By JOHN MARSHALL, AP Basketball Writer
LAHAINA, Hawaii (AP) _ Kemba Walker scored 29 points and Connecticut beat a Top 10 team for the second straight day, knocking off No. 8 Kentucky with an 84-67 rout to win the Maui Invitational on Wednesday night.
Connecticut (5-0), the 2005 Maui champions, wore down second-ranked Michigan State in the semifinals and steamrolled the Wildcats with a massive run to close the first half.
Alex Oriakhi had 18 points and 11 rebounds, and the Huskies shot 57 percent against one of the nation’s best teams to leave paradise with a big trophy and bigger expectations.
The Wildcats (4-1) had no answer for UConn’s first-half run and fell farther behind instead of catching up in the second.
Terrence Jones had 24 points despite spending a good chunk of the first half on the bench, and Darius Miller added 15 for Kentucky, which shot 36 percent.
Walker was the difference from the start.
The tournament MVP almost toyed with the young Wildcats, flipping in runners, 3-pointers and layups to score 90 points in three games, three short of the record set by Chaminade’s George Gilmore in 1991.
And when the Wildcats tried to roar back to start the second half, Walker gave them a shhh! scoring on an acrobatic left-hander in the lane, smiling at the crowd as he ran back after a 3-pointer.
No doubt, this was fun.
So was the Maui Invitational again.
After a so-so 2009 tournament, the prestigious island tournament regained its mojo this year with great teams and well-played games that had fans enjoying the inside of Lahaina Civic Center as much as those majestic views of crystal blue waters and majestic neighboring islands outside.
Except for a few of the loser’s bracket games, the high school-sized gym was packed to the rafters with rowdy fans who made it feel like a March tournament, not pre-Thanksgiving.
The title game had some extra juice to it, the mass of Kentucky blue louder than ever, UConn’s small-but-proud contingent tried to make itself heard by stomping, screaming, booing.
The players were on their game, too,
Jones delivered the first big blow, flying in for a slam over two UConn defenders. Oriakhi answered seconds later, soaring in for a two-handed alley-oop.
UConn kept it going the rest of the first half. The Wildcats didn’t.
Jones, after scoring Kentucky’s first 10 points, disappeared from the flow and the game, spending the final 9:01 on the half on the bench.
Coach John Calipari might have wanted to bench everyone the way the Wildcats were playing.
Stubbornly challenging UConn’s size inside, Kentucky kept coming away empty, hitting just nine of 30 shots in the first half.
And that was the good part.
Connecticut, led by the always-cool Walker, couldn’t seem to miss.
Hitting 3s, scoring in transition, powering inside _ the Huskies seemed to do what they wanted whenever they wanted, going on 21-2 run to close the first half against a supposedly-better team.
Walker had 10 of his 17 points during the big run, capping it by unselfishly giving up a 3-pointer for a wide-open layup by Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. The Huskies hit 18 of 30 shots to lead 50-29.
Walker made sure Kentucky never stood a chance in the second half, sending a good chunk of the big blue fans for the exits with just over 3 minutes left, then holding the ball in the closing seconds as UConn’s fans chanted MVP!
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)