By Scott Cacciola
Originally published 11:47 p.m., December 29, 2007
Updated 11:47 p.m., December 29, 2007
AS The Game Turned
At the time, it seemed innocent enough: Senior guard Andre Allen banked in a free throw for Memphis with 12 minutes, 22 seconds remaining in the first half. But that one shot — that one very ugly shot — sparked a 23-4 run for the Tigers, a stretch that featured some of the team’s finest defense of the season, which is saying a lot. Arizona went more than 12 minutes without a field goal and shot 8-of-29 from the floor as Memphis went ahead, 34-24, by halftime.
Arizona struggled to contend with Memphis’ harassing pressure without starting point guard Jerryd Bayless, who missed the game after spraining his right knee during practice Friday. The Wildcats lacked any semblance of rhythm, and they often hoisted desperation jumpers with the shot clock winding down — that is, when they were even able to get a shot off. Two of their eight first-half turnovers were the result of shot-clock violations.
AS THE ROTATION TURNED
During Memphis’ slow start, coach John Calipari sought solutions. Before the game was three minutes old, Calipari expressed his displeasure with junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts and junior forward Robert Dozier by opting for sophomore forward Shawn Taggart and sophomore guard Willie Kemp off the bench. Dozier got an earful from Calipari after he misfired on a hook shot from outside the paint: “You’re one foot away from the basket, and you just throw it!” Calipari yelped.
Taggart was a source of instant energy and played well throughout, finishing with 15 points on 7-of-11 shooting and seven rebounds.
As his team got rolling, Calipari felt comfortable enough to send an unorthodox lineup onto the floor late in the first half: Dozier, Kemp, Allen, junior guard Antonio Anderson and sophomore forward Pierre Niles. Though the quintet lacked a whole lot of offensive pyrotechnics, they did force Arizona into a pair of quick turnovers.
Late in the first half, freshman guard Derrick Rose rebounded an errant 3-pointer and raced the ball ahead for a 2-on-1 fast break. Douglas-Roberts, who streaked upcourt along the left side, took Rose’s chest pass and flushed the ball with two hands for a 31-18 lead. The basket forced Arizona coach Kevin O’Neill to call for a timeout — and pushed Douglas-Roberts over the 1,000-point plateau for his career. Douglas-Roberts became the 43rd player in the program’s history to reach the milestone.
“I didn’t even know,” Douglas-Roberts said. “I mean, it’s an honor, but I didn’t even know. I don’t pay attention to those types of things.”
A close second: Joey Dorsey corralled Rose’s lob and dunked with 5:55 remaining in the game. It was a big hoop because Arizona had sliced Memphis’ lead to 55-48.
HIDE YOUR EYES
Though they tightened the vice on defense, the Tigers stumbled on offense at the start of their mammoth first-half stretch, particularly from the free-throw line. During their 9-2 spurt that started the run, the Tigers missed five free throws — three by Douglas-Roberts and two by Rose. Memphis did manage to close the half by making six straight from the stripe, which was reminiscent of the team’s solid 22-of-29 effort against Georgetown last Saturday. Overall, Memphis went 14-of-22 from the line against Arizona.
Dozier and Taggart provided a dynamic one-two punch at power forward, combining for 33 points and 12 rebounds. Their production helped to compensate for a quiet game from Rose, who finished with 12 points, five assists and six turnovers.
“I’m sore, man,” said Douglas-Roberts, who was fouled hard on a drive late in the game and crumpled to the court, where he stayed for several moments. He made both free throws, then headed to the bench.
ODDS and ENDS
Memphis radio analyst Matt Dillon, who was dealing with laryngitis before the game even started, completely lost his voice during the first half and had to hand the reins to engineer Jeff Brightwell. It was the first time in 35 years that Dillon was unable to finish a broadcast, but he kept busy by scrawling notes for his broadcast partners.
After shooting just 27.6 percent in the first half, Arizona shot 68 percent in the second half. The only problem? Memphis shot 56.7 percent in the second half.
Memphis extended its home winning streak to 38 games, the second-longest in the country.
Tigers vs. Siena, Thursday, 8 p.m., FedExForum
— Scott Cacciola