Anderson, Tigers refuse to give up on Final Four
By Jeremy Gottlieb
April 8, 2007
Just over two weeks have passed, but the what-ifs remain for University of Memphis guard Antonio Anderson.
For the second consecutive season, Anderson, a former star at Lynn Tech (MA), and his Tiger teammates were one game from NCAA basketball's biggest showcase, the Final Four. And for the second consecutive season, Memphis, seeded No. 2 in the South region, came up just short, falling to No. 1 Ohio State, 92-76, in the Elite Eight at San Antonio's Alamodome.
"Man, it was a tough loss," said Anderson, a sophomore who scored 10 points, grabbed three rebounds, and had four assists in the loss. "No one wants their season to end, especially like that. It was one of the toughest games of the year, if not the toughest. We just played a better team that day."
Memphis's tournament run featured a 65-64 Sweet 16 win over Texas A&M, the Tigers' 25th consecutive victory. Facing a 1-point deficit, Anderson swiped an offensive rebound and drew a foul with just three seconds remaining in the game. He stepped to the free-throw line and icily banged home both shots, allowing the fifth-ranked Tigers to advance. Anderson only scored 5 points against A&M, but the last 2 were the most important of the game. "We were all so tired," he said. "At that point, we just wanted to win the game. I knew I had to stay confident and calm and if I did that, I'd make them."
The Ohio State game was a different story. Memphis led as late as the 10-minute mark of the second half, until Buckeyes star Greg Oden took the game over from the low block and led his team to the win going away.
"He's a great player," Anderson said of Oden, projected to be the No. 1 pick in June's NBA draft. "He's got a big body, he's very aggressive, and he can play so well on both ends. He's going to be one of the top centers in the game."
Memphis shot 10-for-21 from 3-point range in the game and still lost by 16. "They were really clicking," Anderson said of the Buckeyes. "We shot almost 50 percent from deep and they still won. If all five guys on the other team are making shots, it's going to be tough to win."
It was a quick turnaround for Anderson, who made a brief trip to visit his family in Lynn last week before resuming school and beginning workouts for next season back in Memphis. He said that he, his mates, and coach John Calipari already are looking forward to next year, when the entire nucleus of this year's 33-4 team, as well as a couple of blue-chip recruits, will take another run at the Final Four.
"Training starts pretty quickly, but I'll still get to spend part of my summer at home in Lynn," said Anderson. "Next year is already looking good for us. It was such a great stage to play on this year, I can only hope I get the opportunity to take the next step to the Final Four and be a part of something like that as well."