Tigers prove skeptics wrong with gutsy performance
Posted: Friday March 23, 2007 1:05AM; Updated: Friday March 23, 2007 3:59PM
SAN ANTONIO -- Memphis coach John Calipari was waiting in the hallways of the Alamodome yesterday as Texas A&M coach Billy Gillispie walked by after a press conference.
"Billy G!" Calipari yelled and stuck out his hand for a high five. "Let's just have fun tomorrow and beat the crap out of each other. Whoever has a half-court shot at the end wins it."
As it turns out, Calipari wasn't all that far off from predicting the outcome of tonight's battle between Memphis and Texas A&M. It was an intense, hard-fought game featuring two pressure defenses, and in the final seconds, the Tigers pulled off a 65-64 win over the Aggies.
Could there have been a more fitting way for Memphis to win? Take a look at the final 11 seconds. You want to see Memphis's signature tough D? When Andre Allen missed a 3-pointer, Memphis grabbed not one, but three offensive rebounds and drew a foul. And what about all the talk of Memphis's woefully poor free throw shooters? With 3 seconds left, sophomore guard Antonio Anderson (a 64 percent free throw shooter) confidently stepped to the line and nailed both shots.
"Guys just kept coming," said sophomore forward Robert Dozier. "One guy couldn't get in and another would come. That guy couldn't get it and another came."
"Being a basketball player, you look for situations like that," Anderson said. "You want the game in your hands, if you've got the mentality as a player. I had that. When I got to the line, I knew my teammates were tired and I said, let me get this game over with. I had to just knock them down."
Tonight, it was Anderson who was Mr. Clutch. And the hero of A&M, Acie Law IV, experienced a harsh ending to his stunning career. Law looked as if he would be the hero again with 47 seconds left in the game. A&M threw a home run outlet pass to Law streaking toward the basket, but he shockingly missed a wide-open layup that would have put A&M ahead by three.
"That play cost us the game," said Law afterwards.
As for the Tigers, they move on to the Elite Eight for the fifth time in school history (and the second straight year), extend their winning streak to 25 games, and continue to prove the basketball world wrong.
"I just have a question. Can we get one more?," asked Calipari after the game to the room full of media. "I don't know. But we're gonna try."
Though they're bitter rivals on the court, Calipari made a peace offering to Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl on Wednesday, saying he might wear an orange T-shirt for Thursday's game. A reporter asked Pearl, "Any chance you would wear a Memphis warm-up jacket to try to get those fans on your side?" Pearl responded, "If Calipari would wear an orange T-shirt, I'd wear a Memphis jacket, absolutely. Hey, we're sister schools. We're in the same system." A minute later, Pearl followed up, "But would he paint his chest?"
Player who impressed me
With all the talk about Chris Douglas-Roberts being hampered by a sore ankle, the sophomore guard looked plenty healthy. He attacked defenders one-on-one and had a beautiful alley-oop dunk in the first half. Roberts finished as the second-leading scorer with 15 points. "Honestly, it didn't matter how I was going to feel coming into this game, because I was playing. I worked around the clock to get it healthy as it is. I'm feeling really good right now."
Whether or not the Tigers can make it to the Final Four is a tough, tough question. What's certain is that Ohio State is vulnerable (can you say down 20 points to Tennessee?) and Memphis is playing with a gigantic chip on its shoulder. That might just be enough for the Tigers to book a trip to Atlanta. Says Douglas-Roberts, "We heard everything we could hear about how bad our conference is and we had a cake walk, but now we're winning."