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Friday, January 25, 2008

The Oklahoman - Memphis has top rank, but Kansas is more deserving

Memphis has top rank, but Kansas is more deserving

By John Rohde
The Oklahoman

TULSA — Give the nod to Kansas.

After losing by 30 points against the Jayhawks last week, Oklahoma coach Jeff Capel proclaimed KU as the best team in the land over Memphis.

The Sooners have played the nation's top two ranked teams, and Capel gave a convincing nod to the Jayhawks. Said it wasn't even close.

Given the way the top-ranked Tigers performed Wednesday night at Tulsa, it's easy to nod right alongside Capel.

Memphis pushed its record to 18-0 with a 56-41 survival against the Golden Hurricane before a sellout crowd of 8,475 inside the Donald W. Reynolds Center.

Tulsa played gallantly.

The Tigers played poorly.

Somewhere in the middle is an explanation why.

Memphis starters Robert Dozier (1 for 7), Joey Dorsey (0-4) and Antonio Anderson (0-4) shot a combined 1 for 15 from the field.

No telling what might have happened had Tigers forward Shawn Taggart not come off the bench and thrown in 14 points in 19 minutes.

Memphis coach John Calipari said he didn't feel comfortable "until the 1:20 mark" in the second half.

"Shawn Taggart spoiled their party,” Calipari said. "If we don't have Shawn Taggart, they beat us.”

It was the first game for Memphis since being anointed No. 1 on Monday.

The last time the Tigers reached No. 1 in the Associated Press poll, the ranking lasted only a few hours before losing 64-56 at Virginia Tech on Jan. 10, 1983.

Calipari was curious how his team would react to its top-billing.

"You know it's inspiring the other team,” Calipari said. "You have to hope it's inspiring your team even more. If it (the No. 1 ranking) becomes an anvil around their neck, then let's lose. If it's becomes something to drag us back, let's lose. But tonight I think a lot of it had to do with Tulsa.

"I'm not sure anybody does a better job of preparing their team for us than (TU coach) Doug Wojcik does.”

With bloodshot eyes afterward, Calipari said he appreciated the challenge.

Memphis led 28-24 at halftime and clung to a 40-36 lead with nine minutes remaining.

"I said at halftime, ‘I'm happy they're playing us this way,' ” Calipari said. "These kids are not machines. They're not playing great every night out. It's how it is. You hope you win anyway.”

Calipari insists he wasn't taking it easy on the Hurricane. This was no Conference USA pity party.

"We did go after them. It wasn't like we were trying to back up,” Calipari said. "I thought they would get tired, and they never got tired.”

After what happened on this night, the No. 1 nod goes to Kansas.

After some other night, maybe not.

"Here's what happens during a season,” Calipari explained. "You're going to have three games where you absolutely lay an egg. You just hope they're against team that you can beat. This (tonight) was not laying an egg. We just didn't play real well.”

Calipari admits he has glanced at 19-0 Kansas a few times this season.

He is no stranger to KU. He met his wife there while serving as an assistant under Ted Owens and Larry Brown (1982-85).

"The games I've seen, they're unbelievable,” Calipari said of the Jayhawks. "What I'm saying is we're the most highly thought-of team. I don't know if we're the best.”

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