Douglas-Roberts, Rose Help Memphis Overcome Scrappy Newcomer UT Arlington
March 22, 2008
NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Memphis coach John Calipari looked at the box score and saw all kinds of numbers he liked.
The best one? The final score.
The top-seeded Tigers overcame their own raggedness, not to mention a scrappy effort by newcomer UT Arlington, with an 83-67 victory Friday night in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
"The first game is a hard one for everybody," Calipari said. "You hope you just come out and blow somebody out, but the other team is playing inspired. It just doesn't happen very often."
There's no question the Tigers (34-1) are one of the most talented teams in the country. They were ranked No. 1 for five weeks, three as the unanimous choice. They have more talent than some NBA teams, and so much depth that the backups would probably be starters at most other schools.
Because Memphis isn't in one of the power conferences and hasn't been to a Final Four since 1985, though, some will always question whether the Tigers are for real. Friday night's game probably won't help.
Chris Douglas-Roberts led five Tigers in double figures with 23 points, and also had seven rebounds and four assists. Freshman Derrick Rose looked like a veteran with 17 points, three assists and three steals. Memphis shot 52 percent from the floor, and outrebounded smaller UT Arlington 39-29.
But big ole Anthony Vereen scored practically at will inside, finishing with 20 points on 7-for-11 shooting, and the Mavericks were over 50 percent from the floor for much of the game. The Mavericks (21-12) even led briefly, delighting their small but vocal band of followers.
"They had to play their guys for 40 minutes," UT Arlington coach Scott Cross said. "They were playing their top guys, and we gave them everything that we had."
While a true rout - a la UCLA or North Carolina - would have been easier, it might have hurt the Tigers in the long run. They hadn't played since winning the Conference USA tournament last Saturday, and a rough-and-tumble game was just what they needed to get them ready for all the other teams eager to knock them off.
Up next, eighth-seeded Mississippi State (23-10).
"This shows how the rest of the tournament is going to be," Douglas-Roberts said. "The next game is going to be even tougher. I'm glad they came out and challenged us, and they really did compete out there."
After UT Arlington took a 6-3 lead in the opening minutes, Douglas-Roberts made a layup that sparked a 15-2 run that ended any chance the Mavericks had of a historic upset. UT Arlington stayed (relatively) close in the first half, but Memphis settled into a rhythm in the second half and put the game away.
"The time off, the body-to-body contact that we hadn't done in five days, it showed," Calipari said. "I think they realize if they do that next game, it's been a heck of a year. It's not going to extend."