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Once Memphis smelled blood, it finished off Texas early

HOUSTON -- Only a couple of minutes into Sunday's South Regional final, Memphis guard Chris Douglas-Roberts sensed that Texas was awed by his team.

After Memphis' athletic collection of talent beat the Longhorns for a couple of easy baskets early in the game, the looks on Texas players' faces were a telling sign before the game had barely started.

"I don't know if Texas has played a team as physical, athletic and long as we are all year," Douglas-Roberts said. "Even though they were in the Big 12, they haven't played a team like us. It was hard for them because you can't practice for us. It's kind of shocking how fast and athletic we are."

Many naysayers across the country still might not be buying the Tigers' unique collection of long arms and an offensive philosophy their coach calls "Princeton on Steroids." But Memphis added another emphatic "I told you so" to the rest of the country with an 85-67 victory over the Longhorns, wrapping up its first Final Four appearance since 1985.

And it certainly didn't hurt to have mercurial freshman point guard Derrick Rose running the show. Rose hit his first five shots en route to winning Most Outstanding Player in the region. He finished with 21 points, six rebounds and nine assists, repeatedly jumping over and maneuvering around Texas defenders to get where he wanted to be.

Rose similarly could tell the Longhorns were surprised by Memphis' collection of talent early in the game.

"You could just tell they were kind of stunned by their facial expressions," Rose said. "Nothing against them because they are a very good team. But they hadn't seen anything like us."

Most definitely not anything like Rose and Douglas-Roberts, who were unsuccessfully checked by smaller Texas defenders D.J. Augustin and Justin Mason from the opening tip.

Derrick's a great player, and he makes great decisions. He controls the ball and the game. He just did a great job for them.

--Texas guard D.J. Augustin

Earlier this week, Rose said that Augustin "taught him a lesson" this past summer at an adidas camp in New Orleans about how demanding college basketball would be.

Rose exacted his revenge Sunday afternoon, outplaying Augustin from the opening moments. He limited Augustin to 16 points on 4-of-18 shooting and forced four turnovers in the first half as the matchup between two of the nation's top point guards fizzled for most of the game.

"Derrick's a great player, and he makes great decisions," Augustin said. "He controls the ball and the game. He just did a great job for them."

The addition of Rose is the biggest difference between this Memphis team and the ones that fell short in Elite Eight losses each of the past two seasons.

"I'm glad he's my teammate, and I know what he's capable of," Douglas-Roberts said. "He has a big heart, just like me. We came from the same background, and a lot of guys who grew up like we did have it. We just refuse to lose."

Rose tried to forget about the matchup Saturday night, turning off the basketball games and watching movies from his hotel room as he prepared for his rematch with Augustin.

"When I watch games on TV like that, I start getting scared and nervous," Rose said. "I just wanted to be myself, so I tried to relax."

He started quickly, adding a collection of pivotal plays that showcased his value to his team. An early jumper in the paint accounted for Memphis' first basket. Rose then assisted on Douglas-Roberts' first 3-pointer. After he was briefly treated for a cut eye, Rose started and finished a fast break with a rebound and a coast-to-coast layup that silenced the partisan Texas fans at Reliant Stadium.

Some of the early impetus came from coach John Calipari, who was determined to work the ball inside against the smaller Texas defenders from the beginning.

"He told us we were playing a zone defense and we weren't going to settle for jump shots," Memphis forward Robert Dozier said. "And when we did that today, Coach ripped us up. He wanted to put the ball inside and let them know we were coming."

Douglas-Roberts and Rose combined for 16 of Memphis' first 18 points using that strategy. Rose nailed his first five shots. Douglas-Roberts produced a game-high 25 points in a slashing performance that diced up the less athletic Longhorns.

"I'm sure they felt they could pick any spot on the floor and jump over A.J. [Abrams] or D.J. [Augustin], and they started the game by really getting within a seven- or eight-foot area," Texas coach Rick Barnes said. "I think they felt because of their length of their guards, at any point in time they could isolate an area of the floor, and they did that."

It also didn't help that Augustin and Abrams started with miserable offensive performances. Augustin had four turnovers in the first 15 minutes of the game. Texas' two leading scorers combined to miss their first eight shots before Augustin nailed a deep 3-pointer with 6:32 left in the first half.

"Their defense was very impressive," said Abrams, whose team-high 17 points was swelled by four late 3-pointers in garbage time. "They were real athletic, and their talent was probably the most athletic we've seen. It was pretty difficult trying to get shots off of them."

Convincing victories over Michigan State and Texas this weekend helped the Tigers qualify for San Antonio with the least resistance of any of the No. 1 seeds.

And even if some critics still might be surprised that Memphis is alive in the tournament, their recent performances likely opened some eyes.

"I'm not sure if we'll get the respect we deserve, but if we don't, it doesn't matter," Douglas-Roberts said. "It's four teams left now. After today, I don't see a reason why people still could doubt us, but I'm pretty sure that they still will."

Not many Spartans or Longhorns, though.

Tim Griffin covers college football and basketball for ESPN.com. He can be reached at espntimgriff@yahoo.com.