Memphis wants more from Dorsey

With polished center, team may shine in March

National Notebook

College Basketball

December 30, 2005|By PAUL MCMULLEN | PAUL MCMULLEN,SUN REPORTER

It's a simple game for No. 4 Memphis.

Duke has Shelden Williams, and Josh Boone gives Connecticut an anchor in the middle. If the Tigers want to join those elite teams at the Final Four in April, they need more consistent play from Joey Dorsey.

With four freshmen and three sophomores among its first eight players, Memphis is very much a work in progress, but none of the other Tigers need as much polishing as Dorsey. The 6-foot-9, 260-pound center from Baltimore is the top rebounder for Memphis with 8.2 per game, but he's averaging a foul-troubled 20.1 minutes and suffering in that department at the offensive end too, where he's converted a measly 30.6 percent of his free throws.

Dorsey can be a relentless rebounder, but bad things happen when he puts the ball on the floor. Opponents gladly send him to the line, where confidence has become an issue. Even his teammates have been hesitant to get him the ball, as coach John Calipari forcefully noted Wednesday, the morning after an 83-72 win over No. 8 Gonzaga.

"We just got out of a team meeting, and I told the guys that they missed Joey in the break four times," Calipari said. "If we learn to swing the ball, he's going to get 12 points a game. He's in the scrum, fighting for rebounds, when no one else on our team is willing to do that. Joey is still learning how to work on his game, but he's so much better than he was a year ago."

Dorsey was a relative novice when he helped Douglass High to a perfect season in 2001-02. When he landed at Memphis in August 2004, it was his fifth school in as many years. Calipari let him wear Carmelo Anthony's No. 15, but it was a daily battle, reminding Dorsey that he was an inside player. This season, he switched to No. 32. Few opposing centers can beat Dorsey down the floor, but he's still learning how to move his feet and use his body.

The Tigers' only loss came Nov. 25 against Duke. Rodney Carney, the 6-7 wing who is being used as sixth man, shut down J.J. Redick in the second half. Dorsey, however, played just 14 minutes and got schooled by Williams, who matched his career high of 30 points and got 13 rebounds, including the decisive tap-in.

Memphis figures to run its record to 11-1 today against Purdue. No. 15 Texas is an underachiever, but Dorsey will get another test from LaMarcus Aldridge on Monday, when the Longhorns visit the Tigers. It will be the final ESPN appearance of the regular season for the Conference USA favorites, who figure to run away and hide in that watered-down league.

"If Joey can make 60 percent of his free throws, there's no reason he can't average 15 points and 12 rebounds in the league," Calipari said.

If that happens, Memphis will be primed to reach the Final Four for the first time since 1985. It last went to the Sweet 16 in 1995.

Unbeatens dwindle

No. 7 Washington is among the nation's nine unbeaten teams. That list could be shortened today, when No. 12 George Washington plays at No. 19 North Carolina State, and tomorrow, when Pittsburgh gets a visit from No. 24 Wisconsin. The Badgers' only loss came at Wake Forest.

Clemson fell for the first time Wednesday, by three at Georgia. The 8-3 Bulldogs have already matched last season's win total. They're getting another solid season from Levi Stukes, a 6-2 junior guard from Baltimore who received little help the past two years, when Georgia had to repair damage from the Jim Harrick error. Stukes leads the Bulldogs in scoring, steals and has made 43.9 percent of his three-pointers.

Tap-ins

Colonial Athletic Association favorite Old Dominion beat Georgia in the season opener for both and doubled the score on DePaul, but it has a three-game losing streak on the road. That should end Jan. 5 at Towson. ... That was a cathartic 23-point win over the Atlantic 10's Richmond for Tulane and Dave Dickerson, who finally got to coach a game in New Orleans on Tuesday. ... It's official. Princeton has hit rock bottom, as the Tigers lost to Division III Carnegie-Mellon on Wednesday to drop to 2-7.

paul.mcmullen@baltsun.com

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