NCAA MEN'S TOURNAMENT: Walker leads Connecticut over Bucknell 81-52
WASHINGTON -- Kemba Walker traded his role of scorer for playmaker, with record-breaking results.
Walker had a career-high 12 assists, scored 18 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead No. 3 seed Connecticut over Bucknell 81-52 Thursday night.
Roscoe Smith scored 17 and Jeremy Lamb added 16 for the Huskies (27-9), who showed no signs of fatigue after winning five games in five days last week to capture the Big East tournament. Connecticut led by 17 at halftime and upped the margin to 32 with just over 15 minutes left.
Walker's 12 assists were a school record for an NCAA tournament game. The previous mark was 11, held by Marcus Williams and current Huskies assistant coach Kevin Ollie.
Connecticut will next face the winner of Thursday night's West regional game between Cincinnati and Missouri.
Mike Muscala scored 14 for 14th-seeded Bucknell (25-9). The Patriot League champions came in with a 10-game winning streak and on a 19-1 roll, but proved no match for Connecticut's quickness, size and athleticism.
Bucknell often double-teamed Walker, who earned MVP honors at the Big East tournament by averaging 26 points per game. Undaunted by the pressure, the 6-foot-1 junior couldn't pass up the opportunity to pass the basketball.
He had assists on three of the Huskies' first eight baskets, and at halftime had as many assists as points (6).
Walker's unselfish play enabled Connecticut's Jim Calhoun to become the sixth coach to earn 850 wins at the Division I level. He is 850-367, including 41-13 in the NCAA tournament.
Walker's first points came at the foul line with 10:42 left in the first half, part of a 13-5 spurt that put Connecticut up 27-17. After Bryson Johnson connected from long range for Bucknell, Walker and Smith hit short jump shots, Lamb drilled a 3-pointer and Walker scored off a steal for a 36-20 lead.
Shabazz Napier sank a 3-pointer for the Huskies to complete the 12-0 run, and Connecticut led 39-22 at the break.
The second half wasn't much different. The Huskies peeled off 25 straight points to make it 57-25 with 15:05 to go.
Walker got the school record for assists on a fast break, leading the pack before dropping a pass back to Alex Oriakhi, who capped the play with a dunk.
Two rebounds short of a triple-double, Walker left the game with 3:47 remaining to a standing ovation from Huskies fans in the section behind the Connecticut bench.