UConn ends San Diego State's most successful season

Connecticut put the ball in the hands of its security blanket.

Kemba Walker stood at the free-throw line and calmly sank two free throws with 14 seconds left, adding to his pick-me resume for the NBA draft Thursday by running San Diego State in circles during a 74-67 victory in an NCAA tournament West Region semifinal at Honda Center in Anaheim, putting an end to the most successful season in the Aztecs' history.

Walker scored 36 points, 16 in the last nine minutes, to move the Huskies to within one victory of the Final Four. It was the 11th time he has scored 30 or more in a game.

San Diego State pulled to within one, 65-64, with 2 minutes 52 seconds left when D.J. Gay sank a three-pointer. Walker missed a jumper, but Alex Oriakhi got the rebound and found Jeremy Lamb, whose three-pointer gave the Huskies a 68-64 lead with 1:40 left.

Lamb then made a steal as San Diego State tries to get upcourt quickly and hit Shabazz Napier for an uncontested layup and a 70-64 lead with 23 seconds left.

Connecticut (28-9) entered the game with as many NCAA titles as San Diego State had NCAA tournament victories (two). The second-seeded Aztecs (34-3) broke through that ceiling this season, winning their first two tournament games.

But beating Northern Colorado and Temple -- in double overtime -- was child's play compared to spending the day chasing Walker around the court.

Gay, mired in a month-long slump, pushed the Aztecs back into the game, as has been his custom. He sank a three-pointer to start the second half and scored the last five points in an 11-2 run that gave the Aztecs a 43-42 lead with 13 minutes left.

San Diego State led, 53-49, when Walker took over.

Walker scored nine of Connecticut's 11 points during a key stretch that left them leading, 60-54, with six minutes left.

The first two came on free throws after Jamaal Franklin was called for a technical foul with the Aztecs ahead 53-49. Walker hit a three-pointer to cap the pivotal 11-1 run and Connecticut never trailed again.

San Diego State had answers early. Walker missed his first four shots, with different defenders alternating on him. The Aztecs were in their comfort zone, pushing the pace. Billy White's layup finished a fast break for a 22-17 lead with 6:34 left in the half.

Things turned when, with a chance to up the lead, Gay turned the ball over. Connecticut closed the half with a 19-5 run and took a 36-27 lead into the locker room.

Walker was the center of that surge, making three consecutive shots, two of which were three-pointers.


Miami Heat hopes to get on a roll as playoffs near

LeBron James said this about an hour before Wednesday’s loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder:
“The way we’re playing right now, we’d love to start [the playoffs] right now, but we got another month to continue to get better, continue to hone our skills and work out some of the things that may be going on.
“We’re ready. I know I’m ready, but I’m not going to take for granted this last month.”
A few hours later, the Heat lost 96-85 to Oklahoma City, which has won five in a row and could be a “dark horse” to win the Western Conference, according to Dwyane Wade. Although neither James nor Wade was too upset about Wednesday’s loss to a formidable team on a hot streak, work still remains, apparently, for the Heat.
Consecutive wins against the Lakers, Grizzlies and Spurs calmed fears of an epic collapse, but the fact remains that the Heat has lost six of its past nine games and, on Thursday, was three games behind the Chicago Bulls and Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference standings with just 14 games left in the regular season.
Catching the Celtics and Bulls, who both hold playoff tiebreakers against the Heat, will be difficult and Wade said Wednesday night that focusing on a 14-game winning streak to end the season would put too much pressure on his team. The Heat (46-22) traveled to Atlanta on Thursday for an away game against the Hawks on Friday night before returning home for a game against the Denver Nuggets on Saturday.
“We have to pick ourselves up, regroup, refresh and get focused for the game on Friday in Atlanta,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
The Heat is 1-1 against the Hawks, who have lost five of their past seven games. Miami could be without reserve center Zydrunas Ilgauskas on Friday. Ilgauskas has missed three games in a row because of an infection in his foot caused by stepping on a nail at his home. Although the Heat’s aggressive group-rebounding mentality did well against the Lakers, Grizzlies and Spurs during its three-game winning streak, the Heat was outrebounded 51-40 by the Thunder.
“In this league, to have success against the best teams, you have to have bigs,” Spoelstra said before Wednesday’s game.
The Heat’s three centers combined for seven rebounds against the Thunder, which recently acquired center Kendrick Perkins from the Celtics. Perkins, who started Wednesday, had five rebounds in 19 minutes. Reserve center Nazr Mohammad, acquired in a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats, had nine rebounds in 16 minutes.
“They did a great job getting prepared for the Western Conference,” said Wade, when asked about the Thunder’s new additions. “They’re going to be right there in the thick of things because they added some beef up front.”
The Thunder’s collective size limited the Heat’s ability to penetrate, and the Heat’s 17.6 percent three-point shooting (3 of 17) did little to offset the mismatch. Wade and James combined to shoot 35.7 percent (15 of 42) from the field.
The Thunder shot just 39.8 percent Wednesday but outscored the Heat 24-10 on second-chance points thanks to 17 offensive rebounds. The Heat has held four consecutive opponents to under 41 percent shooting, which offered some consolation after Wednesday’s defeat.
“[Wednesday night] is not one of those games where you feel bad about how you played,” James said. “We can be satisfied with this loss because we know we kept a team [from] shooting 40 percent from the floor. It’s nothing to hold our heads about.”


Canadian men’s soccer squad faces daunting opener in Gold Cup

There will be no easing into the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup for the Canadian men’s soccer team.

Canada will open the 12-team tournament June 7 in Detroit against the United States. The Americans are the highest ranked team in the conference and are 18th in the FIFA world rankings. By contrast, Canada is 84th in the world and eighth in the conference.

Canada and the United States are joined in Group C by Panama (67th in the world, sixth in the conference) and non-FIFA member Guadeloupe.

The top two teams are guaranteed quarter-final berths and the third-place team could also get into the final stage of the tournament.

The tournament will be played at locations throughout the United States. Canada’s other round-robin games are June 11 in Tampa, Florida, against Guadeloupe and June 14 in Kansas City against Panama.

The final is set for June 25 in Pasadena, California.

Canada won the Gold Cup in 2000, beating guest Colombia 2-0 in the final. Since then, both Mexico (2003, ’09) and the United States (2005, ’07) have each won twice.


Lady Tritons advance to CIF final

Hustle and heart were vital to the success that San Clemente's girls soccer team enjoyed throughout the season.
With a CIF-SS championship berth hanging in the balance, that combination provided another invaluable lift for the Tritons.

Sophomore Danielle Mellem scored the tying goal in the second half, and the Tritons advanced to their fourth consecutive Division 1 title game by defeating Santa Margarita, 4-2 in penalty kicks, after the teams played to a 2-2 tie in the semifinals Tuesday at Santa Margarita.

"We never gave up and showed our perseverance and determination to win," Tritons senior Madison Kaminski said.
San Clemente (19-2-7), which has won two of the last three Division 1 titles, will face Flintridge Sacred Heart of La Canada in the final. The Tologs defeated defending champion Esperanza, 1-0, in overtime in Tuesday's other Division 1 semifinal.
"I was disappointed by the way we started, but the key was our ability to come back," Tritons coach Stacey Finnerty said.
"We're going to prepare for the title match against Flintridge Sacred Heart by sticking to our game plan and playing to our strengths. I also think our experience will help us."
Santa Margarita (24-4-3) opened the match establishing possession and took the lead in the 10th minute on a goal by sophomore Samantha Trenary.
The Eagles nearly added to the lead less than two minutes later, when senior Lauren Bohaboy found a crease in the middle of the box. But her subsequent shot attempt was stopped on a nice diving save by Hapsic.
San Clemente's offense began to create chances and penetrate the attacking third midway into the half, but senior Taylor Krebs cleared two scoring opportunities away to help the Eagles keep the lead.
The Tritons tied the score, 1-1, with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half on a goal by senior Mikaela Carrillo.
In the second half, Taylor Krebs scored for Santa Margarita and Mellem evened the match for the Tritons.
Santa Margarita reclaimed the lead less than a minute after the opening kickoff of the second half. Off a deep penetrating run toward the goal, senior Leigh Edwards uncorked a crossing pass that was knocked away by Hapsic. But the ball bounced to her left and Krebs sent a shot into a wide open goal.
The Tritons tied the match again seven minutes later. Senior Tessa Andujar sent a pass down the left sideline to senior Frannie Coxe, whose cross pass toward the middle found Mellem racing toward the goal. Though heavily defended, she managed to curl her foot to reach the ball and got off a shot that rolled past Eagles senior goalie Haley Guerrero.
"I got the cross, got my foot around (the defender) and knocked it in," Mellem said.
Both teams traded deep runs into the attacking third throughout the remainder of the half before Santa Margarita nearly took the lead in the final minute. But a high line drive free kick by Bohaboy ricocheted off the crossbar.
After two scoreless 10 minute "golden goal" overtime periods, the teams were tied at 1 in the penalty kick session when freshman Natalie Higgins sent a shot into the right corner of the net to give the Tritons a 2-1 lead.
Trenary's next attempt sailed over the crossbar, and the Tritons finished off their 15th consecutive match without a loss with successful conversions from seniors Alex Reisinger and Kaminski.
"We played well and left everything out there today," Eagles coach Chuck Morales said. "They (San Clemente) are a championship-caliber team and were able to sustain and come back."