Memphis Defense Handles UCLA and Love in Final 4
April 6, 2008
SAN ANTONIO (AP) - Memphis looked unstoppable from the start and that's the way the Tigers played to the very end - stopping UCLA over and over.
The team that lost just once all season, Memphis broke out of the blocks in its first Final Four game in 23 years like, well, a bunch of caged Tigers. They erased a 5-0 deficit by hitting their next eight shots and forcing Bruins coach Ben Howland to call a timeout.
And that was before the game was 6 minutes old. The crowd at the Alamodome watched a team that averages 80 points a game take off on a pace that would have lit up the third digit on the scoreboard.
It didn't happen, but Memphis managed to turn the tables on UCLA by playing the kind of tough defense the Bruins are known for in a 78-63 victory Saturday night. The win put the Tigers in the national championship game for only the second time and the first since 1973, when the school still had "State" in its name. They will play Kansas, which beat North Carolina 84-66 in the second semifinal.
Memphis was certainly no slouch on defense this season, allowing just 61.6 points a game, but UCLA was going to be different. The Bruins averaged 73.8 points and freshman All-American Kevin Love was going to be quite a handful inside, especially against a team known primarily for the backcourt of All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman Derrick Rose, a third-team All-American.
Joey Dorsey, the Memphis center who has been told time and again how great he can be if he focused and applied himself, spent the entire game focused on applying pressure on Love.
When Dorsey was asked about his defensive effort, Tigers coach John Calipari interrupted, saying, "His coach yelled at him the whole time."
Dorsey smiled the smile of a player after the biggest win of his career and simply added, "The whole time."
Despite picking up two fouls in the first half and a third less than a minute in the second half, Dorsey got the better of Love in a physical matchup that kept UCLA from ever getting into an offensive rhythm.
Love, who came in averaging 17.6 points on 57 percent shooting, finished with 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
Dorsey said the key was this:
"Disrupting him, making it hard for him to catch the ball, not letting him be real comfortable in his comfort zone where he catches the ball. Just running little double-teams at him so he can't pass the ball. He's a great passer out of the post, so he really doesn't need to score for their team to win."
Love called Dorsey "their man out there," but didn't agree totally about what the Tigers did to him.
"I wouldn't necessarily say it threw me out of my comfort zone," he said. "I had two or three shots that went in and out. They were double-teaming me. They had players, you know, swarming me, coming at me. ... We just need to step up and hit big shots and we just didn't do that."
Dorsey's big defensive moment didn't involve Love, however.
Josh Shipp's three-point play brought UCLA within 59-52 with 7:20 left. Memphis suddenly went cold on its end, but the Bruins couldn't take advantage and came up empty on four straight possessions - the last Dorsey's signature play of his senior season.
Russell Westbrook came down the left side of the court on a fast break. Dorsey came across the lane and swatted his layup away. He really swatted it and with the building energized for the first time in a few minutes, Rose went down court on the play and scored on a scoop shot that made it 63-52 with 3:14 left.
Douglas-Roberts scored Memphis' only points in that stretch, a one-handed thunder dunk. On the next Memphis possession Dorsey couldn't control a high pass near the rim and the ball went out of bounds.
"You know, great teams are always going to make a run, so we always knew they were going to make a run on us," Dorsey said. "But once Chris got that dunk, you know, they threw me the lob. I missed the lob. I was so mad. I got to get back on defense and block the shot. That just gave the momentum to us right there." The game that started with an offensive show was capped with a big defensive play by a player who finished with no points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots.