North Carolina v Kansas

P.J. Hairston to return for junior season at North Carolina


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North Carolina received good news on Friday when the school announced that leading scorer, P.J. Hairston would return for his junior season.

“I have spent a lot of time with my family over the past couple of days discussing school and my future and I have decided to return to the University of North Carolina for my junior year,” Hairston said in a school statement. “I value the experiences I have had over the past two years in Chapel Hill, and hope to continue to grow under Coach Roy’s guidance. Coach always says ‘When you focus on the team during the season, I will support you in the off-season.’ This is my way of supporting coach, my teammates and the Tar Heel community. Go Heels!”

The 6-foor-5 sophomore was moved into the starting lineup following a 87-61 blowout loss to No. 8 Miami on Feb. 9. In those final 13 games, Hairston averaged more than 18 a game in the Tar Heels four-guard offense.

“Throughout this process, it has been amazing to watch P.J. utilize the values we have taught him,” Hairston’s mother Wendy Mailey said. “I am proud that he took the initiative to weigh the impact of short-term gratification versus long-term success to come to his decision to stay in school. I’ve watched him continually mature and learn from each lesson he has been faced with over the past two years. And now, his commitment to furthering his education, and to his coach and teammates, further exemplifies his growth.”

On Sunday it seemed less likely that Hairston would declare for the draft. Roy Williams still has questions to be answered, especially regarding the statuses of Reggie Bullock and James Michael McAdoo. Also, UNC — along with Kentucky, Florida State and Kansas — is still in the mix for the nation’s top prospect, Andrew Wiggins.

The Tar Heels graduate guard Dexter Strickland, but add size in the frontcourt with incoming center Kennedy Meeks and power forward Isaiah Hicks. Oak Hill Academy point guard Nate Britt also joins for the 2013-2014 season, as another play-making guard for Williams.

Hairston averaged 14.6 points, 4.3 rebounds per game.

Terrence is also the lead writer at and can be followed on Twitter: @terrence_payne

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.