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Buckeyes' ultimate goal is still on the table

Buckeyes' ultimate goal is still on the table

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Coming down the stretch, No. 6 Ohio State's biggest goal - going 12-0 - is still very much within reach.

Some of the Buckeyes don't want to talk about it for fear of jinxing it. Others freely acknowledge that there'd be nothing better than running the table and showing up all of the naysayers after last year's losing season and a year of NCAA violations, suspensions, sanctions and humiliation.

Even coach Urban Meyer - who jokingly chided a reporter for mentioning that Ohio State's center hasn't made a bad snap all year - mentions 12-0 to his team.

``We know how big it is and it's rare that you see a team go undefeated,'' wide receiver Corey Brown said. ``We know that, because (Meyer) talks about it all the time, obviously. This group is hungry enough and everybody wants to do it because we're all in, all the time.

``There's no doubt in my mind that we'll do it.''

The Buckeyes are banned from going to a bowl game, so it's a longshot that they could impress enough Associated Press media voters to climb all the way to No. 1 without playing after the regular-season finale on Nov. 24 against No. 23 Michigan.

But 12-0? All that requires is coming off a bye week and winning at Wisconsin on Saturday before knocking off the rival Wolverines a week later.

``We need to be 12-0,'' fullback-turned-linebacker Zach Boren said. ``It's one game at a time. We're not thinking about injuries, polls (or the fact that) we have nothing after the Team Up North game. We've got the two biggest games of the season coming up.''

Meyer was asked on Monday if, knowing that his team can't play in a bowl, he has to fight the urge to think the Buckeyes might miss out on all the national championship talk because there will be no postseason games.

``You know, I could lie to you and say that I don't. Every once in a while (I think about it), but not as much as I thought,'' he said. ``I'll hear it and read it once in a while, and I have good friends in the profession that will make a comment, and I'll think about it for a second. But then I go back to knowing exactly who we were, and you go back to how we've won and who we are right now. We're pretty fortunate where we are. Let's find a way to get (win) No. 11.''

How rare is an unblemished season with no losses or ties? Consider that Ohio State trumpets that it has won seven national championships - yet has only gone unbeaten five times in 122 previous seasons of football.

The only perfect seasons have come in 1916, 1944, 1954, 1968 and 2002. In Buckeyes lore, each has its own, distinct flavor, figurehead or fact.

The '16 team that went 7-0-0 was led by Ohio State's first great player, halfback Charles ``Chic'' Harley. Carroll Widdoes was a rookie coach (Paul Brown had left abruptly after the '43 season) and Les Horvath became the first of the school's seven Heisman Trophy winners while going 9-0-0 in '44.

Fans burned first-year coach Woody Hayes in effigy in 1951, but three years later he led the Buckeyes to a 10-0-0 record. Left halfback Howard ``Hopalong'' Cassady, who would win the Heisman in 1955, was the star.

Hayes' ``Super Sophs'' - Jack Tatum, Rex Kern, John Brockington, Leophus Hayden, Larry Zelina, Tim Anderson, Jan White, Jim Stillwagon and others - went 9-0-0 and then beat O.J. Simpson and Southern California 27-16 in the 1969 Rose Bowl.

And then there was Ohio State's most recent national championship team in 2002, which won seven games by seven points or fewer. Jim Tressel's team beat No. 1 Miami 31-24 in double-overtime in the Fiesta Bowl in the national championship game.

This year's team has won ugly (holding off Central Florida, California, UAB and Michigan State), won big (63-38 against No. 16 Nebraska) and won improbable (trailing 22-14 with under a minute left without starting quarterback Braxton Miller, yet beating Purdue, 29-22 in overtime).

Defensive end John Simon urges caution on all the 12-0 talk.

``We're just not getting ahead of ourselves. We know every day is going to count if we want to achieve our goals,'' he said. ``There's definitely light at the end of the tunnel. You can see it. But these are going to be two of our toughest games of the year. So we're going to have to make sure we're prepared for each one of them and doing whatever we can to leave nothing to chance.''

Meyer wants to take it a step at a time, too.

``I tried years ago not to control what we can't control,'' he said. ``We've got to have a really good Tuesday practice. We can control that. We can't control anything else.''

There's no need for the coaching staff to even bring up what winning these last two games would mean.

``We realize we have a legitimate chance to go undefeated,'' Brown said. ``I don't think (Meyer) has to emphasize the rankings and what we have to do. He knows that we know what we have to do now.''

Boren, a senior, has seen a lot of ups and downs in his four years on campus. Just like the five unbeaten teams, he knows that a perfect record would put the Buckeyes - his Buckeyes - in the record books, not to mention the lasting memory of Ohio State fans.

``It'd mean a lot,'' he said. ``It would mean a lot to this team, just because of how much we have been through and how hard we've worked and how much time we've put in. We really need to finish.

``Going 12-0, it'd be nice.''

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Bradley Beal fouling out nearly changed the series, but Wizards rallied

Bradley Beal fouling out nearly changed the series, but Wizards rallied

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth foul. He was out of the game with the score tied.

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for. He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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