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The Dagger

D.J. Stephens shows off his leaping ability with volleyball-style blocked shot

If professional basketball doesn't work out for D.J. Stephens, the high-flying Memphis guard might want to give beach volleyball a try.

Displaying the sort of hang time and form Karch Kiraly would love, Stephens soared high in the air and spiked the ball right out of Adreian Payne's hands Saturday as the Michigan State forward went up for a shot near the rim. The block helped sixth-seeded Memphis trim a 13-point first-half deficit to three by halftime in its round of 32 matchup with the third-seeded Spartans, but Michigan State pulled away late for a 70-48 victory.

Payne should have known he needed to go up stronger against Stephens considering the 6-foot-5 Memphis guard's reputation as a leaper.

Stephens is one of the nation's most accomplished dunkers and won Conference USA's defensive player of the year award in part because of his timing and instinct as a weakside shot blocker. His vertical leap is impressive enough that he takes all jump balls for the Tigers and he was photographed earlier this month actually kissing the rim.

It's Payne and not Stephens, however, who had the last laugh.

Stephens missed six of his seven shots and finished with just three points in his final college game, though he has blocked three shots and played his usual sound defense. Payne keyed Michigan State's second-half surge that helped the Spartans transform a tight game into a rout, finishing with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

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