NEW YORK -- The University of Memphis closed out its season Thursday by beating Detroit Mercy 86-71 to take third place in the 2001 NIT. The game was played before a sparse crowd at Madison Square Garden and was not broadcast on TV.
But despite the low-key atmosphere, the Tigers (21-15) came out and took care of business in the final appearance in a Memphis uniform for seniors Marcus Moody, Shannon Forman, Shyrone Chatman, and Shamel Jones. Whether it was also the final game for junior Kelly Wise, the teams leading scorer and rebounder, is uncertain.
Sources close to the team say that the 6-10 forward from Pensacola, Florida, will announce in the next two weeks that he is going to pass up his senior season and make himself available for the NBA draft. He is thought to be a late to middle first-round pick.
Wise had another great game as he scored 23 points to go with 7 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 3 assists. He said that playing in the consolation game was not so bad.
I dont think it was as hard as everybody thought it was going to be, he said. We wanted to send the seniors out on a happy note.
Marcus Moody ended his career on a happy note, for sure. The senior from Memphis, who has played for three coaches in four years scored 15 and had three assists. After one, a toss to Wise for a throw-down dunk, brought Calipari onto the floor to praise the senior. The coach has often criticized Moody for being a selfish player.
Another senior, Shannon Forman, also had a good game. He hit 3 of 4 three-point attempts and ended up with an economical 17 points on 6 of 8 shooting. The Tigers shot 55 percent from the field, their best shooting night of the season. Memphis applied a suffocating defense to the Titans holding them to 8 of 31 in the second half and just 34 percent for the game.
No other Tiger scored in double figures, but the line produced by reserve point guard Courtney Trask is worth mentioning: 9 points, 9 rebounds, 5 assists, and 3 steals in 26 minutes of action.
I was so happy for him, Calipari said of the sophomore who missed 16 games this season while serving an academic suspension. Hes never going to be the fastest guy on the floor or the quickest. He doesnt need to be. He is never going to be the best shooter on the floor. He doesnt need to be. He just needs to be a general.
Detroit Mercy senior point guard Rashad Phillips led all scorers with 27 points, but he got 12 of them at the foul line. Memphis constantly ran a double team at him, forcing him to hit only 5 out of 13 shots. Phillips finished his career as the all-time scoring leader at the school.
Calipari reviewed the season and looked forward to future campaigns after the game.
You lose guys. Thats the nature of college basketball, he said. What you hope is the foundation is solid enough where the guys filling in understand how they have to play to fill in and go.
Ill sit down with the seniors next week, Calipari continued. I want to make sure that they are doing what they are supposed to academically, because all of them are within the realm of graduating, they may need a summer or two, but they are not far off.
Calipari may have put to rest any rumors that he wanted to run some members of this years team. I want the team to return intact because I think we have got a good group of guys and the foundation has been set, he said.
Everybody? Calipari was asked.
Yes, he said.
And with that the first season of the Calipari era was complete.