The Secondary Break: Wednesday’s Links

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Cal-Stanford game has plenty at stake (San Francisco Examiner)
On the heels of their win over then-No. 1 Arizona, California’s looking to keep the momentum going with a win over Stanford on Wednesday night. However the game represents an opportunity for Stanford as well, with the Cardinal looking to move closer to earning the first NCAA tournament appearance of the Johnny Dawkins era.

Temple living with conference woes (Philadelphia Inquirer)
Before the 2013-14 season began the general feeling about the Temple Owls was that even with their low numbers, Fran Dunphy’s team had the pieces needed to factor into the middle of the American Athletic Conference pecking order. But things haven’t gone as planned, and that can be said for the entire athletic department as well.

Gary Waters reflects on his successful run at Cleveland State (Lake County News-Herald)
Last week Gary Waters became the winningest coach in the history of Cleveland State basketball, winning his 150th and 151st games. With the Vikings currently tied for second place in the Horizon League, there’s a chance that this season could result in a trip to the NCAA tournament as well. Waters reflected on his tenure at CSU to date after grabbing those victories.

Alabama’s season could be on downward spiral (Associated Press)
Conference play has been a struggle for the Alabama Crimson Tide, as they’ve dropped four of their last five games with the average margin of defeat being 15 points per game. Those struggles make their game at Arkansas even more important, with Alabama looking to avoid the first losing season of the Anthony Grant era.

Guards help Gators to another 20-win season (Gainesville Sun)
With the debut of freshman forward Chris Walker on Tuesday night, Florida’s front court received the majority of the attention entering Tuesday’s game against Missouri. But by the end of that game, a 68-58 win, it was the backcourt that stood out for a Florida team that has now won 14 games in a row.

Road victory gives Ohio State morale boost (Columbus Dispatch)
On the heels of a tough win at Wisconsin on Saturday, Ohio State was able to follow up that result with a much-needed win at No. 17 Iowa on Tuesday night. The 76-69 win may have represented a step forward for a team that has struggled offensively, with the Buckeyes scoring 45 points in the second half.

Wichita State’s Gregg Marshall puts teeth into coaching (USA Today)
No. 4 Wichita State is 23-0 on the season entering its game at Indiana State on Wednesday night, with the Shockers utilizing a very good defense and a balanced offensive attack. The architect is head coach Gregg Marshall, with his team taking on the fighting spirit that has made him such a successful coach.

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.