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Maryland faces Northwestern in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

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Maryland faces Northwestern in Big Ten/ACC Challenge

Much news has been made concerning Maryland and the Big Ten over the last few weeks, but none of it has had to do with two teams competing against one another.

That will change Tuesday night as the Terps square off against the Northwestern Wildcats in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. The 4-1 Terps will take to the road to take on undefeated 6-0 Northwestern in Evanston, Ill.

For Maryland, the game presents a set of challenges. It will be the Terps first true road game of the year, and the Wildcats will be the stiffest competition Maryland has faced since a season-opening loss to Kentucky.

Vegas set the Terps as five point underdogs, and with a young team Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon stressed the difficulty of the game.

"It's a tough challenge for our team where we are right now,” Turgeon said to the press.

 After an impressive comeback attempt fell short against Kentucky in the season-opener, Maryland has faced weaker non-conference competition at home in the last four games. Though the Terps won convincingly in three games, the Lafayette Leopards gave Maryland trouble.

Turgeon said that the game against Lafayette, which Maryland won 83-74, will help the Terps defend Northwestern’s shooters.

“They have shooters all over the floor,” Turgeon said of Northwestern.  “You saw us against Lafayette against great shooters as the game went on. They got hot against us, and we had trouble guarding it.”

Maryland should be better prepared for this game. The Terps will probably roll out a starting lineup with Pe’Shon Howard, Nick Faust, Dez Wells, James Padgett and Alex Len and Turgeon has stressed closing out on Northwestern's gaurds.

While Maryland must focus on defending the Northwestern shooters, the Terps present offensive problems of their own. Big man Alex Len proved against Kentucky that he can dominate against any competition. If Len is on his game in Evanston the Terps could certainly pull off the upset.

Dez Wells and Nick Faust can also create problems on the wing, though both players are still figuring out there roles on the team and playing with one another.

Northwestern comes into the game fresh off its South Padre Island Invitational Tournament title. The Wildcats (6-0) followed up a blowout win over TCU with a thrilling 72-69 OT victory over 2011-12 MVC runner-up Illinois State on Saturday.

Northwestern is led by senior guard/forward Drew Crawford (13.7 PPG), who's taken over as the leader of the Wildcats after the departure of the school's all-time leading scorer John Shurna.

Senior guard Reggie Hearn poses as a threat from the three-point arc, averaging 2.7 per game. The Wildcats don't have much depth in the frontcourt, with their leading rebounder Jared Swoopshire only pulling down 6.5 RPG. 

Considering the Terps frontcourt size with Len, Padgett, and freshmen reserves Shaquille Cleare and Charles Mitchell, Maryland may have an advantage down low.

But Maryland has had limited recent success playing Big Ten teams, where Northwestern probably wishes it could play more ACC teams.

The Wildcats have been unstoppable the last four years in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge with victories over Georgia Tech (2010, 2011), North Carolina State (2009) and Florida State (2008).

With a senior-led squad, the Wildcats are searching for the first NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.

On the other side, a young Maryland team could use a win in Evanston to springboard the team to a competitive ACC schedule and a return to college basketball's elite. 

Thanks to Scott Krinch of CSN Chicago for contributing to this preview. 

Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

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Cavaliers clamp down on Pitt

PITTSBURGH -- No. 1 Virginia allowed just seven points in the first half and secured the regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference title outright with a 66-37 win over Pittsburgh on Saturday.

Freshman guard De'Andre Hunter came off the bench to lead the Cavaliers (26-2, 14-1 ACC) with 14 points in a game that didn't take big offensive efforts from Virginia's regulars. Of the five starters, only guard Ty Jerome exceeded his season average with 13 points.

The game was never competitive, as Virginia started on an 8-0 run and Pitt didn't make a field goal until Jared Wilson-Frame hit a 3-pointer at the midway point of the first half.

Virginia coach Tony Bennett rested most of his regulars in the second half. Reserve Nigel Johnson added 12 points on 4-of-6 shooting.

Parker Stewart led Pitt (8-22, 0-17) with 12 points, all on 3-pointers. Pitt had next to no presence inside. The Panthers were outscored 28-8 in the paint and out-rebounded 36-24. Seven of Pitt's 11 made field goals were from beyond the arc.

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.​

A quick start

Strong stars go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a team in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the first.

Andre Burakovsky snapping second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked at points this season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo just would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play form the office. He would later add a deflection goal late to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.