CINCINNATI — Kemba Walker scored 11 of his 16 points in the second half Sunday, and No. 14 Connecticut snapped its two-game losing streak by pulling away from Cincinnati for a 67-59 victory.
The Huskies (21-7, 9-7 Big East) hadn’t lost three in a row all season. They led for all but 29 seconds against Cincinnati (22-7, 9-7), which was coming off some of its biggest wins of the season.
Walker, who leads the conference in scoring at 23 points per game, had only nine when a fan sitting courtside started taunting him. Walker made three consecutive baskets that built Connecticut’s lead to 11 points, then smiled at the fan as he went down the court.
Jeremy Lamb added 17 for the Huskies, who went 10 of 19 from behind the 3-point arc.
Yancy Gates had 14 points for Cincinnati, which has lost three of its last four home games. The Bearcats had won their last three overall, including victories against Louisville and Georgetown that put them in position to make the NCAA tournament for the first time since Bob Huggins was coach.
Walker got rolling against the league’s stingiest defense when a fan sitting in the courtside seats started taunting him in the second half, saying he wasn’t as good as New Orleans guard Chris Paul. Walker heard the trash talk and immediately responded.
He made a 3-pointer from the top of the key a few seconds later, turned and smiled at the fan as he ran downcourt. Then, he had a steal for a fast-break score, then made another jumper for a 56-45 lead and said something toward the fan, who wouldn’t taunt him again.
The Bearcats set their defense to stop Walker. He had at least two players on him whenever he drove to the basket. The Huskies led the entire first half – they got up by as many as eight – despite only five points from Walker.
UConn hit a flurry of 3s to stay ahead. Lamb and Roscoe Smith made two apiece, and the Huskies shot 43.5 percent overall from the field to hold a 30-27 advantage at halftime.
Walker picked up his third foul with 16:37 to go, and Cashmere Wright made both free throws for a 33-32 lead, Cincinnati’s only one in the game. It lasted for 29 seconds.
The 3 got UConn back ahead. Smith and Shabazz Napier made shots from behind the arc during a 12-2 run that gave the Huskies their biggest lead, 47-37, with 12:18 to go. Then, Walker made his three consecutive shots to put UConn in control the rest of the way.
The long-range shooting was quite out of character. Connecticut ranks 12th in the Big East, making 33.5 percent of its 3-point attempts.