MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP)—Memphis coach John Calipari wants to like his No. 22 Tigers. They’re just making things really difficult for him.
Chris Douglas-Roberts had 19 points and seven rebounds, and No. 22 Memphis overcame a slow first half to beat Lamar 87-62 Thursday night.
“I want to throw love at them,” Calipari said, “but when a guy’s not playing hard, it’s hard to say: ‘You’re all right.’ It’s not all right. That’s not OK, if you’re not diving on the floor or afraid to mix it up.”
Douglas-Roberts, the Tigers’ leading scorer, shot 9-of-16 from the field and was one of five players to score in double figures for Memphis.
The Tigers (10-3) built their lead to 22 midway through the second half and coasted to their fourth win in the last five. The Cardinals shot just 31 percent.
“I think it was their defense,” Lamar coach Steve Roccaforte said. “I think our shooting percentage has gotten better. I think we’ll continue to shoot the ball better, but tonight, I think it was their defense.”
Robert Dozier scored 13 points and Kareem Cooper finished with 12 points and nine rebounds for Memphis. Jeremy Hunt also had 12 points and Joey Dorsey added 11.
James Davis, the Cardinals’ bulky 7-foot-1 center and leading scorer at 17.2 points a game, led Lamar (5-8) with 20 points. Currye Todd added 13 and Brandon Chappell scored 10.
The game was a showdown between teacher and pupil. Roccaforte was an assistant on the Memphis staff under Calipari from 2001-03.
Memphis led 38-28 at halftime after a sloppy first half. Douglas-Roberts led the Tigers with 13 points. No Cardinals were in double figures.
Lamar used a pressing defense to disrupt the Memphis offense early. The scrambling Cardinals caused four early turnovers, and the Tigers missed six of their first seven shots from the floor. The inefficiency had Calipari up screaming at his team and shuffling players, trying to find the right combination.
“To watch it was painful,” Calipari said, later adding, “I want to enjoy this team. I love the team. I love the guys, but I’m not enjoying some of the coaching parts right now because they are not playing to the level they are capable of.”
Eventually, Memphis began connecting from long range against Lamar’s zone, building a 12-point lead midway through the first half.
Roccaforte didn’t change things as the Tigers extended their lead in the second half, continuing to rotate his players and run his offense.
“We’ve got to continue getting better at what we’re doing,” Roccaforte said. “That’s the offense we’re going to have to play with when we get in the (Southland) conference. We have to take advantage of our inside game, spread the floor and make the open shots. We’ll get better at that.”
Meanwhile, Calipari will continue to push his players, hoping they can reach their potential and defeat tougher teams. The Tigers’ eight home wins have come easily against lesser opponents. Memphis’ margin of victory in those games is almost 26 points.
“We’ve got to break through to another level. I think we have that next level. Now, I’ve got to get them believing they have another level,” Calipari said.
“Can we be a great team? Let’s hope so. That’s what we are striving for.”