Tigers Improve to 8-0
By TERESA M. WALKER, AP
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Joey Dorsey, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart scored 11 points apiece, and the second-ranked Memphis Tigers shook off the rust from an 11-day break by beating Middle Tennessee 65-41 Saturday night in the opening game of the Sun Belt Classic doubleheader.
With the victory, the Tigers improved to 8-0 and matched their best start since the 1995-96 season and their fourth such start since World War II.
Memphis had not played since holding off Southern California 62-58 in overtime on Dec. 4 in New York. The Tigers needed someone to play before visiting Cincinnati and hosting No. 5 Georgetown on Dec. 22 back in Memphis.
Middle Tennessee (3-6) offered the perfect opponent and allowed the Tigers to fulfill the third and final game of their contract without having to visit Murfreesboro, approximately 30 miles southeast of Nashville.
The Tigers outshot (49 percent to 26) and outrebounded (38-30) Middle Tennessee in a game they never trailed and was tied only once at 16. Dorsey also had a team-high 12 rebounds.
Theryn Hudson, Demetrius Green and Dino Hair each scored eight points for the Blue Raiders.
Fellow Sun Belt member Western Kentucky was to play No. 12 Tennessee in the other game Saturday night. More than 18,000 tickets were sold at the Sommet Center, an arena record for a regular season college basketball game in the home of the NHL's Nashville Predators, easily topping the previous mark of 8,118.
This counted as a home game for Middle Tennessee, so the Blue Raiders set an attendance record that topped their 11,807 against Western Kentucky on Dec. 18, 2006.
That's about all the Blue Raiders got out of playing their highest-ranked opponent since a loss to then-No. 2 Kansas on Nov. 27, 2000.
Chris Douglas-Roberts opened the game with a 3-pointer from the right corner to put the Tigers ahead to stay. That was the only 3 they would hit until Andre Allen closed out the first half, as Memphis struggled early and was 2-of-10 from beyond the arc.
The Tigers looked very rusty in the first half, including one sequence in which Douglas-Roberts missed a short jumper off the front rim, then Dorsey turned the ball over by walking.
Middle Tennessee, with vocal fan support, managed to stay close and even tied the game at 9:33 on a shot by Kanaskie, son of Penn State associate head coach Kurt Kanaskie.
Dorsey answered with a three-point play, and the Tigers finally warmed up and started putting some distance between themselves and Middle Tennessee. Darren Avery scored with 4:11 left and pulled the Blue Raiders within 26-22.
Memphis scored the final nine points for a 35-22 halftime edge that was its biggest lead until the second half.
The Tigers pushed it to as much as 29 on an Antonio Anderson layup. But it never got as bad as Nov. 20, when Middle Tennessee trailed by as much as 71 in losing 109-40 at Tennessee. The neutral court advantage helped a bit — Memphis won 86-46 last season on its home court.