LAHAINA, Hawaii -- Kemba Walker is feeling it.
Surrounded by young teammates with little experience in big games, Walker took over again on Tuesday night, leading Connecticut to a 70-67 upset of No. 2 Michigan State in the semifinals of the EA Sports Maui Invitational.
Walker was, well, awesome. Again. He scored 30 points, grabbed three rebounds and had four assists and three steals. This was the third straight game he's scored 30 or more points and he did it this time against one of the best point guards in the country, Kalin Lucas.
After scoring 29 in the second half against a good Wichita State team on Monday, Walker has now scored 59 points in the past three halves. Remarkable.
Walker scored from everywhere in this one. He hit four 3-pointers, drove to the basket at will and was relentless in pushing the ball on the break. Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo threw a number of different defenders at Walker. No one, but Walker himself, could slow him down.
He took a couple of bad shots in the waning minutes and had a critical turnover, before coming back and draining a fade-away jumper that put the Huskies up for good.
"We have Kemba Walker and Tom [Izzo] didn't," UConn head coach Jim Calhoun said. "I've had some pretty good players in my career. Kemba is developing into one of the great players and competitors. For all of us who love the game, it's a joy to watch."
"We ask him to do nearly the impossible and he's producing," Calhoun continued. "Ray Allen to Rip Hamilton to all of the great UConn players. No one has made more progress than Kemba. No one has equaled the work he's done [on his game]."
You can bet Izzo noticed.
"Kemba Walker is a heck of a player. Let's face it," the MSU coach said. "He gets to the free throw line so much. I thought Kalin did a good job on him. Korie [Lucious] did a good job on him. On those 10 made buckets, he had to earn every one of them."
Lucas said Walker has really improved since they last met in the 2009 Final Four, an 82-73 UConn loss that saw Walker struggle mightily. "He's shooting the ball better. He's being more aggressive on the offensive end."
"How far have I come?" Walker said, laughing about a question concerning his improvement from his freshman season. "I'm averaging 30 points a game."
Walker also got a big assist against MSU from sophomore Alex Oriakhi, who had 15 points, 17 rebounds and controlled the paint for the Huskies on both ends of the floor. Oriakhi is a man amongst boys. Spartan players were literally bouncing off him in the paint.
Michigan State got a terrific performance from Draymond Green (22 points, 12 rebounds 3 blocks), but he also missed three key free throws down the stretch that crippled the Spartans.
After the game, Green kept his head down and was somber in talking about those missed free throws. "It hurts a lot," he said. "It's over now -- I have to stay in the gym. They felt pretty good. It falls on my shoulders. We were 15-for-20 from the line and I missed four of those."
UConn will now face the winner of the Washington-Kentucky game in the finals on Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET (ESPN). Michigan State will play the loser of the game at 5 p.m. ET on ESPN2.