Despite losing Joe Harris early, Virginia bounces back with a win at Florida State

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The last time we saw the Virginia Cavaliers in action Tony Bennett’s squad looked bad, as they were outclassed on both ends Monday night in a blowout loss at Tennessee. With their best win coming at the expense of SMU, the Cavaliers entered ACC play in need of more quality wins. But who are the Cavaliers? A team many felt had the pieces needed to contend in the ACC didn’t have the results to match that belief, and their conference opener at Florida State didn’t have the appearance of a game Virginia could use to get back on track.

That wasn’t the case in Tallahassee on Saturday evening, as Virginia limited the Seminoles to 17 first-half points in their 62-50 victory. What makes the result even more impressive is the fact that they lost leading scorer Joe Harris to an injury just over two minutes into the game.

Offensively Virginia was balanced, with Justin Anderson leading four players in double figures with 16 points and Akil Mitchell grabbing a game-high 13 rebounds. The Cavaliers also grabbed 39.5% of its misses, taking advantage of an opponent that entered the game allowing an ACC-worst offensive rebounding percentage of 33.9%.

But with the Cavaliers shooting just 32.8% from the field, it was their defense that made the difference on Saturday. Florida State shot 30.8% from the field and 4-for-14 from beyond the arc, with the field goal percentage being well below the 48.7% Leonard Hamilton’s team was shooting entering Saturday. Add in 16 Seminole turnovers and it’s easy to see why Virginia was able to find a way to pick up a valuable win on the road.

So, who is Virginia? Honestly that remains a difficult question to answer, given the gap between their two performances this week. And there’s also the Harris injury to consider, because for as effective as Virginia was without him on Saturday they need him on the floor. We may still be without a definitive answer as to who the Cavaliers are and what their potential is but there’s still the talent needed to be a factor in the ACC, with Saturday’s result serving as a reminder.

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.