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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

ESPN's Andy Katz - Rose struggles, but Dorsey and CDR come through as Memphis wins


Rose struggles, but Dorsey and CDR come through as Memphis wins
By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
Updated: November 17, 2007

Memphis Beats UConn With Strong 2nd HalfNEW YORK -- Derrick Rose's free pass is over.

Joey Dorsey has a better and more mature understanding of his importance to the Tigers.

And, Chris Douglas-Roberts reminded everyone how much his play means to Memphis' title chances.

If you wanted to get some answers about Memphis' long-range chances this season, Madison Square Garden was the perfect lab to dissect the Tigers this week.

Memphis won the 2K College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer with an 81-70 victory over Connecticut on Friday night. That came on the heels of a grinding 63-53 win over Oklahoma the previous night.

"We needed to be physically manhandled and we were," Memphis coach John Calipari said of the Sooners.

"We needed to go against a zone the whole time," Calipari said of the Sooners' choice of defenses.

"We also needed to go against guards that break us down and we did that," Calipari said of Connecticut's Jerome Dyson and A.J. Price, who combined to score 40 points and made 19 trips to the free-throw line.

After all that, what have we learned about Memphis?

First of all, Rose -- easily the most heralded freshman signed by Calipari since Marcus Camby at UMass -- is not perfect. Against UConn, he had his first erratic game. Granted, it was only the season's fourth game, but Calipari didn't hesitate to sit him down.

"I got into him, woo, I got into him," Calipari said. "He was throwing balls away, circus shots. I told him, 'You shoot another circus shot, and you're coming out. Shoot layups, easy shots. You shoot that other stuff, you're out of the game. You understand me?' He was throwing the ball. We're not a team trying to win 15 to 20 games. Either he understands or listens or he has to be taught. But he was good, and that was good for the team."

Rose finished with a career-high 24 points (8 of 17 shooting from the field), but he also had five turnovers and no assists. He did seem to have the answer every time the Huskies made a run in the second half.

So what did Rose learn about himself this week?

"Patience," he said. "I matured more in this game. I'm learning more about my teammates."

He's not the only Memphis player to mature during the week.

Senior forward Joey Dorsey missed the first two games of the season with a sprained right shoulder. He matched Oklahoma's bruising freshman forward Blake Griffin with 12 boards and five blocks Thursday. On Friday, he had to go against Connecticut's 7-foot-3 center, Hasheem Thabeet and got into early foul trouble, playing only nine minutes in the first half. That's exactly when the Tigers blew a 20-5 lead and went into the half trailing 41-40.

Early in the second half, Connecticut's Dyson came in for a thunderous dunk over Dorsey. The old Dorsey, the one who may have thought more about the highlight than the sake of his team, would have probably tried to knock Dyson to the floor.

"I had to think not about myself but about the team to get the win," said Dorsey, who was keenly aware of his foul trouble. "I'm maturing a lot."

Of course, Dorsey couldn't let Dyson think he was getting away with anything, though. Later in the game, Dorsey aggressively swatted away a Dyson dunk with his left hand.

"After he dunked the first time, I told him 'You better not come in here and dunk it because I'm going to block it,'" Dorsey said.

Dorsey finished with 12 boards and three blocks and had only three fouls.

"Joey can never play a bad game, or we won't be successful," Douglas-Roberts said.

"Joey was the difference in both of these games," said Memphis assistant John Robic.

Meanwhile, Douglas-Roberts reminded us all that Memphis isn't just about a blooming Rose this season. Even though Calipari calls Douglas-Roberts' game an "old-man game," according to Rose, CDR (as he is called by his teammates and coaches) scored a career-high 33 points in 33 minutes and earned tournament MVP honors for his effort.

So after all that, Memphis leaves New York knowing it can play against a zone (OU), be physical enough to grind out a win, deal with man-to-man, break down guards and learn to deal with adversity.

Sure it's early, but the Tigers have beaten two teams that look like they will be in the chase for NCAA Tournament bids. It was just the start of Memphis' challenging nonconference slate. The Tigers will play USC back in New York in the Jimmy V Classic and have home games against Georgetown, Arizona, Gonzaga and Tennessee in the next three months.

A week ago, Rose was the headline and rightfully so. But things have settled down. Reality has settled in. Memphis has issues like everyone else. The Tigers need Dorsey. They must have Douglas-Roberts. They certainly could use more from Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart to aid Dorsey. The coaches feel Antonio Anderson needs to be a lock-down defender and better decision-maker. Andre Allen needs to be a continued spark off the bench behind Rose at the point. Jeff Robinson has to continue to provide backup play to CDR. Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp must keep shooting well from the perimeter.

"We're good," Dorsey said in response to what the Tigers learned about themselves here in the city. "Everybody thinks we're frauds. We're a veteran team."

It's not clear who Dorsey believes is accusing the Tigers of being fraudulent, but if he feels victimized, then so be it. His realization of his importance to the team (and his staying on the court) is all that matters. So, too, is the understanding by Rose that he can't play street ball, and the acknowledgment of the entire team that Douglas-Roberts is apparently as reliable as an old-man's game.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

1 comment:

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