feeling it. I was just trying to be aggressive. I was just looking for the gaps and taking what they gave me." Walker said. "I've never had a game like that before. God was on my side."
With Walker playing so well in the first half, Calhoun defended his decision to play him just four minutes in the first half.
"I've done it that way for 39 years," Calhoun said about his policy to sit a player for the half after he picks up two fouls. "He looked at me on the bench and said, 'I'm alright' and I said 'I know you are, but you are going to sit right here unless something happens.' If you win that first half, that's not important. You want to win the second half."
That the Huskies did. And along the way, Walker made another strong case that he's the best young point guard in the country.