That was a lot closer than Memphis wanted it to be. There's no question that Memphis can play a hell of a lot better than they did today in New Orleans, and you can bet they'll have to on Sunday if they want to make it to the Sweet 16 in San Antonio.
For some reason, the Tigers came out very, very flat. No intensity at all throughout the first 7 or 8 minutes, and it showed on the scoreboard - North Texas jumped out to an early lead, one they held for the first 12 minutes of the game. In the midst of North Texas' hot start, the Tigers did find a spark of intensity, but it was misdirected. Chris Douglas-Roberts, normally a very cool customer, lost his head in a big way after committing his second personal foul. He exchanged words in a minor skirmish with Kendrick Davis of North Texas, and picked up a technical foul in the process. Despite finishing as the game's high scorer, CDR was well below par, as was his backcourt partner Antonio Anderson.
Anderson turned the ball over 3 times without dishing a single assist. That's not good enough - but to be fair to the young man, he did play good man defense against the dangerous UNT guard Calvin Watson. UNT had several dangerous players, including post presence Keith Wooden (anyone named Wooden has to be dangerous in March). Wooden abused Joey Dorsey early in the ballgame, and forced Dorsey to significantly pick up his defense as the game progressed. Dorssey admitted as much in the postgame press conference, which you can hear in its entirety on sports56whbq.com. Dorsey improved, though, and was a monster on the boards. He finished with 15 for the game.
Robert Dozier was superb in the first half, picking up 4 blocks and several big rebounds. His offense still needs work, but he was a contributor today. But for me, the player of the game was Andre Allen, who played a career-high 36 minutes because he was just so effective. He picked up the energy for the Tigers as soon as he hit the court, and made himself a nuisance defensively while hitting big shots offensively. Once again, in the NCAA Tournament, he showed he is a baller.
The Tigers will play Nevada in the second round on Sunday afternoon, after Nevada beat Creighton in overtime 77-71. It was a really good game, with neither team able to secure a lead above 7 the entire game. Nick Fazekas gets all the hype when people talk about Nevada, and he had a pretty good game, but Nevada was led by a huge effort from guard/forward Marcelus Kemp. He finished with 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 4 assists, and was so aggressive in getting to the basket and making plays. He will be a handful for the Tigers.
Nevada's not terribly athletic, from what I saw, but they've got skilled bigs who can shoot - they're quite tall and long, and all of them (especially Fazekas) can nail the 3. They turned it over a bit much, though, and the Tigers can certainly take advantage of that weakness. Fazekas actually reminds me a lot of Pau Gasol in many ways. He plays with the same languid style - it doesn't always look like he's trying that hard. He can shoot better than Pau, but isn't nearly the inside threat Pau is. And I'm sure you hate him even more now that I said that.
Nevada's coach also has a bit of an anger control problem. According to humorously-named New Mexico State University Police Officer Quent Pirtle, Coach Mark Fox had a slight problem with the officials in Nevada's WAC Tournament loss to Utah State, and let them know it.
"As Mr. Fox continued to curse and be abusive toward the officials, he continued to close distance," Pirtle wrote. "I placed my hand on the back of the last official and tried to hurry him up the ramp."
Pirtle said at that point Fox was about 2 feet away.
"I slowed down and put my hand across his chest to prevent him from getting any closer to the official," Pirtle said.
The officer said Fox told him, "Don't put your [expletive] hands on me."
"I told Mr. Fox to back off and again pushed against him to keep him from the officials," Pirtle said.
He got pissed again today at a no-call. This guy is seriously going to flip out one day and go Bobby Knight on someone. He's a bit high-strung. Oh yeah, one other thing - the Creighton cheerleaders are way, way, WAY more attractive than you would expect a bunch of Omaha girls to be.
The crowd wasn't huge (13,000 or so), but it was very loud and active for both games. I would estimate the Tigers had more fans than any other team in the first session, but Nevada traveled very well considering how far Reno is from New Orleans. Former Tiger DB (and former Saint) Mike McKenzie was in the house, looking very much like Lil' Jon. I mean, I fully expected him to drink from a jeweled cup and yell, "YEAAAAUUUUHHHHHHH!!!!!"
Finally, some notes, Larry King-style...my bracket is a shambles. I somehow managed to pick George Washington. That didn't turn out well...DUKE IS OUT OF THE TOURNAMENT IN THE FIRST ROUND! Oh, it was awesome to see Eric Maynor just abuse Greg Paulus, take him way out of his game mentally, then drain a huge jumper to win the game. Sorry, Coach K, your team sucks far more than your commercials...How about Tennessee putting up 121 on Snoop, Dre, and Long Beach State? When did Bo Kimble become a Vol?...Wisconsin is very boring and I had hoped beyond hope that Texas A&M-Corpus Christi would beat them. They didn't...I was impressed with Virginia's guards; Sunday's UVA/Tenn matchup will be a fun one to watch...Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery are really good guys...hope tonight's games are good, because so far, this has been a boring tournament.
Off to Bourbon for a little relaxation. More Sunday or Monday.