Beale Street Baskets: Vols Win Tennessee Battle

By David Scott - February 23, 2008


MEMPHIS -- Memphis's John Calipari said all week long that he couldn't understand how Bruce Pearl's Tennessee Volunteers hadn't been No. 1 in the nation at some point this season.

On Monday, Calipari will no longer have to wonder.

His team's perfect season, its No. 1 ranking and, possibly, its top overall seed in the NCAA Tournament were taken from them on Saturday by the Vols, 66-62. In particular, it was a native Memphian, sophomore J.P. Prince (13 points and eight rebounds in 21 minutes), who keyed the Vols' win.

"They outscrapped us on the backboard," said Calipari. "Our whole team got outfought. I can remember offensive plays when Prince ran by two guys. What we said early on was that our inside people were going to have to fight like heck. (Tennessee) came up with balls that we didn't. We got 10 steals, nine block and hold them to (37.5) percent from the field and lose? I've never heard of such a thing. "

The rebounding margin - 50-34 in favor of Tennessee - is also most foreign to the nation's fourth-best rebounding team, which entered the game with an 8-board-per-game boarding edge over opponents and had out-rebounded teams in 22 of its 26 wins.

"You guys all said we needed to lose one, so now we lost one," said Calipari, whose team also lost its nation's-best 47 game home win streak. "This was what No. 1 versus No. 2 should be like. I just said to the team after the game let's take stock and accept the fact that we got outscrapped."

The Tigers, evidently, were not only taking stock, they were mostly pleading the fifth in the postgame locker room. Joey Dorsey, who was once again hampered with foul trouble and finished with one point and six rebounds, refused to speak to the media after the game. Shawn Taggart (three points, four rebounds) was also silent. Several Tigers sat with towels or game shirts over their heads in a morgue-like locker room - a stark contrast form the previous 26 games of the season.

The players who did talk couldn't offer much explanation.

"They made some plays and we didn't," said Robert Dozier. "We've just got to learn from it. They just out-toughed us. They just outplayed us."

"Tennessee (25-2) is a very good team," said Derrick Rose, the game's high scorer with 23 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals.

They are also the de facto No. 1 team in the nation.

"It's gonna feel great," UT head coach Bruce Pearl said. "Representing the SEC. Florida did it with such style the last couple years. I think the kids had confidence that they could come in here and win this basketball game."

"It'll feel good on Monday," said Tennessee sophomore Wayne Chism (13 points, seven rebounds and a career-high 3 treys), who hails from nearby Bolivar. "I know we're going to have a whole bunch of people around campus talking about. We can't focus on being No. 1 though. We can celeberate this, but we can't focus on it. Once the celebration is over, we've got to switch our attention right to Vanderbilt (on Tuesday night)."

By that time, the Vols will be No. 1 and the Tigers will still be licking their wounds.

Posted by David Scott at 11:18 PM on February 23, 2008
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