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Monday, January 21, 2008

Boston Globe - Giving his all at Memphis

Giving his all at Memphis

By Julian Benbow
Boston Globe Staff / January 20, 2008
The University of Memphis men's basketball team was in this situation last year, only the stakes were higher.

The Tigers had a 24-game winning streak that extended all the way to their Elite Eight matchup against Ohio State.

In Antonio Anderson's eyes, none of those wins mattered as much as that loss.

"We were a very good team last year," said the junior guard. "Unfortunately we lost to a great team, who had three first-round picks [in the NBA draft]. There's nothing you could do; they were the better team that day. Guys learned from that experience, and hopefully if we get a chance to get there again guys can use their experience for the better for us."

The Tigers are streaking again this season. It's habitual. They started the season with 15 straight wins.

"Last year in the tournament, they weren't predicting us to win any games, so there wasn't any pressure," said 6-foot-6,, 210-pound Anderson, who turned four years at Lynn Tech plus time at a couple of prep schools into a role as a starter for the nation's second-ranked squad.

"Now it's still no pressure. We're just going out and playing game by game. We don't worry about the record or the streak or anything. We just take it game by game and go from there."

The Tigers dropped Oklahoma early, and UConn long before the Huskies collapsed against Gonzaga. They edged out O.J. Mayo's USC Trojans, 62-58, in their closest game of the year. Then they made games against No. 4 Georgetown and No. 18 Arizona look like open gym, pulling off two wins within a week of each other and making them look casual.

A defensive stopper, Anderson is averaging 6.9 points and 3.5 assists per game. His numbers are down from last season when he led the team in assists. But the team on the whole is up, and playing games like the ones they have already can only help.

"When you play a bunch of good teams who are all going to be in the NCAA tournament, that makes you ready for big games as well. You play against different styles and different types of players, and that means you have to adjust to every team you play."

Experts at a certain four-letter network will talk about the fact that all of those wins came on the Tigers' home court, except for the Oklahoma and UConn games, which were at neutral sites. They'll talk about the quality of Conference USA. But mostly they're talking about how all those things could work in their favor if the Tigers are trying to run the table.

Which, of course, they aren't. Not necessarily at least, Anderson said.

"We just want to focus," he said. "We're out here trying to continue doing what we've been doing since preseason. Guys are just buying into what coach is talking about. Just worry about defending."

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