Pirates fail to tame Tigers again
By Tony Castleberry
The Greenville (NC) Daily Reflector
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Memphis had a much easier time this year in Minges Coliseum.
But the No. 17 Tigers needed a second-half scoring outburst, aided by 25 free throws after halftime, to post a 61-44 victory over East Carolina (5-12, 0-4 Conference USA) in C-USA men's basketball action Saturday night. Memphis escaped Greenville with a 77-67 win last January, when the Tigers were ranked fifth in the nation.
It was a little more difficult this time around for coach John Calipari's club, which was without starting forward Chris Douglas-Roberts, who missed the game due to an ankle injury.
"In the second half we were more aggressive and did some good stuff," Calipari said. "Still, we turned it over 14 times in the first half. I mean, come on. You're on pace to get 30 turnovers. That's like an eighth-grade team."
Despite the turnovers and poor shooting, Jeremy Hunt and Doneal Mack, along with Memphis' stifling full-court pressure defense, allowed the Tigers (15-3, 5-0) to build a comfortable second-half cushion. Hunt led all players with 16 points and Mack, a freshman from Statesville, chipped in 15 to help Memphis move to 5-0 all-time against East Carolina.
But the Hunt-Mack combination and the Tigers' 48-33 advantage on the boards weren't the main reasons for concern for ECU. Memphis forced 24 Pirate turnovers and scored 19 points off ECU giveaways.
"It was the first time we've had a team press us to that extent, but it's hard to simulate their size and athletic ability," ECU coach Ricky Stokes said. "We had a hard time getting it across halfcourt."
The lead changed hands five times early in the second half, but a 7-0 Memphis run capped by Robert Dozier's putback dunk gave the Tigers a 33-28 lead with 16 minutes, 30 seconds remaining.
Mack scored 10 consecutive Memphis points to stretch the Tigers lead to 45-32 with 12:27 left in the game.
The Pirates closed to within 48-38 on Darrell Jenkins' jumper with 8:19 remaining, but could get no closer.
A 7-minute, 19-second field goal drought followed Jenkins' bucket and Memphis stretched its lead to as many as 21 points during that span.
"When we went in at halftime, we knew we didn't play like we wanted to play," said Hunt, who scored 13 of his points after intermission. "We just came out and tried to get on (the Pirates) early. We had the mind frame of play hard defense, rebound and get easy buckets."
Dozier scored 12 points and was one of three Tigers to grab at least 10 rebounds. Joey Dorsey pulled down a game-high 15 boards — eight of them of the offensive variety — and Antonio Anderson finished with 11 rebounds.
East Carolina freshman John Fields backed up his career-high 17-point night Wednesday against Tulane with a team-high 14 points on 5-of-6 shooting Saturday. But Fields was the only Pirate to score more than five points and ECU finished shooting just 36.2 percent from the field.
The 6-foot-9 Fayetteville Jack Britt product, who weighs 200 pounds, got some serious on-the-job training, having to battle down low with Dorsey (260 pounds) and Dozier, one of C-USA best leapers.
"Dozier, Dorsey, (Kareem) Cooper (290 pounds) . . . 200 and something across the board," Fields said. "It was the biggest challenge I've had yet. They played tough on the inside."
After Memphis took a 20-16 lead at the 2:50 mark in the first half, ECU closed the half with a 5-1 run and tied it 21-all on Fields' putback at the first-half buzzer. The teams combined to turn the ball over 27 times in the first half — 14 for the Pirates and 13 for Memphis.
However, the Tigers cured their turnover problems after the break, with just three second-half giveaways.
The Pirates will try to snap their four-game losing streak when the travel to Southern Miss Wednesday for an 8 p.m. tip-off.
Tony Castleberry can be reached at (252) 329-9591 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.