NEW YORK (AP) -- Memphis coach John Calipari was hoping to have a
close game to try and figure out his young squad.
For the first 30 minutes, the 11th-ranked Tigers were untested,
but then Calipari got his wish.Memphis had to hit six free throws down the stretch to hold off
No. 16 UCLA 88-80 in the semifinals of the NIT Season Tip-Off on
Wednesday night."I told the guys today, I want this game to be close,"
Calipari said. "I want us to be in a little bit of a battle so we
can figure out what we are."Freshman Shawne Williams scored 20 of his 26 points in the first
half and was 7-for-7 from the field, including five 3-pointers to
help Memphis build a 51-34 halftime lead."It seems their plan was to sit off me," Williams said. "I
had to shoot to open up the defense a little bit."Williams' strong first half impressed UCLA coach Ben Howland."We knew he's a very good player," Howland said. "At least
three of those 3's were from NBA range."Memphis (3-0) will face top-ranked Duke in the final Friday
night. The Blue Devils beat pesky Drexel 78-68 in the other
semifinal."We have great respect for that program and what they have done
historically," Calipari said of Duke.The Tigers, a five-time participant in the Tip-Off, formerly
known as the Preseason NIT, will be making their first appearance
in the championship game. Memphis has been a semifinalist twice
before (1990 and 1998).Memphis seemed to have the game in hand with a 75-58 lead before
UCLA's Jordan Farmar took over.The Bruins (3-1) went on a 18-7 run, including 13 points by
Farmar to close the gap to six at 82-76 with 42 seconds left, but
could get no closer."We executed better in the second half," UCLA coach Ben
Howland said. "We got to keep the ball in Jordan's hands as much
as possible."Farmar, who sat out UCLA's 56-37 win over Delaware State on
Saturday because of a sprained ankle, was off in the first half,
making just one of six shots. He came alive in the second, scoring
23 of his 28 points."Farmar's a really good player," Calipari said.Rodney Carney scored 17 points and Darius Washington added 16.Arron Afflalo had 14 points and Michael Fey, who also missed
Saturday's victory with a sprained left shoulder, added 13.Williams hit three 3-pointers to give Memphis a 12-4 lead. UCLA
responded with a 7-2 run to get within 14-11. The Tigers then
outscored the Bruins 19-8 over the next 6:39 to take a 33-19 lead."We came out in the first half and were really aggressive,"
Calipari said.Memphis beat Wisconsin-Milwaukee and then won at Alabama to
reach the semifinals.UCLA beat New Mexico State and Temple to advance to New York.