One-two punch

Gerry Ahern
Yahoo! Sports

• McClellan: Memphis soars past UCLA in second half
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SAN ANTONIO – Like a right cross and a left hook, Memphis guards Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose floored UCLA and its vaunted defense Saturday at the Alamodome.

Douglas-Roberts struck for 28 points while Rose pitched in 25 and nine rebounds as John Calipari's well-trained Tigers moved a win away from the national championship with a 78-63 victory over the Bruins in a national semifinal game.

Memphis is now 38-1, and only Kansas stands in the way of the school from Conference USA silencing a legion of doubters and capturing its first title.

"I'm coaching a dream team," Calipari said. "They get along. They respect coaching. They take their roles and do it. The guys off the bench? I didn't play them much tonight because Chris and Derrick had it going."

If it wasn't Douglas-Roberts soaring high over a defender and slamming home an electrifying dunk, it was Rose speeding down the court, splitting the interference and dealing the perfect pass.

Saturday's effort was merely a continuance of the duo's strong play in the NCAA South regional. In pounding Michigan State in the semis, Douglas-Roberts had 25 points and five rebounds, while Rose had 27 points and five assists. In the finals against Texas, Douglas-Roberts had 25 points and three rebounds. Rose collected 21 points and nine assists.

Guard play is key in the NCAAs and it's hard to believe a backcourt pair has ever looked as in sync as these two when it matters most.

"Every game we expect to play really well," said Douglas-Roberts, a junior from Detroit. "We talk to each other before the game, and we play off each other. There's no selfishness. Whoever has it going, has it going. And that's why we play so well together."

They took what UCLA gave them, Rose penetrating inside and knocking down 11 of 12 free throws. Douglas-Roberts did likewise, making good on 9 of 11 from the line.

"I just kept pushing it no matter if they were fouling me on the shots," said Rose, the freshman phenom from Chicago. "So the whole game, I was not going to take a jump shot. I was just going to go to the hole and get fouled and try to get to the line. It worked out."

In the second half, Douglas-Roberts and Rose outscored UCLA 29-28.

"They are two great players," Bruins guard Russell Westbrook said. "They came out ready to play tonight. They've been really consistent all year long."

The Bruins' backcourt of Darren Collison and Westbrook tried to keep pace with Douglas-Roberts and Rose, but in the end, speed killed.

Collison was held to two points on 1 of 9 shooting, fouling out with 2:53 remaining. He had five turnovers and just four assists. Westbrook turned in an exemplary effort with 22 points, two assists and three rebounds, but it was two against one.

Memphis certainly is not a two-man show. The Tigers feature a deep and diverse roster with many complementary parts. Against UCLA, senior forward Joey Dorsey was held scoreless but pulled down 15 rebounds and made a huge block. Junior guard Antonio Anderson had 12 points, three rebounds and three assists. And sophomore big man Shawn Taggart contributed seven key points and seven rebounds off the bench.

Memphis can also play defense, as it proved by holding UCLA to 37.5 percent shooting. The Tigers limited freshman star center Kevin Love to 12 points, just two in the second half.

"I feel like Memphis is definitely the best team we've played," Love said. "They just got up and down the court very well."

Then there's attitude, and boy, do the Tigers have attitude. They have played with the proverbial chip on their shoulder all season, critics questioning their conference schedule and even their coaching.

This confident group couldn't care less.

"Going into the game, we knew we were going to win," Rose said. "So there ain't too much to say."

Calipari is never at a loss for words. Saturday he got to enjoy a writer eating theirs.

A column in the Los Angeles Times billed this game as a coaching mismatch between the Bruins' Ben Howland and Memphis' frenetic, feisty leader, Howland having the edge.

Afterward, Calipari could laugh about it.

"I don't think Ben is that bad," Calipari deadpanned. "I respect Ben and think he's a heck of a coach."

As the Tigers left the court after the victory and walked through the tunnel, passing the players on their way to the floor for the second semifinal game, Douglas-Roberts delivered a message.

"You don't want to run into us," he said. "No one wants to run into us."

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