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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Rose, Dozier deliver on road

Rose, Dozier deliver on road
Duo compensate for Douglas-Roberts' drop
By Dan Wolken
Monday, January 14, 2008

Last season, Chris Douglas-Roberts averaged more points for the University of Memphis in road games (17.1) than he did in home and neutral site games (14.7). And given how the Tigers rarely had an easy time of it on the road last season, they usually needed every basket he could get them.

But if you're looking for pieces of evidence why Memphis (15-0) is more equipped to make a Final Four run in 2008 than it was in 2007, look no further than the lack of production from Douglas-Roberts in the Tigers' two road games thus far.

At first blush, those two statements may seem contradictory. But as the Tigers proved at Cincinnati on Dec. 19, and again Saturday at Marshall, they have evolved through the addition of freshman point guard Derrick Rose and the emergence of junior forward Robert Dozier as a consistent double-figure scorer.

In both road games the Tigers have played so far, Douglas-Roberts' space has been limited, his floater hasn't fallen, and he hasn't gotten much assistance from the officials when he's tried to attack the rim. Last season, that might have been a good recipe to beat Memphis.

But with Rose's 22.5 points per road game and Dozier averaging 13.6 points since returning from a foot injury on Dec. 4, the Tigers don't seem so reliant on Douglas-Roberts to get the easy buckets that halt runs and quiet crowds, which are always crucial to road success.

Memphis won its 12th straight road game Saturday at Marshall 68-45, and even though the Thundering Herd held Douglas-Roberts to eight points on 3-for-10 from the field, it was hardly noticeable because Rose's 19 points and Dozier's 16 were more than enough to keep the underdog at arm's length most of the night.

"They were one or two shots, or a couple layups away from this being a 4-point game, a 3-point game, then something happens and boom," coach John Calipari said.

Instead, it was a 15-point game pretty much throughout. Would the Tigers have been capable of that last season with Douglas-Roberts unable to hit double-figures? It's hard to say for sure, but just consider:

In the Tigers' last road loss, Dec. 20, 2006 at Arizona, Douglas-Roberts was suffering from a stomach virus. Even though he played, he was obviously limited, going 3-for-8 from the field in 23 minutes. The Tigers, who had a five-point lead at halftime, were undone by their inability to string baskets together in the second.

On Jan. 20, 2007, Douglas-Roberts sat out with an ankle injury at East Carolina. Even against the worst team in the league, the Tigers struggled to score. They had just 21 points at halftime and went 17-for-55 from the field as they scratched out a 61-44 victory.

In the seven Conference USA road games Douglas-Roberts played, he averaged 18.9 points. Yet the Tigers' margin of victory in those games was 12.9 points, reflecting the relatively few number of blowout wins they had on the road.

Though the Tigers, of course, would love for Douglas-Roberts to put up numbers on the road, it hasn't been as necessary this year. He had just four points at Cincinnati, yet the Tigers controlled the second half behind Rose's 26 points.

And again on Saturday, Rose's ability to penetrate and score -- 12 of his 19 points came via layups or dunks -- was merely the latest example of how an elite, NBA lottery pick talent can impact a college game in ways that weren't available to the Tigers last season.

"We've got a bigger, stronger point guard," Dozier said. "Not to take anything away from Willie (Kemp) or Andre (Allen); they're different players. But a guy like D-Rose can get to the rim whenever he wants and jump over any point guard he plays against."

Dozier's consistency, meanwhile, is probably the second-most important development for the Tigers through 15 games. And it's only second because Dozier has played at this level before, just not with regularity.

Last season, Dozier was not much of a presence during the meat of the C-USA schedule, but he was an enormous factor in the postseason and vowed to come back in 2007-08 with the same hunger. Dozier has delivered so far. If his 19 points against Georgetown and 18 against Arizona showed his ability to score in bunches against elite teams, his third double-double in 10 days on Saturday was a testament to his toughness in the post against a physical team.

"He's playing absolutely out of his mind, the best he's ever played for us," Calipari said. "He's grabbing rebounds, he's scoring, he's blocking shots. Right now, if you ask me who our best player is, I'd say it's Robert Dozier, the way he's playing. He's performing. It's not about potential; it's performance. And his performance is probably the best on our team."

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

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