North Carolina Texas Basketball

Myck Kobongo ready to get back to the court

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It’s been a long 23 games for Texas’ Myck Kabongo.

After being found to have committed NCAA violations involving an off-season training trip to Cleveland, then lying to university officials about it, Kabongo was given a suspension, then it was finally given a tag of almost three-quarters of the season.

Needless to say, the Longhorns and their 10-13 record, 2-8 in Big 12 play, have reflected how badly they need him. They’ve been anemic offensively and there’s no collective of players that can match Kabongo’s energy on both sides of the ball.

Well on Wednesday against Iowa State, the sophomore, who bypassed the NBA Draft last summer to lead these Longhorns, returns. He released a statement on the entire situation through the university athletic website on Monday.

Said Kabongo:

“I am ready to start playing with my team again and putting behind me the last several months. When I went to Cleveland last summer, I did not intend to break any rules and did not believe I had broken any. I should have been upfront with UT about everything the first time I had a chance, but I’m glad that I corrected my mistake and I’m glad that I was truthful with the NCAA.

I have learned a lot about myself and what is important to me through this process.  I have a great team, and they have supported me all year.  I believe I am a better teammate and am looking forward to finishing the season with my team.  I want to thank my teammates and my coaches for sticking by and supporting me all year.”

There’s not even a question that Kabongo brings everything that Texas lacks with his return. Expect him to just right in and put the team on his back. He’ll lead the team in scoring, probably in assists and possibly in steals. He’ll definitely be helped by the play of Shelden McClellan, who despite the lack of pub, has put together a decent season averaging 14.3 points per game to lead the team.

No, he won’t make enough of an impact to lead this team to the NCAA Tournament. But this team can still be an NIT team if they rally behind Kabongo. And, though this is probably his last season in a Texas uniform, should be good enough despite the way this season has gone to this point for Kabongo and coach Rick Barnes.

Follow David Harten 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.