Douglas-Roberts leads way as Tigers defeat Huskies
No. 3 Tigers 81, Connecticut 70
By Dan Wolken
Saturday, November 17, 2007
NEW YORK -- With 44.5 seconds left on the scoreboard at Madison Square Garden, the severely outnumbered throng of University of Memphis fans overwhelmed their silenced counterparts with chants of "C-D-R, C-D-R!"
From a distance, it almost sounded like "C-D-Star."
Four games into the most anticipated Memphis basketball season in decades, the No. 3-ranked Tigers are still not the complete, dynamic team they promise to be in March.
But none of that mattered Friday as Douglas-Roberts penned the signature game of his career, scoring 33 points as the Tigers defeated Connecticut, 81-70, to win the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic title.
In a game filled with wild swings of emotion and momentum, Douglas-Roberts transcended everything, making 14-of-24 field goals, grabbing seven rebounds and leading a group that showed its maturity and experience when it was all on the verge of slipping away.
"We're just seasoned," said Douglas-Roberts, who earned the tournament Most Valuable Player trophy. "We're a more experienced team. We knew we couldn't lose this game and have any excuses."
After dominating early, then getting themselves into severe foul trouble, the Tigers would have, in years past, gone home from a game like this cursing their luck, blaming the officials and grumbling about a significant win they let from their grasp.
That's what happened nearly one year ago exactly, when Memphis (4-0) used a similar recipe to blow a 16-point lead to Georgia Tech in Maui.
But this time, the Tigers held things together in the second half, then broke a 60-60 tie with a 14-3 run over a crucial 4:24 span that held up over the final, stress-free minutes.
"I think guys had that maturity," junior forward Robert Dozier said. "You knew they were going to make a run. We had to weather it and bounce back. So when they made that run, we came right back and punched them in the mouth."
Though Douglas-Roberts scored seven points in the decisive rally, it was a run that featured some of the team's best attributes.
Senior forward Joey Dorsey, after picking up two fouls in the first 10 minutes, grabbed two crucial offensive rebounds and took control of the defensive glass, finishing with a game-high 12 rebounds.
Dozier, after a scoreless performance the night before, came back from major foul difficulties -- he picked up his fourth on the first possession of the second half -- to become a factor at the end. He put back an offensive board for a 69-63 lead with 6:11 to go, then grabbed another about one minute later, which led to a Douglas-Roberts' 3-point play that gave Memphis the 11-point lead.
And freshman point guard Derrick Rose played aggressively but under control, scoring on consecutive possessions with a difficult lay-up that he had to cradle at his hip, then draining a 16-foot jumper with 7:14 to go that pushed it to 67-62. Rose finished with 24 points on 8-of-17 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.
"I'm so happy for Robert Dozier, who hasn't been playing very well and played so well today," coach John Calipari said. "I know Chris Douglas got the MVP, but Joey Dorsey deserved it. He anchored the defense, and the defense won our games. Connecticut is a fine team and they're going to win a lot of games. We're a little more veteran."
Memphis needed all the veteran composure it could muster after a strange first half. The Tigers dominated from the opening tip, taking a 20-5 lead and slicing up UConn's man-to-man defense with their crisp dribble drives.
Memphis made 13 of its first 18 shots from the field while UConn started 1-for-11. Douglas-Roberts had 14 points before the Huskies could blink, and it seemed like the kind of night in which Memphis would finally show the nation that its preseason billing was legitimate.
Then, the Tigers' lead evaporated. Dorsey was called for his second foul 10:20 into the game, sparking a wildfire of whistles against Memphis -- 16 by the end of the half against only five for UConn.
By the time the Tigers got into the locker room, Dozier had picked up three fouls. Their third big man, Shawn Taggart, also had three, including a technical. And Calipari was lit up for a technical for arguing all of it.
The Tigers finished the first half missing 19 of their final 24 shots and UConn crawled back in front 41-40 by making 18-of-23 from the free-throw line (Memphis went 1-for-3).
But Memphis stayed calm, taking the lead back for good with 18:11 left.
"The kids at halftime, they knew that we were OK," Calipari said. "They never panicked, and they played to win."
Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.