Nebraska's Bell setting sights on receiving record


Nebraska's Bell setting sights on receiving record

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) Kenny Bell is on track to have one of the best seasons ever by a Nebraska receiver, and he just might achieve his goal of becoming the first Cornhusker to crack 1,000 yards receiving in a season.

Bell has 20 catches for 463 yards through six games. Assuming the Huskers play the minimum of 12 games, he would need to increase his per-game average from 77 to 90 yards to pass 1972 Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers' record of 942 yards and hit 1,000.

``It's something that really is important to me,'' Bell said.

Don't get the impression Bell is selfish. He needed a reporter to tell him how many receiving yards he had.

``He brings a lot of life to the team, and he's made some great plays,'' fellow receiver Tim Marlowe said. ``His yards after the catch are amazing. He can catch a hitch route and get you 25 yards. He's just a great player to have out there. He's a game-breaker and definitely someone that other defenses have to prepare for.''

Bell figures if he has a big season statistically, it can only help the Huskers (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten), who visit Northwestern (6-1, 2-1) on Saturday.

``I just want to contribute to victories,'' he said. ``If that means catching balls, that's awesome. If it means blocking, I'm more than willing. Whatever I can do.''

Bell emerged as a playmaker the second half of last season, when he led the Huskers with 32 catches for 461 yards. The 6-foot-1, 185-pound sophomore already has gone past his 2011 total for receiving yards. All four of his TD catches have been 25 yards or longer, and his 23.2-yard average ranks first nationally among players in the top 100 in receiving yards per game.

``Everyone around here is expecting it,'' tight end Ben Cotton said. ``Kenny is a great player, hard worker and good leader for this football team. We hold him to a pretty high standard because he holds himself to a high standard.''

Bell's most important catch came in the 30-27 win over Wisconsin. The Huskers were down 27-10 in the middle of the third quarter and faced a third-and-6 from their own 27.

Bell reeled in Taylor Martinez's 20-yard pass on a corner route despite heavy hands-on coverage. Wisconsin was called for pass interference, tacking on another 15 yards, and Martinez scored on a 38-yard quarterback draw on the next play to start the Huskers' comeback.

``We needed to keep the drive alive,'' Bell said. ``That's one I'm most proud of. I held onto the rock and got smacked. We couldn't afford not going down and scoring.''

Bell's best efforts weren't enough in the Huskers' 63-38 loss at Ohio State two weeks ago. Bell had five catches for a career-high 133 yards, the most by a Nebraska player since Niles Paul had 154 yards against Kansas in 2009.

Bell still laments not scoring on his career-long 74-yard play against the Buckeyes. Ryan Shazier brought him down short of the goal line despite Bell's attempt to stiff-arm him.

``If you go 74 yards, you better get into the end zone,'' Bell said.

The Huskers had a bye week after Ohio State, and Bell was among the leaders at a players-only meeting to challenge the team to finish the season strong.

``Last week, it was aching at me,'' he said. ``After a loss, especially an idle week, you have time to reflect on things. It just needed to be said. After you get your butt kicked like that, it's a terrible feeling. You have to find a way to fill that pit in your stomach with fire.''

Cotton said Bell has become a leader because he backs up his eloquently spoken words with action on the practice and game fields.

``Kenny's been doing a great job of saying the right things when they need to be said,'' Cotton said. ``He's never stepping out of line or getting down on anybody. He tries to pick guys up, make sure guys are clued in and ready go.''

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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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