Jake Odum

Player of the Week: Jake Odum guides Indiana State into MVC lead

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Player of the Week: Jake Odum, Indiana State

Jake Odum put Indiana State into serious contention for an at-large bid this week. On Wednesday, he put together one of his best games of the season, as he went for 22 points, five assists and four boards as the Sycamores walloped Creighton by 19 points. He followed that up with 13 points, five assists, four steals and the game-winning layup with 19 seconds left to avoid an upset at the hands of Southern Illinois on Saturday.

This week was massive for ISU for two reasons: beating Creighton only solidifies a solid NCAA tournament profile that could very well earn them an at-large berth. But, thanks to Wichita State’s three-game losing streak and Creighton dropping a home game to Illinois State on Saturday night, the Sycamores are now tied for first place in the Valley with just five league games remaining. Who predicted that in October?

The All-They-Were-Good-Too Team:

G: Nate Wolters, South Dakota State: Wolters exploded for 53 points in a win over IUPUI on Thursday night, the most points scored by a player this season. He followed that up with 36 points, six boards and seven assists against Oakland on Saturday, but the Jackrabbits ended up losing that game on the road. For the week, Wolters averaged 44.5 points while shooting 29-48 (60.4%) from the field and 12-23 (52.8%) from three.

G: Tyler Brown, Illinois State: All of a sudden, Illinois State is back from the dead, having won six of their last seven games to put themselves in the conversation for the MVC tournament. This week, the Redbirds knocked off Drake and Creighton on the road. In the two games, Brown averaged 26.0 points, 7.0 assists, 3.5 boards and 2.5 steals.

G: Geron Johnson, Memphis: Johnson broke out of his slump in a big way this week, leading the Tigers to win at SMU and Southern Miss, which opened up a two-game lead in the Conference USA race. Johnson averaged 22.0 points, 7.5 boards and 4.5 assists for the week, shooting 14-24 (58.3%) from the floor and 9-16 (56.3%) from three.

F: CJ Fair, Syracuse: James Southerland’s return may have been the biggest news of the week for the Orange, but it overshadowed something else: Fair put together a terrific week, averaging 17.5 points and 9.5 boards in dominating wins over Notre Dame and St. John’s. Fair has quietly put together an outstanding season for Jim Boeheim and appears to finally be having the breakout season so many of us expected for so long.

C: Mason Plumlee, Duke: Plumlee must have been getting frustrated seeing other names pass him on the Player of the Year ballots, because he decided to show up this week. After going for 30 points, nine boards and two blocks in a dominating win over NC State on Wednesday, Plumlee followed that up with 19 points, 10 boards and two blocks — including the game-tying and game-winning free throws — against Boston College.

Bench: Travis Bader (Oakland), Ben Brust (Wisconsin), Allen Crabbe (Cal), Shane Larkin (Miami), Greg Smith (Colorado State), Joel Smith (Northeastern), Taylor Smith (Stephen F. Austin), Isaiah Sykes (UCF), Chaz Williams (UMass)

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.