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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Charleston (WV) Gazette - Herd braces for No. 2 Memphis

January 12, 2008
Herd braces for No. 2 Memphis
By Doug Smock, Staff writer

HUNTINGTON — When preparing to tangle with No. 2 Memphis, you’re not just bracing for Derrick Rose.
Or Chris Douglas-Roberts. Or Robert Dozier. Or Joey Dorsey.

Oh, they’re good players, all right. But when Memphis coach John Calipari sits them down — even all four of them at once — there isn’t much dropoff. Not in ability, not in the Tigers’ fast-paced style.

And that’s what makes the Tigers a national contender, and certainly the playground bullies in post-2005 Conference USA. And that’s what will bring a full house to Cam Henderson Center tonight.

Memphis (14-0, 1-0 Conference USA) arrives to tackle Marshall (9-4, 1-0), which is coming off an impressive road victory against Rice. The Tigers are the highest-ranked team to play in Huntington.

Tipoff is at 8 p.m., with the game airing on Comcast/Charter SouthEast Sports. And if you dash off to the restroom, you’re liable to miss something from the men in blue. If Marshall dozes off ... the proceedings get ugly.

“The speed they play at is incredible,” said Marshall coach Donnie Jones. “We played fast at Florida, but I think they play faster. And when they go to their bench, they don’t miss a beat. That allows them to keep 40 minutes of pressure. They wear on you.”

This is Jones’ first game coaching against the Tigers, but a few of his players know the drill. Marshall’s Markel Humphrey is among the veterans who have faced Memphis three times in the last two seasons, including 78-59 and 92-71 losses last season.

“If you don’t bring your ‘A’ game, you’ll get rattled in the first five minutes,” Humphrey said.

The Tigers have won 24 straight games against their conference brethren, and could be considerably improved from their previous two seasons, both in which they advanced to the NCAA tournament’s round of eight.

A big reason is Rose, a Chicago native who sports Michael Jordan’s No. 23. The 6-foot-3 point guard is mentioned in the same breath with O.J. Mayo and a handful of other freshmen who may play just a season of college ball before heading to the NBA.

“Yes, he’s that talented,” Jones said. “He’s smart. He’s gifted, he’s athletic, he’s a great competitor. He has all the intangibles to be a star.”

Rose averages 14.4 points and 4.5 assists, and is far from the Tigers’ lone weapon. Douglas-Roberts was a first-team all-conference selection last year and leads the team in scoring at 16.9 points per game. He also sports a mean crossover dribble, which he demonstrates on

Dozier averages 11.1 points, and the 6-9, 265-pound Dorsey hauls down 9.8 rebounds per game. Dorsey was a C-USA All-Defensive pick last year.

Antonio Anderson rounds out the projected starting lineup, if it matters. Then there is matter of the deep, deep bench.

Pull a name out of the hat, and that name could show up big on the scoresheet tonight. For example, Doneal Mack scorched the Herd in the Conference USA quarterfinals last year, hitting five 3-point goals and scoring 19 points in just 15 minutes. Shawn Taggart is a 6-10 sophomore averaging nearly seven points, and sophomore Willie Kemp has just five turnovers in 223 minutes.

Marshall will have the advantage of a loud capacity crowd, and the Thundering Herd is coming in on a high note. Its 66-47 victory over Rice is the largest margin for a road win since the Herd went to Conference USA.
“I thought it was a terrific win,” Jones said. “Our guys took it to a different level in the second half.”

BRIEFLY: The Henderson Center ticket office opens at 2 p.m. today to sell any remaining tickets, and to fill previous orders. There were fewer than 400 tickets left Friday afternoon. ... This is the first of three Marshall games scheduled to be televised anywhere. The others are the West Virginia game (statewide network) and a home game against East Carolina (CSTV). CSS is available on Comcast in the Huntington area, but not on Suddenlink in the Kanawha Valley. ... By contrast, every Memphis game is televised, 11 on an ESPN outlet, nine on CSTV, six on CSS and the remaining four locally. ... Rose actually wore No. 25 in high school, but that number is retired at Memphis, courtesy of Anfernee Hardaway. ... Dorsey has switched from No. 32 to No. 3 because Calipari has encouraged him to play like another No. 3, Ben Wallace. ... Memphis is tied with UCLA for the longest-standing team in the Associated Press Top 25, 48 straight weeks. Its six-week stay at No. 2 is a school record, and only once have the Tigers been No. 1, for one week in mid-January 1983.

To contact staff writer Doug Smock, use e-mail or call 348-5130.

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