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McDermott scores 21, No. 16 Creighton wins 71-51

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McDermott scores 21, No. 16 Creighton wins 71-51

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) The build-up for Creighton's opener against North Texas was all about the matchup between Bluejays returning All-American Doug McDermott and projected NBA lottery pick Tony Mitchell.

Call McDermott-Mitchell a draw.

As for the game, the 16th-ranked Bluejays led big early and won 71-51 Friday night.

Afterward, Creighton coach Greg McDermott was glad it was over.

``I don't know if I've been as nervous for an opening game as I have been for this one in the 24 years I've been doing this,'' the coach said.

There was a big-game atmosphere, with the usual crowd of 17,000 showing up at CenturyLink Center for the meeting of the Missouri Valley Conference favorite Bluejays against the team picked to win the Sun Belt.

Doug McDermott and Mitchell played together on the U19 Team USA squad two summers ago, and they are two of the nation's biggest stars. About a dozen NBA scouts were on hand to watch.

McDermott, the nation's top returning scorer, had 21 points and 11 rebounds.

Mitchell, who averaged a double-double last season, finished with 18 points and seven rebounds.

``It wasn't a one-on-one matchup,'' Mitchell said. ``This was Creighton against North Texas. I wasn't looking at it like that. I just wanted to win the game, and we didn't do that tonight.''

Creighton led 39-25 at half and opened the second half on a 14-5 run, with Avery Dingman making back-to-back 3-pointers to stretch it to 53-30.

Greg McDermott said he was concerned because even though he knew North Texas returned all five starters and its top seven scorers from an 18-14 team, he didn't know what to expect with Tony Benford having taken over as the Mean Green's new coach.

``I'm glad to get this one past us, because I don't mind playing good teams as long as I know something about the good teams,'' he said. ``In this situation, we just didn't know much about North Texas outside of their personnel with the new coaching staff. It's good to get this one in the `W' column and move on.''

Austin Chatman added 11 points and reserve Avery Dingman had 10 for the Bluejays, who have won 39 straight November regular-season home games.

The Bluejays had a good plan defensively. They rotated three players on Mitchell, with Gregory Echenique the primary man assigned to him, and routinely brought in another player to trap him.

Creighton also denied passes into the lane, forcing the Mean Green out of its comfort zone. North Texas made just 2 of 16 shots from 3-point range.

Greg McDermott prodded his team to improve its defense after it ranked 222nd nationally in field-goal defense last season. The Mean Green shot 32 percent.

``Everybody has been talking about their defense,'' Benford said. ``They did a great job on us inside, really packing it in and making it difficult for us to get in the paint.''

Doug McDermott, the 6-foot-8 junior, scored in double figures for a 37th straight game. He fought through double-teams to go 6 of 11 from the field, and he made all eight of his free throws.

While McDermott was his steady self, there was an air of anticipation every time Mitchell touched the ball.

His first points came after he stepped in front of an Austin Chatman pass meant for Echenique and took it in for a rim-rattling dunk. He hit the Mean Green's only 3-pointer of the first half, batted away Andre Yates' shot in the lane for the first of his two blocks, then went down to the other end and scored on a dunk putback.

Mitchell picked up his fourth foul with 13 minutes left. By then, Creighton led by 21 points and it didn't matter that he sat out the next five minutes.

Advertised as the greatest athlete to come out of North Texas since ``Mean'' Joe Green of 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers fame, Mitchell was one of two freshmen to average a double-double last season. The other was national player of the year Anthony Davis of Kentucky.

Mitchell was 8 of 15 from the field, including 2 of 5 on 3s. He never got to the free-throw line.

``We made him work for all those points,'' Doug McDermott said. ``He got off to a good start and was real confident. I thought Gregory did a really good job on him the second half. He kind of got him frustrated.''

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How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

How Nicklas Backstrom saved the Capitals 3 different times in Game 5

The Capitals found themselves in deep trouble on Saturday.

Game 5 at Capital One Arena provided Washington a golden opportunity to take a 3-2 lead in their 2018 Stanley Cup Playoff first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. A loss -- another home loss -- would have been a devastating blow.

After battling back from a 2-0 series deficit, to lose in Washington would mean facing elimination in Columbus. Game 5 was the game the Caps needed and it would have slipped away from them if not for Nicklas Backstrom.

The Caps’ most underrated superstar -- the one who is constantly overshadowed by the likes of Alex Ovechkin and Braden Holtby -- took center stage on Saturday as he tipped a Dmitry Orlov shot past Sergei Bobrovsky at 11:53 of overtime to seal the victory for Washington.

“It was just a good shot from [Orlov],” Backstrom said after the game. “I thought before he had a chance to block it, and I got a tip on it, and it’s usually what happens in the playoffs. Tip goals or rebound goals. That’s the way it is. It was nice.”

Backstrom’s overtime goal capped off a three-point night for the veteran center, who also scored in the first period and assisted on a goal from T.J. Oshie.

The team ended up needing every one of his points.

From the start, Columbus outplayed Washington. With the series tied 2-2, a best-of-three mentality took over and the Blue Jackets pushed hard for the pivotal Game 5 win.

It is in those very moments that team needs its superstar players to step up. In Game 3, it was Holtby who stole the show to help Washington steal a win in Columbus.

On Saturday, it was Backstrom.

Columbus converted a shorthanded goal to seize a 1-0 lead in what was shaping up to be a dominant first period. A fluke goal from Backstrom, however, made sure the score was knotted up, 1-1, after the opening frame.

With the puck behind the goal line, Backstrom tried to slip a pass through the crease. Bobrovsky got a piece of the puck with his stick, but the amount of spin on the pass forced the puck to carom off the stick, off the back of Bobrovsky himself, and into the net.

“I was trying to make a pass,” Backstrom said. “Honestly, got lucky. I don’t know who came back-door there but I was trying for him. I’ll take it.”

After a back and forth game, the Blue Jackets came out swinging to start the third. Down 3-2, Columbus tied the game just 2:30 in and made a real push to win the game in regulation. Washington was outshot 16-1 in the third and looked like they had no push at all.

But the Caps looked like a different team when they took the ice for the extra frame. What happened in between periods?

“As I was leaving the room after the period, I could hear guys, the right guys, all saying the right things,” head coach Barry Trotz said.

When later asked if one of those guys was Backstrom, Trotz said, “Absolutely. He's one of the leaders on our team. They were all talking about let's make sure we're doing the right things. There's a lot of pride, lot of good leadership in that room.”

Whatever Backstrom and the other leaders said did the trick. Washington made a strong push in overtime leading to Backstrom’s game-winning goal.

This isn’t the first time Backstrom has delivered. Saturday’s overtime tally is the fourth of his career. That’s the most in franchise history and tied for fifth in NHL history.

Through his efforts on the ice, the Caps were able to erase a bad first period and steal the win in overtime. But it also took a big effort off the ice to get the job done.

“If you just look at the scoresheet, that doesn't say enough of about Nick Backstrom, his contribution from in the dressing room to on the ice to key moments to key faceoffs,” Trotz said.

“I've been on his soapbox about how complete a player he is and I never really worry about Nick Backstrom. He's got enough games under his belt, he's got enough stats to back it up and he's played huge minutes and he's one of our leaders. He's a tremendous hockey player.”

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John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

John Tortorella guarantees series will return to Washington for Game 7

After losing Game 1 and Game 2 at home, Alex Ovechkin declared "It’s going to be fun when we bounce back and going to tie the series and come back here and play Game 5 at home.”

Columbus Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella seems to be taking a similar tactic.

The Capitals won Game 5 in overtime on Saturday in a game that could prove to be emotionally draining for the Blue Jackets in a number of ways.

  • It was Washington's third straight win
  • Columbus was the better team for the majority of the game, but still took the loss
  • The Blue Jackets now face elimination despite holding a 2-0 series lead to start and losing only once in regulation

Tortorella has become famous for his fiery postgame press conferences in the past, including abruptly walking out after Game 4's presser when he declared "We sucked" to the media.

Saturday's was another fun one.

In a presser that lasted less than two minutes, Tortorella twice said, "We'll be back here for Game 7."

After such a draining game, Tortorella was asked how he would get them ready for what is sure to be an emotionally charged Game 6.

"I won't have to say a damn word to them," Tortorella said. "No. We'll be back here for Game 7."

The Blue Jackets will have to win Game 6 in Columbus to make that happen.

Barry Trotz was asked for his reaction after Tortorella's comments.

"What else are you going to say? That's good. He wants to get it out there, he believes in his team just as I believe in my team. It's our job for that not to happen."

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