All Derrick Rose and Memphis were missing was a trapeze.
The star freshman showed off his dazzling array of signature moves, and UCLA could do little but watch. Flying from all angles, the Tigers took their show to a new level Saturday, romping 78-63 to reach the NCAA championship game.
Rose wasn't content to merely make shots, he wanted to stamp this Final Four as his own with a series of show-stoppers. It became an NBA audition in likely his final college weekend as he helped Memphis (38-1) set the major college basketball record for wins in a season.
Rose put up lefty floaters and righty scoops, often changing hands in mid-air, and threw one try over his shoulder. He was in perpetual motion - once, he caught a pass in traffic, stutter-stepped just long enough to look his defender in the eye, and then sped past him for an easy but showy layup.
"I just try to attack when I get the ball and hopefully jump over them and shoot," he said.
UCLA star Kevin Love put on his own show at practice Friday, hitting a full-court shot. He managed just 12 points - and missed both open 3-pointers - as the Bruins (35-4) again fell short in their third straight Final Four appearance.
All season, this team from lightly regarded Conference USA played along with coach John Calipari's us-against-the-world theme. Now, the Tigers need only to beat the North Carolina-Kansas winner for their first championship.
Rose finished with 25 points and nine rebounds and a bunch of eye-opening moves that won't show up in the final box.
Rose also hit 11 of 12 free throws. For a team supposedly vulnerable from the foul line, the Tigers did great in making 20 of 23.
He fittingly wound up with the ball in the final seconds and heaved it high. Only then did he crack the slightest of smiles.
Chris Douglas-Roberts scored 28 points for Memphis, and Joey Dorsey had the most surprising line of all - zero points, but 15 big rebounds.
"It's great, it's great," the All-American guard said. "We all believe in each other and we expect great things to happen, so this isn't new to us."
Memphis has won its five games in this NCAA tournament by an average of nearly 16 points. The Tigers got off to a slower start this time, falling behind 5-0, before their suddenly chic "dribble drive motion" offense took over.
Memphis led 50-45 with 13 1/2 minutes left before pulling away. Rose made a couple of nifty passes, Dorsey came up with a monster block and later playfully popped Douglas-Roberts on the shoulder after a slam.
This was certainly no repeat of 1973, when the Tigers - then known as Memphis State - got routed 87-66 by UCLA in the title game. Bill Walton hit 21 of 22 shots and scored a record 44 points that night. But the big man has hip and back problems and wasn't able to make it to the Alamodome. Fact is, the taller Bruins were in trouble the entire way.
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