OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Rodney Carney counts on his first dunk of
a game igniting his teammates' intensity.
He dunked all right, he jumped in the passing lanes on defense,
and Carney kept top-seeded Memphis from becoming another victim of
Bradley's surprising NCAA run.
Carney contributed on both ends of the floor Thursday, scoring
23 points and leading a stingy defense that gave Memphis an 80-64
victory and put the Tigers in the regional final for the first time
since 1992 -- back when Anfernee Hardaway was their star.
"That's what my dunks do," said Carney, who added three
steals. "I spark the team with run-through dunks. It gives the
team intensity. I want to dunk on 7-foot guys."
Darius Washington Jr. added 18 points and Shawne Williams had 12
points, eight rebounds and four blocks as Memphis won the third
round of the Oakland Regional for its seventh straight victory.
Carney raised his arms in the air in celebration after a
two-handed jam midway through the second half, one of several
emphatic dunks by the 6-foot-7 forward who was virtually unknown
when he first arrived at Memphis. Now, he is one win from finishing
his stellar collegiate career in his hometown of Indianapolis for
the Final Four.
Coach John Calipari's young Tigers (33-3), an NIT team last
season, advanced to Saturday's regional final against second-seeded
UCLA, a 73-71 comeback winner over third-seeded Gonzaga. The Tigers
beat the Bruins earlier this season.
"We really guarded. We rebounded in the second half, and my
stars were stars -- all three of them," Calipari said. "We're
pretty good when that happens. ... Your senior better do his thing,
and he's doing it."
Patrick O'Bryant had 11 of his 14 rebounds in the first half and
only scored eight points for Bradley (22-11), which at No. 13 was
the lowest seed still alive in the tournament. The Braves will
return home to another hero's welcome after they turned the program
into a household name and brought national attention to the town of
Peoria, Ill., where they play.
"I think we put Bradley basketball back on the map," O'Bryant
The Braves had been the NCAA spoiler so far after beating Kansas
and Pittsburgh to reach their first regional semifinal since 1955
when it was 24-team tournament, but they began the second half
4-for-16 and struggled to get open looks at the basket against
speedy, aggressive Memphis.
The Tigers took Bradley right out of its preferred half-court
"They wanted to run, and we run," Washington said. "That's
Bradley committed 14 first-half turnovers, then took better care
of the ball after halftime but couldn't make shots. Coach Jim Les
was whistled for a technical with 8:29 remaining for arguing, a
sign of his team's frustration down the stretch.
After the Braves cut the lead to seven with 12:25 left, Williams
hit a 3-pointer with the shot clock winding down to start a 7-0
Memphis run that also featured Carney's dazzling dunk.
"There's a reason why they're the [fourth]-ranked team in the
country and a No. 1 seed," Les said. "We needed to play our 'A'
game and we didn't play our 'A' game because of what they do and
how they play."
The 7-foot O'Bryant faced two or three defenders almost every
time he caught the ball in the paint. Marcellus Sommerville led
Bradley with 18 points -- making nine of 10 free throws -- and eight
rebounds and Lawrence Wright added 14 points.
Memphis forward Joey Dorsey picked up a technical, his seventh
of the season, with 16:27 remaining after jawing with Wright.
Dorsey's teammates were furious with his lack of composure and got
in his face to let him know it. Sommerville hit both free throws to
pull Bradley within 42-35.
The Tigers weren't about to let one guy bring them down. This
postseason is redemption of sorts for this squad boasting four
freshmen and three sophomore regulars.
A year ago, with Memphis down by two to Louisville in the
Conference USA tournament championship game, Washington got fouled
shooting a 3-pointer as the final buzzer sounded. Alone at the
line, he had a chance to win the game by making all three free
throws. He hit the first and missed the next two, then fell to the
floor in heartbreak as the Tigers' NCAA hopes slipped away.
Bradley won nine of its final 11 games and captured the
attention of the country at a school that last gained this much
national exposure in men's basketball during the days of Hersey
Memphis, the Conference USA regular-season and tournament
champion, led 35-30 at halftime and started the second half with a
7-0 spurt to take control for good.
Bradley missed five shots and committed three turnovers in its
first seven possessions and fell behind 7-0 before taking a timeout
at 17:45. O'Bryant finally got the Braves on the board with a
putback at 16:27.