January 25, 2007
AS THE GAME TURNED
The Tigers were nursing a two-point lead midway through the first half before their point guard combination of Willie Kemp and Andre Allen helped spark a decisive 12-0 run. Allen dropped in a layup and Kemp followed with a 3-pointer as Memphis rattled off a dozen straight points in the space of 3 minutes, 13 seconds, increasing its lead to 31-17.
AS THE ROTATION TURNED
Pierre Niles had played a not-so-grand total of three minutes in the Tigers' previous four games, but the massive freshman forward was thrown into the fray in the first half against the Golden Hurricane. The 6-8, 285-pound Niles played two minutes, hitting a pair of free throws and rebounding one of his two missed shots, before returning to the bench.
Chris Douglas-Roberts' absence allowed coach John Calipari to play Allen and Kemp together for long stretches. With Antonio Anderson also on the floor, Memphis essentially had three point guards on the court at once. The trio combined for eight assists.
After seeing five players log 30 or more minutes in Saturday's win over East Carolina, Calipari went slightly deeper into his bench against the Golden Hurricane. Anderson and Kemp -- who played just 12 minutes against ECU, were the only Tigers to play more than 30 minutes on Wednesday.
Doneal Mack capped his second straight start in place of Douglas-Roberts with a highlight reel dunk. With 7:19 left in the game, Mack took a pass from Kemp and drove past Calvin Walls along the baseline before rising for a big two-handed slam, giving the Tigers a 60-47 lead and bringing a crowd of 15,760 to its feet.
HIDE YOUR EYES
Tulsa guard Rod Earls was lucky to walk away with his head still connected to his shoulders following a second-half collision with Kemp.
When Darold Crow scrambled near midcourt to keep the ball inbounds, flinging it back toward the center circle, Kemp and Earls tangled while heading in opposite directions. Earls hit the floor hard after getting an (accidental) half-clothesline, but got up and walked away none the worse for the wear.
Led by Robert Dozier's four rejections, the Tigers set a season high with 12 blocked shots. Joey Dorsey wiped out three shots and Hunt and Mack swatted two apiece as Memphis altered one shot after another.
"They got their hands on so many balls, it's incredible," Tulsa coach Doug Wojcik said.
The Tigers, however, still managed to lose the battle of the boards, with Tulsa outrebounding them 46-41.
"This may have been his worst game since I've coached him."
-- Calipari on the play of senior guard Jeremy Hunt, who missed 11 of his 15 shots from the floor, many of them on wild drives to the basket.
ODDS AND ENDS
Niles, whose only action of late had been at the end of games, was pleased to get some non-garbage time minutes.
But the former Ridgeway star understands why Calipari has been reluctant to play him more often so far this season.
"I've got to wait my turn. I know I'm not in shape," said Niles, who has yet to regain his fitness following minor preseason knee surgery. "I need to be in shape so I can stay on the floor longer than three or four minutes.
"As long as I get in the game, I'm all right. ... Coach Cal and me are getting on the same page. I'm starting to understand the plays and what he wants from me."
When Tulsa forward Charles Ramsdell missed the second of two free throws with 5:28 left in the first half, it marked the first time all season he failed to convert from the foul line. The senior entered Wednesday's game having gone a perfect 28 for 28 from the line. He ended up 3 for 4 against the Tigers and is now shooting his free throws at a mere 96.9 percent clip.
Tigers vs. Southern Miss, Saturday, noon, at FedExForum
-- Jim Masilak