Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins game-winning bucket saves Kansas at Texas Tech (VIDEO)

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No. 8 Kansas struggled with Texas Tech on Tuesday night, and that shouldn’t be as much of a surprise as the names on those jerseys make it seem.

The Red Raiders are tough this year. They beat Baylor in Lubbock, they beat Oklahoma State in Lubbock and they almost knocked off Iowa State in Ames over the weekend. Jordan Tolbert, Jaye Crockett and Dejan Kravic can matchup with any front line in the country, and on the nights when Tubby Smith’s guards are hitting shots, this group will put up a fight.

That’s exactly what happened against the Jayhawks, who needed yet another clutch lay-in from Andrew Wiggins, who got this one picking up a loose ball when Joel Embiid was stripped, to win the game. He did the same thing after missing a layup in an overtime loss to Kansas State last Monday.

In fact, Wiggins’ second half against the Red Raiders was as impressive of a performance as he’s had this season. He was a terror defensively. He got to the foul line. He got aggressive in big moments of a close road game when Kansas really needed him to try to take over. He was attacking the rim off of the bounce, beating people off the dribble and even finishing with a couple dunks instead of trying to finesse in off-balance layups. On the second-to-last Kansas possession, he took off from about a mile away and missed a dunk, but it was notable. That was one of the first times this season that I’ve seen Wiggins actively try to dunk all over a defender.

He missed it, but he tried.

And that’s what’s important here.

Look, Wiggins needs to add strength. Period. End of story. He has to be stronger finishing through contact, he has to be a stronger ball-handler, he has to add some upper-body mass. He just has to, because he almost seems cognizant of the fact that he’s going to be on the losing end of a collision with just about any front court player in the Big 12 right now. But that doesn’t mean he can’t get into the lane at will. He did that on Tuesday, and he finished with 19 points on 6-for-11 shooting, six boards, two assists, two steals and two blocks.

More importantly, Kansas finished with a win.

If there was a concern in this game, it was Naadir Tharpe, who reminded everyone of why he was considered a liability entering the season. He was 1-for-7 from the floor with four turnovers. Late in the game, he had two awful turnovers that led to layups — one of which was simply Tharpe losing a handle without being pressured defensively — and one airball on a three-pointer.

That hasn’t been the norm for him this season, but when he does play like that, especially on nights where Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden combine to go 2-for-11 from the floor, the Jayhawks could end up in trouble.

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.