Blackhawks

Historic win for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

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Historic win for Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim

From Comcast SportsNetSYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) -- Jim Boeheim achieved another milestone in his impressive career at Syracuse, and yet passing Bob Knight for second place all-time on the victory list almost seemed like an afterthought."I'm proud to be able to do that. I'm happy to get it done," Boeheim said after his seventh-ranked Orange had defeated Rutgers 78-53 on Wednesday night for his 903rd victory, one more than Knight among men's Division I coaches. "To me, this game is not about numbers, it really isn't. It's not about how many points you score or the assists you get. It's about all the people, all the people you meet on the way. It's been an unbelievable experience."Boeheim, in his 37th season at his alma mater, trails only Duke's Mike Krzyzewski, who has 940 victories, and he was more touched by the phone calls and letters than anything else."I got a call from (former St. John's star) Chris Mullin, I think after 900," Boeheim said. "That call meant as much to me as anything because he's the best player, you could argue, who's played in this league. And I got a note from (Butler) coach Brad Stevens, which is interesting because I'm probably his biggest fan. He just thanked me for my contributions to the game."If a young coach thinks that way about me, then I'm really happy. That's what I'm really proud about."Boeheim was also proud of the way Syracuse (13-1, 1-0 Big East) performed en route to its 33rd straight home victory, the longest active streak in the nation. The Orange have beaten Rutgers (9-3, 0-1) 13 straight times.Brandon Triche had a season-high 25 points, hitting 5 of 7 3-point attempts, and added six assists and four steals to lead Syracuse. Michael Carter-Williams finished with 12 points and 10 assists, his eighth double-double, and C.J. Fair had 15 points and three blocks.Eli Carter led Rutgers with 19 points while Myles Mack, who entered the game averaging 14.5 points, did not score and was 0 of 3 from behind the arc. He entered the game leading the Big East at 51.2 percent from 3-point range.The Scarlet Knights had won five straight but were no match for Syracuse in coach Mike Rice's first game back after a three-game, 16-day suspension for inappropriate behavior and language. Rutgers went 3-0 under associate head coach David Cox, capped by a 68-56 win over Rider on Friday.Rice was suspended without pay and fined 50,000 on Dec. 13 for a violation of athletic department policy. Rice, 43, who returned to the team on Saturday, is in his third season at Rutgers. A former guard at Fordham, Rice came to Rutgers from Robert Morris, where he took the Colonials to the NCAA tournament twice.Rutgers has defeated three top 10 teams at home under Rice, but the program has never accomplished the feat on the road. Syracuse won the game with a 21-0 run over the final 6:42 of the first half to break open what had been a tight affair.Rutgers committed 10 turnovers in each half and was outscored 20-7 on the fast break."We're really good when we're scoring and things are going our way," Rice said. "The team response -- we lacked the energy, we lacked the toughness. In this league, bad things are going to happen, whether it's missed shots or turnovers, which we really couldn't have against Syracuse, but we had them."How are you going to respond defensively? That's what limits their runs, and our defense was a no-show after we stopped scoring."Carter's runner in the lane at 8:07 gave Rutgers its only lead at 20-18. It was the final basket of the period for the Scarlet Knights. They missed seven shots, committed three fouls and had two shots blocked as the Orange ran away.Fair followed his own miss to start the Orange surge and consecutive baskets by Carter-Williams, the second a pretty underhanded scoop with reverse spin, gave Syracuse an eight-point lead.Triche's fast-break layup after a block by Fair and a bank shot off the glass by Rakeem Christmas kept the Orange rolling, and James Southerland's transition 3 made it 35-20 with 2:22 to play."It did snowball," said Austin Johnson, who had six points and four rebounds for the Scarlet Knights. "It's a tough place to play. We just have to remain confident and do what we know we're capable of out there. If we do that, we can compete with anybody. Tonight was definitely a clunker."Triche's lob to Southerland completed the run as Syracuse finished the half 14 of 29 (48.3 percent) from the field while holding Rutgers to 8 of 29 (27.6 percent). About the only mistake the Orange made was Christmas's turnover out of bounds in the final seconds as Syracuse tried to hold for the final shot.At the outset, the game had the makings of a barnburner. Triche hit three 3-pointers in the first 6 minutes of play, all off assists by Carter-Williams as the Orange gained an early lead. But Carter kept pace with three 3s and another 3 from the wing by Jerome Seagears tied it at 16.The score was tied four times before Syracuse took control."We were playing really well and we were down two," Boeheim said. "I was getting ready for it to be a battle right down to the end, so I'm shocked at what happened during that period of time. We were playing well. Then we started playing even better."Both teams are leaving the conference, Syracuse after the season for the Atlantic Coast Conference and Rutgers for the Big Ten at a date that's still to be determined.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.