Hagan Arena will be rocking for St. Joseph’s vs. Villanova

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When St. Joseph’s and Villanova — two of the five schools making up Philadelphia’s “Big Five” — meet on the hardwood, the game is always a ‘can’t miss’ and atmosphere unparalleled.

When the game is played at St. Joseph’s Hagan Arena, there may not be another gym in the country that provides the home team with as big of an advantage, and visiting team fits.

Hagan Arena, which opened in 2009, seats only 4,200 people, but you can bet there will be more people than that figure present for tomorrow’s tilt between the Hawks and Wildcats as the game promises to be standing room only. It’s a hot ticket, and plenty of fans will be turned away as a result.

“I think getting tickets for this game is harder than getting tickets for the Super Bowl,” St. Joe’s senior forward Halil Kanacevic told Dave Zeitlin of “I’ve literally got people calling me every day. I can’t help them out. I wish I could. I can’t even get some of my family members tickets.”

When the home team, St. Joe’s traditionally played games against Villanova at The Palestra, but beginning in 2011 played the game at Hagan Arena; the Hawks cruised to an easy 74-58.

The Hawks will look to take advantage of the home-court advantage that Hagan presents tomorrow against Villanova, who is one of the season’s early surprises with wins over Kansas and Iowa at the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament.

Kanacevic remarked about the crowd in 2011, and what he expects Saturday’s game to bring: “It was a top-five crazy atmosphere I’ve played in. It was crazy. They said it was 4,200 people but it was definitely more than 4,200…[F]actor in they’re a ranked team coming into our gym. And then you factor in that it’s Villanova. So I don’t think you really need to say much about it.”

Villanova head coach Jay Wright is well aware of the problems Hagan presents to opposing teams. “Playing in there is wild,” Wright said. “There aren’t many places like that left anymore where they’re right on top of you and right behind the bench.”

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.