NEW YORK -- Whichever Big East conference coach did not vote for UConn's Kemba Walker as a first-team All-Big East choice should be forced to watch a tape of UConn's 79-62 victory over Georgetown on Wednesday in the second round of the Big East Tournament.
Over and over and over again.
At least that's the kind of education -- or punishment -- that UConn coach Jim Calhoun figures is deserved.
Walker put on another virtuoso performance to lead the ninth-seeded Huskies (23-9) over the eighth-seeded Hoyas (21-10) in a game that sent UConn onto the Big East tourney quarterfinals against top-seeded Pittsburgh on Thursday at noon. The 6-foot UConn junior from the Bronx scored 28 points, giving him 54 in the Huskies' two tournament games, grabbed six rebounds, handed out three assists, and virtually controlled the game.
"Kemba was terrific," Calhoun said. "He understood where his teammates were, made them better at points in time, and just made some sensational plays regardless of who, what, and how they were playing him."
Afterward, Calhoun was asked about the voting for the All-Big East first team, which featured six players, but only one unanimous pick, Notre Dame senior Ben Hansbrough, who on Tuesday was named the league's Player of the Year. Walker, therefore, was left completely off the ballot of at least one of the 15 coaches in the Big East (Calhoun was not allowed to vote for his own player).
"I think someone maybe took a vacation and didn't tell us and was gone for five months," Calhoun said. "That's one theory of mine ... my conspiracy theory. The second thing is, if anybody did it because they lost out on him recruiting-wise ... which, went to one city this year and that was the story in the paper, about something three years ago."
Calhoun was referring to a story in the Cincinnati Enquirer some 10 days ago that chronicled Walker's recruitment by Cincinnati four years ago and how he might have chosen the Bearcats had he not picked UConn. To be fair, Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin was nothing but complimentary to Walker throughout the article. Calhoun, however, obviously saw it in a different light.
"He's as good a player as there is in America, he'll be a first team All-American," Calhoun said. "I just can't believe that anyone who has seen him play and see joy with which he plays, and the speed he plays with, and the ability he plays with, a pure love of the game, and think he is not as good a player as there is in the league."
Or that Walker is not among the top six in the league.
"I think he's the best player in the country, so that should be more important," Calhoun continued, "and even more important, people at [the NBA level] think he's pretty good, too. So, I'm disappointed, but, unfortunately at times, it's part of this business."
Walker has remained above the fray, shrugging off the non-unanimous vote and saying Monday that he thought Hansbrough deserved the Player of the Year Award. That doesn't mean, however, that he won't let his game do some talking for him. Wednesday was his 22nd game of 20-or-more points this season and his 748-point total this year is already the fourth-highest in school history.
"Early on, other guys were scoring and Georgetown had to adjust to them, and I was able to get some looks," he said after Wednesday's win. "I think they were a little more aggressive hedging against me this time. There were times I had to give up the ball. But everybody is playing so unselfish now. We just want to win."
The UConn guard electrified the crowd throughout the game, but with 20 seconds remaining in the first half, he pulled off a head-shaker. Walker jumped in the air to block an outside shot by Georgetown's 6-7 Hollis Thompson, went even higher to secure the loose ball, then dribbled the length of the court and weaved through the Hoyas'
defense to get to the rim for a tough layup.
"It was a good play," he said, sheepishly. "I was just playing basketball, that's it."
And playing it better than anyone else on the court Wednesday.
"Kemba is a very good player," Georgetown guard Jason Clark said. "He has a lot of weapons. You can't guard him one-on-one, you have to have help from everybody else on your team and get the ball out of his hands."
UConn took control with two 8-0 runs in the first half against Georgetown, led 42-30 at halftime, and built the lead to 19 in the second half before coasting to the finish line. Walker had 17 second-half points, hitting 6-of-9 from the floor and all five of his free throws.
Georgetown, which gave up 31 points and 10 assists to Walker the first time the teams met this season (a 78-70 UConn win), simply has no answer for the Huskies' star.
"When you have [number] 15 on your team, usually you're in pretty good shape," Calhoun said.
Even if one coach doesn't think so.