I've said it all year and I said it again before the game: there are three things UConn needs to do well to play with anyone in the country, and they did all three yesterday en route to a 82-81 overtime win over Texas.
First, the Huskies need to get a good performance from Kemba Walker, and they did. Sure, it wasn't his best game -- he was held to 8 of 27 shooting -- but when it mattered Walker was there. He scored UConn's last seven points, grabbed nine rebounds, hit clutch shot after clutch shot including the game winner and, just for good measure, made the play of the year.
Second, UConn needs to get solid contributions from two, and hopefully three or four of the key freshmen. Yesterday, both Roscoe Smith and Shabazz Napier stepped up to the plate -- on a night where Kemba was rather inefficient, both Smith and Napier shot over 50% from the field and Napier provided a nice deep threat, going 3-5 from three. Smith did make one huge mistake -- the full-court bomb with 10 seconds left in regulation, but the Huskies lucked out and it didn't wind up costing them the game. I hope Smith doesn't get too down on himself, because he really did play well (13 pts and 6 rebounds in 33 minutes).
The third, and I think most important factor, is the play of Alex Oriakhi. Somehow Jim Calhoun and his staff got through to the big guy, who returned to his Maui-form and probably had the best game of his young career. Walker's big-shot heroics will get a lot of play, but Orikahi was my player of the game. He grabbed an insane 21 rebounds, 10 of which were offensive, held his own against a very tough Texas frontcourt and added 11 points to boot. As Justin has pointed out, he doesn't have a well-developed offensive game, but if he controls the paint like he did yesterday, it's not unreasonable for him to get between 10-14 points on putbacks and dump-offs. He doesn't need to create, but he does need to contribute, and he did in a big way yesterday.
This was a big win, and I think Husky fans have to feel good as they return to Big East play. Their next couple of games are against some of the conference bottom-feeders, before a Big Monday matchup with Villanova next week. Hopefully this is the start of a nice little streak that will help the Huskies gain momentum going forward.