2009 NCAA Tournament: West Regional Elite 8 Recap
UConn advances to Final Four with 82-75 win over Missouri
West Regional Championship @ University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
No. 1 Connecticut (31-4) 82 - No. 3 Missouri (31-7) 75
Key Moment: The Huskies went 10-of-10 at the free throw line in the final 1:02 in order to clinch their trip to the Final Four in Detroit.
High Point Scorers: Connecticut -- Kemba Walker 23, Missouri -- Leo Lyons, Matt Lawrence 13
Analysis: Youth is such an unbridled commodity. In athletics, it's hard for coaches to quantify it. But for Connecticut, freshman Kemba Walker turned out to be the hero for the Huskies, who are going to their third Final Four. Ironically, the Huskies came through Phoenix in their national championship seasons in 1999 and 2004. Walker matched a career-high in points and added five assists and five rebounds.
It turned out to be a tale of two halves for the Huskies. In the first half, they couldn't miss (70 percent) but also couldn't take care of the basketball (11 turnovers). In the second half, they couldn't make anything (31 percent) but were much better with the ball (six turnovers). But they needed every shot, free throw and every deflection to hold off Missouri, which was denied its first-ever birth to the Final Four.
Missouri eventually erased an 11-point deficit and fought back to take a 50-49 midway through the second half. But every time the Huskies needed a basket to stem the tide, they got it. They didn't get a great scoring game from center Hasheem Thabeet who had only five points (13 rebounds) but Stanley Robinson and Jeff Adrien were a combined 9-of-15 (60 percent) from the field and combined for 25 points.
For Missouri, the first 30-win season in school history should not be discounted. Coach Mike Anderson's team evolved quickly this season. The Tigers gained some momentum with a pivotal last-second win over Kansas in January, and they won the Big 12 postseason tournament. They got solid performances from Lyons and Lawrence and of course DeMarre Carroll (12 points), who was the heartbeat for this team.
But the Tigers' biggest problem was that while their defense bothered the Huskies, they couldn't get to the free throw line on the other side of the court. They attempted 45 free throws Thursday against Memphis but only 12 Saturday.
Next Saturday at the Final Four, Connecticut will face the winner of the Midwest Regional Final between Louisville and Michigan State in one national semifinal.
By Kevin Lonnquist
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