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UConn's Lamb playing like a lion in March

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- When Kemba Walker charges into the heart of an opponent's defense, Jeremy Lamb watches and waits. The freshman knows defenders will commit to smothering Connecticut's star player, leaving him free to cut to the basket and score.

The skinny swingman with long arms has been coming up big for the third-seeded Huskies during their run to the West Regional final. He's averaging 18 points in the NCAA tournament while shooting 82 percent from three-point range and 74 percent from the field.

"I don't think he's overwhelmed by the situation at all," UConn assistant Andre LaFleur said. "He's one of the key guys that has come in and helped give us a new identity."

Lamb's confidence is soaring, too, especially since Walker trusts him in high-pressure situations. In the Big East tournament title game, Walker got him the ball and Lamb scored the go-ahead layup in the waning seconds against Louisville to complete the Huskies' dazzling run of five wins in five days.

In their semifinal win over Syracuse, Walker had defenders hanging on him in overtime when he found an open Lamb, who responded with baskets each time.

"It feels good to know my point guard trusts in me," Lamb said Friday.

Earlier in the season, Walker went to coach Jim Calhoun and kept telling him how "big-time" Lamb was, along with some of the other young players. Calhoun began believing it, too, and they rewarded him by picking up the slack when Walker ran out of gas playing 37.5 minutes a game.

"It feels good to be able to help him," Lamb said. "He's working hard all through the game getting crazy numbers and sometimes you just need the little help, you need someone to get a bucket here or there."

Don't think fifth-seeded Arizona hasn't noticed Lamb. The Wildcats (30-7) play the Huskies (29-9) tonight (7 p.m., Ch. 4) for a trip to the Final Four in Houston.

"He's playing some of his best basketball all season," Arizona guard Kyle Fogg said. "The way he's shooting the ball right now is the reason they've been winning some of these games."

Lamb scored 24 points in UConn's 74-67 victory over second-seeded San Diego State in the regional semifinals. It was the most by a Husky freshman since Khlaid El-Amin had the same in a loss to North Carolina in the final eight of the 1998 tournament.

"With a star player some of the other guys get overlooked. He complements Kemba Walker a lot with his open shots, he drives and he's very important to that team," Arizona forward Jesse Perry said.

Lamb's growth has come in fits and starts during his first season. In December, he struggled with consistency, especially on defense, and it cost him his spot in the starting lineup.

"The toughest part was when I wasn't hitting the shots and everybody was coming to me and trying to change my shot, 'Shoot it this way, shoot it that way so you can make it,' " he said.

"I knew I was shooting the right way, I just wasn't hitting. I doubted myself, but I played my way out of that by just staying in the gym, just putting in the extra work."

In the first regional semifinal today (4:30 p.m., Ch. 4), Florida (29-7), an overtime winner over BYU Thursday, takes on Butler (26-7), which beat Wisconsin Thursday. The Bulldogs are looking for back-to-back trips to the Final Four.

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