An ugly win for Rose
Matchup of superstar freshmen fails to live up to hype
Posted: Wednesday December 5, 2007 2:40AM; Updated: Wednesday December 5, 2007 11:37AM
NEW YORK -- These made-for-TV, made-for-columnists, made-for-NBA-scouts individual showdowns never seem to turn out as prophesied by the hype machine. On Tuesday we had college basketball's version of the freshman circus at Madison Square Garden: USC's O.J. Mayo and Memphis' Derrick Rose in the 9:30 show of the Jimmy V Classic. Two 2007 Lottery Picks in the season's most anticipated rookie battle -- one that fizzled and faded into the background of a gruesome (as in, 33.1 percent shooting combined!) muck-fest between talent-loaded teams. The Tigers won by four in overtime. They won ugly. Which technically meant that Rose won ugly as well, but I'm more inclined to call it a wash, and request that the circus be re-staged in March, when both parties are better prepared to put on a proper show.
Mayo won the Q Rating portion of the evening. L.A. Lakers owner and USC alum Jerry Buss had a front-row seat for this one. He said he was "there as a Trojan," but also had brought his son, Jesse, a Lakers scout, along for business. Much of the rest of NBA scouting staffs were scattered about the stands in less primo seats. Mayo's mother held up a sign that read, "Got Juice? Failure is NOT an option" -- a message that didn't exactly hold true, but it was a rather nice, professionally printed sign. She also wore a white No. 32 Trojans jersey -- O.J.'s, which is available in stores for $75 -- and I counted seven other Mayo jerseys in the stands, plus one giant cutout of a Tropicana carton, next to a giant cutout of a Hellmann's Mayonnaise jar. I didn't see a Rose jersey. Didn't see giant cutouts of an oil derrick and a rose, either. Rose is listed ahead of Mayo on a number of mock drafts, but it's clear who had the bigger following in the New York market.
Mayo won the early rounds of the showdown, too. He scored first, on a feathery mid-range jumper at the 18:05 mark. And second, on a hanging layup after making aerial contact with 265-pound Memphis bruiser Joey Dorsey just 11 seconds later. And third and fourth, too, finishing the first half with 10 points, two assists and no turnovers. Mayo also dogged Rose on D, as the lead man in the Trojans' triangle-and-two -- and held the tentative-looking Tiger to zero points, two assists and two turnovers in the first half. Rose's run at the end of the half was particularly crushing: With 23.7 seconds left, he brought the ball up the floor, and tried to throw a three-quarter-court bounce pass to Chris Douglas-Roberts, who was running, unguarded, toward the right corner. There was one problem:
Douglas-Roberts wasn't looking.
The ball bounced a few times, then went out of bounds for a turnover. Memphis coach John Calipari was shown on the scoreboard with his hands clasped together, prayer style, as if to be wishing, God, please revive my point guard. On the very next possession, Mayo went into the lane, pumped twice and swished another jumper with six seconds left. It put the Trojans up 29-24, and when the buzzer sounded, Rose made a beeline for the locker room; he was the first player through the scorer's table and off the floor.
The best-known Mayo-Rose meeting, prior to this one, had occurred in an AAU tournament game in Las Vegas in the summer of 2006; Mayo converted a four-point play at the buzzer -- after being fouled by Rose on a three, and making it -- for an 83-82 win. And on Tuesday, early, it appeared as if Mayo was relishing the stage at the Garden, and the rematch, while Rose, who was befuddled against the triangle-and-two, was not. But Rose had a good point about that, and any talk of the showdown really mattering: "In Vegas," he said, "it was really just about the individual. This is college now. We just want to win."