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Monday, November 27, 2006

Tigers Blow 19 Point Lead, Lose to Yellow Jackets

Tigers' 19-point lead disappears
Michael Conroy/Associated Press

By Dan Wolken
November 22, 2006

LAHAINA, Hawaii -- The Thaddeus Young vs. University of Memphis storyline never developed Tuesday.

But the Meltdown in Maui did.

Ahead by 19 points early and seemingly cruising toward the championship game of the EA Sports Maui Invitational, the No. 12-ranked Tigers imploded in a 92-85 loss to No. 19 Georgia Tech that sends them to today's consolation game at Lahaina Civic Center against the loser of the late game between Kentucky and UCLA.
And surprisingly, Young barely played a role.

Plagued by foul trouble, the former Mitchell High star, who chose Georgia Tech over Memphis after a highly-publicized recruiting battle last year, played just 14 minutes and mostly watched his teammates make key free throws, out-hustle the Tigers for loose balls and dominate Memphis on the boards, 29-9 in the second half.

"The way we rebounded and the way we played in the second half, this is what we deserve, honestly," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, who scored 26 points, said. "We deserve this, and this should be a wake-up call for the team because the first half, we played great and then it's like, we let up as a team."

For 20 minutes, the Tigers could hardly have played better, making 15-of-30 shots and defending out of their minds to forge 46-30 lead.

They couldn't have imagined the disaster that was about to follow.

Poor shoot selection. Empty trips to the free-throw line. And most of all, allowing Georgia Tech to grab 13 offensive rebounds in the second half that led to 24 points.

Memphis' 16-point lead was reduced to four in a matter of 7:45 to start the second half, was gone with 8:28 remaining and was an 8-point deficit 2:43 later. It happened that quick.

"I just felt like, the first half we came out and it was outstanding," senior guard Jeremy Hunt, who scored 16 and had six steals, said. "If we had come out the second half and played the same way, it would have been a different ballgame ... but we failed to come up with rebounds, loose balls. It seemed like they wanted it more."

Without 6-9 sophomore Robert Dozier, who was whistled for five fouls in eight minutes and was never a factor, the Tigers were forced to use a smaller lineup, and it cost them dearly on the boards.

But even when Dozier was in the game, the Yellow Jackets simply fought harder.

With 13:43 to go, Young (11 points) tipped-in a miss by Ra'Sean Dickey and drew Dozier's fourth foul, hitting the free throw to draw Tech within 55-48.

The most crushing sequence started with 9:23 left when Young missed a 3-pointer, Tech forward Jeremis Smith got the rebound, drew a foul and hit two free throws to close the deficit to 62-60.

Then, Memphis point guard Andre Allen missed a front-end free throw on the ensuing possession, junior forward Joey Dorsey missed a wide-open layup seconds later, and then with 8:28 remaining Dickey out-fought everybody for a loose ball on the floor, laid it in and drew Dorsey's fourth foul. Dickey's free throw gave Tech its first lead, and a shaken Tigers team never recovered.

"They didn't box out, so you've got to take advantage of that," Smith said.

They did, and outscored Memphis 62-39 in the second half, a remarkable turnaround given how thoroughly the Tigers dominated early.

"It was not pretty," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "Robert Dozier being out really hurt us because he's our other big man.

"(Freshman) Pierre Niles isn't ready for this kind of game and couldn't get to a ball. But you have to give Tech credit. They wanted the game worse than us. When I go back, I'm going to look at 23 offensive rebounds and I'm going to look at about 12 loose balls."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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