Barclays Center Classic - Morehead State v LIU Brooklyn

LIU-Brooklyn falls to 0-2, so what’s going on?

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As if the offseason wasn’t bad enough for LIU-Brooklyn, the regular season hasn’t been any better.

The Blackbirds, the overwhelming favorite to repeat as Northeast Conference champions, fell to 0-2 on the season with a 98-94 loss on the road to Lafayette. It comes on the heels of a season-opening 77-74 loss to Morehead State in a virtual home game in the Barclays Center.

The problem wasn’t scoring — as is always the case when you score 94. Four of five starters finished in double-figures for LIU, led by Jamal Olaswere’s 25 points and 11 rebounds. Last season’s NEC Player of the Year, Julian Boyd, had 13 and both C.J. Garner and Jason Brickman had 19. Brickman had eight assists.

The problem, as you can imagine, was defense. Dan Trist dropped 30 for the Leopards, going 14-for-18 from the field. Seth Hinrichs scored 20 in the win as well.

If there’s one consistent problem through two games, it’s definitely the bench. The Blackbirds have a combined 19 points coming off the pine, with Gerrell Martin’s six against Lafayette leading the way. The team legitimately goes eight-deep, but just hasn’t gotten any offensive support from that group.

The losses themselves are troubling because these were two winnable games for the Blackbirds. They were playing a Morehead State team in their first game under new-coach Sean Woods, then a game against a Lafayette team that’s projected to finish in the middle of the Patriot League. This is all after Boyd, Garner and Olaswere were involved in an on-campus fight that resulted in arrests, charges and a two-game conference suspension.

LIU’s NCAA Tournament berth wasn’t going to hinge on their non-conference schedule. They play their next two games against Maryland and Kentucky, so an 0-4 record in the Barclays Center Classic is now a distinct possibility, which would be a massive disappointment. After the tournament, the Blackbirds get a second shot at Lafayette on Dec. 1, as well as games against MAAC favorite Manhattan, Rice and Seton Hall. So while wins over those three would be a boost, the tournament was where they could make the most non-conference noise with their upcoming games.

But after two season-opening losses, there’s not a lot of confidence in this team that they can even contend with the Terrapins and the Wildcats.

What’s worse? The Blackbirds lose the three players mentioned for the first two conference games, against Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac on the road. Those won’t be easy.

There needs to be some major changes within coach Jack Perri’s squad. This was supposed to be their year. So far, it’s been the year they’d like to restart.

David Harten is the editor of The Backboard Chronicles. You can follow him on Twitter at @David_Harten.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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After midnight on the east coast on Thanksgiving, No. 14 Cal blew a 15 point second half lead against San Diego State, allowing the Aztecs to use a 30-6 run to put away the game and advance to the final of the Las Vegas Invitational. That’s the same San Diego State team had scored 43 points in a loss to Arkansas-Little Rock last week.

Not 24 hours later, the Golden Bears were shredded defensively by the Richmond Spiders, losing 94-90 in the consolation game of a four-team tournament they were considered to be the heavy favorite in.

It’s a disappointing two-game stretch for Cal, who entered the season as a Pac-12 favorite and had looked the part for the first four games of the season.

And the issue appears to be on the defensive end of the floor.

Richmond is a good Atlantic 10 team. Terry Allen and Marshall Wood are high-major big men, Shawn’Dre Jones is a jitterbug at the point and Chris Mooney runs a Princeton-esque system that is very difficult to prepare for without a day in-between games. So it’s not really surprising that the Spiders gave Cal a fight.

But 94 points?

On the heels of giving up 44 points in the second half against the offensively-challenged Aztecs?

That’s a problem, one that I’m sure that Cuonzo Martin is going to address this week in practice. Martin has managed to put together a roster that is build for small-ball, with four talented perimeter players surrounding a first round pick in the post. But that’s not the style that he’s known for. Martin played his college ball at Purdue in the Gene Keady days. He cut his teeth as a head coach at Missouri State in the Missouri Valley. His team’s at Tennessee were known for being tough and physical defensively.

That’s how Martin coaches, which is part of the reason Cal had such hype entering the year.

The talents of Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown, Ivan Rabb, Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews on a team with a coach that gets teams to defend the way Martin does? It’s no surprise that pundits would be optimistic.

But as of now, they have some work to do defensively if they want to live up to that hype.

Tyler Ulis injured as No. 1 Kentucky beats South Florida

Tyler Ulis, Ky Howard
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MIAMI (AP) Jamal Murray had 21 points and No. 1 Kentucky scored the final 15 points of the first half on the way to beating South Florida 84-63 in the HoopHall Miami Invitational on Friday.

Skal Labissiere added 17 points for the Wildcats (6-0), who led by as many as 31. Charles Matthews scored 11 points and Isaiah Briscoe finished with seven assists for Kentucky, now a winner of 37 consecutive regular-season games and 39 in a row against unranked opponents.

Chris Perry scored 14 points for USF (1-5), which has lost 18 consecutive games against teams ranked in the Top 25. Jaleel Cousins added 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting, and Jahmal McMurray scored 11 points for the Bulls.

Kentucky played the second half without starting guard Tyler Ulis, who departed with a right elbow injury after getting hurt while fighting for a ball loose on the floor.

Kentucky announced after the game that the injury was a hyperextension of the elbow and that he will be day-to-day.

The Bulls were within 27-21 with 6 minutes left in the first half after McMurray banked in a 3-pointer only a few feet away from where John Calipari was standing, and the look of anguish on the Kentucky coach’s face was clear.

It didn’t last long.

The Wildcats scored on seven of their next nine possessions and the game was over by halftime, Kentucky going into the break with a 42-21 lead.

It was a reunion for plenty of people on both benches. Calipari squared off with his former assistant Orlando Antigua, now in his second year leading USF. Antigua’s staff includes another former Calipari assistant in Rod Strickland, plus former Kentucky basketball staff members Mike Malone and Dominic Lombardi.

So the staffs have plenty of familiarity. On the court, there was plenty of disparity. Kentucky finished with a commanding 23-6 edge in points off turnovers and finished with 16 assists to the Bulls’ six.