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Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Precise Tigers Have Easy Time Against Blazers

Precise Tigers have easy time against Blazers
(17) Tigers 79, UAB 54

By Dan Wolken
January 17, 2007

Before Conference USA play began, University of Memphis coach John Calipari guaranteed his team would not rip through this league without a bruise or two; that undoubtedly, there would be nights when everything fell apart.

But every time the No. 17-ranked Tigers take the court against C-USA competition, that notion becomes harder and harder to fathom.

Because regardless of what their opponents have thrown at them one-quarter of the way through the conference schedule, Memphis appears only to be getting stronger, playing sharper and gaining confidence.

Just consider what Memphis did Tuesday to UAB, purportedly one of the league's better clubs. Memphis didn't just beat the Blazers, 79-54, the Tigers ripped them mercilessly in front of 14,736 witnesses at FedExForum.

And they did it without their leading scorer, sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts, who played just 1 minute, 32 seconds before a flare-up of the right ankle injury he suffered last Thursday at Houston.

Though Douglas-Roberts' status in the near-term is uncertain, this much is clear: These Tigers, now 14-3 overall and 4-0 in C-USA, are far more advanced than the Tigers of a month ago.

"We're getting better," Calipari said. "And the reason we're getting better is individual players are improving as we improve as a team. That's like, a lethal double. That's a punch with a full force."

And Tuesday, it hit the Blazers square in the jaw.

After a slow start that left Memphis trailing 13-7 nearly six minutes in, the Tigers dominated, holding UAB scoreless for the next six minutes and taking control with a 15-0 run.

Then, it was only a matter of how much the Tigers would win by. Their lead was 16 at halftime and 27 with 10 minutes to go. UAB shot 43.8 percent but gave up 16 offensive rebounds, went 6-of-17 from the free-throw line and never could contain the penetration of Robert Dozier (15 points) and Antonio Anderson (eight points, nine assists).

"We did not execute a play at all," UAB coach Mike Davis said. "Maybe one or two throughout the game, but I don't understand how we work on stuff at full speed and just come out with a deer-in-the-headlights kind of look.

"Once Memphis tied it up 17-17, it was their basketball at that point on."

Of course, it didn't help UAB's cause that Memphis ran its offense with precision and intensity, committing just three turnovers in the first half, shooting 52.9 percent from the field and scoring in every way possible to seize a 42-26 lead.

Anderson drove to the basket relentlessly, scoring difficult layups that he made look easy. Freshman Willie Kemp stood on the wing and swished open jumpers, finishing with 12 points on 4-of-7 from 3-point range. And junior Joey Dorsey had three dunks and 12 rebounds, keying Memphis' 42-22 edge on the boards.

Even freshman Doneal Mack played aggressively, scoring seven points with three assists and playing 20 minutes in the stead of Douglas-Roberts.

"I didn't even notice Chris was out (at first)," Anderson said. "I came to the bench, and I was like, 'Where's Chris?' It was tough at first, but we had to fight through it. We all knew we could do it without him, and he believes in us."

Though it didn't matter Tuesday, Memphis would obviously prefer if Douglas-Roberts returns soon. But Douglas-Roberts said he would have an MRI on his right ankle today and wouldn't play until the pain subsides.

"It just kept getting worse, ever since the Houston game," Douglas-Roberts said. "I kept playing on it, kept practicing on it. I didn't give it any relief. I barely warmed up.

"I'm going to just wait until it gets 100 percent before I come back."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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