FAYETTEVILLE, ARK. - Willie Kemp put up a goose egg in a win on Sunday morning in the quarterfinals but he made plays that allowed his Memphis Pump 'N Run team to advance. Very few guys in the country can say that. And very few guys can say his 27 points and most valuable player performance was the difference in a 76-62 victory over Spiece Indy Heat to claim the first ever title of the Real Deal on the Hill.
For years, Spiece Indy Heat has beaten this talented group from Memphis. And from the margin of victory Spiece has had in every game at the tournament, it would be easy to say that the loaded team from the Hoosier State would be the eventual champions. Somebody forgot to tell that to Kemp and guys like Thaddeus Young.
"This says that we can play. We knew we could play them," Kemp said. "We've played them a lot in championship games but we never won. It's feel very good (to finally win)."
"It was motivation and determination. That's all it was," Young said. "They've been beating us for three years straight."
Kemp scored 27 points on nine of 11 shooting, including three of four from down town.
As good as Young was in the first half (10 points and seven rebounds in the first 16 minutes), Kemp was equally strong in the end. His calm and collected eight of nine shooting from the foul line in the second half was key in the victory.
"I told him on the bench that big players step up in big games. That's what he did," Young said of Kemp. "We always know that Willie can take his man whenever he wants to. He's improved a lot. When the big guys got into foul trouble we knew he was going to be the guy that stepped up."
What is even more intriguing about Kemp's performance was the fact he didn't score a point in a thrilling victory over the Atlanta Celtics at 8 a.m. on Sunday. His decision making was vital to Memphis's victory. However, the team needed every one of his 27 scores to get the victory.
"I did feel good coming out in this game. I knew it was a great time to show what I could do," Kemp said. "Sometimes it's not about scoring but today I guess I was just feeling it."
Young was feeling it, too. His versatility is incredible. It showed in all 20 of his points, nine rebounds and four assists. Start sewing Y-O-U-N-G on the back of a McDonald's jersey.
A lot of the excitement inside of Bud Walton Arena was seeing Greg Oden, the nation's No. 1 player, do his thing inside the paint. Blessed with a host of nationally-ranked players around Oden, Spiece has been dubbed as the top AAU team in the country.
"They are the number one team, right? We should be the number one team now," Young said matter-of-factly. "I think we proved that we are the best team in the country now."
Memphis was not just a two-man show. Pierre Niles had 13 points, Brandon Powell added nine and Wayne Chism chipped in with eight. Powell skied for a huge block on Oden with 1:42 to play and with Spiece down 65-57 it was a bucket that the Indiana team need the most. Kemp was quick to point that play out afterwards.
"We just went out there and played team ball and team defense," he said.
Spiece rode Daequan Cook's 18 second half points as long as they could. The Ohio State bound guard was strong with 25 total points on nine of 17 shooting. He also ripped down seven rebounds. The 6-foot-4 guard was the only consistent offensive force Spiece had in the second half.
Oden was somewhat quiet, only going for 11 points, five rebounds and four big blocks. The big fella did have some thundering dunks, including an and one throw down on Young, who crashed to the ground and watched Oden spin on the rim while pointing to each of the guys he just dunked on. Young could only throw up his hands and laugh.
Mike Conley was quiet but effectively strong with 14 points. He'll head to Wake Forest next weekend for an official visit.