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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Wrapping up APSU


Wrapping up APSU
Posted by Dan Wolken

I often get asked how I come up with certain angles to write about after each game. I abide by a very simple philosophy. If I were a fan sitting in the stands watching the game and going to a nearby bar on Beale Street afterwards, what’s the first thing I’d tell somebody who didn’t see the game about what I just saw?

Last night, the thing that stood out to me above all else was the Tigers’ defense. Sure, Memphis has made tons of strides offensively in the past couple weeks. But I just don’t get the sense yet that the players have made a commitment yet to being a lockdown defensive team. When I went in the locker room to interview players and coach John Calipari, the party line seemed to be that the Tigers played good defense and Austin Peay simply made shots.

Sure, statistics can sometimes be misleading. Opponents might have nights where everything seems to go in. But still, 53.6 percent is 53.6 percent, and that’s what Austin Peay shot from the field last night. (FYI, they were shooting 57 percent with 12 minutes to go.) And that comes on the heels of Arkansas State shooting 46.9 percent against the Tigers.

So for comparison’s sake, I went back and looked at last year’s games against the “buy” teams on Memphis’ schedule:

Jackson State: 20-for-61 (32.8%)
Arkansas State: 23-for-53 (43.4%)
Manhattan: 18-for-53 (34.0%)
Austin Peay: 19-for-54 (35.2%)
Middle Tennessee: 18-for-55 (32.7%)
Lamar: 20-for-64 (31.3%)

I think it’s pretty black and white, but feel free to draw your own conclusions.

C-USA Update - Still Not Pretty


Ok, so everybody thinks I am picking on C-USA this year. After all the conference is supposed to be getting better. Well, last year it was in fact better than the previous year, but it seems to have relapsed.

Wednesday Night

Wright State 77, Marshall 70
UTEP 84, Nex Mexico State 76 (Bucking the trend, big game vs UNLV next)
Winthrop 72, East Carolina 57 (@ ECU)

(Note: You can tell the RPI is worthless this time of year when Wright State in #2 in the RPI after wins over Coastal Carolina and Marshall - Go figure!)

Tuesday

Arkansas Little Rock 59, Rice 52 (@ Rice)
Oral Roberts 84, Tulsa 70

Sunday

Central Florida 70, Penn State 59 (Pretty good win)

Saturday

New Orleans 74, Tulane 67 (@ Tulane BTW)
Dayton 82, SMU 57

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hot-shooting helps Memphis rout Austin Peay


MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- Memphis started the game red-hot from the field and never cooled off against Austin Peay.

Chris Douglas-Roberts led six players in double figures with 23 points as the third-ranked Tigers cruised to an easy 104-82 victory on their home floor over the Governors on Tuesday.

"I was very, very pleased with our effort," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "Basically, I made myself coach in that game like it was an NCAA Tournament game, because I have to get these guys to understand 40 minutes."

Memphis (6-0) made its first eight shots from the field and shot 68 percent (21-of-31) en route to a 53-36 lead at the half.

The Tigers connected on 10-of-15 shots after intermission as they took their biggest lead at 76-53 with 11:53 remaining, and Memphis led by at least 16 points for the rest of the game.

The win also helped Memphis extend the nation's longest active home winning streak to 36 games and gave Calipari a victory in his 250th contest on the Tigers' sideline.

"When you lose by 22, it's difficult to find things to build on, but actually I thought that we battled (Memphis) pretty good," Austin Peay coach Dave Loos said. "They are really good. Actually they're scary good and well coached."

Douglas-Roberts - the preseason Conference USA Player of the Year - finished 11-of-15 from the field as the Tigers shot 64 percent (43-of-67) for the game.

Freshman Derrick Rose, who scored just four points in his last game, added 19 points and a season-high 12 assists and Shawn Taggart scored a career-high 17.

Despite the comfortable lead, Calipari did let his team rest, continuing to pressure the Governors throughout the game.

"Now they turned it over a little bit because they got tired, and that's why I kept pressing," Calipari said. "One, I wanted our conditioning to show, and two, I wanted to see what would happen if we wore them down a little bit."

With the game tied at 6-6, the Tigers used a 12-3 run capped by back-to-back 3-pointers by Willie Kemp to take an 18-9 lead with 14:02 to play in the first half.

Douglas-Roberts' layup with just under seven minutes left in the first half gave Memphis a 33-22 lead, and Austin Peay never trailed by single digits for the rest of the game.

Drake Reed scored 21 points to lead the Governors (2-3), who committed 21 turnovers to negate shooting 54 percent (30-of-56) from the field overall.

"We played well offensively," Loos said. "This was our best offensive game and thank goodness that there is nobody like Memphis in the Ohio Valley Conference. I don't think that we'll see anybody in our conference doing the same things that they do."

#3 Memphis 104, Austin Peay 82

No. 3 Memphis Beats Austin Peay

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Freshman Derrick Rose had 19 points and 12 assists, and No. 3 Memphis shot 64 percent from the floor Tuesday night in a 104-82 victory over Austin Peay.

Rose was coming off his worst game of the season, a four-point performance against Arkansas State a week before. This time, he shot 6-of-8 as Memphis (6-0) built the lead to 23 early in the second half.

Chris Douglas-Roberts led Memphis with 23 points on 11-of-15 shooting, and Shawn Taggart added a career-high 17 points. Joey Dorsey was one of three Tigers with 10 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds.

Drake Reed led the Governors (2-4) with 21 points, missing only one of his nine shots. Todd Babington finished with 18 points on 5-of-8 from the field, all from 3-point range. Wes Channels had 16 for Austin Peay and Kyle Duncan finished with 10 points, hitting all four of his shots from the field.

Memphis has won all its games by double digits. The Governors, who have lost two straight, never got the deficit under 16 in the final 17 minutes.

The Governors shot 54 percent for the game and 56 percent outside the arc. But they were stymied by 21 turnovers that led to 31 Memphis points. Reed committed eight of those miscues.

The Tigers also controlled the middle, outscoring Austin Peay 64-32 in the paint.

Austin Peay shot 50 percent in the first half and trailed 53-36 because Memphis connected on 21 of 31 attempts (68 percent).

Douglas-Roberts had 11 points in the first half. Reed scored 12.

Memphis opened the game by connecting on its first eight shots from the field to build a nine-point lead. Willie Kemp had two quick 3-pointers when he entered near the 15-minute mark.

The 17-point lead at the break was the Tigers' largest of the half. Austin Peay hit only two 3-pointers in the first half.

Memphis extended the cushion to 23 several times early in the second half.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

C-USA RPI and Pomeroy Rankings


Through Monday, November 27th

Amazingly, C-USA has four teams in the RPI top 100 (don't expect that to last for long). The bottom is killing the conference - ECU @ #337 and SMU @ #339 (note that there are only 341 teams in Division I).

Things look a bit better in Pomeroy - five teams in the top 100 with UCF and Tulane next out. Can you just kick out Tulsa, ECU, Rice and SMU? They are killing the conference.

RPI

21 - Memphis
40 - Marshall
62 - Tulane
67 - UTEP
130 - Houston
144 - UAB
159 - UCF
191 - Southern Miss
219 - Rice
310 - Tulsa
337 - ECU
339 - SMU

Pomeroy

34 - Memphis
50 - Marshall
51 - UTEP
92 - Houston
93 - UAB
120 - UCF
141 - Tulane
193 - Southern Miss
236 - Tulsa
261 - ECU
282 - Rice
333 - SMU

Calipari coaches 250th career game for Memphis


Calipari coaches 250th career game for Memphis
November 27, 2007

Austin Peay (2-3) at No. 3 Memphis (5-0) 8:00 pm EST

MEMPHIS, Tennessee (Ticker) -- It will not take a leap of faith to believe that John Calipari's 250th career game at Memphis will not go much like the previous.

Calipari will become the third man in school history to coach in at least 250 games when third-ranked Memphis faces Austin Peay on Tuesday.

In his eighth season with the Tigers, Calipari has compiled an 186-63 record. Over the past two seasons, Calipari has notched 66 wins and guided Memphis to a pair of trips to the regional finals of the NCAA Tournament.

The Tigers (5-0) appeared primed for a third straight 33-win campaign after returning all five starters and added dynamic freshman Derrick Rose to the mix.

Rose, who had at least 17 points in his first four games, experienced some growing pains in his fifth, managing just four points due to some sloppy play in an 84-63 victory over Arkansas State on November 20.

Rose, however, was picked up by sophomore reserve Willie Kemp, who knocked down six 3-pointers en route to a career-high 22 points.

Memphis has won its last 35 games at home, the longest active winning streak in the nation. It owns a 14-4 all-time record against Austin Peay, including an 88-63 home victory last season.

The Governors (2-3) are coming off 61-47 loss against Valparaiso at the South Padre Invitational on Saturday.

Fernandez Lockett scored 14 points and grabbed 12 rebounds for Austin Peay. The 6-5 forward leads the team in both scoring (14.4 ppg) and rebounding (7.0 rpg).

Austin Peay at Memphis (Tuesday, 8:00 PM)


Austin Peay at Memphis (Tuesday, 8:00 PM): Don't write this one off just yet. Sure, Memphis is far more talented, but Austin Peay is the favorite in the Ohio Valley and has a chance to be a deep sleeper in March. Expect Memphis to be more focused after John Calipari "cancelled" Thanksgiving.

Tigers Want Speedier Jeff Robinson


Tigers want speedier Robinson
Swingman could earn bigger role
By Dan Wolken
Tuesday, November 27, 2007

For six weeks, John Calipari has seen the brute strength, the leaping ability and the elite speed of Jeff Robinson and tried to convince himself why the freshman deserves to play more minutes for the University of Memphis.

The first few times Calipari put Robinson on the floor, however, he almost had to watch with one eye closed. Not only was Robinson failing to use his natural attributes, he was, as Calipari quipped, "leading the country in banked missed threes."

But in the wake of a weeklong conversation at Memphis about defining roles, Robinson has put together a series of breakout practices. Now, Calipari hopes Robinson can take the next step: A breakout game, preferably tonight, when the No. 3-ranked Tigers host Austin Peay.

"I just have to come in with the same mindset I came in for practice the last couple practices," Robinson said. "Just come in and try to play hard, get loose balls, rebounds and do what coach asks me to do."

Though Memphis (5-0) hasn't necessarily needed Robinson to make a big contribution yet, that's probably about to change. Junior forward Robert Dozier hasn't been able to practice for more than a week due to a left foot problem, and he'll probably miss his second straight game tonight at FedExForum.

Without Dozier, last year's edition of the Tigers would have been thin in the post and vulnerable to teams that rebound aggressively. But by adding Robinson, a chiseled 6-5 swingman, the Memphis coaching staff believed it finally had a player to plug in for Dozier without losing anything defensively at the power forward position or on the glass.

Things didn't work out that way early, however. After playing 10 ineffective minutes in a blowout win over Tennessee-Martin to open the season, Robinson never got off the bench the next night in a closer game against Richmond.

Then, when the Tigers went to New York for the 2k Sports College Hoops Classic, Robinson registered another DNP against Oklahoma. That was perhaps the most difficult one to swallow because it was supposed to be a homecoming for Robinson, a top-50 recruit coming out of Trenton, N.J.

"It's very frustrating when you come from a good high school and you're the star and you've got to make the transition to being a role player when you come to college," Robinson said. "You have guys that are already the stars that have been here, so you've got to sit back and wait your turn."

Robinson's turn finally came against Connecticut for the 2k Sports championship, as Memphis ran into foul trouble early. Though his statistics weren't noteworthy -- he finished with one point and three rebounds in five minutes -- Calipari noticed his hustle. That effort spilled over into last Tuesday's victory over Arkansas State, in which Robinson played 13 minutes and scored five points.

Now, coming off his two best practices of the season, Robinson might finally be ready to assume the role Calipari envisioned for him all along.

"Just run so hard, people can't believe it," Calipari said. "Dive for balls, go come up with rebounds. Do all of that stuff, and you're going to get minutes. Then he'll have a role: 'Uh oh, here comes Robinson. Watch this kid run. Did you see him dive? Look at him go get that ball.'

"He could be just like he was against Connecticut. He came in and was able to do it, but he wasn't in this frame of mind. He just played OK. But in this frame of mind, sheesh."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365

Calipari bringing Tigers in for tuneup


Calipari bringing Tigers in for tuneup
Players to meet with psychologist Rotella
By Dan Wolken
Sunday, November 25, 2007

John Calipari spent three days taking the temperature of his University of Memphis team following a controversial decision to cancel Thanksgiving break. Now, he's taking them to see the doctor.

Bob Rotella, a noted sports psychologist and friend of Calipari's, was scheduled to be in town Saturday night and today to meet with players as the No. 3-ranked Tigers prepare for a monthlong stretch that will include some of their biggest games of the season.

Though the angst has apparently subsided from Tuesday, when the Tigers left FedExForum in a huff after Calipari lit into them for their lackluster effort in a 84-63 victory over Arkansas State, Calipari felt it was time to call on Rotella, who is best known for his work with PGA Tour golfers.

"I've done it with my teams in the past," Calipari said. "I did it in 1996 at UMass, and I think I've done it here once or twice. He's a sports psychologist who used to be a basketball coach.

"He teaches putting as though it were a free throw. He's very simplistic. It's not anything ridiculous. And all he tries to do is get you thinking the correct way, about yourself, about your team, about your teammates."

Though Calipari characterized Rotella merely as a resource, his visit could be another interesting turn in a season that has already needed more self-evaluation than the team's 5-0 record would indicate.

Despite winning every game by double digits and beating Connecticut for the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic title, Calipari has seen issues, perhaps to the point of paranoia.

He saw them after the Tigers played poorly in a Sept. 27 closed scrimmage against Saint Louis, he saw them after the Tigers failed to dominate Richmond in the second game of the season, he saw them in the early media blitz on freshman Derrick Rose, and he saw them after Memphis showed a lack of defensive enthusiasm against Arkansas State.

But if Calipari is guilty of micromanagement, it's only because he's doing everything possible to get Memphis ready for the rigors of a national championship run.

"We'll be doing this all season," he said. "You're either getting better or you're getting worse. You're trying to make sure you're covering your bases or sticking your head in the sand. Historically, the biggest mistake I've made in my coaching career has been that on win streaks, I duck into the sand. And I know stuff around me isn't right, but we keep winning so I don't want to mess with it.

"If we're not able to get it done, it's going to be because someone is better than us, not that we're doing something to ourselves, and I just want to keep an eye on it."

Already, Memphis has had a good dose of therapy the last few days. After Calipari's blowup Tuesday night behind closed doors, players stormed out of the locker room without speaking to the media. Apparently, they were upset that Calipari scheduled a practice for Wednesday afternoon, reversing earlier plans to let them go home for Thanksgiving.

Nobody was more distraught than leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts, who had purchased a plane ticket home to Detroit. But after a series of meetings Wednesday and lots of talking around the Thanksgiving dinner table, he said his relationship with Calipari was fine.

"I'm all right, you know," Douglas-Roberts said Saturday. "That was a couple days ago. I'm fine now. We all sat around with each other and chilled, ate with each other, so we're fine. It's nothing to worry about now. That's over."

Douglas-Roberts' biggest point of contention was that the Tigers, in his view, are right where they should be, especially given how early in the season it is. Though they haven't been perfect in every area, "For it to be Nov. 24, I feel we're on a pretty good track right now," he said.

As Calipari sees it, however, everybody could benefit from talking with Rotella, including himself. Whether it's Antonio Anderson's shooting percentage, Shawn Taggart's toughness in the post or the consistency of Joey Dorsey's effort, Calipari believes all the little issues he has struggled to correct can improve.

He cited as an example Dana Dingle, who struggled early in his senior year at UMass then blossomed after meeting with Rotella and helped Calipari's team reach the Final Four.

"This isn't something because I think they're all thinking wrong," he said. "If we have an opportunity to have the best in the business meet with our team and talk about living in the moment, talk about day-to-day progress, talk about simple exercises to get ready for the game to relieve stress or anything else, why wouldn't we take advantage of it?

"I don't think this team is off-kilter, I really don't. But it's a great opportunity for us to meet with him and for me to meet with him to make sure I'm thinking right in where I'm trying to go and how I'm trying to do it."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.

Saturday (11/24) practice update


Saturday (11/24) practice update
Posted by Dan Wolken

Hey folks, sorry the blog has been silent for a few days. I left town for a short Thanksgiving break but am back and ready to resume daily blogging duties.

Everything seems to be pretty much back to normal with the Tigers following the drama of Tuesday night. Apparently, they all had a nice big belated Thanksgiving dinner together on Friday and worked out their differences. I won’t get into it too much, since it is the topic of my story in tomorrow’s paper.

John Calipari had a busy weekend recruiting. Xavier Henry, a 2009 prospect from Oklahoma City, was playing in the Forrest City, Ark., tournament, where Calipari watched him play all three games. On Friday, Henry and his entire team came up to the Finch Center and watched Friday’s practice. Henry, a consensus top-3 player in his class, has become quite a familiar face around Memphis, given that he’s been at the last two Midnight Madness events. Everything I’ve seen and heard leads me to believe that Memphis is the team to beat for Henry right now. That would come as a shock to Kansas fans, as people in that part of the world have long assumed that Henry would go to Kansas since his father is an alum and his brother committed there before choosing to play pro baseball instead. But Carl Henry, his father, played at Kansas when Calipari was an assistant, and the two obviously have a close relationship.

Also, 2008 forward Wesley Witherspoon took in Saturday’s practice with his high school team, who is playing at Ridgeway in a tournament. Witherspoon, a lanky 6-foot-8 swingman, is looking at Memphis seriously. He still hasn’t pared down his list, but Witherspoon mentioned Virginia, Texas and Colorado prominently. On both Friday and Saturday, Calipari was trying to shuttle back and forth from Forrest City to Ridgeway to catch both prospects.

Oh, and there was also a practice Saturday. Robert Dozier sat out; he’s still battling a left foot problem, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he sat out again Tuesday. Freshman Jeff Robinson had his best practice that I can remember. The Tigers did a lot of work on zone offense and are putting in some new things to get them better looks against a zone. They also worked a lot on their press, and I liked what I saw. Some fans think a press is just chaos, but it’s really complex. The coaching staff last season kind of abandoned it early, but I think it will get better if they stick with it. Antonio Anderson and Derrick Rose were both in the gym early working on their shooting; perhaps that will help them both get their 3-point percentages back to respectable levels.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Tigers Out of 2008 Old Spice Classic


By Dan Wolken

Calipari said Sunday he's informed Old Spice Classic officials that Memphis will not participate in the 2008 tournament, after previously accepting an invitation to play in the two-year old event held at Walt Disney World in Orlando.

The issue, Calipari said, is that Gonzaga and Tennessee are also slated to be in the 2008 field, along with Michigan State, Maryland, Oklahoma State, Wichita State and Siena. Memphis already has road games scheduled for 2008-09 with Gonzaga and Tennessee and didn't want to risk playing both teams twice in the same season, with none of those games at FedExForum.

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."

Tigers bracing for high-Cal diet

Tigers bracing for high-Cal diet
Schedule lull will bring harder practices
By Dan Wolken
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The University of Memphis is only four games into this basketball season, but John Calipari's voice is already getting scratchy, a reasonable yet irritating byproduct of the Tigers' victory over Connecticut last Friday. Indeed, by the end of tonight, when No. 3 Memphis plays Arkansas State at FedExForum, it may be gone entirely.

But no matter the condition of his vocal chords, Calipari is getting ready to turn up the volume on this season. Tonight's game begins a stretch in which Memphis will play just three times over the next 24 days, and the Tigers know exactly what that portends.

"Long practices, which means more teaching and more yelling from Coach Cal," junior forward Robert Dozier said. "But we're used to it. Guys have been here two or three years now, so it's about getting better."

Though his infamous "Camp Cal" won't truly begin until the academic semester ends, Calipari will indeed use the next three-plus weeks as a sort of second training camp. As a concession to the Tigers' shortened preseason -- the Nov. 5 opener was roughly 10 days earlier than usual -- Calipari only installed the bare minimum of what Memphis could get by with in the 2k Sports College Hoops Classic.

The time crunch was so severe, even fundamental parts of their gameplan were essentially ignored. For instance, Calipari wasn't upset that the Tigers' transition defense was torn apart by Connecticut last Friday because he hadn't yet covered it. And Memphis' offense often looked disorganized and simple because, well, that's exactly what it was.

When the Tigers were tied with UConn at 60-60 in the second half, it wasn't brilliant bench work that sent them on a decisive 14-3 run. It was Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose being talented and athletic enough to create offense and drive for layups.

"What we've done to this point is what we needed to play those games, and we had enough in," Calipari said. "We had a finish to the game, where we were able to grind it out, but we didn't have anything off of it. It was, 'OK, do this, and Chris, try to score.'"

After tonight, however, the stakes go up. Short of a massive mental breakdown, Memphis should have enough to get by Arkansas State. Then, after a short Thanksgiving break on Wednesday and Thursday, the Tigers will go into lockdown mode all weekend, leading up to another home game next Tuesday against Austin Peay.

Memphis will then have another week to get ready for Southern California on Dec. 4 in the Jimmy V Classic, once again at Madison Square Garden in New York. An 11-day break follows that game before the Tigers play Middle Tennessee in Nashville and get back on a fairly regular schedule where they'll play twice a week.

By then, the Tigers should look like a much different group, ready for a stretch when they'll play six of the toughest games on their schedule in a five-week period, beginning Dec. 22 against No. 5 Georgetown.

"We're going to get much better," said Douglas-Roberts, who on Monday was named the Conference USA Player of the Week for the second time in two weeks. "This is when we really get better. Every year I've been here, when we've had this winter break, we got so much better. We don't have nothing to do but practice, eat and lift, but that will make any team better. Plus, those two games in New York told us a lot about our team. Everybody's feeling their roles out, and with those games behind us we'll know how we need to play in the future."

The only potential issue with the spacing of the schedule is whether Memphis will retain its competitive edge. A year ago, Memphis did not have long breaks between games. The Tigers played six times between Nov. 29 and Dec. 14, a stretch that clearly paid dividends for that team leading into January.

Calipari said he's almost tempted to employ a USC football-style tactic and have one practice per week where he throws open all the starting positions and gives them to whichever players perform best in that practice. Though that idea might go a step too far for his taste, Calipari expects to have a much sharper, much more organized team by mid-December thanks to the number of practices he'll be able to squeeze in.

"It gives us a chance now to work on both zone defense and zone offense," Calipari said. "It gives us a chance to do more with our man-to-man, if we want to switch everything, if we want to deny everything, so we can play different ways. And it gives us a chance to work on situational stuff, which we really haven't done. If we needed a three, we're just going to run what we run and hopefully get a three. We just don't have that stuff in."

Calipari sees little to like in blowout win over Indians

Calipari sees little to like in blowout win over Indians
No. 3 Tigers 84, Arkansas State 63
By Dan Wolken
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The University of Memphis basketball team is ranked No. 3 in the country and has won all five of its games this season by double-digits. But there won't be any holiday cheer for the Tigers.

After beating Arkansas State, 84-63, at FedExForum on Tuesday, coach John Calipari held a closed-door meeting for roughly 15 minutes and announced that the Tigers would return to practice today after previously giving them permission to take today and Thursday off to visit their families for Thanksgiving.

The news apparently did not sit well in the Memphis locker room, as players scattered quickly and angrily, most of them leaving before reporters had the opportunity to interview them.

One of the players who did speak, sophomore guard Doneal Mack, characterized the tension as a "misunderstanding" but declined to elaborate further.

"It can't really be talked about," Mack said. "It's a misunderstanding right now. That's all I can say about that situation.

"We have to get to the bottom of it. We're just unhappy right now with it being a misunderstanding."

Calipari denied that his decision to cancel Thanksgiving break was related to any off-court issue, saying it was solely a byproduct of the Tigers' performance against Arkansas State.

Memphis, playing without junior forward Robert Dozier (left ankle), allowed Arkansas State to shoot 46.9 percent, did a poor job defensively against Trezevant product Adrian Banks (32 points on 12-of-20 shooting) and generally lacked the air of "desperation" Calipari has talked passionately about in recent days.

"I don't know how you misunderstand what happened out there," Calipari said. "We only had one or two guys that could have gone home anyway.

"We weren't going to practice, but it's obvious where we are right now. We've got some work to do."

Even for all their problems, the Tigers did not have to sweat the finish Tuesday, thanks to the marksmanship of Mack and sophomore Willie Kemp.

Kemp, who played a career-low eight minutes in Friday's victory over Connecticut, carried the Tigers to an early double-digit lead with a torrid run of 3-point shooting.

After falling behind the Indians, 8-6, Kemp came off the bench and sparked a 10-0 run with a 3-pointer and a driving lay-up. Then, he drained three straight 3-pointers in a span of 56 seconds to give the Tigers a commanding 31-15 lead.

Another pair of back-to-back 3-pointers by Kemp in the second half awoke an announced crowd of 16,741 that had been practically lulled to sleep in the interim, extending the Tigers' lead to 64-42 with 8:54 to go.

He finished with a career high 22 points on 6-of-8 shooting from 3-point range, continuing his astounding pace at home.

In 22 career games at FedExForum, Kemp has made 47-of-94 from 3-point range -- a cool 50 percent.

"I just make shots in this building," Kemp said. "There's something about this building I like."

Mack just missed his career high, tying it with 19 points by making 4-of-8 from 3-point range.

"Coach was looking for us," Mack said. "Me and Willie, we were the first ones out there shooting today. Willie got up 200 shots, I got up about 100 shots.

"It showed today in the game. Coach was looking for us to do that coming off the bench."

And they needed to, as several of the Tigers' usual contributors did not play with much enthusiasm or discipline.

After monster performances against Connecticut and Oklahoma last week, senior forward Joey Dorsey had just three rebounds in 20 minutes.

Junior guard Antonio Anderson continued his slump, going 1-for-6 from the field but making a 3-pointer right before halftime to give the Tigers a 43-25 lead.

And freshman guard Derrick Rose was a non-factor, going 2-for-7 from the field in his worst performance of the season so far. Senior Andre Allen came in at point guard to spark the Tigers' game-winning run, contributing nine assists in 21 minutes.

Though Memphis maintained a lead in the 20-point range the entire second half, Calipari was clearly irritated with the Tigers' play.

Usually animated on the bench, Calipari just sat back, oddly silent, his anger building as the game wore on.

"We've got a group that ... we've got a lot of work we have to do," Calipari said. "I thought we cracked that, where we would play desperate, and obviously we haven't."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.

Blog Story on Former-Tiger, Darius Washington Jr.


http://jayisbored.blogspot.com/2007/11/crossing-paths.html

This is the story of two of my favorite college players of the past few years. One is from Florida, the other went to Florida. One is currently in the league, the other is overseas. This is the brief story of James "Flight" White and Darius Washington Jr.

My first memory of the very self-assured Washington came from an Adidas DVD profiling 3 basketball players (Washington, Dwight Howard, and Josh Smith). If I remember correctly, he was getting on Smith for "whining" about something. It was interesting profile, his father seemed very intent that he would do big things with his basketball career. Maybe even to the point where it seemed like he was trying to live through him.

Flight's first appearance on my television came during the 2001 McDonald's All American Dunk Contest. Heralded as the best dunker in the contest and the favorite, White went on to put on one of the best dunk contest performances I've ever seen. The way his slender frame soared through the air would put Clyde Drexler to shame. It almost appeared as if it was too easy. His final dunk, a 2 handed double clutch from the free throw line, sent me out of my seat. Somehow he lost the contest to future college teammate and current New York Knick, David Lee.

Washington emerged the next year as the starting point guard for John Calipari's Memphis Tigers. While not exactly the pure point guard, Washington got the job done. Assisted by teammates Sean Banks and Rodney Carney, Memphis got into the Conference USA tournament with a chance to win an automatic bid to the NCAA tourney. They faced a very talented Louisville team that was one of the best in the country. Washington had his breakout party, keeping Memphis in the game with his 23 points and 6 assists, but it was the points that he didn't get that left a lasting memory. Down 2 with 6.5 seconds left, Washington drove the length of the court and launched a desperation 3 as time expired. While the shot was off, he baited Francisco Garcia into a foul. A freshman steps to the line for the biggest moment of his career. Three shots win it, two shots tie it. The first drops and Washington turns to his coach in typical Washington fashion, as if to say, "I got this." The second one bounces off the rim, and Washington looks visibly shaken. The final shot to send the game into overtime falls just short, and almost simultaneously Washington falls lifelessly to the ground.

James White's career got off to a solid start at Florida. He averaged 6.2ppg coming off the bench. After the season, White decided to transfer to Cincinnati to play for Bob Huggins. Throughout his career, according to many, White never quite lived up to his potential. DraftExpress called him, "One of the biggest enigmas in college basketball over the past five years." Despite the criticism, White did average 16.3ppg, 5.1rpg, and 2.0apg his senior season, leading Cincinnati to the NIT.

Although Washington claimed the events of the past season didn't hurt his confidence, his sophomore campaign showed little improvement. His scoring, rebounding, assists, steals, and FG% all took a hit. Despite his struggles, Memphis amassed a 30-3 record (thanks to the emergence of Rodney Carney and rookie Shawne Williams) on their way to an elite 8 loss to eventual champions UCLA. With Carney and Williams both deciding to bolt for the NBA, Washington followed.

It was the 2006 NBA draft when their paths finally crossed. Washington was coming off a less than impressive season and was projected as a mid-late 2nd rounder. James White was regarded as an older player who still had potential and was projected as a late 1st-early 2nd type of player. The first round came and went, with neither of their names being mentioned. But with the 1st pick of the 2nd round, the Indiana Pacers selected James White. 28 more picks went by, yet no mention of Washington. The Detroit, holding the final pick in the draft, ended up taking another PG (Will Blalock) undoubtedly leaving Washington disappointed once again.

The story could end right here. White had made it, Washington didn't; but nothing in life is that simple. Despite a solid performance during Summer League, the Pacers decided to part ways with White on the eve of the season due to a plethora of guards. Washington's NBA dreams weren't over just yet. Dallas picked him up during training camp, and played a few pre-season games for them. Unfortunately for him, they decided to let him go. Washington ended up being a top pick in the NDBL draft, but decided to go overseas and make more money playing for PAOK Greece. White eventually landed on the Spurs roster, and was sent down to the D-League, to the same team Washington was supposed to play on.

At this point, I had forgotten about Washington. I thought he was done in terms of NBA opportunities. I thought White was a steal for the Spurs, with White being trained to be another defensive stopper. Turns out, I wasn't so accurate. White did eventually get called up and showed promise for the Spurs. They even started him on the last game of the season, a game in which he scored a career high 17 points. The next summer came around, but there were no ravings about White's potential. Instead, there was criticism that White still hadn't improved his game. He ended up a free agent shortly after the NBA draft. Washington on the other hand, used took his experience from overseas and came back to make another run at making an NBA roster. Coincidentally, the one team that took a chance on Washington was White's former employer, the San Antonio Spurs. Washington had a very solid pre-season performance, including an 18 point, 9 rebound, 8 assist explosion against the Golden State Warriors. The final cuts came down, and Washington was not on the list. In fact, Washington made the active roster.

James White is now playing EuroLeague basketball for a Turkish team. Darius Washington is now the 3rd PG on the Spurs roster. With the injury to Jacque Vaughn early in the season, Washington saw extended minutes as a back-up. David Thorpe of ESPN.com even rated him as the 8th best rookie 2 weeks into the season.

As a fan of both players, I want for them to succeed and play in the NBA. They could both be completely unknown in a year, but they both got the opportunity. It just seems as only one of them capitalized on it, for now...

Angel's a Tiger: Garcia signs on with Coach Cal

Angel's a Tiger: Garcia signs on with Coach Cal
By Dan Wolken
Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The University of Memphis this week received a letter-of-intent from forward Angel Garcia, wrapping up a relatively uneventful early-signing period for the 2008 recruiting class.

Though the Tigers expect to sign more players in the spring -- their primary targets are Philadelphia-area guard Tyreke Evans and Atlanta-area forward Wesley Witherspoon -- Garcia was their lone early signee.

Coach John Calipari on Tuesday compared the 6-foot-11 Garcia to former Tiger Shawne Williams, now with the Indiana Pacers.

"It's a big deal for us," Calipari said. "He's a big player who can play (wing) who can post, make that 3-pointer. He's a terrific shooter, can put it on the floor, and we'll be athletic around him. He's probably about the same athlete Shawne was. Shawne wasn't going to overpower you with his athleticism, it was skill level, and I think Angel will be able to do the same for us."

Garcia still has not qualified academically, mainly because he was behind in his classwork when he moved to East Chicago, Ill., from his native Puerto Rico. But Calipari said he was optimistic about Garcia's progress.

"He'll be fine," Calipari said. "At the end of the day, he'll be fine."

Assuming Garcia becomes eligible, he'll be a major addition to the Tigers next season, regardless of which players off the current roster might leave early to test the NBA. Though he's "a legit 6-foot-11, 6-111/2 ," according to assistant coach Chuck Martin, Garcia is highly skilled and should fit well into the Tigers' driving motion offense. Rivals.com ranks Garcia as the 27th best player in the class of 2008, while Scout.com ranks him 36th.

Garcia visited Memphis in June for Calipari's elite summer camp, then left to join the Puerto Rican national team rather than play AAU basketball.

Martin, who is of Puerto Rican descent, did much of the recruiting work on Garcia, traveling to Serbia to watch him play in the under-19 world championships. Garcia committed to the Tigers on Sept.1, selecting Memphis over Indiana.

Though Garcia is primarily a wing, Martin said he believes Garcia will help the Tigers in the post next season, where they will need a replacement for senior Joey Dorsey.

"I think when he gets to college, he's going to gain 15 pounds of muscle, and I think he's crafty enough and clever enough to play in the post," Martin said. "I don't know if you're going to use him for 40 minutes in the post, but he's much better than people give him credit for because he's so skilled and talented on the perimeter."

MSNBC - Kids have taken control of college basketball

Kids have taken control of college basketball
Freshman across country are grabbing headlines so far this season

By Ken Davis
MSNBC contributor
updated 2:50 p.m. CT, Wed., Nov. 21, 2007

If you haven’t heard, a bunch of kids have taken control of college basketball. By kids, we mean freshmen. And they rule.

Pick up a newspaper, surf the Web, or listen to Dick Vitale on the tube, and the names are already familiar. Derrick Rose at Memphis. UCLA’s Kevin Love. Michael Beasley at Kansas State. USC has O.J. Mayo. Eric Gordon at Indiana, Blake Griffin at Oklahoma, Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene at Syracuse, DeAndre Jordan at Texas A&M . . .

The list gets longer every day. They are grabbing headlines, showing up on magazine covers and getting the job done with poise and maturity. But Memphis coach John Calipari wasn’t happy when Rose was named Most Valuable Player of the Memphis Regional of the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic — in the first week of the season.

Rose was sensational. He deserved the award as much as anybody. But coaches don’t want Diaper Dandies filling up the trophy case before Thanksgiving. It couldn’t be good for team chemistry, Calipari thought. So after reading a newspaper article with the entire focus on Rose, Calipari called a team meeting at his home.

“Andre Allen was the reason we won; Chris Douglas-Roberts should have been the MVP,” Calipari said. “My whole point to [the older players] was ‘How do you feel about six of you winning 66 games the last two years and the story is about Derrick? How are you dealing with this? How do you feel about it?’ It’s not Derrick’s doing. It’s not my doing. It’s what we’re going to have to deal with as a program. If we do this right, there will be enough light and enough good press for everybody.”

The Memphis players basically told Calipari he had imagined a monster in his closet. Nothing was there.

“What are you worried about?” they asked Calipari. “We’re all fine.”

Coming one year after the arrival — and departure — of Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, another influx of youth may seem like a cause for concern. Oden and Durant magnified the new rule that prevents players from making the jump from high school to the NBA and gave us the trend known as One And Done.

Rose, Mayo, Beasley — and who knows who else — might pack their sneakers and head off for the big bucks in the NBA after this season. But this is no time to panic about the state of college basketball. It is not gloom and doom time.

It’s just a cycle. It won’t become an annual event.

Last year we took a look at the freshman class that included Oden, Durant, Chase Budinger, Ty Lawson, Darrell Arthur, Thaddeus Young, Spencer Hawes, Greivis Vasquez and Jerome Dyson (to name a few) and we said it might be the best group since the Class of 1979 (Virginia’s Ralph Sampson, North Carolina’s James Worthy, Georgia’s Dominique Wilkins, Indiana’s Isiah Thomas, Kentucky’s Sam Bowie, Ohio State’s Clark Kellogg and Arizona State’s Byron Scott).

This year’s freshman class already looks better than last year. There might not be an Oden or a Durant in the mix. (Personally, I would put Durant up against any other freshman from the past 30 years. He was sensational.) But this year’s group is truly special, especially the way these guys are performing so early in their careers. They are going to have a tremendous impact on the conference races — and it is such a large group that means every conference.

And guess what? The Class of 2008 is pretty darned good as well, with Brandon Jennings (Arizona), Tyreke Evans (undecided), Samardo Samuels (Louisville), Greg Monroe (Georgetown) and Jrue Holiday (UCLA) leading the way.

Those who observe and monitor such things indicate that the junior and sophomore high school classes aren’t quite as loaded. There will always be good recruits. But the bar has been set high the past two years. This is a truly unique time.

Instead of worrying about who will go and who will stay, just enjoy it.

SI.com's Luke Winn - Why Memphis is Thriving (Aside From The Obvious)


Why Memphis is Thriving (Aside From The Obvious)

NEW YORK -- There's an obvious reason these Tigers are a better team than the version that reached the Elite Eight in March. It's that kid with the sphynx-like mien and cat-like quicks. The freshman point guard. No. 23. Derrick Rose. Hard to miss him. He scored 24 points against the Huskies, including 16 in the second half. The fewest points he's scored in a game thus far is 17. But he's the obvious reason. There's no need to keep pointing it out.

The real question is, why else should we believe that Memphis has improved this year? Another night of watching the Tigers at Madison Square Garden yielded these answers:

1. Chris Douglas-Roberts spent the summer working on his accuracy -- but not his unconventional form -- after hitting only 32.8 percent of his threes last season. He's a better shooter now, knocking down seven of his first 13 trey attempts through four games. What's important, though, is that he hasn't been deluded into thinking he can thrive on the perimeter. "CD-R," as they call him, took 24 shots on Friday en route to scoring 33 points, and only three attempts came from beyond the arc (he made two). "Even though I improved my shot, I'm not going to shoot all threes," he said. "I like the physical play in the lane. I like getting bumped, I like getting and-ones, I like shooting runners. That'll always be my bread and butter."

Smart kid. Douglas-Roberts does not have a frame that appears built for contact -- he's essentially the anti-Joey Dorsey, a spindly wing with long arms swimming inside a baggy tee, socks pulled up high on beanpole legs and his jersey frequently slipping off his narrow shoulders. But CD-R is a wizard inside the arc. Memphis likes run him off low screens, set mostly by Dorsey, in order to free him up for isolation plays on the wing. Coach John Calipari criticized Douglas-Roberts on Thursday for being lackadaisical and picking up two, stupid early fouls against Oklahoma. Against UConn, he stayed out of foul trouble and made a massive impact, attacking Huskies forward Stanley Robinson time and time again for baskets inside the lane. Douglas-Roberts prefers to start his approach slowly, lulling his defender to sleep with lazy dribbles, then feigning a few pull-up jumpers, before backing in and finding acrobatic ways to launch the ball at the goal -- and usually scoring. "That's the best play," he said of Memphis' wing iso set. "That's our only play, really. It's called 'Quick'."

2. Not many teams have one, much less two, perimeter defenders who can handle the isolations Rose and Douglas-Roberts are allowed to run. To get an idea of just how often Memphis relies on this one-man, NBA mode of offense, consider that the Tigers scored 32 baskets against the Huskies -- and only five were assisted. Four of Douglas-Roberts' 14 makes were assisted and zero of Rose's eight were. Yet the Tigers' two stars still shot over 50 percent from the field combined (22-of-41).

Rose said that feeding the hot hand with isolation opportunities is one of the tenets of the Tigers' offense against a man-to-man: "Coach tells us to go with the person who's sticking 'em," he said, hence the frequency with which Douglas-Roberts found himself breaking down Robinson. UConn, it must be noted, put exceptional athletes up against Rose and Douglas-Roberts. A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson and Robinson are no slouches ... but they were still burned repeatedly. Price and Dyson managed to return the favor on the other end, combining for 40 points, but they didn't score enough down the stretch to pull off an upset.

3. Antonio Anderson no longer needs to shoot -- at all -- for the Tigers to win. This is more of a suggested opportunity to improve rather than a reason Memphis is currently better: The junior guard is still taking too many shots, as he was 1-of-8 from the field on Friday in 32 minutes. Memphis could make a major offensive-efficiency jump simply by ordering the junior guard not to take any more threes for the rest of the season. He was allowed to shoot 106 triples last year and made only 26 (for a dismal 24.5 percent success rate). Rose, Douglas-Roberts, Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp are capable of taking the bulk of the treys from here on out, while Anderson focuses solely on creating shots for others. Assist-men are what the Tigers need right now, anyways: Anderson was the only one with more assists (three) than turnovers (one) against UConn.

Rose, despite being billed in a few scouting reports as a deft distributor, is not yet acting like a pass-first point guard. He took 17 shots and had zero assists against five turnovers on Friday. In the two games at the Garden, he took 29 shots but dished out just three assists and committed nine turnovers. That's pretty much the definition of a scoring point guard.

4. Experience is now on their side. Rose is getting loads of attention, so much that Calipari held a meeting at his house earlier this month to attempt to prevent it from creating rifts within the team. It was a smart move, since the key to a Memphis title run this season may be that their rotation prominently features one seasoned senior (Dorsey, a rebounder extraordinaire who had 12 on Friday) and three juniors (CD-R, Anderson and Robert Dozier, who had a stellar, eight-point, eight-board, three-block performance vs. UConn).

"Our experience got us over the hump today," Douglas-Roberts said after the game, in which UConn took a 41-40 lead into halftime and didn't wilt until the final six minutes. "Two years ago, I'm not sure if we could've pulled this game out."

5. Worldwide Wes is now on their side more than ever. I'm only kidding about the impact of this on the Tigers' actual games. But I did find it interesting that William Wesley -- a.k.a. "Worldwide Wes" or "Uncle Wes," a confidant of Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Jay-Z, et al, and the man of whom GQ asked, Is This The Most Powerful Man in Sports? -- was present on Friday. He came off the court with the Tigers following their tournament trophy ceremony, and was heard saying, "I want to hear the speech," before ducking into their locker room. Wesley has ties to Douglas-Roberts' AAU team, "The Family," which is sponsored by another friend, Richard Hamilton. Wesley is also rumored to have helped sway Rose toward Memphis. Said Rose of Wesley, "He's a close friend -- for the whole team." Douglas-Roberts said Wesley "doesn't have a role on the team; Uncle Wes is just a man." Later, Wesley was seen talking with one of Rose's older brothers, as well as an older brother of Tyreke Evans, who's the No. 2-ranked prospect in the Class of 2008 and one of the Tigers' top recruiting targets.

6. The Tigers aren't collapsing under the weight of their star power. Their assist-to-turnover ratio -- of 5-to-18 -- was horrible; but that was largely a product of all the isolation plays they used to break down Calhoun's man-to-man D (not the ideal scheme to use against Memphis). Rose will be in the spotlight all season, but he doesn't seek it out. When I inquired afterward about his favorite bucket of the game -- Calipari wasn't pleased with a few of Rose's "circus shots," but the freshman did knock down a a few crazy, hanging layups -- all Rose said was, "I just like seeing my other players score."

Douglas-Roberts, who was chosen the MVP of the tournament, made a point to say later that, "Joey [Dorsey] was the MVP. He gets double-digit rebounds, covers everybody's back, gets three blocks a game -- I mean, I don't see how he wasn't the MVP of this tournament." When asked if he would turn over his freshly acquired MVP trophy to Dorsey, Douglas-Roberts paused before saying, "I'll just make sure that he reads this." Unselfishness has its limits.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

C-USA Misses Again, 0-2 vs. Major Conferences


Once again, C-USA failed to make any statement wins as Central Florida lost Friday to Kansas State in overtime and Southern Miss lost at Alabama. While both games were close, neither team could field a win. Central Florida's loss followed their loss on Thanksgiving versus Villanova. UCF got high praise for their efforts in both games, but C-USA needs wins not moral victories.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Watching College Basketball - Thoughts on Other Teams

I watched the last ten minutes of the UCLA vs. Michigan State game on Tuesday. Considering Darren Collison is still out with the Bruins, I'd say they are the best team in the land. Wow! Every single guy can jump out of the gym. Whiel Kevin Love looks like a slow white guy, he is a monster. He has great touch and is a heady player.

Tonight, I caught the last half of Kansas State vs. George Mason. Michael Beasley also looks very impressive, though K-State appears a bit unorganized. I'm sure they'll be behind Kansas and probably even Missouri in the Big 12. I'd put them at or slightly ahead of Oklahoma.

I was really hopeing that UCF would knock off Villanova today, but once again C-USA lost. The conference looks very poor save Tulane's win over Auburn and Memphis, of course. While Cal has preached that the confernce improved last year over '05-06; I'm afraid they have regressed. UAB losing Paul Delaney for the season is very concerning.

A Few Brief Comments on the Arkansas State Game


I attended the game with friends, so I can't say I watched as closely as I normally do. I was a bit surprised to learn that Cal was so mad at the team. I did notice that the defense was nothing to write home about and that Adrian Banks was lighting the Tigers up, but all of that was easily forgotten watching Willie Kemp have the best game of his 40 game career. Add in D-Mack's very solid game and I was happy.

Both guys shot the 3 very well and the one thing that has concerned me this year (through the first 4 games) was their ability to hit the long range jumper consistently enough to loosen up those zone defenses. Well, the Tigers did just that in this game.

Interestingly, I read some national writer actually say that Antonio Anderson and Andre Allen should never shoot the bal again for Memphis. Basically, I agree. There are plenty of guys on this team to provide the offense. Anderson and Allen could concentrate on other phases of the game just like Joey Dorsey is doing in rebounding and blocking shots.

How about Andre Allen's nine assists!

So has Cal over reacted in "cancelling" Thanksgiving for the team. I don't know. I even thought Cal probably never planned on letting these guys leave for Thanksgiving. I certainly wouldn't put it past any college coach to scheme that way. Cal is a master motivator and "cancelling" Thanksgiving, while pissing off your players, is highly effective.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dan Wolken - Quick hitters from Sunday’s (11/18) practice


Quick hitters from Sunday’s practice
Posted by Dan Wolken

John Calipari returned from Boston, where he spent Saturday watching Tyreke Evans, the Tigers’ top recruit, play in a high school tournament. Evans, who is signing in the spring, will make his visit to Memphis later in the season. My sense is that the Tigers are in great shape with Evans and that one of the reasons he’s holding off on a commitment is that he wants to make sure of Derrick Rose’s plans for next season. It wouldn’t make sense for Evans to sign with Memphis if Rose is going to stay for a second college season (not very likely, in my opinion).

- Spoke briefly with former Tiger Clyde Wade. He’s starting graduate school at the U of M next semester. He said he just recently spoke to Jeremy Hunt, who is back in Poland playing with a different team. (Hunt signed with one Polish team but didn’t pass the physical due to his career-long knee issues.)

– Robert Dozier was feeling ill Sunday and didn’t practice. Joey Dorsey went through most of the practice but his shoulder flared up with about 15 minutes to go and he shut it down. Again, don’t panic about the shoulder. Obviously, it’s not an ideal situation, but this injury is something that Joey can play with and play effectively with. He just has to continue getting treatment and be able to deal with some discomfort. That’s part of playing sports.

– The two main emphases of the practice were preventing dribble penetration and transition defense, which were the most obvious problems for Memphis in New York. The latter is understandable, since Memphis hasn’t worked at all on its transition D. The former is inexcusible, especially since the biggest culprits were Antonio Anderson and Derrick Rose, who Memphis is counting on to be elite perimeter defenders. Memphis’ failure to contain the penetration of UConn’s guards was the main reason the Tigers’ big guys got in so much foul trouble.

– One little note, which illustrates (yet again) just how freakishly athletic Rose is. During a slow moment in practice, Chris Douglas-Roberts — a heck of an athlete in his own right — tried twice to dunk with his left hand and didn’t even come close. Rose non-chalantly went up to the rim and dunked it easily with his left.

Arkansas State Indians Face No. 3 Ranked Memphis Tuesday

Indians Face No. 3 Ranked Memphis Tuesday
Courtesy: ArkansasState
Release: 11/19/2007

GAME 3
Arkansas State (0-2) at No. 3 Memphis (4-0)
November 20, 2007 - FedExForum (18,400)
Memphis, Tennessee - 7:00 p.m.
Radio: Arkansas State Radio Network (KWHF 95.9 FM, flagship)

ON TAP: Arkansas State will play the second of three road games over a four-game stretch Tuesday when it catches No. 3 Memphis at the FedExForum. Every ASU game can be heard live on 95.9 FM in the Jonesboro area and the live radio broadcast can be accessed through the Arkansas State athletic web site (ASUIndians.com).

THE PRINCIPALS: The Indians, preparing for their second straight road game, are 0-2 after starting the season with setbacks against two 20-game winners last season in Utah Valley State and Tulsa. Memphis is off to a 4-0 start, including two home victories, and won each of its first four games by a double-figure margin.

HEAD COACH DICKEY NUTT: Dickey Nutt is in his 13th season as ASU’s head coach and owns 180 wins at the school, the third most among ASU’s 14 all-time head coaches. He also has 98 career Sun Belt Conference victories to his credit, the second most all-time among SBC coaches. He led ASU to its first-ever NCAA Tournament berth and is a former Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year. Nutt, who led ASU to the Sun Belt Conference West Division title last season, needs just 12 wins to pass John Rauth (1949-63) as the all-time leader in career victories at ASU and 14 SBC wins to pass Gene Bartow (UAB) as the all-time leader in SBC victories.

NUTT NEARING CENTURY MARK: While ASU head coach Dickey Nutt passed 100 overall career victories long ago, he is nearing the mark for Sun Belt Conference wins with 98 to his credit. If Sun Belt Conference Tournament victories counted toward that total, Nutt would have 107 wins against opponents from the league. Only one coach, Gene Bartow, in the history of the Sun Belt Conference has achieved 100 league wins. Bartow has 111 career SBC victories.

SCOUTING THE TIGERS: Memphis, the nation’s No. 3 ranked team, is off to a 4-0 start and is 2-0 in home games early in the 2007-08 season. The Tigers have won all four games by a double-figure margin and hold a +17.3 scoring margin. Memphis is led by two players averaging double-digit points in Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, while Joey Dorsey is averaging a team-high 12.0 rebounds per game. The Tigers return all five starters and 10 letterwinners from last year’s team that posted a 33-4 overall record and went undefeated in Conference USA play with a 16-0 record.

THE ASU - MEMPHIS SERIES: Tuesday’s game will be the 56th all-time meeting between Arkansas State and Memphis. The Tigers lead the series 29-26. The two teams met for the first time in 1927-28, the second year of existence for the ASU basketball team as a varsity sport. Memphis won the last three meetings, defeating ASU 79-75 (at Memphis) in 2004-05, 83-60 (at Memphis) in 2000-01 and 86-60 (at Memphis) last season. The last ASU win came 84-72 in Jonesboro in 1999-2000.

COMMON OPPONENTS: Arkansas State and Memphis play two common opponents during the 2007-08 season in Tennessee-Martin and Middle Tennessee. Memphis already defeated Tennessee-Martin, 102-71, in its season opener, while the Indians will play the Skyhawks Nov. 29. Both ASU and Memphis play Middle Tennessee later this year.

79th SEASON UNDER WAY: The Arkansas State men’s basketball program is in its 79th season, owning a 1,016-953 all-time record.

WINNING THE TURNOVER BATTLE: ASU won the turnover battle in each of its first two games, committing a combined 22 turnovers in comparison to its opponent’s 42. The Indians had eight turnovers, just three more than the Convocation Center record, to Utah Valley State’s 20. They came back to commit 14 turnovers to Tulsa’s 22 in their next game.

A LOOK BACK: While ASU is 0-2 through its first two games, it actually started the 2006-07 campaign 0-2 against two quality opponents that year as well before going on to win 18 games and the Sun Belt Conference West Division.

YOU HAVE TO SHOOT TO SCORE: Arkansas State has had plenty of looks its first two games, getting off more attempts than its opponent in each of its first two games and averaging 67 field goal attempts per game. ASU attempted 72 shots against Utah Valley State, five more than it had for a game all of last season, and it 67 shots per game is 12 above its average last season.

BANKS ON IT: Adrian Banks has scored in double figures all 35 of his career games at ASU, including his 25-point performance against Utah Valley State in the Indians’ season opener. He scored at least 20 points in a game for the 19th time of his career.

STEALING THE SHOW: Shawn Morgan, who led ASU in steals last season with 42, led the team in steals each of the first two games. In fact, Morgan recorded a then career-tying three steals against Utah Valley State before coming back to top that total against Tulsa with five.

TEAM LEADER: After two games, Morgan leads ASU in rebounds (11), steals (8) and assists (9). He led the Indians in all three categories against Utah Valley State and in steals against Tulsa.

WEDEL SHINES: Ryan Wedel has posted double-figure points in each of ASU’s first two games this season and, dating back to last season, has now scored at least 10 points in five consecutive games and in nine of the last 10. For his career, he has scored in double figures 21 times.

FACING THE MID-MAJOR POLL: Arkansas State will play five teams currently ranked or receiving votes in CollegeInsider.com’s Mid-Major Top 25 poll (Murray State, North Texas, New Orleans, South Alabama, Western Kentucky).

ALMOST FLAWLESS: Arkansas State is 28-2 all-time under head coach Dickey Nutt when scoring 90 or more points. It’s only two setbacks when reaching 90-plus points came against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in 2002 and Jacksonville in 1996.

REACHING 80: Arkansas State scored 80 or more points in at least eight games the last 10 consecutive years under head coach Dickey Nutt and has done very well when reaching that mark. In fact, ASU is 87-22 in 12 seasons under Nutt when scoring 80 or more points for a .798 winning percentage.

HOME SWEET HOME: ASU plays 15 regular-season home game this year, the most since playing 15 at the Convocation Center in 2002-03 as well. Including two home exhibition games, the Indians will play 17 games at the Convocation Center, where they posted an 11-2 record last season and hold a 112-44 record during Nutt’s 13 seasons as head coach.

HOME-COURT ADVANTAGE: With an all-time record of 195-73 (.728 winning percentage), the Convocation has become a great home-court for the Indians. ASU has won at least eight games at the Convocation Center each of the last seven seasons. That stretch includes a 12-win home season in 2004-05 that ranks tied for the third most in the arena’s history. ASU has won double-digit home games in five seasons under head coach Dickey Nutt and 11 seasons overall.

INDIANS SIGN BOONE: Donald Boone, a 2005 graduate of Memphis’ Hamilton High School, signed with ASU after helping lead Southwest Tennessee Community College to a 23-5 record, No. 16 ranking in the final NJCAA National Poll, the Region VIII championship, and an eighth-place finish at the national tournament last year as a sophomore. Boone, who will join the ASU basketball team in January for practices, will have two years of eligibility remaining at Arkansas State starting next season. The 6-5, 205 pound guard averaged 18 points and seven rebounds per game, helping him earn First Team All-America recognition. He was also named First Team All-NJCAA Tournament, the Region VIII MVP and the regional tournament’s MVP. Boone shot 40 percent from beyond the arc and 70 percent at the free throw line while leading the team in scoring and rebounds. His freshman campaign at Southwest Tennessee CC saw him average 10 points and six rebounds while helping lead the team to a 20-5 record and final ranking of No. 16. As a senior at Hamilton High School, Boone averaged 18 points and 12 rebounds per game to help his team to a 24-10 record. He was named all-state, all-district, all-metro and the Martin Luther King Invitational MVP. Boone led the team in scoring and rebounding and scored a career-high 26 points against Fairley, Springdale and Northside.

INDIANS SIGN FINN: ASU signed Trey Finn a 6-2, 205 pound shooting guard entering his senior season at Little Rock’s Parkview High School, to a National Letter of Intent during the early signing period. Finn earned first team all-state recognition by the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last season. In fact, Finn was the only junior selected to the newspaper’s 2007 all-state team as he averaged 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals to help lead the Patriots to a 28-3 record and to the Class 6A state semifinals. Finn averaged 15 points and seven rebounds per game as a sophomore.

BANKS NAMED PRESEASON ALL-SUN BELT: Senior guard Adrian Banks was named Preseason First Team All-Sun Belt Conference at the league’s annual media days, held Oct. 22-23. Banks was a 2006-07 First Team All-Sun Belt Conference selection and named the SBC Newcomer of the Year last season.

INDIANS PICKED THIRD IN SUN BELT’S WEST DIVISION: The Indians were picked to finish third in the Sun Belt Conference West Division, as voted on by all 13 coaches in the league. The Indians received two first place votes and 62 points, just nine behind second-place North Texas. Louisiana-Monroe was the preseason favorite to win the division, picking up nine first-place votes and 85 points. ASU finished tied for first in the league’s West Division last season with an 11-7 record.

NATIONAL RECOGNITION: Banks has been recognized on the national scene early this year, already being named to both CollegeInsider.com’s and CollegeHoops.net’s Preseason Mid-Major All-America Teams. CollegeHoops.net tabbed Banks as a honorable mention selection, while CollegeInsider.com had just one team made up of 25 players. Banks was named CollegeInsider.com’s 2006-07 Sun Belt Conference MVP.

ESPN's Andy Katz - Rose struggles, but Dorsey and CDR come through as Memphis wins


Rose struggles, but Dorsey and CDR come through as Memphis wins
By Andy Katz
ESPN.com
Updated: November 17, 2007

Memphis Beats UConn With Strong 2nd HalfNEW YORK -- Derrick Rose's free pass is over.

Joey Dorsey has a better and more mature understanding of his importance to the Tigers.

And, Chris Douglas-Roberts reminded everyone how much his play means to Memphis' title chances.

If you wanted to get some answers about Memphis' long-range chances this season, Madison Square Garden was the perfect lab to dissect the Tigers this week.

Memphis won the 2K College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer with an 81-70 victory over Connecticut on Friday night. That came on the heels of a grinding 63-53 win over Oklahoma the previous night.

"We needed to be physically manhandled and we were," Memphis coach John Calipari said of the Sooners.

"We needed to go against a zone the whole time," Calipari said of the Sooners' choice of defenses.

"We also needed to go against guards that break us down and we did that," Calipari said of Connecticut's Jerome Dyson and A.J. Price, who combined to score 40 points and made 19 trips to the free-throw line.

After all that, what have we learned about Memphis?

First of all, Rose -- easily the most heralded freshman signed by Calipari since Marcus Camby at UMass -- is not perfect. Against UConn, he had his first erratic game. Granted, it was only the season's fourth game, but Calipari didn't hesitate to sit him down.

"I got into him, woo, I got into him," Calipari said. "He was throwing balls away, circus shots. I told him, 'You shoot another circus shot, and you're coming out. Shoot layups, easy shots. You shoot that other stuff, you're out of the game. You understand me?' He was throwing the ball. We're not a team trying to win 15 to 20 games. Either he understands or listens or he has to be taught. But he was good, and that was good for the team."

Rose finished with a career-high 24 points (8 of 17 shooting from the field), but he also had five turnovers and no assists. He did seem to have the answer every time the Huskies made a run in the second half.

So what did Rose learn about himself this week?

"Patience," he said. "I matured more in this game. I'm learning more about my teammates."

He's not the only Memphis player to mature during the week.

Senior forward Joey Dorsey missed the first two games of the season with a sprained right shoulder. He matched Oklahoma's bruising freshman forward Blake Griffin with 12 boards and five blocks Thursday. On Friday, he had to go against Connecticut's 7-foot-3 center, Hasheem Thabeet and got into early foul trouble, playing only nine minutes in the first half. That's exactly when the Tigers blew a 20-5 lead and went into the half trailing 41-40.

Early in the second half, Connecticut's Dyson came in for a thunderous dunk over Dorsey. The old Dorsey, the one who may have thought more about the highlight than the sake of his team, would have probably tried to knock Dyson to the floor.

"I had to think not about myself but about the team to get the win," said Dorsey, who was keenly aware of his foul trouble. "I'm maturing a lot."

Of course, Dorsey couldn't let Dyson think he was getting away with anything, though. Later in the game, Dorsey aggressively swatted away a Dyson dunk with his left hand.

"After he dunked the first time, I told him 'You better not come in here and dunk it because I'm going to block it,'" Dorsey said.

Dorsey finished with 12 boards and three blocks and had only three fouls.

"Joey can never play a bad game, or we won't be successful," Douglas-Roberts said.

"Joey was the difference in both of these games," said Memphis assistant John Robic.

Meanwhile, Douglas-Roberts reminded us all that Memphis isn't just about a blooming Rose this season. Even though Calipari calls Douglas-Roberts' game an "old-man game," according to Rose, CDR (as he is called by his teammates and coaches) scored a career-high 33 points in 33 minutes and earned tournament MVP honors for his effort.

So after all that, Memphis leaves New York knowing it can play against a zone (OU), be physical enough to grind out a win, deal with man-to-man, break down guards and learn to deal with adversity.

Sure it's early, but the Tigers have beaten two teams that look like they will be in the chase for NCAA Tournament bids. It was just the start of Memphis' challenging nonconference slate. The Tigers will play USC back in New York in the Jimmy V Classic and have home games against Georgetown, Arizona, Gonzaga and Tennessee in the next three months.

A week ago, Rose was the headline and rightfully so. But things have settled down. Reality has settled in. Memphis has issues like everyone else. The Tigers need Dorsey. They must have Douglas-Roberts. They certainly could use more from Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart to aid Dorsey. The coaches feel Antonio Anderson needs to be a lock-down defender and better decision-maker. Andre Allen needs to be a continued spark off the bench behind Rose at the point. Jeff Robinson has to continue to provide backup play to CDR. Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp must keep shooting well from the perimeter.

"We're good," Dorsey said in response to what the Tigers learned about themselves here in the city. "Everybody thinks we're frauds. We're a veteran team."

It's not clear who Dorsey believes is accusing the Tigers of being fraudulent, but if he feels victimized, then so be it. His realization of his importance to the team (and his staying on the court) is all that matters. So, too, is the understanding by Rose that he can't play street ball, and the acknowledgment of the entire team that Douglas-Roberts is apparently as reliable as an old-man's game.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at ESPN.com.

Dick Vitale's Weekly Awards


Weekly Awards
Dick Vitale
SPECIAL TO ESPN.COM

Player of the week: Chris Douglas-Roberts, Memphis

He put on a show at Madison Square Garden in the finals of the 2K Sports final against Connecticut. Douglas-Roberts scored a career-high 33 points in the championship game, hitting 14-of-24 shots from the field. He also added seven rebounds in the title game.

Team of the week: Memphis
John Calipari's team was challenged by two physical teams at Madison Square Garden. The Tigers came through against Oklahoma and Connecticut to show why they are a legitimate Final Four contender.

Coach of the week: Dave Leitao, Virginia

The Cavaliers coach led his team to an upset win at Arizona, 75-72. Sean Singletary scored 24 points and Virginia showed great poise to leave Tucson with a big W!

Diaper Dandy of the week: Eric Gordon, Indiana

What a debut for the Hoosier guard. My friends, he has been compared to being an impact player a la Isiah Thomas and he showed why with 33 points (including seven-of-11 trifectas) in a victory over Chattanooga. Gordon followed up with 21 points (including five more three-pointers) in 26 minutes in a rout of Longwood.

Shock of the week: New Orleans over N.C. State

The Privateers used a late 9-2 run to score a stunner at Raleigh, 65-63. T.J. Worley banked in a three-pointer with 1.7 seconds left just moments after Gavin Grant's driving basket gave the Wolfpack a short-lived lead. Three defenders were on Worley when he launched the winning hoop.

Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in December 1979. Send him a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.

Dick Vitale - This and That


Don't tell me that Memphis beating Connecticut at Madison Square Garden wasn't special for coach John Calipari. Getting a "W" over Hall of Fame coach Jim Calhoun meant a lot, whether the game was in mid-November or early April. My friends, these are two very competitive coaches who were rivals when Calipari was at Massachusetts. John downplayed the significance when we spoke just before the game, but I am not buying it at all. I was so impressed with the quickness of Derrick Rose; he is so special to see in person. Chris Douglas-Roberts, called CDR by some, is a guy who will make opponents need CPR this season. Calipari's team has been in the Elite Eight two straight seasons and the goal is clear this time around … Final Four and cutting down the nets in San Antonio. As for Connecticut, this is still a young team that is learning. It is great to see AJ Price is healthy and playing well. The Big East is loaded this season, and the Huskies will make some noise too.You also saw the importance of Joey Dorsey as Memphis struggled a bit defensively when he took a seat on the pine with two fouls. Calipari's kids were resilient.

The Hartford Courant - Good Effort, But UConn Loses To No. 3 Memphis

Good Effort, But UConn Loses To No. 3 Memphis
By MIKE ANTHONY | The Hartford Courant
11:43 PM EST, November 16, 2007

NEW YORK - It's unfortunate for UConn that the game ended like it did, with a handful of missed free throws, offensive breakdowns and key rebounds being snared by bigger, faster Memphis players.

Those types of breakdowns have become the norm for the Huskies.

This type of effort has not.

Flat near the start and flat at the end, UConn lost to No. 3 Memphis 81-70 in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic championship game at Madison Square Garden. It was a reminder that the Huskies aren't quite ready to take down America's finest, but UConn appears to have gained something and found something from this trip to New York.

The Huskies, the better team for long stretches, neither withered or worried after looking outclassed early. The game was there for the taking well into the second half. But Memphis broke a 60-all tie with a 14-3 run and did all the little things UConn could not down the stretch. Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts made the difference as UConn came up empty with this potential statement game in the balance.

Douglas-Roberts led Memphis (4-0) with a career-high 33 points and the freshman Rose had 24. A.J. Price led UConn (3-1) with 23.

UConn erased an early 15-point deficit to lead 41-40 at halftime, and this game took on a tournament feel in the second. A "Let's Go Huskies" chant rang through the Garden during timeouts, and UConn played with backbone and vision.

The Huskies shook off another slow start in the second as an 11-2 Memphis run made it 51-46, scoring consecutive baskets to reel in Memphis. A Rose free throw put the Tigers up three, but Jerome Dyson (17 points) went the length of the court and threw down a one-handed windmill dunk over Joey Dorsey.

Soon, it was 60-60. UConn was finding answers and the Garden, while only about half full, shook.

It wasn't so lively at the start.

The pro-UConn crowd had reason for concern almost immediately. The Huskies started 0-for-4 from the field and trailed 10-0 after consecutive three-pointers by Douglas-Roberts. Price finally got UConn on the board 2:30 in, making a shot from the lane as he was fouled, but Memphis showed early that the physical demands it places on opponents are enormous.

Soon enough, it was as if the Tigers were showing off.

Rose and Antonio Anderson scored on drives, making it 14-3. Next, Joey Dorsey caught a lob from Willie Kemp with one hand and stuffed it through the hoop, a dunk that spoke to both the Tigers' finesse and power.

For UConn, missed free throws, missed shots and turnovers piled up. Calhoun, seemingly perplexed, wandered onto the court during play. And Memphis kept running, kept finding new ways to score.

The Huskies did not wilt. They showed a toughness and resiliency that seemed to be lacking all of last season.

Eventually, UConn settled in and, as usual, it was pulled along by Price, who scored the team's first five points and had 16 in the half. Stanley Robinson gave UConn another option, making a three-pointer to cut the Tigers' lead to 10 and soon another long jumper.

But Memphis was nearly impossible to stop at the other end, the lead staying in double digits even as UConn found a level of comfort. Eventually, the Huskies managed to get within seven, most of the baskets coming from Price, who was as assertive as he was flashy. None of Price's shots were easy but he went at the teeth of the Memphis defense for a high bank shot and another acrobatic layup that made it 31-20. Moments later he fed Hasheem Thabeet for an easy basket, and Jeff Adrien followed with a free throw to cut the lead to nine.

Shawn Taggart scored over Thabeet but Robinson made a layup in traffic and Price added two free throws, the crowd getting lively toward the end of the half as UConn got within seven. Soon, there were whistles (from the referees) and boos (from Memphis fans).

Coach John Calipari was issued a technical foul while arguing an offensive interference call with 3:04 left in the half. Price made a free throw and Thabeet a pair to make it 36-32. Memphis was up by six when it was bit by the whistle again. This time, Taggart was issued a technical after a foul on Thabeet.

Memphis would not score again in the half, and UConn took its first lead with 12.9 seconds left on a pair of free throws by Adrien.

Contact Mike Anthony at manthonycourant.com.

New York Times - Memphis Squanders Early Lead Before Beating Connecticut

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.

Dan Wolken's Post Game Blog Entry


Postgame blog: Memphis 63, Oklahoma 53

Posted by Dan Wolken Chris Douglas-Roberts, who had been mauled all night long, might have said it best: “That was a Big 12 team, and they played Big 12 basketball.” I agree, except for one thing. Oklahoma wasn’t playing Big 12 basketball Thursday. The Sooners were playing Big 12 football.

That was as physical a game as Memphis has played in a long time — even more physical, in many ways, than the Sweet 16 game against Texas A&M. Oklahoma did a great job mucking it up with a zone, and grabbing the Tigers whenever they could. Memphis didn’t exactly do a great job standing up to it — they committed 20 turnovers and shot just 38.6 percent from the field — but won the game with defense and made just enough plays offensively. As John Calipari said afterwards, the Tigers have double-teamed an opposing player “five times the last two years,” but they did a great job tonight with freshman Blake Griffin. Griffin, who had been dominant inside the first three games, went just 3 for 9 from the field, had eight rebounds and committed five turnovers.

Other observations:

– Joey Dorsey was the man tonight, with nine points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. The Tigers would have lost without him.
– Where is Robert Dozier? After an embarrassing performance against Christian Brothers, he was a no-show yet again. No points, four rebounds and got pushed around any time he went inside. Robert is better than that, and the Tigers will be vulnerable in these kinds of games if he doesn’t show it.
– Antonio Anderson stepped up and made a couple big 3-pointers, but he still seems out of synch. He’s committed a year’s worth of careless turnovers (by his standards) in the last two games.
– Andre Allen is a scrapper on defense, but he is not helping the team offensively when he tries to do too much.
– Willie Kemp should have played more, in my opinion. Though he went 2-for-7 from the 3-point line, which isn’t good for him, he did have four rebounds, two assists and looked more composed out there to me than some of the other guards. I was shocked when I saw the box score and he only had 10 minutes.

#3 Tigers 81, UConn 70 - CDR Leads Way as Tigers Defeat Huskies

Douglas-Roberts leads way as Tigers defeat Huskies
No. 3 Tigers 81, Connecticut 70
By Dan Wolken
Saturday, November 17, 2007

NEW YORK -- With 44.5 seconds left on the scoreboard at Madison Square Garden, the severely outnumbered throng of University of Memphis fans overwhelmed their silenced counterparts with chants of "C-D-R, C-D-R!"

From a distance, it almost sounded like "C-D-Star."

Four games into the most anticipated Memphis basketball season in decades, the No. 3-ranked Tigers are still not the complete, dynamic team they promise to be in March.

But none of that mattered Friday as Douglas-Roberts penned the signature game of his career, scoring 33 points as the Tigers defeated Connecticut, 81-70, to win the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic title.

In a game filled with wild swings of emotion and momentum, Douglas-Roberts transcended everything, making 14-of-24 field goals, grabbing seven rebounds and leading a group that showed its maturity and experience when it was all on the verge of slipping away.

"We're just seasoned," said Douglas-Roberts, who earned the tournament Most Valuable Player trophy. "We're a more experienced team. We knew we couldn't lose this game and have any excuses."

After dominating early, then getting themselves into severe foul trouble, the Tigers would have, in years past, gone home from a game like this cursing their luck, blaming the officials and grumbling about a significant win they let from their grasp.

That's what happened nearly one year ago exactly, when Memphis (4-0) used a similar recipe to blow a 16-point lead to Georgia Tech in Maui.

But this time, the Tigers held things together in the second half, then broke a 60-60 tie with a 14-3 run over a crucial 4:24 span that held up over the final, stress-free minutes.

"I think guys had that maturity," junior forward Robert Dozier said. "You knew they were going to make a run. We had to weather it and bounce back. So when they made that run, we came right back and punched them in the mouth."

Though Douglas-Roberts scored seven points in the decisive rally, it was a run that featured some of the team's best attributes.

Senior forward Joey Dorsey, after picking up two fouls in the first 10 minutes, grabbed two crucial offensive rebounds and took control of the defensive glass, finishing with a game-high 12 rebounds.

Dozier, after a scoreless performance the night before, came back from major foul difficulties -- he picked up his fourth on the first possession of the second half -- to become a factor at the end. He put back an offensive board for a 69-63 lead with 6:11 to go, then grabbed another about one minute later, which led to a Douglas-Roberts' 3-point play that gave Memphis the 11-point lead.

And freshman point guard Derrick Rose played aggressively but under control, scoring on consecutive possessions with a difficult lay-up that he had to cradle at his hip, then draining a 16-foot jumper with 7:14 to go that pushed it to 67-62. Rose finished with 24 points on 8-of-17 from the field and 8-of-10 from the free-throw line.

"I'm so happy for Robert Dozier, who hasn't been playing very well and played so well today," coach John Calipari said. "I know Chris Douglas got the MVP, but Joey Dorsey deserved it. He anchored the defense, and the defense won our games. Connecticut is a fine team and they're going to win a lot of games. We're a little more veteran."

Memphis needed all the veteran composure it could muster after a strange first half. The Tigers dominated from the opening tip, taking a 20-5 lead and slicing up UConn's man-to-man defense with their crisp dribble drives.

Memphis made 13 of its first 18 shots from the field while UConn started 1-for-11. Douglas-Roberts had 14 points before the Huskies could blink, and it seemed like the kind of night in which Memphis would finally show the nation that its preseason billing was legitimate.

Then, the Tigers' lead evaporated. Dorsey was called for his second foul 10:20 into the game, sparking a wildfire of whistles against Memphis -- 16 by the end of the half against only five for UConn.

By the time the Tigers got into the locker room, Dozier had picked up three fouls. Their third big man, Shawn Taggart, also had three, including a technical. And Calipari was lit up for a technical for arguing all of it.

The Tigers finished the first half missing 19 of their final 24 shots and UConn crawled back in front 41-40 by making 18-of-23 from the free-throw line (Memphis went 1-for-3).

But Memphis stayed calm, taking the lead back for good with 18:11 left.

"The kids at halftime, they knew that we were OK," Calipari said. "They never panicked, and they played to win."

Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.