Calipari sees little to like in blowout win over Indians
No. 3 Tigers 84, Arkansas State 63
By Dan Wolken
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
The University of Memphis basketball team is ranked No. 3 in the country and has won all five of its games this season by double-digits. But there won't be any holiday cheer for the Tigers.
After beating Arkansas State, 84-63, at FedExForum on Tuesday, coach John Calipari held a closed-door meeting for roughly 15 minutes and announced that the Tigers would return to practice today after previously giving them permission to take today and Thursday off to visit their families for Thanksgiving.
The news apparently did not sit well in the Memphis locker room, as players scattered quickly and angrily, most of them leaving before reporters had the opportunity to interview them.
One of the players who did speak, sophomore guard Doneal Mack, characterized the tension as a "misunderstanding" but declined to elaborate further.
"It can't really be talked about," Mack said. "It's a misunderstanding right now. That's all I can say about that situation.
"We have to get to the bottom of it. We're just unhappy right now with it being a misunderstanding."
Calipari denied that his decision to cancel Thanksgiving break was related to any off-court issue, saying it was solely a byproduct of the Tigers' performance against Arkansas State.
Memphis, playing without junior forward Robert Dozier (left ankle), allowed Arkansas State to shoot 46.9 percent, did a poor job defensively against Trezevant product Adrian Banks (32 points on 12-of-20 shooting) and generally lacked the air of "desperation" Calipari has talked passionately about in recent days.
"I don't know how you misunderstand what happened out there," Calipari said. "We only had one or two guys that could have gone home anyway.
"We weren't going to practice, but it's obvious where we are right now. We've got some work to do."
Even for all their problems, the Tigers did not have to sweat the finish Tuesday, thanks to the marksmanship of Mack and sophomore Willie Kemp.
Kemp, who played a career-low eight minutes in Friday's victory over Connecticut, carried the Tigers to an early double-digit lead with a torrid run of 3-point shooting.
After falling behind the Indians, 8-6, Kemp came off the bench and sparked a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer and a driving lay-up. Then, he drained three straight 3-pointers in a span of 56 seconds to give the Tigers a commanding 31-15 lead.
Another pair of back-to-back 3-pointers by Kemp in the second half awoke an announced crowd of 16,741 that had been practically lulled to sleep in the interim, extending the Tigers' lead to 64-42 with 8:54 to go.
He finished with a career high 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, continuing his astounding pace at home.
In 22 career games at FedExForum, Kemp has made 47-of-94 from 3-point range -- a cool 50 percent.
"I just make shots in this building," Kemp said. "There's something about this building I like."
Mack just missed his career high, tying it with 19 points by making 4-of-8 from 3-point range.
"Coach was looking for us," Mack said. "Me and Willie, we were the first ones out there shooting today. Willie got up 200 shots, I got up about 100 shots.
"It showed today in the game. Coach was looking for us to do that coming off the bench."
And they needed to, as several of the Tigers' usual contributors did not play with much enthusiasm or discipline.
After monster performances against Connecticut and Oklahoma last week, senior forward Joey Dorsey had just three rebounds in 20 minutes.
Junior guard Antonio Anderson continued his slump, going 1-for-6 from the field but making a 3-pointer right before halftime to give the Tigers a 43-25 lead.
And freshman guard Derrick Rose was a non-factor, going 2-for-7 from the field in his worst performance of the season so far. Senior Andre Allen came in at point guard to spark the Tigers' game-winning run, contributing nine assists in 21 minutes.
Though Memphis maintained a lead in the 20-point range the entire second half, Calipari was clearly irritated with the Tigers' play.
Usually animated on the bench, Calipari just sat back, oddly silent, his anger building as the game wore on.
"We've got a group that ... we've got a lot of work we have to do," Calipari said. "I thought we cracked that, where we would play desperate, and obviously we haven't."
Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.