Memphis 65 Texas A&M 64
Ohio State 85 Tennessee 84
Just got back from the Alamodome after an incredible night of basketball. I can't imagine a more intense, crazier night of hoops anywhere. I wish I was a better writer, because it's hard for me to properly sum it up with my meager ability. But I will try.
I'll start with the Tigers. I cannot believe they won that game in the face of all the obstacles that presented themselves. The big storyline coming into this game revolved around two things: the crowd and CDR's ankle. The crowd was every bit as loud as imagined - 90% or more maroon...and they were really loud. It was an intense atmosphere, without question. My ears were ringing for minutes after I left the floor. As for the second part of the storyline, Chris Douglas-Roberts started the game and played an extraordinary game when his team needed it. He may not have been at his best, but he was close enough, and that's exactly what the Tigers needed.
Talking with him after the game (you can hear the audio at sports56whbq.com), he said he spent 24 hours a day working on rehabbing his ankle, and it showed. One of the trainers, coincidentally also named Chris, spent every waking hour with CDR, working on rehabbing the ankle, and that commitment to the rehab paid off in huge style. CDR was able to cut and drive enough to cause a few problems for Texas A&M. I have a lot of respect for his ability to get healthy. He deserves praise.
The Tigers managed to survive despite massive foul trouble, especially in the first half. Robert Dozier managed to pick up two quick fouls early and that forced the Tigers to go small, which allowed the Texas A&M bigs to get some very easy baskets. That was a major reason the Tigers went into the half down 5, and that was a major reason Texas A&M shot 58% in the first half. Joey Dorsey also picked up foul trouble, starting with his 2nd late in the first half. John Calipari tried to go with Kareem Cooper, but Kareem is just too slow and not good enough on defense to be trusted. He gave up a bunch of easy baskets, forcing Cal to go to Pierre Niles at one point. Niles was worse than Cooper. Yet, despite all that, the Tigers were still hanging around.
Great performance by Willie Kemp. He answered a lot of his critics with a big performance tonight, a performance made even bigger by the fact that Andre Allen did not play very well. Allen was just too short to be effective running out and guarding the Texas A&M shooters.
I also liked the gameplan tonight - I had talked about how Texas A&M doesn't guard dribble penetration well, and they didn't do it tonight - that was also a reason why Memphis shot so many more free throws than Texas A&M. It was a smart plan and it worked.
I thought the play of the game came when Jeremy Hunt answered an Acie Law IV three-pointer that had tied the game at 55 late in the second half. Law's three was the kind of shot that can change the entire momentum of the game, and for Hunt to nail a three right on top of Law was enormous. He showed real character.
And the end of the game was just crazy - huge offensive rebounds by Antonio Anderson led to two huge free throws. Make 0, Texas A&M likely wins; make 1, it's tied, make 2, the Tigers likely win. He made 2. I guess John Calipari was right - when they needed the free throws, they got them. Then, the controversial out of bounds play happened. The officials got this one right - the clock is supposed to start when a player touches the ball, and it doesn't stop until the ball TOUCHES SOMETHING OUT OF BOUNDS. Remember that when you hear people complaining about this call. If the ball goes out of bounds and stays in the air, the clock keeps going. That is the reason an extra 1.1 seconds were taken off the clock.
After that extraordinary win, the Tigers will face Ohio State, who won in their own extraordinary fashion. This one hurts for Tennessee and Volunteer fans. Tennessee played perhaps their best half of basketball all year in the first half of this one - they were up 49-32 at the break. Greg Oden had 3 fouls, and all was right. But the Vols got a little too lax. Ohio State jumped all over Tennessee at the beginning of the second half and tightened the game in a hurry.
Greg Oden was not a huge factor, but the Buckeye guards were. The Vols could not guard Mike Conley, Jr. off the dribble, and Ron Lewis continued to show why he is fast becoming known as the most clutch Buckeye. He had 25 and Conley had 17, offsetting a meager 9 and 3 from Oden. Bruce Pearl tried everything he possibly could to inspire his team, but nothing worked. Chris Lofton and Ryan Childress hit big threes, but in the end, Ohio State just edged it out to move into the Elite Eight.