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Monday, January 14, 2008

Tigers win 12th straight road game

Tigers win 12th straight road game
By Dan Wolken
January 12, 2008

HUNTINGTON, W.V. – As the University of Memphis basketball team boarded the bus to Cam Henderson Center on Saturday, players walked through a hotel lobby full of bikers from the Brothers of the Blade.

Though it might have seemed like a strange clash of cultures, perhaps something rubbed off the No. 2-ranked Tigers. Apparently in the mood to get their engines running early, the Tigers revved up and released a burst of speed that carried them all the way to a 68-45 victory over Marshall.

For the Tigers, who won their 12th straight road game and improved to 15-0 this season (2-0 in Conference USA), there was nothing particularly brilliant about their body of work here Saturday. After establishing a 15-point lead in the first 13 minutes, Memphis seemed content to play a ragged, rugged game that allowed Marshall to hang on to some scraps of hope until the final few minutes.

Though the Tigers never let things get out of control, they couldn’t feel too secure until consecutive dunks by senior forward Joey Dorsey put them in front 53-35 with 9:06 to go. Then, when the sellout crowd of more than 9,000 urged Marshall to make one final push, freshman point guard Derrick Rose drained a 3-pointer from in front of the Tigers’ bench for a 60-42 lead.

On a night when Memphis only got to the free-throw line nine times and didn’t get much out of leading scorer Chris Douglas-Roberts (8 points on 3-for-9 shooting), the Tigers needed 19 points from Rose, who made 8-of-14 field goals and was the only player consistently able to get to the rim off the dribble and finish in traffic.

Dorsey scored 11 points, and junior forward Robert Dozier had 18 points on 7-of-15 shooting. But it was Dozier’s offensive rebounding that helped Memphis establish a 47-30 lead after Marshall closed the gap to 34-27 at halftime.

After a 12-4 Marshall run to end the first half, Dozier got offensive rebounds on the Tigers’ first three possessions of the second. He converted two of those baskets, restoring order to a chaotic sequence in which Memphis briefly sensed danger near halftime.

Early on, the Tigers beat Marshall’s defense easily, making 11 of their first 17 field goals and jumping out to a 30-15 lead. But just as they did in their first road game at Cincinnati, Memphis did not sustain its intensity.

At the point in the game when a few more defensive stops might have crushed Marshall’s confidence, the Tigers sagged. When a few more baskets would have probably put the game out of reach, the Tigers got sloppy.

But Memphis held the Thundering Herd to 1-for-11 starting the second half, allowing the Tigers to sprint away again. Marshall shot 35 percent for the game, the 10th team this year who failed to shoot 40 percent or better against the Tigers.

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