MEMPHIS, Tenn. - Drexel coach Bruiser Flint didn't need his usual courtside seat to see that his Dragons could be in for a long afternoon at FedExForum yesterday.
Flint, suspended for the game by Colonial Athletic Association commissioner Tom Yeager for picking up two technical fouls in Saturday's loss at Bucknell, watched his team's 87-49 loss to the Tigers from a suite. Even before the tip, he didn't like what he saw.
"You've got to step out there like you're ready to go," said Flint, wearing a track suit instead of his usual game attire. "I didn't see that in some of the guys.
"You've got to be ready to win the game. You've got to come in thinking, 'I'm gonna win the game.' A little bit of it might have been, I'm not there so I'm not screaming and hollering at them. But, honestly, I shouldn't have to do that."
A couple of hours with associate head coach Mike Connors in charge did nothing to change the miserable shooting that has plagued the Dragons (2-6) this season. Drexel came into the game shooting 33.9 percent from the floor - 327th out of the 330 Division I teams - and "topped" that by hitting only 18 of 64 (28.1 percent) against the tall and athletic Tigers.
"They're long across the board, and the guys coming off the bench are just as big," Connors said. "You don't realize until you get out there on the floor and you're going against it. It just disrupts so much of your offensive tempo that it's tough to get a great open look against them."
Drexel never led and a 14-0, pressure-induced run midway through the first half gave Memphis (7-3) a 25-9 lead and left little doubt about the outcome.
"That was the key - their pressure," Connors said. "That's where they got us. We shot much quicker than we probably should have."
On the same day they fell from the Associated Press rankings for the first time since 2005, the Tigers looked like a Top 25 team before an announced crowd of 16,715. In the wake of a home loss Saturday to No. 17 Syracuse, Calipari decided to try freshman Tyreke Evans at point guard, and the former American Christian School standout responded with 20 points and four assists in just 18 foul-plagued minutes.
"If you've seen me play a lot, you know I'm more comfortable with the ball in my hands," said Evans, who is averaging 15.4 points per game and has twice been Conference USA's Freshman of the Week. "You're going to see a lot of improvement in my game."
Calipari, whose team has struggled all season trying to replace top NBA draft pick Derrick Rose at the point, thinks Evans might be the answer.
"All of a sudden, he's more comfortable," said Calipari, stressing that Evans never complained about his role. "I tried to fit him in a round hole."
The bright spot of Drexel's afternoon was the shooting of senior guard Tramayne Hawthorne, who hit six of 11 three-point attempts and scored 26 of his team's 49 points.
"You always want to come out and play in a big arena like this," Hawthorne said. "Most of the time you only see it on TV."
Flint didn't get what would have been his first opportunity to match wits with his former boss. Flint was Calipari's assistant for seven seasons at Massachusetts.
Connors, also a former Calipari assistant at UMass, wished Flint had gotten the chance to do more in Memphis than take his kids to the National Civil Rights Museum.
"It was huge," Connors said of his head coach's absence from the bench. "You're talking about one of the best coaches in the conference. It's a travesty he wasn't there." *