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Memphis routs Texas to reach first Final Four since 1985

Chris Douglas-Roberts, showing Memphis’ height advantage, is fouled by Gary Johnson. He praised the Tigers’ poise.

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Chris Douglas-Roberts, showing Memphis’ height advantage, is fouled by Gary Johnson. He praised the Tigers’ poise.

HOUSTON — Memphis junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts calmly walked off the court Sunday as if the win against Texas were no more meaningful than, say, one in late November.

"I expected this," he said simply. "We think good things are going to happen."

That's not to suggest he, freshman point guard Derrick Rose and the rest of the Tigers weren't thrilled with what happened, and what they made happen. They dominated at both ends of the floor, beating Texas 85-67 in the South Region final to earn a trip to the Final Four, the program's third overall and first since 1985.

"We're happy, but we're not settling," Douglas-Roberts said.

The top-seeded Tigers (37-1), who lost in the region final the past two seasons, play West Region champ UCLA Saturday.

"We're a pretty good team," Memphis coach John Calipari said. "I believe in these guys. I trust them."

Especially when his Tigers play the kind of defense they did here, against Michigan State on Friday then against the No.  2-seeded Longhorns (31-7).

They held the Longhorns to just 36.2 percent shooting as guards D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams had few openings and were a combined 10-of-34.

It wasn't just the Tigers' quickness, determination getting through screens and oncourt communication. It was their athleticism and height advantage. Douglas-Roberts is 6-7, Rose is

6-3 and sophomore guard Antonio Anderson is 6-6. Augustin and Abrams are generously listed at 6 foot and 5-11, respectively.

"Their length was probably the most we've seen this year and it was pretty difficult trying to get shots off on them," Abrams said.

The Memphis offense wasn't bad, either, orchestrated by Rose, the freshman who was named the region's most outstanding player after finishing with 21 points, nine assists and six rebounds against Texas. Thanks to his play, the Tigers opened a 39-22 lead late in the first half.

But the Longhorns cut it to 39-34 early in the second half, giving the predominately burnt-orange-clad crowd of 32,798 at Reliant Stadium something to scream about. That's when Rose said the guys got together and told each other, "it's time to play."

And did they ever.

He, Douglas-Roberts, senior center Joey Dorsey and reserve sophomore forward Shawn Taggart keyed an 18-4 run over eight minutes as the Tigers regained control 57-38. What happened in 2006 and 2007 was critical at that time, Douglas-Roberts said.

"The first year (against UCLA), we panicked and then last year (against Ohio State), we kind of rushed some shots," he said. "But we were more poised this year and it showed. When they made that run, and we expected them to make a run because they're a great team, we kept them down because of our experience."

Memphis sealed it by hitting 22 of 26 free throws (they were 30-of-36 overall). That from a team that entered shooting 59.8 percent from the line.

"We proved we can get over that (Elite Eight) hump. I thought we were cursed for a minute," Dorsey said. "But we know we've still got work to do."

Brian Landman can be reached at landman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3347.

Memphis 85

Texas 67

>>fast facts

Crashing the party

Memphis, from Conference USA, is only the 12th team from outside the six major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10 and SEC) to reach the Final Four since the field expanded from 48 teams in 1985. The first 11:

Year Team Conference How it fared

2006 George Mason Colonial Lost semifinal

2005 Louisville C-USA Lost semifinal

2003 Marquette C-USA Lost semifinal

1998 Utah WAC Lost final

1996 Massachusetts Atlantic 10 Lost semifinal

1992 Cincinnati Great Midwest Lost semifinal

1991 UNLV Big West Lost semifinal

1990 UNLV Big West Won title

1987 UNLV Big West Lost semifinal

1986 Louisville Metro Won title

1985 Memphis Metro Lost semifinal

Memphis routs Texas to reach first Final Four since 1985 03/30/08 [Last modified: Sunday, March 30, 2008 10:27pm]
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