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NC State picked as ACC favorite at media day

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NC State picked as ACC favorite at media day

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) For the first time in nearly four decades, North Carolina State enters the season as the Atlantic Coast Conference favorite.

The Wolfpack, with four starters back from a team that reached the NCAA round of 16, earned 26 of 53 first-place votes Wednesday from media members at the league's annual ``Operation Basketball'' media day.

It is the first time N.C. State has been picked as the preseason favorite since the 1974-75 season, while it marked only the second time in 16 seasons that neither Duke nor North Carolina were picked to win the league race.

In addition, N.C. State junior C.J. Leslie was player of the year, teammate Lorenzo Brown was an all-ACC pick and guard Rodney Purvis was voted rookie of the year.

``It's new territory for our team,'' second-year coach Mark Gottfried said. ``This is unchartered waters. And we have to learn how to accept that responsibility. It's something I think our guys are in the process of doing right now. And when you start playing games, you have to understand that you're viewed differently than maybe you were a year ago, so we've got to be ready for that.''

N.C. State hadn't been picked first since the year after David Thompson helped the Wolfpack stop UCLA's run seven straight national titles on the way to program's first NCAA championship in 1974. The Wolfpack hasn't won the ACC tournament since 1987 and last won a regular-season crown in 1989.

Wednesday's vote came two days after the league coaches also picked N.C. State as the preseason favorite in their first-ever vote on an ACC finish or preseason awards.

``I feel like we have the right group of guys to go out there and handle it right,'' senior Richard Howell said. ``We practice hard every day. We don't take any drills off. That's something coach Gottfried preaches. So if we keep doing that, that'll put us in the perfect position to do what we want to do at the end of the year.''

N.C. State had been picked to finish eighth or lower in four of the past six seasons, including twice being picked to finish last. But things have changed since Gottfried's arrival, with the Wolfpack returning to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2006 and reaching a regional semifinal before losing a tight game to eventual finalist Kansas.

N.C. State (24-12) finished with its best win total since 1988. Now Gottfried has an experienced core to go with one of the nation's top recruiting classes.

Before Wednesday, Duke or North Carolina had been picked to finish first in the preseason every year since 2004-05, when the Chris Paul-led Wake Forest squad was tabbed the favorite. N.C. State fans are hoping this year marks the beginning of standing up to those nearby rivals - the Wolfpack has lost 10 straight meetings - and making the ACC race about more than just a two-team discussion.

``They deserve the accolades that they're getting right now,'' UNC coach Roy Williams said. ``They had a great run down the stretch. I'm old enough that I remember when Duke and North Carolina State and North Carolina were all three really good teams and I think that was good for all of us. So to me, we're getting to the point back where it used to be, and I like that. I really do.''

Duke was second with 21 first-place votes and has four starters back from a team that finished second in the league before falling to 15th-seeded Lehigh in its NCAA opener.

North Carolina was third after losing NBA first-round draft picks Harrison Barnes, John Henson, Kendall Marshall and Tyler Zeller. The Tar Heels have won the ACC regular-season title and reached an NCAA regional final the past two years.

Reigning tournament champion Florida State was fourth and got the other six first-place votes.

FSU guard Michael Snaer, who joined Leslie and Brown on the preseason all-ACC team, said he wasn't worried about the focus on N.C. State, Duke and North Carolina instead of paying attention the the Seminoles following their first ACC tournament title - a run that included wins against the Blue Devils and Tar Heels.

``I don't think we sent that message obviously because people aren't thinking that we're going to be as good as we're going to be,'' Snaer said. ``Yeah, teams can have all the talent. I mean, when has that affected us? We play teams with talent all the time but our defense is still the same.''

Miami was picked fifth, followed by Maryland, Virginia, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, Wake Forest and Boston College.

North Carolina's James Michael McAdoo and Duke's Mason Plumlee joined Leslie, Brown and Snaer on the preseason all-ACC team.

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Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

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USA TODAY Sports Images

Team USA reclaims women's hockey gold from Canada in instant Olympic classic

GANGNEUNG, South Korea  -- The Americans' gold medal drought in women's hockey -- finally -- is over.

Even though they needed the first shootout in an Olympic women's final to do it.

Twenty long years after taking gold when the sport debuted in 1998 at Nagano, the United States snapped Canada's streak of four straight Olympic golds Thursday with a 3-2 shootout victory.

Jocelyne Lamoureux-Davidson scored in the sixth round of the shootout to start the Americans piling over the boards, throwing gloves in the air before huddling and hugging on the ice.

Gigi Marvin and Amanda Kessel also scored in the shootout. Monique Lamoureux-Morando tied it up with a breakaway with 6:21 left in regulation.

Hilary Knight also had a goal.

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Maddie Rooney made 29 saves for the win against their archrival. The 20-year-old goalie stopped the last two Canadian shooters in the shootout in Brianne Jenner and then Meghan Agosta on her second attempt.

It was sweet redemption for the 10 Americans who watched the Canadians snatch gold from their hands in 2014 at Sochi after tying it up with 54.6 seconds left in regulation and winning 3-2 in overtime.

Not only did the Americans snap the Canadians' stranglehold on Olympic gold, they ended a skid of five straight against their rival coming into this game, including a 2-1 loss to wrap up pool play a week ago.

Marie-Philip Poulin and Haley Irwin each scored goals for Canada. Agosta and Melodie Daoust scored in the shootout.

The Americans had been dominating in non-Olympic years, winning the last four and eight of the last 10 world championships, including a 3-2 overtime victory over Canada last spring.

Their domination on the world stage only made the lack of gold at the Olympics all the more noticeable, and Canada has been in their way since losing the inaugural gold in Nagano. Canada had won 24 straight Olympic games to go along with four consecutive gold medals. It's a streak of success in a women's team sport second only to the United States' basketball team's current streak of six straight gold.

This was the eighth time these North American rivals met in the Olympics and the fifth with gold on the line. None of the previous seven were decided by more than two goals.

U.S. coach Robb Stauber went with the 20-year-old Rooney in net for the biggest game of her career, but she was the goalie for each of the three games the Americans beat Canada last fall during their pre-Olympic exhibition tour, including Four Nations Cup title in November.

Canada had Shannon Szabados, 31, in goal for her third Olympic gold medal game, and her teammates made her job very easy by keeping the puck in front of Rooney for most of the first period by dictating play. The Americans couldn't use their speed or get organized even with two power plays until Sarah Nurse went in the box for interference late in the period.

Knight gave the U.S. a 1-0 lead with 25.4 seconds left in the first, redirecting a shot from Sidney Morin through Szabados' pads giving the Americans a jolt of energy.

That lasted only 2 minutes into the second when Irwin tipped a pass from Blayre Turnbull over Rooney's left leg for Canada. When Morin lost the puck, Melodie Daoust grabbed it and passed to Meghan Agosta who hit Poulin for the wrister into the left side of the net at 6:55 for a 2-1 lead.

 

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With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

With Ross placed on 60-day DL, Nationals agree to 1-year deal with veteran reliever

WASHINGTON  -- The Washington Nationals say they have agreed to a one-year deal with 40-year-old reliever Joaquin Benoit.

The team announced the move Wednesday, along with placing pitcher Joe Ross on the 60-day disabled list as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in July.

The Nationals didn't release terms of the agreement, though a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Monday that it was for $1 million.

The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal wasn't official at the time.

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Benoit is a right-hander who first reached the big leagues in 2001. 

He has played for eight teams, finishing last year with Pittsburgh.

He has 764 career appearances, going 58-49 with a 3.83 ERA and 53 saves.

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