The John Calipari era started on a sour note Friday night at The Pyramid as the University of Memphis lost to Temple 67-62. But a crowd of 20,142 did not go home too unhappy, as they saw a Memphis team that hustled, played good defense, and looked like they should be competitive by post-season tournament time.
It was truly a game of two halves. The first was vintage Calipari -- tenacious man-to-man defense and a smart offense that looked for good shots almost every trip down the floor. After so much talk about TempleÕs matchup zone, it was the Tiger defense that controlled the game in the first half.
ÒI thought we should have been up 16 or 17 at the half, and if we are, then itÕs our ball game,Ó Calipari said. ÒBut we took two bad shots to start the second half and all the sudden its anybodyÕs ball game. We have to learn how to put people away. We have to learn to play the second half to win versus playing it not to lose. That is going to take time. ThatÕs a mind set, an attitude. But IÕm proud of the way we played.Ó
Memphis grabbed the early lead and built it to 26-20 with 3:44 left. The Tigers then missed several opportunities to extend the lead with poor foul shooting and two ill-timed threes. But Shyrone Chatman nailed a three in the final 30 seconds and Memphis went to the locker room with a 33-24 lead.
The Owls were forced into playing a perimeter game in the first half, shooting 3 our of 12 from beyond the three-point arc. Overall, Temple shot 38 percent in the first half compared to MemphisÕ 44. The Tigers had only four turnovers and 10 assists in the half.
Kelly Wise, making the first start of his career at forward, was especially productive, slashing all over the court and showing surprising quickness. Wise had 8 points and 6 rebounds. Earl Barron matched WiseÕs point total, as the Tiger big men outplayed their extra-large counterparts, Kevin Wyde and Ron Rollerson.
But Temple opened the second half with a 14-4 run and made a defensive adjustment that took Wise completely out of the Tiger offense. With Wise scoring only one point in the second half, Memphis looked to senior guard Marcus Moody, who scored 16 points off the bench, including 5 of 6 three-point shots.
Calipari said he was impressed with the noisy crowd. ÒI feel bad for the team and for those fans,Ó he said. ÒThey were here in droves. I wish we could have rewarded them with a ÔW.Õ I hope they looked at how we were diving on the floor and how hard we played.Ó
ItÕs doubtful that any Memphis fans will ask for their money back.
Fans hoping for a fight between Calipari
and Temple coach John Chaney
were disappointed. The two embraced before and after the game. Chaney stopped by CalipariÕs post-game radio show and showered the coach and the Memphis fans with praise. Chaney said the Tiger fans were the best in the country and that the new coach was Òdoing it the right way.Ó . . . A reporter asked Calipari about the eight Tiger turnovers in the game. ÒWe only had eight? ThatÕs not enough,Ó the coach answered. ÒNo,Ó insisted the puzzled reporter, Òyou only committed
eight.Ó ÒThatÕs not enough. It means we werenÕt aggressive enough. I like to have 12 or 13 turnovers a game,Óthe coach responded. . . . Junior Paris London
was the only scholarship player not to play in the game. . . . Backup point guard Shyrone Chatman
, who suffered a broken nose in practice last week, wore a mask during the first half. The protective device was colorful with blue and white stripes. It would have worked fine as a Halloween mask. In the second half Chatman played without the mask. . . The University of Memphis tipped off its 80th basketball season against Temple. The Tigers are 6-4 in home openers since The Pyramid opened in 1991. . . . PGA golfer Loren Roberts
was honored at halftime. Athletic Director R.C. Johnson
presented Roberts with a plaque for his support of the university. . . . Calipari is ranked 9th among active coaches with a record of 189-70 (.730). Jerry Tarkanian
is first with 733 wins in 29 seasons. Among Tiger head coaches, only Bob Vanatta
(.762) and Dana Kirk
(.731) have higher career winning percentages. . . . One of the numerous made-for-TV signs seen in the crowd: Ò33rd in the nation? Calipari demands a recount.Ó . . . Bob Carpenter
and Larry Conley
broadcast the game on ESPN.
(You can write Dennis Freeland at firstname.lastname@example.org