Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic - Brigham Young v Florida State

Christmas Wish Lists: Florida State needs the Kung-Fu Grip

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Over the course of the next two weeks, College Basketball Talk will be detailing what some of the country’s best, most intriguing, and thoroughly enigmatic teams need. It’s the spirit of the holidays. We’re in a giving mood.

What do other teams have on their Christmas Wish Lists? Click here to find out.

Gotta have it list-topper: Interior defense

It seems absurd to say that Florida State lacks defense. If there’s one thing a Seminoles fan could count on throughout the Leonard Hamilton era, it’s that the team could lock down, even on nights when the ball wasn’t finding the nets. Last season, FSU finished 15th defensively, and the two years before that, they were No. 1 in back to back seasons. What’s changed? Opponents are now shooting nearly 48 percent inside, a figure unheard of in recent seasons in Tallahassee. The ‘Noles clearly miss former Air Force Staff Sergeant Bernard James, who averaged more than two blocked shots per game for his career as a Seminole, but he was hardly the only one doing the job right; Xavier Gibson also helped form the wall inside in past seasons. This year, Kiel Turpin, Michael Ojo and Boris Bojanovsky — all legit seven-footers — have combined to prove conclusively that sheer size without positioning and technique amounts to very little.

Stocking Stuffer: Windex

Nobody’s cleaning the glass any more, and that’s killing these guys. The only player who seems to have the knack so far is 6’8″ junior Terrance Shannon, and the fouls are starting to mount up on him as he claws for each board. Shannon had a 15/10 double-double against St. Joe’s this season before he copped a DQ, and he had four-foul evenings against South Alabama, BYU, Mercer and Florida. Even if Shannon could do it all without getting into foul trouble, why should he have to? Someone else — if not several someone elses — needs to put in some elbow grease at window-cleaning time.

Planning on re-gifting: Haste

I know I’m getting some dirty looks now. Yes, I am saying that Florida State needs to slow the heck down. They’ve never been burners under Hamilton, but right now, they’re playing much faster than they did in past seasons when they excelled. This year’s team is hitting a pace of 72 possessions per 40 minutes. According to Basketball State, that’s above the national average and the ACC average so far. That’s causing their turnovers to go up, and their scoring to go down. FSU was built to be a bear, not a cheetah.

Clearly, everything on this wish list is tied together. The ‘Noles offense and defense are predicated on a slower pace and great rebounding, things that happen organically when there’s a big man in the middle who knows his business. The team is suffering because there’s no reliable post presence on either end of the floor. Assists are down, and the ball is going up faster and from farther away, because there’s no impetus to pound it inside right now. If they can’t handle the likes of South Alabama and Mercer, imagine what Mason Plumlee will do to them.

Florida State has big men, so they don’t need any more 7-foot-plus boxes under the tree. Maybe just an accessories package; something that replicates the old G.I. James kung-fu grip.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

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.