Get inside March Madness with SI.com's Luke Winn in the Tourney Blog, a daily journal of college basketball commentary, on-site reporting and reader-driven discussions.
3/30/2008 07:53:00 PM
Against Rose, Texas Simply Overwhelmed
Not even a glued-up welt slowed Derrick Rose against D.J. Augustin and the Longhorns on Sunday.
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
HOUSTON -- Derrick Rose was doubled over, wincing, the bandage over his eye having come unstuck in a collision just one minute and 23 seconds into his first -- and probably, last -- appearance in an Elite Eight. Rose was sporting a glued-up welt against Texas, and the reason for this was one of those increasingly rare reminders that Memphis' point guard is only an 19-year-old freshman. He had evaded stitches for a bloody injury suffered in the Sweet 16 with the same strategy he evades most defenders: by being too fast to hold down.
"I'm terrified of needles," he admitted, saying that someone would have had to "strap him down" to sew up the cut he had been dealt by Michigan State. With the Tigers leading the Longhorns 5-2, Rose needed to leave the floor to have it re-bandaged. This, for Texas, was the only real reprieve it had from Rose's assault on its defense. The lone Longhorn capable of rattling him may have been their team doctor.
Rose was back on the floor one minute later, going from 0-to-130 miles per hour in milliseconds, getting on his way to scoring 21 points and dishing out nine assists against just two turnovers. Said Robert Dozier, "Once Derrick gets it going, there's not many players that can stop him." None of those players were in Texas' backcourt: Rose was the star of an 85-67 victory that saw the second-seeded 'Horns get overwhelmed by Memphis' athleticism, and he was also the Most Outstanding Player of the South Regional, from which the Tigers booked their first trip to the Final Four since 1985. In what was supposed to be a duel of the nation's best college point guard, D.J. Augustin, and the college game's best pro prospect at point guard, Rose actually looked as if he might own both titles. "Derrick is a much bigger, stronger guy than D.J. Augustin," said Dozier. "Derrick is a freakish athlete, he can get the ball up and down the court, he can get guys open, get to the rim, and when he jumps and gets to the rim, his head is at the rim."
Memphis' two resounding victories here in Houston -- by 18 over Michigan State and 18 over Texas -- were not only notices that the Tigers may be peaking more than any other team in the bracket, but also served as showcases for the full blossoming of Rose's game. He looked like the poised one while Augustin -- a consensus first-team All-American of whom coach John Calipari had said, "You're not taking the ball from him" -- was shaken in the early going.
Augustin committed four first-half turnovers against just one assist while being dogged by the bigger Rose (6-foot-3) and Antonio Anderson (6-foot-5). "I don't think we've seen as good a defense all year that we saw today," said Texas coach Rick Barnes, who had to watch as his team -- which averaged the fewest turnovers per game in the country (9.2) -- gave the ball away eight times in the first half alone. The 'Horns dug themselves a 39-28 halftime deficit that seemed inescapable.
When Texas did make its biggest run, scoring the first six points of the second half to cut it to 39-34, Rose was the one who turned the momentum back in Memphis' favor. At the 17:04 mark, he ran the floor with Anderson after a missed shot from Augustin, received a feed in the lane, and soared up for a double-pumping dunk on the break. It was a slightly less spectacular slam than the double-pumping reverse he had shown the Spartans on Friday to make the score 50-20 at halftime, but it was nonetheless awe-inspiring. Memphis' Tiger mascot celebrated the bucket by turning to the blue-clad cheering sections in Reliant Stadium, leaning over and cradling something imaginary below his shorts -- essentially, giving the message that Rose has some serious cojones for a freshman.
The dunk was part of a promise Rose had made to his teammates during the Conference USA tournament. "Everyone was saying to [Derrick]," reserve forward Pierre Niles explained, "'You've got too much hops to just be trying to lay the ball up.'" Therefore, said Rose, "I told them in the [NCAA] tournament, I was just going to dunk everything."
The first time Rose and Augustin met on a basketball floor, in the Summer of 2007 at the Adidas All-American Camp in New Orleans, Memphis' prize recruit did not possess the same kind of confidence, nor did he display the same brand of aggressiveness. In a scrimmage game among the counselors there, Augustin -- who already had a year at Texas under his belt -- took Rose to school. "I was just coming in, and he got the best of me," Rose said on Friday. He told reporters later that day that the game had stuck in his head, as evidence that he still needed to put in plenty of work to be a college star. But on a Sunday where he had starred and Augustin shot just 4-of-18 from the field, Rose no longer seemed concerned about his youth: "It doesn't matter what grade you're in," he said. "If you can ball, you can ball."
Calipari said that he told Rose before the game, "The more you do to run this, the less I have to do." What Rose did was knife into the lane repeatedly against (for the most part) Augustin, who at 5-11 was unable to counter Rose's package of size and speed. Rose got his 21 points by attempting just one three-pointer, and while Rose did not show off any shooting range, NBA executives considering drafting him No. 1 had to be salivating over his budding defensive skills and the fact that he cannot be checked off the dribble in Memphis' "Princeton-on-steroids" offense. The last great NBA player to come out of the Tigers' program, Anfernee Hardaway, emerged from the team's locker room following the postgame celebration, and when asked if Rose was as talented as himself, said, "He's as good as me, easily. He's athletic, he's strong, he makes it happen."
For Memphis, which already had versatile wing scorer (Chris Douglas-Roberts, with 25 points), a beast in the post (Joey Dorsey, with 11 points, 12 rebounds) and a glue guy defender (Anderson), Rose was truly the missing ingredient in getting over the hump and into the Final Four. In both 2006 and 2007 they had fallen one game short, and in both those years they did not have a point guard of Rose's caliber. One cannot fully appreciate his speed without seeing it in the flesh; teams that watch tape of Rose and think they can contain him are in for a harsh surprise. UCLA, and Kansas or North Carolina after that, should pay heed to the facial expressions of Texas' defenders in the first five minutes of Sunday's rout. "You could tell," Rose said, with his Final Four hat pulled down low to shroud his unbandaged cut, "that they were kind of stunned."
Great game by Memphis. Rose is truly a special player.
With that said, I was surprised Coach Barnes didn't try to match up by going to a bigger lineup. Memphis plays 4 guys 6'5 and taller and a 6'3 point guard. I think Barnes should have at least tried playing Atchley, Johnson, James, Abrams/Mason, and Augustin for a stretch.
I used to live within a five minute walk from SIMEON and got to see Rose play all the time. It was like watching a grown man play with little kids then, and not much has changed since. When he gets to the league, the NBA will have a collection of young guards that no other era could touch. Even though I'm a Loyal Illinois and Chicago sports fan, I'm rooting for Memphis all the way. GO TIGERS!!!!
Thanks Luke, nice article. I think you did a great job summing up the Tigers. Here locally we knew from the start they had the talent to go all the way. I guess the rest of the country, now sees it the same way. One of the most talented, best coached teams in America. Cal knows how to make them "role" team players, not just individual superstars. GO TIGERS!!