ROSEMONT, Ill. (AP) - Corraling Kemba Walker is tough enough. When No. 10 Connecticut's youngsters get involved, forget it.
Walker scored 22 of his 31 points in the first half, Jeremy Lamb and Alex Oriakhi finished in double figures and UConn won 82-62 on Saturday to hand DePaul its 18th straight loss in Big East play.
The 31 points matched Walker's career high in conference play, and he also had five assists and three steals. Lamb, a freshman who had played less than 10 minutes in UConn's previous two games, finished with 13 points and six rebounds. Oriakhi, a sophomore, had 11 points and three blocks for the Huskies (14-2, 3-2), who never trailed in winning their fourth straight against DePaul.
``Sometimes it's tough to know when to take the shot and when not to,' Lamb said. ``(Kemba) can score anytime he wants. But I think we're doing a good job of getting everyone involved.'
Cleveland Melvin, who verbally committed to UConn before changing his mind, had a double-double with 25 points and 12 rebounds for the Blue Demons (6-11, 0-5). It was the fifth straight loss for DePaul, which has gone almost a year since its last Big East win. The Blue Demons beat Marquette 51-50 on Jan. 20, 2010.
``No question (first-year DePaul coach) Oliver Purnell is going to get that going here,' Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. ``He's got good young players. They're going to be just fine. But if you're young ... the Big East is known to eat its young. And that's what happened. They are young at certain spots.'
Melvin's layup to open the second half pulled the Blue Demons within single digits, 45-36, but it was the closest they'd get the rest of the afternoon. Melvin fouled Walker, and he made both free throws to spark a 13-4 run that put the game out of reach.
``I still felt like we were in it,' Jimmy Drew said. ``But maybe we didn't come out as aggressively in the second half.'
Moses Morgan had 11 points and Tony Freeland added seven boards for the Blue Demons, who managed to outrebound UConn 44-36. But the Huskies had little trouble with DePaul's press, shooting almost 51 percent while holding the Blue Demons to 32 percent.
``UConn showed us why they're an outstanding basketball team. With a very tough player,' Purnell said. ``We got off to a rather tough start and were kind of paddling uphill.'
Back-to-back baskets by Melvin and Freeland pulled DePaul within eight with 5:19 left in the first half. But Walker and Lamb were simply too much for the Blue Demons to handle, disrupting several DePaul possessions and scoring UConn's last 12 points of the half.
After Freeland's basket, the Blue Demons thought they had forced a turnover. But Walker coolly snagged the ball back and took it in for a layup. At the other end of the court, freshman Shabazz Napier - the Big East rookie of the week - stole the ball from Freeland and raced up the left side of the court, feeding Lamb on a thunderous alley-oop.
Fouled by Michael Bizoukas, Lamb converted the three-point play to give UConn a 38-25 lead, its largest of the game to that point. After a 3 by Morgan, Lamb scored on a jumper and Walker made a 3 to push UConn's lead to 15.
DePaul looked as if it might take some momentum into the second half, with Kelly making a 3 and Melvin converting a three-point play to cut UConn's lead to 43-34 with 5 seconds left. But Walker darted underneath the basket and Napier found him for a reverse as the buzzer sounded.
``We lost Walker at the end of the first half, that hurt going into the half,' Purnell said. ``The second half, it just got a little worse.'
Walker said he wasn't thinking of stopping DePaul's momentum with his buzzer-beater.
``Nah. I just thought it was a good play by Shabazz,' Walker said.
The Associated Press News Service
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