Good Effort, But UConn Loses To No. 3 Memphis
By MIKE ANTHONY | The Hartford Courant
11:43 PM EST, November 16, 2007
NEW YORK - It's unfortunate for UConn that the game ended like it did, with a handful of missed free throws, offensive breakdowns and key rebounds being snared by bigger, faster Memphis players.
Those types of breakdowns have become the norm for the Huskies.
This type of effort has not.
Flat near the start and flat at the end, UConn lost to No. 3 Memphis 81-70 in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic championship game at Madison Square Garden. It was a reminder that the Huskies aren't quite ready to take down America's finest, but UConn appears to have gained something and found something from this trip to New York.
The Huskies, the better team for long stretches, neither withered or worried after looking outclassed early. The game was there for the taking well into the second half. But Memphis broke a 60-all tie with a 14-3 run and did all the little things UConn could not down the stretch. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts made the difference as UConn came up empty with this potential statement game in the balance.
Douglas-Roberts led Memphis (4-0) with a career-high 33 points and the freshman Rose had 24. A.J. Price led UConn (3-1) with 23.
UConn erased an early 15-point deficit to lead 41-40 at halftime, and this game took on a tournament feel in the second. A "Let's Go Huskies" chant rang through the Garden during timeouts, and UConn played with backbone and vision.
The Huskies shook off another slow start in the second as an 11-2 Memphis run made it 51-46, scoring consecutive baskets to reel in Memphis. A Rose free throw put the Tigers up three, but Jerome Dyson (17 points) went the length of the court and threw down a one-handed windmill dunk over Joey Dorsey.
Soon, it was 60-60. UConn was finding answers and the Garden, while only about half full, shook.
It wasn't so lively at the start.
The pro-UConn crowd had reason for concern almost immediately. The Huskies started 0-for-4 from the field and trailed 10-0 after consecutive three-pointers by Douglas-Roberts. Price finally got UConn on the board 2:30 in, making a shot from the lane as he was fouled, but Memphis showed early that the physical demands it places on opponents are enormous.
Soon enough, it was as if the Tigers were showing off.
Rose and Antonio Anderson scored on drives, making it 14-3. Next, Joey Dorsey caught a lob from Willie Kemp with one hand and stuffed it through the hoop, a dunk that spoke to both the Tigers' finesse and power.
For UConn, missed free throws, missed shots and turnovers piled up. Calhoun, seemingly perplexed, wandered onto the court during play. And Memphis kept running, kept finding new ways to score.
The Huskies did not wilt. They showed a toughness and resiliency that seemed to be lacking all of last season.
Eventually, UConn settled in and, as usual, it was pulled along by Price, who scored the team's first five points and had 16 in the half. Stanley Robinson gave UConn another option, making a three-pointer to cut the Tigers' lead to 10 and soon another long jumper.
But Memphis was nearly impossible to stop at the other end, the lead staying in double digits even as UConn found a level of comfort. Eventually, the Huskies managed to get within seven, most of the baskets coming from Price, who was as assertive as he was flashy. None of Price's shots were easy but he went at the teeth of the Memphis defense for a high bank shot and another acrobatic layup that made it 31-20. Moments later he fed Hasheem Thabeet for an easy basket, and Jeff Adrien followed with a free throw to cut the lead to nine.
Shawn Taggart scored over Thabeet but Robinson made a layup in traffic and Price added two free throws, the crowd getting lively toward the end of the half as UConn got within seven. Soon, there were whistles (from the referees) and boos (from Memphis fans).
Coach John Calipari was issued a technical foul while arguing an offensive interference call with 3:04 left in the half. Price made a free throw and Thabeet a pair to make it 36-32. Memphis was up by six when it was bit by the whistle again. This time, Taggart was issued a technical after a foul on Thabeet.
Memphis would not score again in the half, and UConn took its first lead with 12.9 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Adrien.
Contact Mike Anthony at manthonycourant.com.