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Monday, March 19, 2007

Tigers Stand Tall at Free-Throw Line

Tigers stand tall at free-throw line
Memphis players find there's 'nothing to it,' shoot 76.5 percent in sinking Wolf Pack

By Jim Masilak
March 19, 2007

NEW ORLEANS -- Before every game, as the University of Memphis goes through its layup line, Joey Dorsey makes sure to take one -- and only one -- attempt from the free-throw line.

"If I make it," he said, "I'm usually gonna have a good game at the line."

A 46.5-percent shooter from the foul line this season, the Tigers' junior forward usually misses.

But a funny thing happened in the moments before the No. 2-seeded Tigers' second-round NCAA Tournament game Sunday against seventh-seeded Nevada.

"Today," Dorsey said, "I made it."

The worst free-throw shooting team in the field of 65, the Tigers entered the NCAAs shooting a wayward 61 percent, ranking No. 315 out of 325 Division 1 schools.

On Sunday, though, they could hardly miss.

The Tigers went 26-for-34 (76.5 percent) from the line in their 78-62 victory over Nevada, making 11-of-12 during a key second-half stretch to send the Wolf Pack packing and book a second straight trip to the Sweet 16.

"It's really nothing to it," senior guard Jeremy Hunt said of the Tigers' newfound proficiency. "People can say what they want about our free-throw shooting, but we knock them down when we need to. We haven't lost any games off missing free throws."

When the Tigers have missed their free throws this season, junior point guard Andre Allen said, "It's because most of the time we've been up, and we knew we were gonna win."

But only once this year -- on Jan. 12 at Southern Miss, when they went 33-for-46 -- have the Tigers made more than the 26 foul shots they sank Sunday at New Orleans Arena.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, before leaving the game in the second half with a "mild-to-moderate" left ankle sprain, went 10-for-12 from the line.

Jeremy Hunt hit six of his seven attempts.

Dorsey drained his first two and went 4-for-6.

Antonio Anderson, a 64.6-percent shooter, was the relative hair in Memphis' charity-stripe soup, connecting on a mere five of his eight tries. But the sophomore guard hit four in a row down the stretch, including a key pair after Nevada had cut the deficit to 64-62 with 6:17 left.

The Wolf Pack never scored again, and the Tigers iced the game by draining one 15-foot set shot after another.

"It's all in the mind," freshman guard Willie Kemp said.

Memphis (32-3), which extended its school-record winning streak to 24 games, will next face No. 3-seeded Texas A&M on Thursday at 6:27 p.m. in a South Regional semifinal at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

Whether it's Dorsey's pregame superstition, the "visualization" method espoused by coach John Calipari or Calipari's contention that the Tigers are at their best when it matters most, the players believe they're going to make their foul shots.

Dorsey, per Calipari's recommendation, says he visualizes himself making 10 straight foul shots before falling asleep each night.

"And if you're dreaming about it," he said, "you'd better make them."

As the Tigers prepare for Thursday's game against the Aggies, the visualization will continue.

"They might even shoot some with their eyes closed on the way home," Calipari said.

More info:

Sweet 16 Tickets

The University of Memphis will receive approximately 1,250 tickets for both the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight, the majority of which will be made available to Tiger Scholarship Fund (TSF) donors.

Seating location will be determined based on TSF Priority Ranking. Tickets must be purchased for both sessions.

Platinum Tigers may purchase up to four tickets; all other donors will be limited to two tickets.

The schedule for purchasing tickets today is as follows:

8-10 a.m. -- Platinum Tiger donors; 10 a.m.-noon -- Scholarship Tiger donors; noon-2 p.m. -- Super Tiger donors; 2-4 p.m. -- Striped Tiger donors; 4-6 p.m. -- All remaining donors

Telephone orders will be taken in the Tiger Scholarship Fund office, 678-2334.

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