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Friday, December 28, 2007

Tigers' Dozier shines in spotlight

Tigers' Dozier shines in spotlight
Consistency sometimes eludes talented junior
By Dan Wolken
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Robert Dozier does not have an evil twin, but as perhaps the most candid self-evaluator on the University of Memphis roster, he wouldn't begrudge those suspicions.

Even Dozier, a 6-9 junior, acknowledges that the range between his good days and bad can be so vast, there sometimes seems to be an impostor wearing his No. 2 jersey.

"I can go out and have a big game and not score any points the next game," Dozier said. "I've got to cut that out and be more of a man."

It's a mysterious routine. Against opponents Dozier should dominate simply with his athleticism and 7-3 wingspan, he often lacks aggression, gets pushed around in the post and can't find a way to impact the game. But when the No. 2-ranked Tigers play the very best teams in the country, Dozier transforms into a hulking presence who blocks shots, rips away rebounds in traffic and busts open zone defenses with his work in the middle of the lane.

The Tigers saw it last year in the NCAA Tournament, when Dozier outplayed more heralded forwards. And they saw it again last weekend, when Dozier had 19 points and six rebounds in an 85-71 win over Georgetown. Now, they'll hope to see it Saturday, when the Tigers host No. 17 Arizona.

"Rob really gets up for these teams; he likes the challenge just like all of us," junior forward Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "We came into the game knowing this was a big team, and they were athletic just like us. He took that challenge. Rob always has been a top-tier player."

Indeed, it would not be hard to craft an argument that Dozier has been the key figure in Memphis' biggest victories since the beginning of last season.

When the Tigers beat Kentucky last Nov. 22 in the EA Sports Maui Invitational, Dozier led the team in points (15) and rebounds (seven). When Memphis won at Gonzaga, Dozier filled up the box score with 14 points, five rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots.

Dozier played arguably the best basketball of his career in the NCAA Tournament. Though had had nine points and eight rebounds in a second-round win over Nevada, his defensive presence harassed All-American Nick Fazekas into a 7-for-18 shooting performance.

After Dozier went to the bench with two fouls early in the Sweet 16 game against Texas A&M, the Aggies big men had their way with Memphis and built a 42-37 halftime lead. When Dozier came back in the second half, he immediately blocked Antanas Kavaliauskas twice. Kavaliauskas, who scored 13 first-half points, was never a factor after that.

"The reason we're in the Elite Eight is the way Robert Dozier is playing," Calipari said at the time. "Obviously, the other guys are doing their thing, but we have no one else like Robert Dozier."

That was evident again Saturday, as Dozier set up camp in the middle of Georgetown's zone and made 6-of-12 field goals, 6-of-6 free throws and stood up to the Hoyas' physical pressure, which was considerable.

"When you're a basketball player, you're growing up, you want to be on national television playing the big games," junior guard Antonio Anderson said. "Rob wanted that, and their big guys got all the hype. Everyone was talking about Joey (Dorsey), and they didn't respect Rob, so Rob wanted to make a name for himself."

Though it's nice to know Dozier can be a huge presence in important games, last season he often appeared passive against less-talented teams, leaving fans and NBA scouts wondering which player they were watching.

Dozier has been more consistent as a junior, averaging 9.8 points and 6.9 rebounds, but he's still working toward the day when he can bring a Georgetown kind of effort against Popcorn State, as Calipari would say.

"I just have to put forth that extra effort and make sure I'm more consistent in what I do," Dozier said. "It goes to show what we really can be if guys are more consistent."

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