|Memphis defense handles UCLA and Love in Final 4|
|Written by Admin|
|Saturday, 05 April 2008 15:03|
By JIM O'CONNELL
AP Basketball Writer
SAN ANTONIO (AP) -Memphis looked unstoppable from the start and that's the way the Tigers played to the very end - stopping UCLA over and over.
Memphis, the team that lost just once all season, broke out of the blocks in its first Final Four game in 23 years like, well, a bunch of caged Tigers. They erased a 5-0 deficit by hitting their next eight shots and forcing Bruins coach Ben Howland to call a timeout.
That all happened before the game was 6 minutes old and the crowd at the Alamodome was watching a team that averages 80 points a game take off on a pace that would have lit up the third digit on the scoreboard.
That didn't happen, but Memphis did turn the tables on UCLA by playing the kind of tough defense the Bruins are known for in a 78-63 victory Saturday night. The victory put the Tigers in the national championship game for only the second time and the first since 1973 when the school still had ``State'' in its name.
Memphis was certainly no slouch on defense this season, allowing just 61.6 points a game, but UCLA was going to be different. The Bruins averaged 73.8 points and freshman All-American Kevin Love was going to be quite a handful inside, especially against a team known primarily for the backcourt of All-American Chris Douglas-Roberts and freshman Derrick Rose, a third-team All-American.
Joey Dorsey, Memphis' center who has heard throughout his college career about how great he can be if he focused and applied himself, spent the entire game focused on applying pressure on Love.
Despite picking up two fouls in the first half and a third less than a minute in the second half, Dorsey got the better of Love in a physical matchup that kept UCLA from ever getting into an offensive rhythm.
Love, who came in averaging 17.6 points on 57 percent shooting, finished with 12 points on 4-for-11 shooting.
Dorsey's big defensive moment didn't involve Love, however.
Josh Shipp's three-point play brought UCLA within 59-52 with 7:20 to play. Memphis suddenly went cold on its end, but the Bruins couldn't take advantage as they came up empty on four straight possessions, the last Dorsey's signature play of his senior season.
Russell Westbrook came down the left side of the court on a fast break. Dorsey came across the lane and swatted his layup away. He really swatted it and with the building energized for the first time in a few minutes, Rose went down court on the play and scored on a scoop shot that made it 63-52 with 3:14 left.
The game that started with an offensive show was capped with a big defensive play by a player who finished with no points, 15 rebounds and two blocked shots.