Nov. 23, 2010

LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) - Kemba Walker scored 30 points and hit a key jumper with less than a minute left, helping Connecticut outlast No. 2 Michigan State 70-67 in a physical Maui Invitational semifinal on Tuesday.

Connecticut (4-0) fought the Spartans for every inch every minute, refusing to be pushed around by a team projected to be a national title contender. The Huskies made it interesting by missing five late free throws, but survived Draymond Green's midcourt heave at the buzzer.

Walker hit a fallaway jumper with 52 seconds left and Alex Oriakhi dominated inside for 15 points and 17 rebounds, sending UConn into the championship game against No. 8 Kentucky or No. 13 Washington.

Michigan State (3-1) had three chances to tie in the final 20 seconds, but Green missed two free throws, Kalin Lucas threw a pass to no one and Green was just short on his desperation shot.

Green finished with 22 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and blocked three shots, but will be kicking himself for missing two free throws with 20 seconds left.

Michigan State opened the tournament by escaping Chaminade's upset list, using a big second-half run to pull out a take-a-deep-breath 82-74 win over a Division II team that had one of the biggest upsets in college basketball history 19 years ago.

Connecticut had a quality win in its Maui opener, getting 29 second-half points from Walker to pull out a four-point win over up-and-coming Wichita State by four.

Even with the Huskies in rebuilding mode, this was a big early season matchup, physical, powerhouse teams from power conferences meeting in paradise.

The atmosphere, quiet in the day's first two games, was juiced for the first semifinal, fans from each team separated by a set of stairs chanting and screaming with every twist, making the high school-sized Lahaina Civic Center feel like an NCAA tournament game.

They got to see the kind of gritty, back-bending defensive game you'd expect from teams in the Big East and Big Ten, too; super athletic players knocking each other to the floor and piling on like offensive lineman for loose balls.

Walker took one of the hardest shots, flying into the photographers behind the basket on a driving layup in the first half. He's used to that kind of contact in the Big East, though, and returned minutes later to knock down a step-back 3-pointer at the shot-clock buzzer, ending up with 14 points by halftime.

The opening 20 minutes of the game was all about the counterpunch; nine ties and four lead changes, neither team able to make a run.

It ended, fittingly, tied at 34-all after UConn's Shabazz Napier dropped in a long 3-pointer at the buzzer.