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Monday, November 26, 2007

Injuries lingering for pair of Tigers

Injuries lingering for pair of Tigers
Dozier, Dorsey banged up but team can't slow down
By Dan Wolken
Monday, November 26, 2007

Chris Douglas-Roberts went for the layup, Jeff Robinson came from behind for the block, and in one scary crash at the Finch Center on Sunday, the University of Memphis' already troublesome injury list seemed certain to get longer.

After colliding with the backstop and landing awkwardly on his ankle, Douglas-Roberts appeared to be in severe pain. But luckily for the No. 3-ranked Tigers, who play Austin Peay on Tuesday at FedExForum, Douglas-Roberts was able to collect himself after two or three minutes and return to practice no worse for wear.

Though it might be overstating to say that Memphis' national title aspirations are hanging in the balance with every hard foul or clumsy collision, the Tigers are certainly not in much position right now to suffer more injuries.

Two starters -- Joey Dorsey (shoulder) and Robert Dozier (foot) -- are already dealing with irritating, if not debilitating, problems that have prevented the Tigers from operating as a complete unit for a month now. But coach John Calipari said he can't afford to dial down practices at this point just for the sake of getting healthy, not with such crucial games coming up in December against Southern California, Arizona and Georgetown.

"There's teams across the country beat up," Calipari said. "This is what happens now, this time of the year. We have a week between games now. The option is, (by backing off), they lose an edge. It's not worth it. You lose."

The problem for Memphis is that Dorsey and Dozier represent two-thirds of their typical low post rotation. Losing one is traumatic enough, since it forces the Tigers to rely on inexperienced players like sophomore transfer Shawn Taggart and the freshman Robinson for quality minutes. But losing both at the same time could be disastrous.

Dorsey, in fact, said he wanted to skip last Tuesday's 84-63 victory over Arkansas State and only played because Dozier was hurt. Dorsey attributed his poor play in that game -- he got just three rebounds in 20 minutes -- to thinking too much about the injury.

"I had got it bumped in practice earlier, and it was killing me during the game," Dorsey said. "I was playing so timid, not to get hit. I wasn't trying to block shots, I wasn't helping my teammates on defense. I wasn't trying to get screened. It was affecting me a lot."

For Dorsey, who feared that his shoulder would be a season-long issue when the injury occurred, learning to play with pain is a new experience. He said he had never suffered an injury at any level of basketball until Oct. 27, when he sprained the A-C joint in his right shoulder during a scrimmage against Saint Louis.

But even with the injury, Dorsey is clearly capable of quality basketball -- he averaged 12 rebounds and four blocks against Oklahoma and Connecticut -- which is why Calipari was so bothered by his effort against Arkansas State.

"When you don't want to go hard, that's a built-in (excuse) all year," Calipari said. "Just go play. He's got to be a consistent player, and when he is, he's as good as there is in the country. Just be consistent, figure it out. He's a good kid who has to figure that part of his game out."

Like Dorsey, Dozier is also trying to work his way through an uncomfortable injury while trying to make sure he's available for the bigger games coming up in a few weeks.

Though team officials have been calling it a left ankle sprain, Dozier said Sunday he's suffering from plantar fasciitis, a potentially chronic condition characterized by inflammation of tissue on the bottom of the foot. With a custom-made orthotic to wear in his shoe and continual treatment, Dozier should be able to return to the lineup soon, perhaps as early as Tuesday.

"It's just nagging," Dozier said. "Sometimes it's there, sometimes it's not."

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