Kings

Alabama leaves no doubt about BCS champion

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Alabama leaves no doubt about BCS champion

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- As required, Alabama's players whooped it up amid the confetti and fireworks, yet there was something muted about this championship celebration. Turns out, these guys knew the ending to the sequel before they even got to the Big Easy. For two months, the Crimson Tide stewed over its first meeting with top-ranked LSU. By the time the team touched down in New Orleans, there was little doubt in anyone's mind about the outcome. Not just win, but dominate. Boy, did they ever. With a smothering display of old-school football, No. 2 Alabama blew out the Tigers 21-0 in the BCS championship game Monday night, celebrated a bit and headed back to Tuscaloosa with its second national title in three years. The Crimson Tide also claimed the top spot in the final Associated Press poll for the eighth time, tying Notre Dame for the most of any team in college football. Coach Nick Saban's team was an overwhelming choice with 55 of 60 first-place votes. "We knew what we were capable of," offensive lineman Barrett Jones said. "I guess that's kind of arrogant, but it's the way we felt. We felt like we were capable of dominating, and we did that." Credit one of the greatest defenses in college football history, a bunch of NFL-ready players such as Courtney Upshaw and Dont'a Hightower who made sure LSU (13-1) never had a chance. When Jordan Jefferson dropped back to pass, he was swept under by a tide of crimson. When the LSU quarterback took off running, he must've felt like Alabama had a few extra players on the field. It sure seemed that way. "It feels like a nightmare," Jefferson said. "We just didn't get it done on offense. Some defenses have your number, and Alabama had our number." LSU beat the Crimson Tide (12-1) in overtime on Nov. 5, a so-called Game of the Century that was roundly criticized as a dud because neither team scored a touchdown. The Rematch of the Century was next, after Alabama worked its way back up to second in the rankings to claim a spot in the BCS title game. Turns out, it was even less of a classic than the first meeting, much closer to "Speed 2" than the "Godfather II." But the Alabama defense was a thing of beauty, putting its own spin on this postseason of high-scoring shootouts. "They are unbelievable," said Jones, relieved that he only has to go against them in practice. "That defense is as good as any defense I've ever seen. They rush the passer, they have awesome linebackers and they're great in coverage. They really don't have any weaknesses. They have to be as good as any defense ever." LSU didn't cross midfield until there were less than 8 minutes remaining in the game. The Tigers finished with just 92 yards and five first downs, on the wrong end of the first shutout in the BCS' 14-year history. "This defense is built on stopping them, and that's what we did," said Upshaw, the game's defensive MVP. "We wanted to come out and show the world we beat ourselves the first game. We wanted to come out and dominate from start to finish, and that's what we did." The Crimson Tide, piling up 384 yards and 21 first downs, spent much of the night in LSU's end of the field, setting up Jeremy Shelley to attempt a bowl-record seven field goals. He made five of them, matching a bowl record. Then, as if responding to all the critics who complained that an offensive powerhouse such as Oklahoma State or Stanford should've gotten a shot in the title game, Alabama finally made a long-overdue trip to the end zone. With 4:36 remaining, Heisman finalist Trent Richardson broke off a 34-yard touchdown run. It was the lone TD that either of the Southeastern Conference powerhouses managed over two games, plus that overtime period back in November. "It felt so good to get that touchdown against LSU," lineman D.J. Fluker said. "That's all we talked about. We said we were going to get (Richardson) a touchdown, and we did it." On LSU's one and only trip into Alabama territory, the Tigers quickly went back, back, back -- the last gasp ending appropriately with the beleaguered Jefferson getting the ball jarred from his hand before he could even get off a fourth-and-forever pass. "We didn't do a lot different," Saban said. "We did some things on offense formationally. Our offensive team did a great job. Defensively, we just played well, played the box. Our special teams did a great job." The coach has now won a pair of BCS titles at Alabama, plus another at LSU in 2003. He's the first coach to win three BCS titles, denying LSU's Les Miles his second championship. The Tigers will have to settle for the SEC title, but that's not likely to ease the sting of this ugly performance. "I told my team that it should hurt," Miles said. "We finished second. It's supposed to hurt." LSU simply couldn't do anything -- running or passing. Kenny Hilliard led the Tigers with 16 yards rushing, while Jefferson was 11 of 17 passing for 53 yards, usually hurrying away passes before he was sent tumbling to the Superdome turf. He was sacked four times and threw a mystifying interception when he attempted to flip away a desperation pass, only to have it picked off because his intended receiver had already turned upfield looking to block. A.J. McCarron was the offensive MVP, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards. Richardson added 96 yards on 20 carries. But an even bigger cheer went up when the defensive award was presented to Upshaw, who had seven tackles, including a sack, and spent a good part of his night in the LSU backfield. "The whole defense is the MVP," Upshaw said. "The whole defense. Roll Tide, baby. Roll Tide!" With the way his defense was playing, McCarron simply had to avoid mistakes and guide the offense into field-goal range. He did that to perfection. "When you have a great offensive line like I have, and great players around you, it makes your job easy as quarterback," McCarron said. "I've got to give all the credit to them. I wish I could have the whole team up here." While LSU was used to getting big plays from its Honey Badger, cornerback and return specialist Tyrann Mathieu, Marquis Maze dealt the first big blow for the Crimson Tide with a 49-yard punt return midway through the opening quarter. He might've gone all the way to the end zone if not for a leg injury that forced him to pull up. Punter Brad Wing was the only defender left to beat, but Maze had to hobble out of bounds. McCarron completed a 16-yard pass to Darius Hanks at the LSU 10, setting up Shelley for a 23-yard chip shot field goal. If nothing else, Alabama had accomplished one of its goals coming into the game: to at least get close enough to the end zone for its embattled kickers to have a better chance of converting. In the first meeting, Shelley and Cade Foster combined to miss four field goals -- all of them from at least 44 yards. In the do-over, Foster handled kickoffs while Shelley also connected from 34, 41, 35 and 44 yards. Not that it was a flawless kicking performance. Shelley had another kick blocked and pushed another wide right. In addition, he clanged the extra point off the upright after Richardson's touchdown. It didn't matter. LSU's best weapon was Wing, who averaged nearly 46 yards on nine punts. That was about the only highlight for the purple and gold, which failed to match its BCS title game victories in 2003 and 2007, the last two times the game was played in New Orleans, about 80 miles from its Baton Rouge campus. "We couldn't sustain any consistency," Miles said. Miles never considered switching to backup quarterback Jarrett Lee, who started the first eight games for the Tigers -- four of those while Jefferson was serving a suspension for his involvement in a bar fight. In all likelihood, it wouldn't have mattered. Not against an Alabama team that was determined to write a different ending. "We fell short the first time and we didn't play well," safety Mark Barron said, "but we showed that we were the better team tonight. We shut them out."

Gameday: Bring on Lonzo Ball vs De'Aaron Fox in the NBA

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USATSI/AP

Gameday: Bring on Lonzo Ball vs De'Aaron Fox in the NBA

SACRAMENTO -- The Kings were treated rudely by the Denver Nuggets to open their three-game homestand on Monday. They’ll get another shot to pick up a win Wednesday when the upstart Los Angeles Lakers swing into Golden 1 Center.

Sacramento has struggled to find consistency this season on the road, but they’ve been able to ride their home crowd to impressive wins over Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Portland. If they can knock off the Lakers, they improve to .500 at home on the season. 

The Lakers are coming off a come-from-behind win over the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday and have to play Sacramento on the second night of a back-to-back. They are a young and exciting team, that present plenty of matchup issues for the Kings.

BETTING LINE 

Lakers by 1

MATCHUP TO WATCH

De’Aaron Fox vs. Lonzo Ball -- Let the games begin! The drama surrounding these two dates back to college. Fox ran over Ball at the NCAA level, outscoring the former UCLA Bruin in both games last season, including a 39-point outburst during a tournament game. Ball missed the summer league matchup between the two, causing a bit of a stir on social media. Wednesday night is nothing more that a pair of 19-year-olds playing hoops against one another while hundreds of thousands of people watch intently. No pressure, kids.

WHERE THEY STAND 

Kings: 4-13, fifth place in Pacific

Lakers: 8-10, second place in Pacific

INJURY REPORT 

Kings: SG Buddy Hield (sprained ankle) probable, PF Harry Giles (bilateral knee rehab) out until January.

Lakers: PF Larry Nance Jr. (hand) out.

THREE THINGS TO WATCH

BRIGHT LIGHTS -- The world is watching. Sacramento doesn’t draw the attention of the national media all that often, but plenty of eyes will be on the Kings/Lakers matchup on Wednesday. Will the Kings bring the defensive intensity that helped them knock off the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday or will they fade like they did against Denver last time out?   

REBOUND -- The Kings are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA and they’ll face a team that knows how to hit the glass. Dave Joerger needs his guards to get involved if they hope to avoid another lopsided rebounding deficit. 

CONTAIN KUZMA -- Ball gets all the pub, but it’s the late first rounder out of Utah that is turning heads. Fresh off a 22-point performance Tuesday against the Bulls, Kyle Kuzma is posting nearly 17 points per game while starting at power forward for the Lakers. He’s a player that plenty of teams are now regretting passing on in the 2017 NBA Draft. 

SERIES HISTORY 

These two teams split the season series 2-2 last season, with each team winning one at home and one on the road. Los Angeles owns a huge 270-153 lead in the all-time series and a 92-44 advantage during the Sacramento-era 88-47. 

QUOTE

“It’s fun. Sometimes there’s too many haters out there. It is what it is. Smile and enjoy it. I think it will be a great opportunity for those two guys to begin their careers.” Dave Joerger on the Fox/Ball matchup

Basketball junkie Vince Carter ecstatic to return from bout with kidney stones

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USATSI

Basketball junkie Vince Carter ecstatic to return from bout with kidney stones

SACRAMENTO -- In today's world, 40 is the new 30...until kidney stones hit. Vince Carter keeps himself in incredible shape. In his 20th season, he is a beacon of health and fitness. A marvel of an athlete that has retained plenty of the athleticism that earned him the moniker, “Half man, half amazing.”

Carter hasn’t felt amazing over the last few weeks. A nasty bout with kidney stones left the 40-year-old forward on the outside looking in. Seven games later, he’s ready to take the floor for the first time in over two weeks Wednesday evening against the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I was just happy to sit on the court the other day, just to dress out in a suit and just to be around the guys again,” Carter told NBC Sports California following shootaround. “That’s what I do. I play the game of basketball. I love it. I love being around it. I can’t wait.”

Carter has missed the Kings’ seven games with calcium oxalate kidney stones. He needs to drink more water, but the biggest culprit in his diet has been a love of greens. 

“It comes from a lot of spinach and kale,” Carter said. “It forms from there.”

While sitting at home watching the team play from his couch, Carter said he was texting coaches and anyone else who would pick up during games. Being away from his teammates is the last thing a basketball lifer wants to do. 

This isn’t the first battle with stones for Carter, but it was by far the worst episode he’s had. It’s also not the first go around for the Kings medical staff, who helped former King Marcus Thornton work through a similar situation a few years back. 

Where Carter fits in on a young roster is still a question, but he’ll likely see court time against the Lakers Wednesday evening at Golden 1 Center.