7:00 PM ET, November 18, 2004
Madison Square Garden, New York, New York
NEW YORK -- Rodney Carney took some time to answer John Calipari's question.
"Coach called me over the summer and asked me if I was working hard," Carney said. "I guess I showed him what I did all through the summer tonight."
The junior forward scored a career-high 33 points and Memphis (No. 23 ESPN/USA Today; No. 24 AP) ended the surprising tournament run of Saint Mary's with an 81-66 victory Thursday night in the semifinals of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic.
The Tigers (3-0) will face Syracuse (No. 6 ESPN/USA Today; No. 5 AP) for the title on Friday night.
The 6-foot-7 Carney had 20 points in the first half as Memphis took a 42-29 lead. His 3-pointer started a 10-0 run that broke a 17-all tie and he scored six points in a 9-0 run that gave the Tigers a 38-22 lead with 3:17 left in the half.
"He's put in a lot and all of a sudden on national TV he gets back a lot," Calipari said.
Saint Mary's (2-1), which beat California in the quarterfinals, was the lone mid-major in the field of 16 to reach the semifinals at Madison Square Garden, and the Gaels started as if another upset was possible.
Daniel Kickert scored 12 of their first 14 points in the opening four minutes, but Memphis used several defenders on him as Saint Mary's continued to run its spread offense. He finished the half with 15 points.
The Gaels pulled to 64-56 on five straight points by Kickert with 7:18 to play. Carney and Jeremy Hunt then hit consecutive 3-pointers to extend the lead to 14.
"We didn't leave him on pick and rolls in the second half," Calipari said of the defensive job on Kickert. "They may miss a layup, but he isn't going to miss a 3. He is a really good player."
Carney's previous career high was 26 points last season against South Carolina. He finished 13-for-20 from the field, including 3-for-3 on 3s, and had nine rebounds.
He also impressed Saint Mary's coach Randy Bennett.
"He looked like a pro tonight. Shooting 3s, taking it to the hole," Bennett said. "We played decent. We could have played better. Memphis had a lot to do with that. They are difficult to defend. The fact we didn't do a good job on Carney was the difference in the game. Other than that, I thought it was a close game.
"I was pleased. We did get something out of this game because of the level of competition that we are playing against."
Sean Banks, one of the most effective defenders against the 6-10 Kickert, added 18 points for Memphis, while freshman Joey Dorsey had 10 points and eight rebounds. The Tigers shot 50.8 percent from the field (32-for-63).
"We haven't even dug into our talent yet. We need to get the chemistry down," Carney said. "Once we get that down, in my opinion, we'll be unstoppable."
Kickert finished with 24 points and nine rebounds for Saint Mary's, which is playing at least the first seven games of the season without Paul Marigney, the leading scorer last season in the West Coast Athletic Conference, for academic reasons.
It was the third straight strong defensive outing for Memphis. Saint Mary's shot 35.8 percent from the field (24-for-67), including 8-for-23 from 3-point range.
"We relied a little bit too much on Sean and Rodney, but they had it going," Calipari said. "They played well, they didn't go away. They could have easily have hit some 3s to beat us."
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||32-63 (.508)||24-67 (.358)|
|3P Made-Attempted||6-14 (.429)||8-23 (.348)|
|FT Made-Attempted||11-15 (.733)||10-16 (.625)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||14 (0/0)||16 (0/0)|
|» Nov 18, 2004||MEM 81, @SMC 66||Recap|