Memphis-Kansas: Tigers Take Top-Ranked Jayhawks To the Wire, 57-55

Neil PowellCorrespondent INovember 19, 2009

Just the sound of the words "Memphis Tigers" will bring smiles to Jayhawks basketball fans for eternity.

On Tuesday night Kansas packed up its No.1 ranking and headed for the Scott Trade Center in St. Louis, MO for the second game of the Basketball Hall of Fame Classic and a rematch of the 2008 national title game with Memphis.

Five of the night's starters (Kansas' Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins and the Tigers' Pierre Henderson-Niles, Doneal Mack, and Willie Kemp) played in that championship game—one of the most thrilling games of all time. 

Although the stakes were not as high this time around, the two programs did play in front of dozens of legendary players and a nice-sized crowd.

Players like Rick Barry, Walt Bellamy, and Jayhawks legend Lynette Woodard had to appreciate the scrappy play of rookie coach Josh Pastner's Memphis squad and the physical dominance of Kansas big man Aldrich.

The two teams looked like they were playing in only their second game of the season as turnovers and missed shots were commonplace. They played to a lessthansizzling 1010 tie at the 10 minute mark of the first half. 

The Jayhawks' offense struggled to be consistent, as the Memphis defense harassed them into nine turnovers before the break.

Despite the dominating performance by Aldrich (eight points on four-for-five shooting) KU held a narrow 26-20 lead going into the locker room.

Memphis, missing the marquee superstar they've usually had in recent years, saw Duke transfer Elliot Williams take the first step of filling that roll.

Williams finished with 21 points and had a good look at a three-point shot at the buzzer that appeared to be good when it left his hand.

It was preseason All-American Aldrich who carried Kansas throughout the evening displaying an array of moves around the basket. 

He finished with 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, once again proving to the nation he's going to be a force under the bucket all year.

Jayhawks' guard Sherron Collins, another Preseason All-American, finished with 12 points and five rebounds, but missed significant time in the second half due to cramps.

At the 13 minute mark Collins exited the game in pain. He returned three minutes later, only to collapse on the court and grab his leg.

He did return in the final minute of the game and scored on a floater that was goal tended. Collins fed Aldrich on a sweet drive-and-dish and then made one of his two free throw attempts to help seal the victory. 

Freshman forward Xavier Henry, who committed to Memphis but changed his mind, added 11 points and Marcus Morris chipped in 12 off the bench for the Jayhawks.