Ugly Ready

By David Scott - December 05, 2007

NEW YORK -- It was a full hour after the 45th minute of a game where the two teams had combined to miss 89 shots, meaning that for every minute of game time, two shots went errant, array and wayward. There had been a full hour to digest the 43 combined turnovers, the horrible shot selections (Hello, Mr. Mayo) and the missed opportunities that came in the filthfest at Madison Square Garden where No. 2 Memphis downed No. 24 USC, 62-58, in overtime.

Even with those 60 minutes to let it settle in, Joey Dorsey and Chris Douglas-Roberts couldn't stop shaking their heads in the Memphis locker room.

"Did you see that triangle and two?" asked Douglas-Robert to a post-game visitor. "What was up with that, yo?"

"Like Chris said," said Dorsey, who answers to Mr. Dorsey when he puts in four block, six point and nine rebound nights like Tuesday. "Why wouldn't every NBA team play that triangle and two?"

Perhaps because not every NBA team has former NBA coach Tim Floyd at the helm.

"At 7:15 [Tuesday night] in the ballroom of the Affinia Hotel, we put in the triangle and two and these kids took it and ran with it," said Floyd, whose team suffered its second straight loss and fell to 6-3. "We decided we were going to have a real hard time guarding Memphis with (just) 36 hours of preparation, because they are so talented and require so much preparation, we felt we'd muck it up a little bit with that [triangle and two]."

The plan only worked to near-perfection for the defensive genius who studied at the knee of a defense-first, second and last guy, Don Haskins. Not only did the Trojans muck up the Tigers for 90 percent of the game, it felt like they mucked up the entire game of basketball for years to come.

"I don't want to look at our stat sheet," joked Memphis's John Calipari upon entering his press conference. "Let me look at the sheet from [the first game of the night] Notre Dame and Kansas State."

There was no escaping the black and white sheet spit out by what had to be a disgusted DakStats 3000 computer program. Memphis shot 25-of-67 from the field (37 percent) and only slightly better from the free throw line (7-of-18 for 39 percent). USC was 19-of-66 from the field (29 percent) and stayed in the game by knocking home 19-of-23 from the charity stripe. A full 11 players on both teams had more turnovers than assists.

Dr. James Naismith would have rolled over in his grave, but he decided not to, knowing the travelling call would have only resulted in another turnover.

"I was afraid they would go to a little triangle and two and they would get us to be a little paralyzed," said Calipari, whose team moved to 7-0 and rolls into an 11 day break for finals. "It put us on our heels. Tim just messed around defensively. We were scared at half time, I told [the team], "Why are we afraid? What is going on?'"

What was going on was Floyd's methodical destruction of what was supposed to be a showcase for two of the game's most heralded freshmen, OJ Mayo of USC and Derrick Rose of Memphis. Rose (nine points, 10 rebounds)didn't get on track (sort of) until the second half and Mayo, despite some dazzling moves, shot 6 of 20 for a game-high 16 points, but, like Rose, left more questions about his overall game than answers. Still, Calipari liked his freshman and figured his counterpart (and fellow former NBA coach) likes his.

"They both did the same kinds of things," said Calipari, "and I like my freshman and Tim likes his."

But the showdown -- which brought out luminaries, scouts and NBA GMs to MSG -- never materialized because of Floyd's datsradly plan to slow the run and gun Tigers.

"What you saw, that's how people are going to have to play us," said Calipari. "They're going to mix up, match, go zone. I think we only ran our offense four or five times the whole game. We never really got into it."

What the teams did get into was an ugly contest where the team with superior talent and superior talent finally won out. In overtime. With much effort and little finesse.

As Calipari told his charges after the game in a locker room he described as "happy": "It was ugly, but we won," he said. "We won."

In the muck, the mire and the Mayo, Memphis still managed to come out on top and stay undefeated.

Ugly never looked so pretty, even with the heads-a-shakin' in the post-game locker room.

Posted by David Scott at 05:25 AM on December 05, 2007

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