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Friday, February 09, 2007

Jeremy Hunt Has Hot Hand As Tigers Handle Blazers

Hunt has hot hand from 3-point range as Tigers handle Blazers
8) Tigers 70, UAB 56

By Dan Wolken
February 9, 2007

BIRMINGHAM -- Given that senior Jeremy Hunt was the only University of Memphis player who had experienced a win in Bartow Arena before Thursday, it only made sense for him to show the rest of the Tigers the way.

Sometimes picking up his teammates, but mostly dragging them through a tough first half against UAB, Hunt scored a career-high 25 points in the first 20 minutes of No. 8-ranked Memphis' 70-56 victory.

And though there were other storylines here, including another Conference USA player of the year-type performance from forward Joey Dorsey and another brave road effort by backup point guard Andre Allen, Memphis' 20th victory was mostly about Hunt.

In an arena where Memphis hasn't won since 2002-03 -- Hunt's freshman season -- he scored 30 points on 10-of-19 shooting and simply willed the Tigers to a 12-point halftime lead they wouldn't have had without him.

Driving to the basket relentlessly and firing 3-pointers at every open opportunity, Hunt tied UAB all by himself in the first half, 25-25.

And at the end, after he made a 30-foot shot to beat the buzzer, he laid flat on his back at center court; appropriately, right where UAB's dragon logo spits out a stream of fire.

"It was a great experience," Hunt said. "I've never done that as a Tiger before. I've made shots, but never like that in the first half. It felt good to keep my team in it. We were up by 12, and a lot of guys were not making shots, and it was tough on them but we wanted to fight it out. We went off in the first five minutes of the second half and went on a good run and never looked back."

For Memphis, which improved to 20-3 overall and 10-0 in C-USA, Hunt's performance was absolutely necessary because the Tigers had trouble getting out quickly against a UAB team that matched Memphis for the first 10 minutes in front of an announced crowd of 7,453.

Sophomore Chris Douglas-Roberts (10 points on 4-of-13 field goals) missed shots he normally makes. Sophomore forward Robert Dozier, who finished with four points, couldn't get enough touches close to the basket. And freshman point guard Willie Kemp struggled, playing just 14 minutes.

The early troubles were compounded by the absence of sophomore guard Antonio Anderson, who hobbled off the court just 3:49 in with what coach John Calipari said was a sprained right ankle.

But Hunt saved the day, with three of his six 3-pointers coming from well beyond NBA range.

"The last couple bombs were like, what in the world?" Calipari said. "There were three of them at the end of shot clocks where we had nothing and he bombed them.

"If Jeremy Hunt doesn't go crazy, this is like a two-point ballgame at halftime, and he was out of his mind. But we've got guys that can do that at times."

Though Hunt scored just five points in the second half -- he made a runner with fewer than three minutes to go and a 3-pointer with a minute left -- the Tigers had enough to extend their lead to 22 points and hold on during a stress-free second half.

The credit for that belonged mostly to Dorsey, who had 13 rebounds and four blocks in 26 minutes for a defense that forced 20 turnovers and held UAB to 30.8 percent shooting.

And Allen, who played 15 second-half minutes in relief of Kemp, had two key driving layups when Memphis hit an offense live. Freshman guard Doneal Mack, who made a 3-pointer early in the second half, then made three free throws, adding to Memphis' 50-0 edge in bench points.

UAB, which handed Memphis its only conference loss here last season, fell to 11-12 on the season and 3-6 in C-USA.

"Great defensive effort by our team," Calipari said. "We matched their intensity."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

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