Sports 56 WHBlog Q

March 19, 2009

Kansas City, Day 2 (Tigers 81 Matadors 70)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Peter Edmiston @ 3:16 pm

(with great thanks to our sponsors Acura of Memphis and Central BBQ)

That wasn’t in the script.  I don’t think anyone could have foreseen a situation where Roburt Sallie saves Memphis from one of the biggest upsets in tournament history.  I was stunned at how lackluster the effort level was in the first half – particularly from the seniors.  Robert Dozier was asleep for the first 10 minutes or more and Antonio Anderson was terrible until the last 8 minutes of the game.  Tyreke Evans was so lax on offense and defense I thought John Calipari was going to strangle him.

Full credit to Northridge – they came to play, were not intimidated in the slightest, and absolutely had a legitimate chance to win this game.  The crowd started as 70/30 Memphis, but by the end of the game they were 90/10 for Northridge.  Those Northridge players were fired up and were a pleasure to watch – after the difficulties of this season, they deserved a few fleeting moments of excitement and hope.  They were making threes, circus shots, outworking Memphis on both ends of the floor – it was a tremendous performance.

But they couldn’t stop Roburt Sallie.  It feels weird to even type that.  Sallie supplanted Larry Kenon in the Tiger record books; Sallie’s 35 is the highest point total in Tiger postseason history (Kenon had 34 against South Carolina in 1973).  He hit 10-15 from behind the arc, including his first four.  Out of nowhere, he saved the season.  It didn’t hurt that he played really sound defense, including 3 steals and several deflections.  He had to be good because Doneal Mack was so very, very bad.  He looked totally and completely lost out there, like he had never played basketball before.

Memphis didn’t move the ball fast enough on offense to handle the very active zone Northridge threw at them.  And, apart from Sallie, they couldn’t hit a thing from outside…Sallie was 10-15, everyone else was 1-13.  Awful.  I read Eli’s post below talking about how he wouldn’t be too worried – in a way, he’s right.  The Tigers do tend to start slowly in the tournament.  But they’ve never started this slowly and this listlessly.  They have to get 100% better by Saturday or they will be out very quickly.  Whichever of Cal or Maryland ends up winning (I am writing this at the half of that one) will be a far deeper, far more tested opponent than Northridge was.

Perhaps the most distressing thing for Tiger fans is that defensively, the Tigers were subpar.  They looked like the team that played in Puerto Rico, not the one that has won 26 straight.  They were bullied inside and slow to rotate outside.  I sat behind the Tiger bench for the game and I can assure you John Calipari was amazed and baffled by his players’ lack of concerted effort on defense.  He could not understand in particular why Robert Dozier and Tyreke Evans were so bad.

That was a warning.  Fortunately, the Tigers survived.  But you only get one.

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