Oregon’s struggles continue in loss at Oregon State

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Having lost three straight Pac-12 games after squeaking past Utah in their league opener, the Oregon Ducks needed to get back on track against rival Oregon State on Sunday night. Struggling defensively, the general assumption regarding Dana Altman’s team is that if they could improve on that end of the floor they’d have enough offensive firepower to ensure a turnaround.

Unfortunately for Oregon they struggled offensively, shooting 38% from the field and 4-for-19 from beyond the arc in Corvallis. The end result: an 80-72 loss to their in-state rival, falling to 1-4 in Pac-12 play as a result. Oregon State did shoot 7-for-13 from three and 27-for-31 from the foul line, but they also turned the ball over 20 times and as a result provided Oregon with multiple opportunities to grab control of the contest.

Oregon was unable to take advantage of those chances, and the production of their starters factored into that. The starting five shot just 7-for-35 from the field, with Mike Moser shooting 3-for-15. Some credit, especially when it came to Oregon’s finishing at the basket, should be given to an Oregon State defense that blocked nine shots. However this was more about Oregon, and their struggles resulted in a 16-point hole with just over eight minutes remaining in the half.

The Oregon bench scored 47 points with Jason Calliste (17 points) and Richard Amardi (13 points, six rebounds) providing some much-needed energy, but it wasn’t enough in the end.

Oregon’s struggled defensively in Pac-12 play but Sunday night was more about the offense, with three-point shooting, production from the starters and a poor assist count being the biggest issues. Just six of Oregon’s 25 made field goals were assists; by comparison Oregon State assisted on 19 of its 23 made field goals. Given the number of capable scorers in Oregon’s rotation that shouldn’t happen.

Oregon State picked up a valuable win, with Roberto Nelson scoring 22 points and Eric Moreland (15 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and three blocks) filling the stat sheet. Craig Robinson’s team certainly deserves credit for the result, but this is a concerning defeat for Oregon on two fronts.

There’s the obvious “quality of play” issue for Oregon, but they’ve also got a resume that doesn’t look as good as it did a month ago. Those wins over Georgetown and Illinois have lost their luster, meaning that the Ducks’ best wins came against BYU and Ole Miss. With a number of teams sporting meager resumes at this point in time, this won’t be a killer if Oregon can get its act together.

But can they get their act together? At this point that’s anyone’s guess.

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.