Tigers start fast before bad habits creep in against APSU
No. 19 Tigers 88, Austin Peay 63
By Dan Wolken
December 15, 2006
For the first seven minutes Thursday night, the University of Memphis was answering questions, turning corners and growing together right before coach John Calipari's eyes.
As for the final 33 minutes of No. 19-ranked Memphis' 88-63 victory over Austin Peay? Well, there might still be a few issues to work out before heading to Tucson for next Wednesday's showdown with No. 10 Arizona.
Granted, it was hard to learn much about the Tigers after they sprinted to a 22-2 lead against an overmatched Governors team. And despite Austin Peay playing even with Memphis for a long stretch in the middle of the game, Calipari said he was encouraged by how the Tigers looked in front of an announced crowd of 14,538 at FedExForum.
After a week of rough, physical practices intended to rekindle the aggression and passion Memphis had lost somewhere along the way, the Tigers responded by shooting 61.8 percent from the field, recording 24 assists on 34 baskets and holding Austin Peay to 19-of-54 from the field (35.2 percent).
"I saw some great signs," Calipari said. "The biggest thing is, real unselfish play. I love what we did versus the zone. Defensively, we were pretty good. Again, the way we ended the game, I'd like to strangle a couple guys. We're up 30 and I'm telling guys, I want you to play like it's the first two minutes of the game or don't play, let someone else in the game."
Though it would be hard to fault the Tigers (8-2) for much of what happened Thursday, they did commit 23 turnovers -- 15 in the second half -- which allowed Austin Peay to hang around for awhile.
In fact, for more than 22 minutes after Memphis' initial spurt, Austin Peay (3-5) out-scored the Tigers 39-36.
The Governors never made a serious comeback, trailing 58-41 with 10:38 remaining. And though it appeared they might make the final 10 minutes interesting, senior guard Jeremy Hunt buried a 3-pointer to give Memphis a 20-point lead again and hit another one roughly a minute later.
"They jumped out and the next thing you know, it was 20-2," Austin Peay head coach Dave Loos, a former Tigers player and assistant, said. "I was afraid to look after that. We played a little harder and tried to compete. We didn't play well, but we tried to compete."
Austin Peay had no competition for Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis' sophomore guard who scored a career-high 28 points on 10-of-12 from the field.
Douglas-Roberts seemingly got to the rim any time he wanted, which he later said was a focus of the Tigers' preparation this week. For the first time in awhile, Memphis ran its offense the way it was designed with crisp ball movement, aggressive drives to the rim and plenty of layups.
And Douglas-Roberts wasn't the only one who got easy looks. Sophomore center Kareem Cooper came off the bench and scored 11 points on 5-of-5 from the field, and freshman guard Doneal Mack attacked the basket for most of his 11 points.
"That's how we usually play anyway, but we strayed away from that in the previous games," Douglas-Roberts said. "I don't know why but we're back to it now. We're back to how we usually play."
The Tigers will hope they can bring to Arizona the same intensity with which they started Thursday's game, scoring the first 12 points, eight of which came from sophomore forward Robert Dozier.
Memphis led 16-2 just 4:31 into the game after Douglas-Roberts scored eight points in a span of 1:09.
The Tigers were then able to extend the lead to 47-25 by halftime with three buckets in a span of 1:03 by Cooper, Douglas-Roberts and Antonio Anderson, who converted a steal in the backcourt into a dunk with nine seconds left.
"The way we've been practicing, been competing, the competitive spirit of our practices kind of gave us a little edge in the beginning," Hunt said. "You can't expect a team to miss every shot. They're going to make some shots. They made a couple shots, and we were missing a couple. But we came out with the victory, that's all we care about."
-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365