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Lemon has huge night, Syracuse beats UConn 40-10

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Lemon has huge night, Syracuse beats UConn 40-10

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) When Orange tailback Jerome Smith steamrolled through Connecticut on the first drive of the game, Syracuse sensed its game plan would work.

Did it ever.

Alec Lemon had eight catches for 166 yards to help set up three touchdowns, caught an 11-yard scoring pass, and Syracuse beat Connecticut 40-10 on Friday night to spoil Huskies coach Paul Pasqualoni's return nearly eight years after he was fired by the Orange.

With the run game purring - Smith had a career-high 133 yards as the Orange gained 251 yards on the ground - Lemon took advantage of the middle and was virtually unstoppable. He had receptions of 41 yards and a career-long 68 yards to set up scores late in the second period and on the first possession of the third to help break open the game, then caught a short one over the middle as the Orange wreaked havoc on both sides of the ball.

``The running game was going,'' said Lemon, who has 27 catches for 475 yards in four games against UConn. ``We just feed off the running game in the pass game, keep it going. And we knew they were tired out there.''

A loss for Syracuse (3-4, 2-1 Big East) not only would have been embarrassing, it would have made reaching a bowl game a daunting task with five games left. The Orange snapped a five-game losing streak against UConn (3-5, 0-3).

``It was a big game, sure,'' Syracuse coach Doug Marrone said. ``You're fighting, you're fighting, you're fighting. The kids did a good job during the week. Let's call it like it is. We were 2-4 and that's not good enough. The pressure's turned up. The kids did a good job and won a game. It doesn't take the pressure off. If anything, it shows - let's take this next step.''

Pasqualoni's departure after the 2004 season at Syracuse was awkward at best. His firing came only three weeks after Chancellor Nancy Cantor had given him a public vote of confidence to return for the final year of his contract. That was before a 51-14 loss to Georgia Tech in the Champs Sports Bowl to end the 2004 season.

New athletic director Daryl Gross, on the job less than two weeks, quickly decided a change was needed and Pasqualoni was fired after 14 seasons. He left as the second-winningest coach in Syracuse history with a 107-59-1 record, behind only Ben Schwartzwalder's 153 victories.

On this night, Coach P, who beat his old team a year ago at home, was seeking his 150th victory as a college coach. Although the Orange didn't oblige, Pasqualoni said he enjoyed his welcome.

``It was good to be here tonight. The people were great,'' he said. ``They were nice and very hospitable. We just wish we could have done a little bit better.''

The Syracuse defense repeatedly pressured quarterback Chandler Whitmer, stuffed the Connecticut run game, and finally created a turnover - just its sixth of the year - that led to a score.

Outscored 17-0 in the third, Connecticut finished with minus-6 yards rushing on 18 attempts, while Whitmer was 23 of 41 for 296 yards and one touchdown and an interception - in the final minute. The Huskies converted only 3 of 13 third downs.

``We just didn't do a lot of things well,'' Whitmer said. ``They got out front early and it was tough to fight back. We didn't do what we expected to do.''

The Orange did.

Ryan Nassib was 14 of 20 for 251 yards passing and Ross Krautman kicked four field goals as Syracuse racked up 502 yards offensively and did not commit a turnover. In its first six games, Syracuse committed 15 turnovers and gained only five, giving it one of the worst turnover margins in the nation.

After Rutgers nabbed four turnovers and turned a blocked field goal into a touchdown in a 23-15 win over Syracuse last Saturday, the Orange focused during practice this week on creating some of their own, and the hard work paid off in the second quarter.

Free safety Durell Eskridge blitzed, forcing a fumble by Whitmer, and Cameron Lynch recovered for the Orange near midfield. It was the 17th turnover of the season for the Huskies and the Orange capitalized.

Nassib converted two critical third-down passes to keep the ensuing drive alive, hitting tight end Beckett Wales for 18 yards over the middle and Lemon for 17 yards in traffic.

That set up a first-and-goal at the 10, and Adonis Ameen-Moore scored on fourth-and-inches for a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.

The Huskies finally got untracked just before halftime. Whitmer hit Michael Smith for 18 yards on a slant and followed with a 23-yard completion to Shakim Phillips. After a pass-interference call against the Orange, Whitmer ran right, then turned and hit tight end Ryan Griffin all alone on the left side for a 32-yard score to make it 13-10 with 3:39 left, a play reminiscent of bygone days in the Carrier Dome.

Pasqualoni and offensive coordinator George DeLeone, together again at UConn, created one of the most memorable plays in Syracuse history when they ran the Orange offense. Donovan McNabb threw the same pass to tight end Stephen Brominski on the last play of the game to beat Virginia Tech 28-26 in 1998.

Undaunted, Syracuse drove 77 yards for another touchdown, keyed by Lemon's brilliant 41-yard catch and run to the UConn 2. Nassib then rolled right and hit Wales for a 3-yard score and a 20-10 halftime lead.

Syracuse put the game out of reach in the third. After Lemon's 68-yard reception put the ball at the 2, Prince-Tyson Gulley scored on a 3-yard run.

Krautman kicked a 42-yard field goal, his third of the game, for a 30-10 lead midway through the period, and Lemon capped his brilliant night with an 11-yard reception over the middle with 2 minutes left in the period.

``When our guys understand what their job is, do their job, they're really good,'' Syracuse offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. ``I think that's really what it was. The guys executed the game plan almost to perfection.

``Nobody's dominated us. Every game this season, it's been on us.''

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Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

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Associated Press

Bradley Beal makes most of his opportunity in first All-Star Game

Bradley Beal may have had a slow start in the three-point contest on Saturday night, but in Sunday's All-Star Game he worked quickly to make the most of his relatively small window of playing time.

Beal checked in for the first time with 5:45 left in the first quarter and less than 25 seconds later had his first points on a two-handed dunk assisted by LeBron James.

In his All-Star debut, Beal helped lead Team LeBron to a 148-145 victory over Team Stephen as the league utilizied a new format for the annual showcase.

RELATED: BEAL BOUNCED EARLY IN THREE-POINT CONTEST

Beal finished with 14 points and a steal in a productive night. He shot 5-for-10 from the field and an impressive 4-for-8 from long range. 

Beal also tried to get a travelling call from the refs on Karl-Anthony Towns. Yeah, that's not likely to happen in an All-Star Game:

Beal more than held his own and only played 16 minutes, which was good considering he has logged the fifth-most minutes of any player so far this season. A realistic best-case scenario was a strong showing and a short night and that's exactly what he got.

Not only does Beal play a lot of minutes, the Wizards need him now more than ever with John Wall's injury. He needs whatever rest he can get during this All-Star break.

Speaking of Wall, he was in the house despite being in the middle of his rehab from left knee surgery. Per usual, Wall was shining bright:

RELATED: BEST WIZARDS/BULLETS MOMENTS ON ALL-STAR SATURDAY NIGHT

The All-Star Game wasn't all about Beal, of course. Here are some other things that stood out...

*The new format and increased financial incentive were intended to make the game more competitive and that's what happened late in the fourth quarter. Usually, that's how these things go where the players will start trying at the end. But this time it seemed to be up a few levels and it was fun to watch. 

Both teams scored in the 140s, so it wasn't exactly a defensive battle. No matter what the league does, the players will only try so hard for so long. The main goal of everyone's is to not get injured in a game that ultimately doesn't count for anything. Still, this was different and appears to have been a success.

*While everyone was focusing on the reunion of LeBron and Kyrie Irving the best beef was Joel Embiid vs. Russell Westbrook. Those two have traded waves to taunt each other at the end of wins in head-to-head matchups and it was clear on Sunday they still don't like each other. Westbrook tried to dunk all over Embiid in the first half, only to get blocked at the rim.

Westbrook's determination to dunk on Embiid was out of the ordinary for an All-Star Game. It was obvious what was on his mind:

*Irving's handles are simply ridiculous. Check out this fake behind-the-back move he pulled with Giannis Antetkounmpo guarding him. Yes, it didn't fool the defender but it was impressive nonetheless:

*LeBron is 33 years old, yet he was still running up and down the court faster than anyone and leaping above the rim to thrown down alley-oop after alley-oop. It is truly amazing and everyone should enjoy watching him while they can, regardless of whether they like the guy or not.

This was one of his dunks:

LeBron took home MVP with a game-high 29 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists and a steal.

*The pregame show was quite bad. It was anchored by comedians Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle and, though they had some funny jokes, it lasted nearly 30 minutes. The whole thing was pretty much universally panned on social media. Fergie's national anthem was also roasted by the masses.

*The halftime show was much better. It began with N.E.R.D taking it back to their older days with 'Lapdance,' went to Migos performing 'Stir Fry' and swung back to N.E.R.D. who did their latest hit 'Lemon.' 

RELATED: LATEST 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT

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The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

The NBA All-Star pregame introductions were, uh, something

Whoever put together the NBA All-Star Game player introductions has some 'splainin to do. 

The NBA introduced a kinda-full Staples Center to their 2018 All-Stars about an hour ago, and boy was it weird. There were a lot of dancers in different themed costumes. Kevin Hart was screaming. Rob Riggle was screaming. Ludacris showed up? Hey! Did you know that the Barenaked Ladies are still a band? The NBA would like you to know they're still around.  The whole thing was like when you're at an art museum and you're told that abstract piece in the corner is actually really meaningful but you gotta be honest, you don't get it. 

Anyways, the internet hated it. Here are some highlights from the internet hating it:

The lesson here is that you never need Kevin Hart and Rob Riggle. One will do.