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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Defense Not Up to OSU Challenge

Defense not up to OSU challenge
By Scott Cacciola
March 25, 2007

SAN ANTONIO -- Seldom had Memphis faced an opponent that started two point guards.
But that was the challenge presented by Ohio State on Saturday afternoon at the Alamodome, where the Buckeyes exploited all sorts of defensive holes in their 92-76 victory in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.

Mike Conley, a freshman who was named Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional after finishing with 19 points, might best be regarded as Point Guard A for Ohio State. Jamar Butler, a junior who finished with 12 points and four assists, is Point Guard B.

For Ohio State, having two adept ballhandlers on the court virtually eliminated any opportunity for Memphis to unleash its fullcourt press.

After Ohio State took an early 8-0 lead, Memphis coach John Calipari came to one conclusion.

"I just did not want to spread the court," he said. "When we're down three at the half, I'm feeling good. When we're up five, I felt like we had the right game plan. Could we have worn them out? I don't think so. Those two guards make it hard to say you're going to press them in a regional final."

Conley feasted on Memphis' halfcourt defense, often penetrating to the basket for layups or setting up open shots for his teammates.

"Conley's unbelievable," Calipari said. "Conley ran the game."

The key, Butler said, was moving the ball and setting loads of ball screens. Few players in the country are more adept at using high picks than Conley, and it only helps when the teammate setting them is a 7-foot, 280-pounder named Greg Oden.

"It worked out for us," Butler said.

For the season, Memphis had been holding opponents to 39-percent shooting. But the Buckeyes shot 51 percent from the field and 35-of-41 (85 percent) from the free-throw line.

"They got some wide-open looks," Memphis forward Robert Dozier said. "You give a team like Ohio State wide-open looks, they're going to make them."

For all the strategizing and late-night chalk sessions with his staff, Calipari sounded as if it had been a futile exercise.

"I don't care if we pressed, trapped, played a 1-3-1 zone," Calipari said. "They are better than us."

-- Scott Cacciola: 529-2773

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