Cincinnati v Syracuse

Carter-Williams, Triche lead Syracuse to win over Cincy down the stretch

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CJ Fair tipped in a miss from Jerami Grant with 20 seconds left, and Cashmere Wright, who finished the night 2-13 from the floor and 1-8 from three, missed a deep three at the other end as No. 3 Syracuse erased a seven-point second half deficit as they knocked off No. 21 Cincinnati, 57-55. It extended the Syracuse winning streak in the Carrier Dome to 35 games, the best in the nation, and moved the Orange to 28-1 in their last 29 Big East regular season games.

And while Fair may end up being the hero, it was once again Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams that carried the load for the Orange.

After a sloppy first half where both teams looked worn-down from hard-fought, exhausting league games on Saturday and the subsequent travel to get to Syracuse — Cincinnati beat Marquette at home while the Orange won at Louisville — for a Monday afternoon tip, the second half is when things started to pick up. Sean Kilpatrick and JaQuan Parker started to find their range on the perimeter, in large part because the Bearcats were finally able to find a way to penetrate the Syracuse zone. The easiest way to beat a zone is to get the ball into the paint, attack the basket and kick the ball out to open shooters.

Cincinnati worked this to perfection for about a 12 minute stretch, taking control of the game and answering seemingly every Syracuse surge with a big bucket of their own.

Then Brandon Triche took over. After making a sweeping, acrobatic, left-handed layup in transition, Triche broke down the top of Cincinnati’s 2-3 zone, hitting a mid-range pull-up to cut the Cincinnati lead to 51-46. He did the same on the ensuing possession. After Parker pushed the lead back to six, Triche drove and found Jerami Grant for a dunk. Carter-Williams hit a 12-foot pull-up of his own on the next possession, and after Cheikh Mbodj hit 1-2 from the foul line, Carter-Williams hit a tough, step-back three to tie the game with just over a minute left, setting up Fair’s game-winner.

All told, Triche and Carter-Williams were responsible for all of the points in an 11-4 run over four minutes that tied the game and gave control back to the Orange, in impressive feat considering that the Bearcats looked like they were ready to steal a win in the Carrier Dome.

Carter-Williams finished with 16 points and seven assists, with 14 of those points coming in the second half, with the majority of those points coming on jump shots, something that has clearly not been his forte this season. That sparked this terrific quote from Jim Boeheim (via @PSBasketball):

“I can’t cook. If I believed in my cooking like he believes in his shooting, I’d win Iron Chef,” he said. “If we can’t score any other way, yeah, I’m OK with that.”

The Syracuse offense has really struggled at times without James Southerland in the mix. But the good news is that, while they probably should have lost both of the last two games, the play of their back court has bailed the Orange out down the stretch in back-to-back games. That’s a terrific sign for this group going forward.

You can find Rob on twitter @RobDauster.

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.