Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spoon Stirs Bills, Keeps Them Cooking

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Spoon Stirs Bills, Keeps Them Cooking

Article excerpt

The Billikens-Memphis game was only seconds old and Charlie Spoonhour was berserk. He stomped around like an angry homeowner canceling a cockroach picnic.

His right shoe hit the floor like a sledgehammer. WHAM! "Double stack, double stack," Spoonhour yelled as the tenacious Billikens disrupted what passes for the Memphis offense.

Now he slid his feet and barked more defensive commands. His eyes blazed and his heart tugged him toward a passing lane. Was he ready to force a Tigers turnover himself?

"Things aren't that bad," Spoonhour would later say with a chuckle.

No, they aren't. That Memphis possession ended with an aimless pass flying into the baseline seats. On and on it went, until the scrappy Billikens were sitting on a 23-8 lead 14 minutes into the game.

Chalk up another triumph for one of America's great coaches.

Spoonhour and his aides did a masterful job preparing their team, then keeping it focused for two full hours. Memphis coach Larry Finch - who will never be confused with a Tubby Smith or Rick Pitino - appeared helpless down the way.

The Spoon-Finch mismatch was almost painful to watch. The Billikens made fools of a talented 17-game winner that nearly toppled No. 11 Arkansas on the road. This lopsided 68-52 victory was another giant step toward the NCAA Tournament.

Spoonhour knew the Tigers could be emotionally drained, so he wanted to jump them exiting their bus. "You had to catch them and get a cushion on them," he said.

The Tigers finally got semi-organized in the waning minutes of the first half. With his lead cut to 10, Spoonhour offered varied advice during a timeout:

"Don't stay down there - we've already got one foul after a rebound.

"You can skip pass these guys all day.

"If you get a wide-open look against the press, take the 3."

As the Tigers finally started using their enormous size advantage, play got chippy in the lane. Billikens reserve Donnie Campbell got agitated.

"Donnie's going to get another one," Spoonhour predicted moments before Campbell committed a foul with 5 seconds left in the half.

Prescience is a wonderful coaching gift, but it doesn't always prove useful. Wouldn't it be great if players could be remote-controlled? …

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