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UNLV head coach Dave Rice hopes roster turmoil a thing of the past

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In this current era of college basketball roster turnover has become more commonplace, with the number of transfers rising on an annual basis. One program that has made use of the transfer market is UNLV, with head coach Dave Rice and his staff on multiple occasions looking to add players capable of helping immediately.

That approach has resulted in mixed results, because while the program has won at least 20 games in each of Rice’s three seasons at the helm the postseason success hasn’t been there with the Runnin’ Rebels yet to win an NCAA tournament game. 2013-14 was especially disappointing, with a group filled with newcomers struggling with chemistry for much of the year and failing to reach the postseason.

Five players have left the program since the end of the season, and according to Matt Youmans of the Las Vegas Review-Journal the head coach aims to avoid such roster turnover in the future. The key: recruiting well at the high school level, which is a good place to start given the fact that UNLV welcomes one of the nation’s best recruiting classes.

Expect to see a slowdown in the revolving door of transfers. Rice signed five freshmen — Rashad Vaughn, Dwayne Morgan, Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Cornish — to round out a UNLV recruiting class that is ranked No. 4 in the nation, according to Rivals.com.

“I want high school recruiting to be the foundation of our program,” he said. “It’s always going to be a priority to sign high school guys, as many as we can, and supplement our roster with transfers. We’ll be selective in terms of transfers.”

This doesn’t mean UNLV hasn’t added some important transfers heading into the 2014-15 season, with guards Cody Doolin and Jerome Seagears on board provided their waiver requests are approved. Doolin’s the most important addition, as he left San Francisco after four games last season as one of the most productive point guards in program history. And while UNLV was fourth in the Mountain West in assists per game, the offense didn’t always run smoothly with point guard play being a key reason as to why.

The Runnin’ Rebels were seventh in the conference in assist-to-turnover ratio (all games), which is an area they’ll need to improve in if they’re to not only return to the NCAA tournament but enjoy success once there. After a spring that was anything but smooth given the departures and Rice’s conversations with South Florida, the goal in Las Vegas is to strengthen the foundation moving forward for a program that’s expected by its fan base to succeed.

The hope is that this incoming class and a shift in recruiting tactics will do the trick.

No. 14 Cal goes 0-2 in Las Vegas Invitational

Jaylen Brown
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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.