FSU, Georgia Tech must move past rivalry losses


FSU, Georgia Tech must move past rivalry losses

ATLANTA (AP) Jimbo Fisher said Sunday the team that wins the ACC championship may be the one that does the best job of moving past a crushing loss to its top in-state rival.

Florida State dropped three spots to No. 13 in Sunday's Associated Press Top 25 following a 37-26 loss to Florida. Fisher's Seminoles (10-2) play Georgia Tech, which must regroup following a lopsided 42-10 loss to Georgia, in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship on Saturday. The winner will play in the Orange Bowl.

Even with so much on the line, it's not easy to quickly recover from a loss in a state rivalry game.

``I don't think there's any doubt,'' Fisher said. ``They had a great rivalry game and we did too. You've got to be able to put it behind you quickly and go on. I think that is going to be a big factor, I don't think there's any doubt.''

It's an unlikely matchup. Georgia Tech is only 6-6 overall but won the Coastal Division with a 5-3 ACC record as Miami self-imposed a bowl ban for the second straight year as it hopes to lessen possible penalties from an ongoing NCAA investigation.

Miami, also 5-3 in the ACC, would have won a tie-breaker with Georgia Tech for the Coastal Division title if not for the self-imposed ban.

Fisher said the Seminoles will be without one of their top defensive players, senior defensive end Cornellius ``Tank'' Carradine, who tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee against Florida.

``He's sad. He's down,'' Fisher said. ``He can't be with his teammates.''

Carradine led the team with 80 tackles and was second with 11 sacks.

Fisher said he hasn't decided on a new starter. Options include freshmen Giorgio Newberry and Mario Edwards.

Carradine has been projected as a probable first-round pick in next year's NFL draft.

``The draft will still be fine,'' Fisher said. ``He'll go rehab and that won't affect those guys much at all, maybe a round at the most. ... It's not that big a deal to them anymore.''

Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson has lost four straight games to Georgia after beating the Bulldogs in his first season.

The Yellow Jackets, who have struggled on defense all season, have had to bounce back from other ugly losses this season, including a 49-28 loss to Middle Tennessee State which cost defensive coordinator Al Groh his job. Johnson said his defense may have hit a new low against Georgia, making it more difficult to regroup for the ACC championship game.

``You never know. You hope that we'll bounce back,'' Johnson said Sunday. ``We've got another great opportunity. I'm sure Florida State is fighting some of the same thing today following their game against Florida. It's unfortunate it happened like that, but we'll do the best we can to move on.''

Georgia Tech's normally productive spread-option offense was held to a season low in points by Georgia's defense, which stiffened near the red zone. The Yellow Jackets had 26 first downs and 426 yards but were held without a touchdown until midway through the fourth quarter.

``We haven't played very well defensively,'' Johnson said. ``There's no secret about that. The last game was probably as bad as we've played all year against Georgia, and they had a lot to do with that. They're a very good football team.''

Johnson said Florida State's defense is just as strong as Georgia's.

Johnson's first two words to describe the Seminoles were ``Speed. Athleticism.''

``I think they play hard,'' Johnson said. ``They play with an edge. They can run. They're very athletic on both sides of the ball. They're right there with (Georgia). Every bit as fast.''

Georgia Tech won its last four ACC games following a 1-3 start in the conference. After a 47-31 loss to Clemson on Oct. 6, Georgia Tech's only losses were to BYU and Georgia.

``The way our season started off in the league, it certainly didn't look too promising,'' Johnson said. ``But to our guys' credit, they won four in a row down the stretch.''

Those wins didn't come with good defense.

``I think we were able to outscore people, honestly, if you want to know the truth,'' Johnson said. ``The last four games we got far enough out in front of people and scored enough points to secure the games.''

Asked what he'd say to those who accuse Georgia Tech of backing into the ACC championship game, Johnson said ``Say whatever you want.

``You know, that's something that Miami decided to do. We had no control over it. The only thing we had control over was we were 5-3 in our division. It's not the first time a 5-3 team has gone to the championship game.''

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Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired


Phil Chenier becomes fifth Bullets player to ever have his jersey retired

On the newest banner that hangs from the rafters at Capital One Arena, a small microphone - embroidered with a white 33 - is subtly stitched into the bottom left corner. 

You'd barely notice it was there; Phil Chenier certainly didn't.

Chenier, who had his #45 jersey retired tonight during halftime of tonight's Wizards-Nuggets game, didn't even notice the mic, added to signify his three decades as a broadcaster with the team.

"I had no idea there was even a mic on it," Chenier said, laughing. "I'll have to go back out and look at it some more."

Despite the Wizards' 108-100 loss, the night was first and foremost a celebration of Chenier - the 5th player in franchise history to have his number rasied in the rafters. He joins Earl Monroe, Elvin Hayes, Gus Johnson, and Wes Unseld as the only players to achieve the honor so far.

"To be up there with the other 4 names means a lot – people I had the fortune of playing with," he added. "I remember my first day of practice and I had just watched this team play in the finals and now I’m plopped down with Wes Unfeld and Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson. It seemed like they accepted me from the get go."

Many from that 1978 Championship team were in attendance on Friday night, watching as one of their teammates cemented his professional legacy. For Chenier, that acceptance as an All-Time Bullets great is at the core of why he played the game.

"You know, when you play this game, you play for acceptance," he said. "You want to be the best, you want to be accepted. Having players and childhood friends – and of course, your family – here, you’re surrounded by so many people that meant a lot to you both before and now. It’s a really humbling feeling.”

It was hard to find someone in DC without something good to say about Chenier on Friday night. Even in the basement of Capital One Center, after the Wizards' fifth loss in seven games, head coach Scott Brooks took a moment out of his press conference to praise Chenier. 

"[Chenier] is a great ambassador and we all love him," Brooks said. "It's well deserved. It's going to be pretty cool seeing his jersey every time we step into this building."

Fans left the arena with a commemorative Phil Chenier cut out. Phil Chenier left the arena with his number retired. The experience was, according to the man himself, everything he thought it'd be. 

"You don’t know what the emotions are going to be..." he told media members after the ceremony."...Obviously it’s something I thought about, but it really was exciting to see the 45 up there and my name."

Then Chenier cracked a smile.

"I’m glad it’s over with."

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

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Wizards lose again, this time to Nuggets as offense falls flat

The Washington Wizards lost to the Denver Nuggets 108-100 on Friday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Another loss: It is becoming more and more clear that the Wizards need a shot in the arm, something to change the direction of where they are currently heading.

Whether that will come in the form of All-Star point guard John Wall returning from his months-long absence, an adjustment to their lineup or strategy, or something else entirely, the losses are piling up and at a tough time in the season.

With another loss on Friday night, their seventh in their last 11 games, the Wizards are now 40-32. They have plenty of room to still clinch a playoff berth, as their magic number stands at two, but they only have 10 games left to secure their all-important playoff seed.

Both the Pacers and Cavaliers, two teams just ahead of them in the playoff race, won on Friday.

The Wizards lost their second straight game and again offense was their problem. They scored 100 points, six below their season average, and committed 17 turnovers.

Big third quarter: The Denver Nuggets have emerged as a team on the rise, a young squad with burgeoning stars that could someday soon make some noise in the Western Conference. The reason is because they are very good on offense. Defense is a much different story.

That was not the case on Friday night, as the Wizards had all sorts of trouble scoring in three of their four quarters. They managed just 43 points by halftime, the fewest the Nuggets have allowed in a first half since Jan. 27.

The Wizards, though, did get cooking in the third quarter. They erupted for 33 points in the frame while shooting 63.2 percent from the field and 58.3 percent from three. Markieff Morris, who finished with 17, had 11 points in the third quarter and Bradley Beal (24 points) hit three threes.

The Wizards also found a solution for Jamal Murray, one of the Nuggets' brightest young stars. He had 20 points at halftime, but went scoreless in nine minutes in the third quarter. Kelly Oubre, Jr. (15 points) was among those who gave him trouble. Murry finished with 25.

The big third quarter reflected well on the Wizards' ability to make adjustments, but their 24-point fourth quarter flipped the script again.


Didn't force mistakes: The first time these teams squared off back in October, the Wizards forced the Nuggets into 23 turnovers. This game was a very different story. 

The Nuggets didn't commit their first turnover until midway through the second quarter and had only three by halftime. They had just 10 turnovers for the game.

Denver deserves some credit for limiting their mistakes, but all of it did not reflect well on the Wizards' defense. They didn't put enough pressure on the ball and failed to disrupt passing lanes like they usually do. It was uncharacteristic, as the Wizards entered the game 10th in average turnovers forced.

Not creating mistakes allowed the Nuggets to get way to many field goal attempts. Though they shot just 43.5 percent, Denver managed 108 points. And not getting turnovers offered the Wizards few opportunities for easy transition buckets.

Turnovers were one issue with the Wizards' defense. So was defending the perimeter, as the Nuggets shot 17-for-34 (50%) from long range. It is worth noting the Nuggets were without their leading scorer Gary Harris, a guy who is dangerous from long range.


Special night: Halftime offered a memorable moment in franchise history as legendary player and broadcast Phil Chenier had his No. 45 jersey retired by the team. His longtime broadcaster and friend Steve Buckhantz hosted the ceremony with about 20 friends and family members of Chenier's seated behind him. Buckhantz had opening comments, then majority owner Ted Leonsis spoke as everyone in the crowd stood and cheered.

Then, it was Chenier's time to talk. He thanked his former teammates, members of the organization and those close to him. He kept his composure until the very end when he brought up his mother, Peggy, who could not make the event. Chenier choked up and wiped away tears as he described what she has meant to him in his life.

It was a powerful moment and a great ceremony to honor a guy who has impacted the lives of many in the D.C. area. Now, his No. 45 will hang up in the rafters forever. That banner, by the way, features a picture of a microphone and the phrase '33 years,' signifying how long he was the color analyst for Bullets and Wizards games.


Up next: The Wizards do not have a game Saturday, though they are going to practice and Wall is expected to take a big step forward in his rehab. Their next game is Sunday at 6 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington when they host the Knicks. That will also be a special game, as the Wizards are set to honor the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship.

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