Washington State Athletics

Assistant coach Ben Johnson leaves Washington State program

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Washington State head coach Ken Bone has a vacancy to fill on his coaching staff, as it was announced by the school on Tuesday that assistant coach Ben Johnson has decided to leave the program. Johnson spent the last nine seasons in Pullman, beginning in 2004 as an assistant under then-head coach Dick Bennett.

With the change in regimes it’s rare that an assistant would hang around as long as Johnson did, going from the elder Bennett to his son Tony (who’s now the head coach at Virginia) to coach Bone. Johnson was a teammate of Tony Bennett’s at Wisconsin-Green Bay.

“I want to thank everyone at Washington State University for their genuine care and support over the past nine seasons,” Johnson said in the release.  “My family and I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of Cougar Nation and the University community.  I want to wish Coach Bone, our coaching staff and players the best of luck and continued success.”

One of Johnson’s most important recruits in recent years was Brock Motum, who graduated after playing four seasons in Pullman this past spring. Motum led the Pac-12 in scoring in each of his last two seasons, and he left the school ranked fifth on the all-time scoring list. Motum’s a native of Australia, and Johnson’s connections in the country (he played and coach at the professional level in Australia) helped in the recruiting process.

“We’re sorry to see Ben leave the program,” coach Bone stated in the release. “He has contributed a tremendous amount not only during my four years here at WSU, but also over the past nine seasons. We wish Ben nothing but the best!”

While the Cougars do have to account for Motum’s departure they’ve got some talented players returning to the Palouse, most notably guards DaVontè Lacy and Royce Woolridge. Also of note are the arrivals of two point guards, junior college transfer Danny Lawhorn and freshman Ike Ireogbu, and redshirt freshman Que Johnson has the potential to be one of the best athletes in the Pac-12 after sitting out last season as a partial qualifier.

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.