Tigers get win, little else
By Dan Wolken
December 3, 2006
There is, ultimately, only so much satisfaction that can be gained from beating a badly overmatched opponent the first week of December, no matter the score or the style.
And so the University of Memphis must constantly find new ways to measure itself, always mindful that the result is sometimes less important than the progress toward what this basketball team believes it can be.
Take, for instance, Saturday's relatively easy 77-59 victory over Manhattan in front of an announced crowd of 15,087 at FedExForum.
On the surface, it was an 18-point win over a traditionally strong mid-major in which No. 14 Memphis sprinted to an early 10-2 lead and was never really threatened as it improved to 5-1.
Yet the Tigers' disappointment was palpable, in everything from their poor free-throw shooting to their lack of concentration after building a 25-point lead to their inability to stop Manhattan's penetration in the second half.
It didn't quite feel like a loss. But judged against Memphis' high standards, it wasn't exactly a victory.
"We got the win, but it was ugly," said sophomore Robert Dozier, who scored a game-high 19 points. "We can't afford to do that against teams like Arizona or Gonzaga or Tennessee. We've got to play the whole game. We can't have five- or six-minute stretches where we're not playing any D, just fouling, not making shots. We can't do that because we can't be a good team that way."
The story wasn't in the numbers. Memphis shot 42.4 percent, forced 26 turnovers and held Manhattan (2-5) to 34-percent shooting, all statistics the Tigers usually win with.
The disappointment was in Memphis' inability to sustain energy after starting the second half with a 12-0 run to extend the lead to 55-26 and in its propensity to make silly mistakes that could lead to bad habits down the road.
Like Andre Allen botching a wild alley-oop off the backboard late in the game when he could have had a layup. Like Antonio Anderson leaving his feet for a pass into traffic that resulted in a turnover. Like Willie Kemp jacking up a contested 3-pointer with Memphis ahead, 63-40, and plenty of time left on the shot clock.
It got so sloppy that, as the margin closed to 67-47 with 5:41 left, Calipari threatened to bench the next player who let a Manhattan guard beat the Tigers off the dribble. Over the next two minutes, the Tigers went on an 8-0 run, but as Calipari later explained, they shouldn't have needed that kind of jolt.
"I'm disappointed," he said. "We took our foot off the pedal a little bit and backed up, but that's no reason to stop scrambling.
"As you go through a season, you're going to have some bad games and good games. Some bad games are caused by the other team. They play a 2-3 zone, we get out of the press and break down defensively a little bit, but give Manhattan credit. We had them down 30 and it could have been 40 or 50, but they fight back and stay in the game."
One good sign from Memphis' second half was the effort of Joey Dorsey, who scored 10 points on 4-of-4 field goal shooting, with 12 rebounds, five blocked shots and four steals. His inside power was a nice complement to Dozier's finesse. Dozier had nine rebounds and four blocks but was more impressive offensively, making 7-of-11 from the field and showing a nice range of moves.
But that still wasn't enough to please the Tigers, who made just 4-of-22 from the 3-point line, 17-of-32 free throws and committed 18 turnovers.
"We're getting a little spoiled because even when we play bad, we still win by 20," sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts (14 points) said. "And we've got to know we're going to play some real, real elite teams.
"If we play like that, like we played tonight, against Marshall or Tennessee, we'll lose."
-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365