Tigers pull away after real shaky first-half play
By Dan Wolken
November 7, 2006
No. 14 Memphis 78, CBU 47
When the Memphis Tigers trudged off the FedExForum floor at halftime Monday with a sloppy four-point lead over Christian Brothers University, nobody would have blamed the roughly 6,000 die-hards in attendance for suffering from flashbacks.
Two years ago, in an exhibition game against CBU, Memphis actually trailed at the half, didn't wrestle the lead away for good until roughly 12 minutes remained and struggled all night in an 11-point victory. In retrospect, the game was a harbinger of season-long problems for a dysfunctional team that came apart at the seams and never lived up to expectations.
Though the Tigers were in a similar battle Monday after 20 minutes, for Tigers coach John Calipari, the contrast between that team and his current one couldn't have been clearer. Instead of bickering and struggling against a Division 2 opponent, the Tigers shook off their sub-standard first half against CBU and dominated the second to punctuate a 78-47 victory in which Memphis seemed to get better by the minute.
"That was a great second half," Calipari said. "We took it right at them, and that's what we needed to see. So this was good."
Though Calipari stopped short of proclaiming the Tigers ready for their Nov. 16 regular- season opener against Jackson State, he saw more good than bad, especially in a 23-5 run to open the second half that put the game away.
With an efficient, effective full-court press that forced CBU into 29 turnovers, Memphis found a rhythm for the first time in two exhibition games and began to look like the team that The Associated Press ranked 14th in the preseason poll it released Monday.
After committing 12 turnovers in the first half, Memphis committed just six in the second. After going 0-for-8 from the 3-point line in the first, the Tigers made 4-of-11 in the second.
One good play, it seemed, led to another.
"We realize it's only the second game, and we're not going to be in midseason form, and we're still working some kinks out," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "But in the second half, we looked good. If we play like that, we'll be great."
Although the Tigers had to adjust their lineups and substitution patterns with the absence of junior center Joey Dorsey (sprained toe), they seemed far more out-of-sorts and disorganized than they should have been early on.
Though CBU's slow-down, Princeton-style offense milked the clock and didn't allow Memphis to get up to full speed, that wasn't Memphis' biggest problem. Rather, it was allowing CBU six second-chance points and missing out on a handful of loose balls.
"The first half they came at us pretty tough," Tiger guard Jeremy Hunt said. "They slowed the game down and it seemed like we were out there lackadaisical, going through the motions. But once coach got on us at halftime, we picked it up, the press started working, we started making shots and we got it rolling."
Memphis also played the brand of energetic, lock-down defense that Calipari expects. Memphis recorded 19 steals and held CBU to 14-of-44 shooting, many of which were missed layups that occurred because the Buccaneers were forced to play faster than they're used to.
"Our kids battled," CBU coach Mike Nienaber said. "I think we just finally gave out. We just got banged around so much that it just finally took its toll I think. They're good. They're just so much more physical and so much quicker, and it finally just wore us down."
Unlike Memphis' first exhibition game against LeMoyne-Owen, the Tigers got their dribble-drive offense untracked. Douglas-Roberts attacked the basket relentlessly and scored 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting while sophomore forward Robert Dozier scored 15 on 7-of-12 field goals.
-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365