Calipari Remembers His Tigers' Last C-USA Loss
March 23, 2009
The last coach to hand Memphis a conference loss now aims to knock out the Tigers from the NCAA tournament.
Missouri's Mike Anderson, then with UAB, beat Memphis 80-74 on March 2, 2006, then left for Missouri 24 days later.
"I remember they had a countdown on the clock in the middle of the campus," Memphis coach John Calipari said in a conference call Monday. "I remember the tents outside, and it was sold out three or four months before the game was even played. Before the season, they were pointing to that game. I remember a very physical game."
"It was physical people. They threw a punch, we threw a punch, they threw a punch. Then the biggest thing I remember is I couldn't get to Mike to shake his hand. I had to wait until we got in the back hallway. I don't believe I ever shook his hand. I think I called him, 'Hey, I couldn't even get down to you."
Calipari likely won't forget the game for quite a while because his Tigers haven't lost a Conference USA game since - a span that has topped 1,100 days with 61 consecutive wins. It's a string of domination that includes all four league titles - regular season and tournament.
On Thursday night, the No. 2 seeded Tigers (33-3) put their school-record and nation's best 27-game winning streak on the line in the West Regional semifinals against Anderson and his third-seeded Missouri Tigers (30-6) in Glendale, Ariz.
It's two coaches who know each other's offensive approaches very well, leaving them to study up on the current players.
"He has an idea of what we're trying to do, and I have an idea of what he's trying to do so I think for both of us there'll be a level of we're both going to watch tape and look at each other's teams and go, 'Oh my gosh.' I'm looking at his team, and that's what I'm saying. Hopefully, that's what he's saying about my team," Calipari said.
Missouri bills its approach as the fastest 40 minutes in basketball. Calipari counters with his dribble-drive offense and lots of experience. Anderson has 13 players making their first appearance in the tournament, although they now have won two straight.
"When you look at our teams and what we're trying to do, we're very similar," Calipari said.
He gave his team the day off Sunday before putting them through practice Monday. They will practice again Tuesday before leaving for Arizona. He doesn't load up players with tape of opponents. Only those who ask will see a game or two, because Calipari sees the scouting as the job of he and his assistants.
Calipari hopes Memphis doesn't lose the shooting touch it showed in its 89-70 win over Maryland in the second round. The Tigers sizzled in the first half and shot 70.4 percent (19-of-27). They were even better from outside the arc, hitting 8 of 11 (72.7 percent). They finished the game hitting 52.6 percent.
Calipari pointed out that they finished the game not attempting too many 3s, yet were 10-of-19 in that category. He said his team usually attempts up to 30 percent of its shots from 3-point range, sometimes up to a full third.
"We just don't want much higher than that. We're just happy to make them. The first game Roburt Sallie made them," Calipari said of the sophomore guard who hit 10 3s in that game. "The rest of us were 1 for 13. But he made them. ... The next game we all shot it pretty well."