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No. 9 Oklahoma State’s tumultuous season ends vs. No. 8 Gonzaga

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Kevin Pangos led the way with 26 points and Przemek Karnowski finished with 15 points and 10 boards as No. 8 Gonzaga knocked off No. 9 Oklahoma State 85-77.

Don’t let the final score deceive you, as this was one of the most miserable basketball games that I’ve ever been forced to watch. I don’t like ripping the referees, but I’m going to here. They were awful. Remember all those games early in the season where refs were trying to enforce the new contact rules and games turned into a parade of trips to the free throw line?

That’s what happened here, but it was worse. This was the NCAA tournament. Their performance was unacceptable, and it ruined what had the potential to be a terrific game, especially in the final 10 minutes. It was unwatchable.

But moving on to more important matters, congratulations go out to the Zags. They were more or less written off in this game as a result of the way that Oklahoma State played down the stretch of the season, and they came out and earned the win. They never trailed. Kudos.

For Oklahoma State, this was the end to a tumultuous, roller coaster season that saw Travis Ford’s club climb into the top ten and lose seven straight Big 12 games before rallying to earn an at-large bid to the tournament. It also will likely double as the end of Marcus Smart’s tenure in Stillwater, a career that saw Smart earn one more suspension that he did NCAA tournament wins.

It’s a shame to think about what could have been with this team. You’re not going to find a more talented trio than Smart, Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash that often at this level of basketball. But between the season ending achilles injury to Michael Cobbins and Stevie Clark’s off-the-court issues, there just was not enough depth on this roster to handle quality opponents. Foul trouble was always going to be the death of this team, and that’s precisely what happened on Friday.

The big question now becomes just how long Travis Ford will last in Stillwater. He’s losing Brown and Smart, and there’s no guarantee that Nash will be back, either. The fan base isn’t happy with him and there are too many empty seats in Gallagher-Iba Arena on a nightly basis.

If Ford couldn’t find a way to win big with this group, is he ever going to?

That’s a question that Ford will want to find a way to answer quickly.

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.