It's pretty simple, really: As goes Kemba Walker so go the UConn Huskies. February has been a testament to that, both earlier in the month when the team struggled with consistency, and Wednesday night when the 12th-ranked Huskies got contributions up and down the roster to beat No. 9 Georgetown, 78-70.
Heading into the week, UConn had dropped three of its last four games -- all in the Big East -- and the losses boiled down to this: Walker suddenly losing his shooting touch, and the lack of experienced players around him to pick up the slack.
That changed Sunday, when UConn hosted Providence. Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, in Coach Jim Calhoun's dog house earlier this season, exploded for 25 points as the Huskies beat the Friars by 18. It was more of the same Wednesday. The Huskies started slow -- other than Walker, they looked out of sorts for the first 15 minutes of game action. But Walker's teammates found their rhythm, and UConn cut a 10-point deficit to a one-point lead by halftime. And after the break, they looked like a completely different team.
Coombs-McDaniel picked up where he left off against Providence. He finished with 23 points on 8-for-11 shooting (2-of-4 from behind the arc), and for the second straight game forced the defense to cover someone other than Walker on the perimeter.
"I've just been real confident," Coombs-McDaniel said afterwards. "I've been playing a lot more as well. The guys have a lot of confidence in me. And I've just been knocking down shots."
And it's that confidence that has been critical to the Huskies' turnaround. Sure, Walker got over his early-month mini-slump, but you could blame that on him trying to do to much. Which was exacerbated by opponents focusing their defensive efforts on slowing Walker because, well, there were no other viable scoring options -- inside or out -- for the Huskies. The formula for stopping UConn looked something like this: zone defense + no interior threat + cold long-range shooting = doom.
That all changed in four days and two games; Coombs-McDaniel has been lighting it up and Walker, who put himself right back in the National Player of the Year conversation, seems more relaxed. That was never more evident than early in the second half against Georgetown with UConn leading 41-40. Walker drove to the top of the key, fake a jumper, and then, And1 style, passed the ball off the backboard -- to himself -- for an alley-oop layup. You sorta sensed everything would be alright after that.
"He actually [threw the ball to himself] in pick-up a few times," forward Alex Oriakhi said after the win. He probably watched Kobe do it. I just couldn't believe he tried it because he's not that tall of a player. But he laid it in and whatever works, you can't complain."
And right now, whatever Walker does is working. As long as his supporting cast continues to do what they're doing, no one will complain, either.