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Friday, February 09, 2007

Tigers Replay

Tigers replay
February 9, 2007

Pick any of Jeremy Hunt's six 3-pointers in the first half, and that would probably do. But the last two were truly emotional daggers, giving Memphis a 37-25 halftime lead. The first, with 39 seconds left, came from NBA range at the top of the key. Then, after two free-throws by Lawrence Kinnard with six seconds left, the Tigers simply got the ball quickly over the halfcourt line and let Hunt fire away. Standing 30 feet away from the basket, Hunt never had any doubt. And as the ball rattled through the net, he fell to the floor and laid flat on the ground as a stunned Bartow Arena fell quiet.

As a 6-6 wing who plays primarily at shooting guard but can man the point if necessary, sophomore Antonio Anderson gives coach John Calipari a plethora of lineup options. But when Anderson went to the bench just 3:49 into the game, the Tigers suddenly got a lot smaller. With forward Joey Dorsey picking up a foul in the game's first minute, Calipari rotated Dorsey and sophomore Kareem Cooper throughout the first half instead of playing them together. So whenever sophomore forward Robert Dozier needed a rest, the Tigers used point guards Willie Kemp and Andre Allen together and had the 6-4 Hunt playing in Dozier's spot.


On a night when both teams missed several dunks and both teams shot less than 40 percent, a simple defensive play by Dorsey kick-started one of Memphis' best sequences of the night. With 7:39 left in the first half, Dorsey got in the face of UAB freshman Jeremy Mayfield, who was holding the ball above his head in front of the Memphis bench. Trying to pass out of trouble, Dorsey simply jumped up and stripped the ball from him, then kept his balance to stay in bounds. Fifteen seconds later, a Hunt 3-pointer gave Memphis a 21-14 lead and helped the Tigers start to establish control of the game.


UAB senior Wen Mukubu is a good player, but apparently, not a good dunker. Mukubu got stuffed by the rim on two straight dunk attempts early in the first half. The first was understandable, since Mukubu was trying to finish a difficult alley-oop pass. The second, however, was inexcusable. With 13:55 left in the half, Mukubu had a fairly open path to the basket but simply didn't get up high enough and caught the underside of the rim. In fairness, Mukubu came back with 7:04 left in the half for a nice jam over Allen.


Hunt could have stopped at halftime and had a box score most players dream about. In 20 minutes, Hunt scored 25 points on 8-of-13 from the field and had two steals. Hunt made 6-of-9 from the 3-point line and 3-of-4 free throws. Hunt had 25 of Memphis' 37 points. The second-high scorer was Dozier with four points. Four players had two points.


"I mean, I shot it like it was going in. I wanted it to go in. I'm pretty sure Gilbert Arenas doesn't think he's going to miss. It was a good shot, I made it, and we went into the second half feeling confidence and we pulled away." -- Hunt on his 30-footer to beat the buzzer at halftime.


The game, which was supposed to tip off at 8 p.m., didn't get underway until roughly 8:35. due to a malfunction with the basket in front of UAB's bench. According to UAB's public relations staff, players were dunking in pre-game warm-ups, which bent the rim. When the operations staff lowered the backboard to change it, an electronic mechanism shorted out, and the backboard wouldn't go back up. Eventually, an entire new basket had to be brought in.

UAB's football team was honored at halftime for beating Memphis this past season and winning the "Battle for the Bones." The game's brand new trophy, which is basically a large rack of bronzed ribs, was brought to center court with two members of Memphis' "Blue Crew" student group and two members of the UAB student spirit group.

Former Raleigh-Egypt standout Kinnard, who had 13 points in the first meeting with Memphis this season, scored 10 points and had 12 rebounds Thursday.


Tigers vs. Tulane, Saturday, 7 p.m., at FedExForum

-- Dan Wolken

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