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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dorsey delivers boards, tough-Love defense

Dorsey delivers boards, tough-Love defense

UCLA star held in check by 'beast'

By Ron Higgins
Sunday, April 6, 2008

SAN ANTONIO -- There's a lot that goes into the nurturing and care of University of Memphis senior forward Joey Dorsey's somewhat fragile psyche.

For instance, Tigers coach John Calipari likes Dorsey to write stories visualizing what will happen in a game, such as against UCLA in Saturday's NCAA Final Four semifinal.

"When I was writing my story, my dream (Friday) night, I'm laughing because I know I'm going to have a good game," Dorsey said. "I told one of my coaches that the title of my story was 'No Love for UCLA.' "

Stop the presses. Dorsey was dead-on, holding UCLA's fabulous freshman center Kevin Love to 12 points and nine rebounds as the Tigers beat the Bruins, 78-63, to advance to Monday night's national championship game against Kansas.

In a very Ben Wallace-like performance, Dorsey scored no points (0-of-3 field goals) in 27 minutes but collected 15 rebounds (six offensive), his third-highest rebound total of the season. And don't forget Dorsey's two blocks, including rejecting a drive by UCLA's Russell Westbrook with the Tigers ahead by just nine with 3:44 left.

Calipari and Dorsey's teammates were bursting with pride over Dorsey's selfless performance.

"His coach yelled at him the whole game," Calipari said with a laugh. "He's a beast and there were times today that he wasn't a beast. I just want him to go every possession and be that beast."

Replied Dorsey, "Coach was yelling at me and I tried telling him the whole game that I was rebounding."

Love can vouch for that. The 6-10, 271-pound rock came into the game averaging 21.8 points and 11 rebounds in the tourney. He got erased by Dorsey.

"(Dorsey) played a pretty good game for only playing 27 minutes," Love said. "He kept getting to balls and had a couple of big blocks. He played good defense and they had other players swarming me."

True, the Tigers did double Love at times. But it was up to the 6-9, 265-pound Dorsey to not be budged off his defensive position in the low post.

"Once Love gets the ball in the paint, he's tough to match," Tigers forward Robert Dozier said. "Joey fought with Kevin Love. Not too many guys all year have successfully fought for position with Kevin Love, but Joey did it."

Especially after halftime. When Dorsey picked up his third foul 52 seconds into the second half, and then his replacement Shawn Taggart immediately got his third foul, it looked shaky for the Tigers.

But Taggart managed to make it to the 14:55 mark without getting another foul, and that's when Dorsey checked in and went to work.

"Joey was a monster in the second half," Taggart said. "He made sure Kevin Love didn't touch the ball."

Dorsey even turned his best chance to score -- a botched alley-oop -- into that key block of Westbrook.

"I missed that alley-oop and I said to myself, 'Oh my God, Joey, just break through,' " Dorsey said. "After I missed, I ran down the court so fast because Coach said every possession counts. When I saw Westbrook lay that ball up, I had to go block it."

In the end, when Dorsey had played his role to the hilt, another one of his psychological coaches, former Memphis all-American Penny Hardaway, was as proud as can be.

Hardaway, a 14-year NBA veteran who started some for the Miami Heat early this season before being released, returned home to Memphis. When Hardaway was asked two months ago by Tigers' strength coach Richard Hogans to help Dorsey with his free throw shooting, he knew Dorsey's enormous physical talent sometimes didn't match his confidence level.

"I'm closer to Joey than anyone on the team, because I've been talking to him since his freshman year," Hardaway said. "I've had the same conversation with him for four years. He's a competitor and he wants to do well.

"We've talked about staying under control and not letting his confidence drop. When Joey's happy, he's getting 15 rebounds and blocking shots."

Like against the Bruins.

"I was mad at myself for not scoring," Dorsey said. "But all of my teammates were telling me, 'You don't have to worry about scoring, do what you do. If you get 15 rebounds a game, we're going to win.' So I'm happy ... just throw me a bone or two on offense."

-- Ron Higgins; 529-2525

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