January 5, 2007
AS THE GAME TURNED
Memphis has never had it as easy against Cincinnati as it did Thursday night at FedExForum. As if scoring the game's first 11 points wasn't a clear enough statement of intent, four 3-pointers from senior guard Jeremy Hunt in a span of 3 minutes, 26 seconds gave the Tigers an improbable 20-point lead and ended the game as a competitive spectacle. Memphis eventually led by as many as 39 en route to its biggest victory over the Bearcats.
AS THE ROTATION TURNED
With forwards Joey Dorsey and Kareem Cooper managing to stay out of early foul trouble, Tigers coach John Calipari was able to continue his experiment of playing both big men at the same time. The pair dominated the vertically challenged Bearcats in the paint, helping Memphis to a 42-23 rebounding edge and accounting for seven of the Tigers' 10 blocked shots. While Calipari was able to play nine players in the first half alone, out-of-favor freshman forward Pierre Niles did not appear until the closing minutes of the game.
The Tigers' much-maligned big men were responsible for the team's slickest passing move of the night. With 13:10 left, Cooper received the ball at the top of the key and went up as if to shoot a 3-pointer. Instead, he flipped the ball down low to a wide-open Dorsey, who slammed home the gentlest of reverse dunks.
Seven minutes later, Willie Kemp followed up his own missed free throw and, after getting two Bearcats in the air, slung a no-look pass around them to a flashing Doneal Mack, who threw down an emphatic two-handed slam.
HIDE YOUR EYES
Cincinnati forward John Williamson, the Bearcats' leading rebounder with 8.2 per game, didn't manage to get a single defensive rebound in 32 minutes. Inexplicably, the 6-6 junior pulled down six boards on the offensive end.
The Tigers' reserves outscored the Bearcats' bench players by a whopping 36-4 margin. Hunt accounted for 24 of the Tigers' bench points, hitting six 3-pointers.
"We shot the ball terribly well. It was incredible. I don't know if we'll be able to do that again the rest of the year." -- Sophomore forward Robert Dozier after the Tigers went 32 for 54 (59.3 percent) from the field and 12 for 28 (42.9 percent) from 3-point range.
ODDS AND ENDS
Is it possible to win too impressively on national TV? Perhaps. With the Tigers pummeling the Bearcats at halftime, ESPN cut away from FedExForum for a large chunk of the second half, opting to show a tighter finish between USC and Oregon.
"D'oh," Calipari said afterward. "They didn't?"
The Bearcats weren't the only ones who struggled to keep pace with the Tigers. Referee Ted Hillary suffered an apparent knee injury a few minutes before halftime. That forced Jim Burr and Tim Higgins to work a man short for the remainder of the first half. Hillary was able to resume his duties in the second half.
Grizzlies president Jerry West, forward Rudy Gay, and guards Kyle Lowry and Mike Miller were among the announced crowd of 16,223 on Larry Finch Appreciation Night at FedExForum, It was the Tigers' largest home crowd so far this season.
"The one thing I liked about today? We had people in the stands," Calipari said. "The fans were great and they had a great show.
"Every game we play should be like we had right there. That's what it should be if this is a college basketball city."
Tigers at Houston, Thursday, 8 p.m.
-- Jim Masilak