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Saturday, May 31, 2008

C-USA team loses to China (Again)

C-USA team loses to China
Chinese national team scores second straight victory on Tigers' tour
Maggie Rauch
Special to The Commercial Appeal
Friday, May 30, 2008

YANGJIANG, China — In a subtropical city where architectural variety means a boxy cement building painted pink or green instead of beige, the shiny white dome of the 4,000-seat Yangjiang City Gymnasium stands out as distinctively as the Water Cube does in Beijing.

That gymnasium played host to an important piece of Chinese basketball history today, as the University of Memphis men’s team, along with five players and some coaches from other Conference USA schools, faced the Chinese national team in the second of its three games in Guangdong province this week. It’s the first time an American college team has come to China to compete against the Chinese national team.

“It’s a great honor to be out here playing against Team China,” said Memphis guard Doneal Mack after the game, which China won, 92-88. “Playing against Olympians is definitely going to help us in the future.”

Team C-USA dominated the boards Friday night, with 49 to China’s 29, and controlled the game until China took the lead on free throws with 4:10 left. Calipari’s team was whistled for 32 fouls to China’s 23. China turned that into 27 made free throws, outscoring C-USA by five at the stripe.

“When you’re on the road, you don’t expect to get the calls,” Calipari said after the game. “And we’re really on the road.” He pointed to turnovers (the team had 20) as a source of trouble in the game.

“[Coach Jonas Kazlauskas] has done a great job of getting them to play great transition defense,” Calipari said. “We didn’t get many transition baskets.”

Mack and UTEP’s Claude Britten led C-USA with 17 points each. Antonio Anderson and Robert Dozier added 16 and 15, respectively. China’s high scorer was Wang Shipeng, with 17. Zhang Kai, who poured in 20 in the first game, was held to just nine on Friday. China played without Yao Ming, Yi Jianlian and Wang Zhizhi, who are all injured.

Though China has become a legitimately basketball-crazy country, most people here know nothing of the NCAA. But that’s hardly dampened the excitement that locals are showing about hosting the team.

“It was very loud and very intense,” Memphis forward Robert Dozier said of the atmosphere at the team’s first game, Wednesday night in Dongguan. “They were cheering for their home team, but they cheered for us, as well.”

Yangjiang is an industrial town on the South China Sea. Many of its 2.6 million residents work in the Shibazi factory, making knives and other kitchenware. Judging from the school-girl giggles and enthusiastic “hellos” that followed the basketball team around town, this is not a place that sees many foreigners.

“They don’t know what we’re saying, and we don’t know what they’re saying,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of gesturing to get things done.”

The Tigers are leaving their mark with more than just basketball. The Sino-USA Basketball Challenge has been turned into an impromptu charity for the earthquake that has killed at least 68,000 people in Sichuan province. Conference USA and Memphis together donated $10,000 to relief efforts.

“To be a part of that and let them know that Americans are watching and that we care has been really meaningful for us,” said John Calipari. “I told them there’s a fault line through Memphis. That could just as easily have happened to us.”

Maggie Rauch is a Beijing-based writer and editor of

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