Dec. 5, 2006
The first matchup between Memphis and Tennessee in four seasons produced plenty of excitement.
The two biggest programs on opposite sides of the state meet again Wednesday when the 16th-ranked Tigers (6-1) visit the Volunteers (6-2).
Memphis pulled away late for an 88-79 home victory over Tennessee last Jan. 18 in the teams' first meeting since 2001. The game was tied with 6:45 remaining before the Tigers scored 10 straight points to take control.
With the Tigers playing an up-tempo style under John Calipari and the Volunteers using plenty of full-court pressure under coach Bruce Pearl, last season's result was a fast-paced matchup in which the teams combined for 52 3-point attempts.
"It's a good rivalry because it is a favorite of fans," Pearl said. "The players like it, too. It's good for basketball in the state of Tennessee."
Because Memphis was one game away from the Final Four last season and Tennessee has advanced past the second round of the NCAA tournament just once since 1981, Pearl has a chip on his shoulder about facing the Tigers.
"Memphis looks at itself as a national program. And it is," he said. "They look at Tennessee as a regional program. We are trying to become a national Top 25 program.
"There is no program in the country that respects us less than Memphis, and that's because we haven't done enough to earn their respect. That should bother our fans enough that we should try to show Memphis we are indeed a national program. But we have to do it on the floor."
Tennessee senior guard Dane Bradshaw will be playing his final game against his hometown team. The Memphis native had a career-high 21 points and added 10 rebounds in last year's loss to the Tigers.
Memphis freshman guard Willie Kemp and Tennessee freshman forward Wayne Chism were high school teammates for two seasons at Bolivar Central. The duo won a state title as juniors before losing in the quarterfinals last season.
The Tigers are playing their first road game, although they went 2-1 in November in the Maui Invitational. They'll be looking for different sources of offense compared to last season's meeting with the Vols when Rodney Carney, Shawne Williams and Darius Washington combined for 60 points.
All three of those players left for the NBA, but Calipari still has four players averaging in double figures. Sophomore guard Chris Douglas-Roberts leads the way with 14.7 points per game.
The Tigers are encouraged by the defense of forward Joey Dorsey, who was victimized by foul trouble earlier in the season. The 6-foot-9 junior has eight steals and nine blocks over the last two games while picking up a total of three fouls.
"I want Joey Dorsey to play as many minutes as he can and stay out of foul trouble," Calipari said. "I just want him to play the game, and if he gets 31 or 32 minutes, then he's going to play that much."
Memphis won its fourth straight Monday as Robert Dozier scored 16 points and Douglas-Roberts added 14 in a 78-59 victory over Marshall in its Conference USA opener.
Tennessee has won two in a row since dropping out of the rankings after losing to Butler and then-No. 2 North Carolina from Nov. 22-24 in the NIT Season Tip-Off.