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Friday, January 25, 2008

Muskogee (OK) Daily Phoenix - Memphis blues

Memphis blues
Tulsa's big to knock off No. 1 falls short

TULSA (AP) — Without another standout performance off the bench, Memphis’ second chance to be the top-ranked team in the country might have ended in defeat, just like the first time.

Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 20 points, and reserve Shawn Taggart scored 12 of his 14 in the second half to help No. 1 Memphis beat pesky Tulsa 56-41 Wednesday night and avoid the fate that befell the Tigers their only other time with the No. 1 ranking 25 years earlier.

“We always were No. 1 in our eyes, but now they finally put us in their top notch,” said Taggart, who had his third-highest point total of the season. “We’re going to go out there and we’re going to play exactly how we played when we were No. 3 and exactly how we played when we were No. 2.”

After winning each of its last six games by at least 20 points, Memphis (18-0, 5-0 Conference USA) didn’t take a double-digit lead until Douglas-Roberts’ two-handed jam with 6:21 remaining made it 48-38.

Freshman point guard Derrick Rose set up the dunk by tipping away Calvin Walls’ pass and then tracking it down in the frontcourt before firing a pass to Douglas-Roberts.

Taggart followed with a 3-pointer — only his sixth in 11 attempts this season — and Douglas-Roberts added a layup off a baseline inbounds pass as Memphis reeled off nine straight points to go up 54-38 with 4:02 left.

Memphis coach John Calipari thought for a while that the ascent to No. 1 might have been affecting his team’s performance. By the end, he decided it was more about the impact of the ranking on his opponent.

“You know it’s inspiring the other team. You’ve got to hope that it’s inspiring to your team even more,” Calipari said. “If it becomes an anvil around their neck, let’s lose. If it becomes something that drags us back, let’s lose.

“I think a lot of this had to do with Tulsa.”

The last time Memphis reached No. 1, Virginia Tech was waiting hours later to pull off a 64-56 upset on Jan. 10, 1983. It took the school just over a quarter-century to get back to the top.

“I’ve been wanting to be No. 1 since I was a freshman. It was great for me,” said senior Joey Dorsey, who had a career-high 19 rebounds to pass 1,000 for his career. “I ain’t trying to lose it. I’m trying to be No. 1 until the year’s over.”

Walls scored 12 points to lead the Golden Hurricane (9-7, 1-3), which dispatched the triangle-and-two defense for the first time and also relied on the 2-3 zone instead of coach Doug Wojcik’s usual man-to-man style.

“I’m not sure that anybody does a better job of preparing their team for us than what Doug does,” Calipari said. “The problem is that when you’re playing them early in the season, he exposes some of the stuff for other people to kind of come after you a little bit.”

The Tigers’ next test comes at home Saturday against Gonzaga, and Wojcik said he’d already spoken with Zags coach Mark Few — a close friend.

“I’m proud of my guys. ... We really had a chance tonight,” Wojcik said. “We really did.”

The Tigers’ inside tandem of Dorsey and Robert Dozier was neutralized much of the night by 7-footer Jerome Jordan, and the Tigers couldn’t get much going from outside.

Memphis shot only 37.9 percent, its third-lowest mark of the season, and was 4-for-16 from 3-point range but was able to make up for it by holding the Golden Hurricane to their season-low in scoring and only 22 percent shooting in the second half.

Dorsey, who was held scoreless Saturday against Southern Miss, had only two points, Dozier had three and fellow starter Antonio Anderson didn’t score. Rose had 14 points.

Tulsa drew its first sellout crowd in over two years, and the first capacity crowd at the Reynolds Center for an opponent other than Oklahoma since sixth-ranked Gonzaga visited in February 2004.

“Doug had them ready, their team was excited about playing, their fans were excited about it, and Shawn Taggart spoiled their party,” Calipari said.

“Let me say it again: Shawn Taggart spoiled their party, because the rest of us were just OK.”

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