Memphis Squanders Early Lead Before Beating Connecticut
By BILL FINLEY
Published: November 17, 2007
The best thing that could be said about Connecticut last night was that the Huskies were resilient. It was just that they needed to be something more.
Taking the lead at halftime after an early 15-point deficit, UConn eventually was worn down by a talented Memphis team in the championship game of the 2K Sports Hoops Classic at Madison Square Garden. The end result was a 81-70 victory for the third-ranked Tigers.
The game was only the third meeting between the coaches Jim Calhoun and John Calipari and the first since 1990, when Calipari was at Massachusetts. Calhoun’s teams won the first two meetings.
For Memphis (4-0), much of the preseason hype went to the freshman Derrick Rose, but it was Chris Douglas-Roberts, a 6-foot-7 junior guard, who led the Tigers last night. Douglas-Roberts led Memphis in scoring last season, and he seems to be playing at an even higher level this season. He tied a career high with 28 points in Memphis’s season opener against Tennessee-Martin and topped that last night with 33 points. Douglas-Roberts was named most valuable player of the tournament.
On Thursday, Douglas-Roberts had only 12 points in Memphis’s victory against Oklahoma. Afterward, Calipari made a point to let Douglas-Roberts know that he was not happy with his performance.
“He was so lackadaisical yesterday,” Calipari said. “He got the point.”
Rose, a point guard, had 24 points but no assists. The entire Memphis team had only five assists.
Connecticut (3-1) got most of its production from the backcourt tandem of A. J. Price and Jerome Dyson. Price had 23 points and Dyson had 17.
Early on, it appeared that the game was going to be no contest. Memphis opened leads of 10-0 and 18-3 before Connecticut got untracked. The Huskies kept chipping away at the Memphis lead and eventually went ahead, 41-40, right before halftime.
“We knew Connecticut is a good team and they were going to make a run,” Douglas-Roberts said. “If we get nervous any time a team like that makes a run, we’re in trouble.”
Memphis regrouped and took control of the game in the final seven minutes behind Douglas-Roberts and Rose.
Calipari said he saw this game as one that would have benefits for Memphis down the road.
“What happens is this is Nov. 16 and you’re going up against a team that is always well-coached, that has terrific players that will fight you,” he said. “They’ve been through the wars and will come at you and make three or four runs. We beat it down and still won the game.”
He added: “We don’t want to play Popcorn State. That does nothing for us.”
For Calhoun, the comeback made the night bearable.
“We were in serious trouble,” he said. “Then we scored 36 points over the next 14 minutes and answered with a lot of character.”
In last night’s consolation game, Oklahoma defeated Gardner-Webb, 69-55. Gardner-Webb had made the semifinals by upsetting Kentucky. Blake Griffin led Oklahoma with 17 points. Grayson Flittner led Gardner-Webb with 18 points. The Runnin’ Bulldogs will be at home tonight against Radford, their third game in three nights.