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No. 1 Indiana gets stronger with 2 freshmen back

No. 1 Indiana gets stronger with 2 freshmen back

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 1 Indiana, which has been playing short-handed all season, is getting reinforcements.

On Saturday, 6-foot-8 forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and 7-foot center Peter Jurkin are expected to make their college debuts after completing an NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension. All the Hoosiers have to do now is figure out how to work the two freshmen into the lineup against in-state rival Butler.

``I think it's going to be sort of a game feel,'' Indiana associate head coach Steve McClain said. ``I think coach (Tom Crean) has an idea in his mind of how he wants to do this.''

He's just not saying what it is.

It's not as if the Hoosiers (9-0) need more help. They lead the nation in scoring (89.1 points) and victory margin (plus-31.7). They are fourth nationally in rebound differential (plus-13.8) and field-goal percentage (51.5). They even lead the Big Ten in defensive field-goal percentage (35.3) and defensive 3-point percentage (26.4) and have won every game by double digits.

Still, things were starting to get thin on the front line.

Derek Elston, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, had surgery Oct. 26 for a torn meniscus in his left knee and though his recovery is going well, he isn't expected back until after Christmas. Last week, sophomore forward Austin Etherington went down with a season-ending fractured left kneecap.

So getting the two freshmen back now will help at this weekend's Crossroads Classic, a double-header featuring Indiana's four best-known basketball programs - the Hoosiers, two-time national runner-up Butler and two more NCAA tourney regulars, No. 22 Notre Dame and Purdue.

Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin were ordered to sit last month by the NCAA, which determined the two had accepted improper benefits from their AAU coach, Mark Adams. He provided them with $9,702 and $6,003 in plane tickets, meals, housing, a laptop computer, a cellphone and clothing. Mosquera-Perea was told to pay back approximately $1,590 and Jurkin $250.

The NCAA said both players were qualified to receive the benefits from AHOPE, the nonprofit organization Adams uses to help international players obtain travel documents and cover travel costs to the U.S. The problem was that Adams also was considered an Indiana booster because he donated $185 to the Varsity Club from 1986-92, and boosters cannot provide benefits to players.

Now that they are with the team, it won't be as simple as just plugging Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin into a lineup that revolves around national player of the year candidate Cody Zeller. McClain said it may take a little time to figure it all out.

``Peter is a shot-blocker with length whereas Hanner is a shot-blocker who can step out on the perimeter and guard a perimeter player,'' McClain said. ``They both can rebound on a high level, so they bring a lot to the table.''

For the Bulldogs, it's another opportunity to slay a basketball behemoth in front of a national television audience.

Butler (7-2) captivated the nation by becoming the first school in Indiana's storied history to reach back-to-back championship games in 2010 and 2011, and the Bulldogs are up to their old tricks again. The Bulldogs have won four straight, five straight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and have already beaten Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern as rumors have spread that they may be looking to leave the Atlantic 10 and join a new conference with Marquette and other former Big East schools.

Athletic director Barry Collier declined to comment on those rumors Friday.

One thing Butler hasn't done yet: Beat a No. 1 team. In its only other meetings with the nation's top-ranked team, Butler lost at DePaul in February 1980 and at Michigan during the 1964-65 season.

This time, they'll play Indiana five miles from the Butler campus with a team that has steadily improved.

Butler's game plan revolves around two new hotshot shooters - Rotnei Clarke, the big-shooting guard who was an All-SEC player at Arkansas, and Kellen Dunham. Plus, 7-foot senior Andrew Smith and power forward Khyle Marshall have been playing better. Smith is coming off a 24-point, 10-rebound game at Northwestern, maybe the best game of his career, and Marshall has become an imposing inside threat.

Coach Brad Stevens nearly had Zeller to go along with that group, but he choose Indiana over Butler and North Carolina.

``They're No. 1 for a reason, they're very deep. I think they've got great skill, great athleticism and a selfless superstar,'' Stevens said of the Hoosiers. ``I think they'll be the team to beat all the way through April.''

While the Indiana-Butler game is Saturday's main feature, it's not the only popular attraction in town.

Notre Dame forwards Jack Cooley and Scott Martin will lead No. 22 Notre Dame (8-1) against the young Boilermakers (4-5). These schools, just 108 miles apart, haven't met on the basketball court since the 2004 NIT and the series is tied 20-20.

Martin, once part of a Purdue recruiting class dubbed the Baby Boilers, has downplayed the significance of facing his old school.

``I had some good times and some big wins, so I definitely enjoyed myself there (at Purdue),'' Martin said. ``Obviously, it didn't work out, and I don't think anyone was too thrilled about the way things happened, but I don't think anyone's bitter about it.''

The Boilermakers have struggled this season with three losses already to non-power conference schools - Bucknell, Xavier and last Saturday at Eastern Michigan 47-44. Their only win against a BCS-conference school came at Clemson.

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

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3 reasons why the Caps beat the Sabres

You may think this was an ugly four-game road trip for the Caps, but with a 3-2 win in Buffalo on Monday, Washington managed to earn five out of a possible eight points.

Here is why the Caps beat the Sabres and managed to save the road swing.

A missed high-stick (maybe) from Ovechkin

Ovechkin scored the first goal of the game in the second period as he deflected a high-shot from Christian Djoos down past goalie Chad Johnson. But did the deflection come on a high stick? The play was reviewed and the goal was ultimately upheld. According to the NHL, it was determined that "video review supported the Referee's call on the ice that Alex Ovechkin's stick was at or below the height of the crossbar when he tipped the puck into the Buffalo net."

RELATED: CHECK OUT THE 3 STARS OF THE GAME FROM CAPS-SABRES

NBC Sports Washington analyst Alan May broke the play down during the second intermission and made his case for why the NHL actually got the call wrong.

Was that a high stick? I don't know. As compelling an argument as May made, it still looks inconclusive which means the review made the right call. What surprises me is that the referee did not disallow the goal on the initial call.

Whether the review is truly inconclusive or flat out wrong, Washington was fortunate to walk away from this sequence with the goal.

MORE CAPITALS: BIZARRE SEQUENCE LEADS TO CAPS SCORING AND GETTING PENALIZED AT THE SAME TIME

A centimeter of ice

Hockey is a game of inches and it took less than an inch to put Washington up 2-0. When an Evgeny Kuznetsov shot hit off the boards and bounced back to the front of the net, it sparked a scrum next to goalie Chad Johnson. Eventually, John Carlson was able to get a swipe on the puck sending it trickling to the goal line, but Kyle Okposo was there waiting and appeared to kick it out just before it crossed. A review triggered by the Situation Room, however, revealed that the puck had just barely managed to cross the goal line before Okposo got to it.

Here's the view the NHL released after the review:

Philipp Grubauer's third period

After dominating the first 40 minutes of the game and taking a 2-0 lead, Buffalo predictably made a late push in the third period with two goals to pull within one. Washington outshot the Sabres in the first and second periods, but Buffalo reversed that trend in a big way in the third as they outshot the Caps 17-6. Grubauer turned aside 15 of those shots and was impressive after barely being tested in the first two periods.

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

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3 stars of the game: Caps knockout the punchless Sabres

Coming off an ugly 7-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks, a Buffalo Sabres team missing star Jack Eichel was just what the doctor ordered for the Caps to get back on track. Washington dominated the first two periods and then survived a late surge from Buffalo for the 3-2 win.

After battling to a scoreless first, Alex Ovechkin and John Carlson spotted Washington a 2-0 lead in the second. They then held on in the third period as Buffalo began to tilt the ice in their favor, with Evgeny Kuznetsov scoring the empty-netter to put this game out of reach. Evander Kane would pull Buffalo within one, but with only three seconds left it was too little, too late.

Here are the three stars of the game:

1. Alex Ovechkin: Ovechkin opened up the scoring in the second period as he deflected down an innocent shot from Christian Djoos past Chad Johnson. Ovechkin also set a physical tone as he battled with defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen all game long. After taking a high elbow from Ristolainen early in the game Ovechkin skated up to Ristolainen prior to the faceoff on his next shift and let him know that it was on. 

2. John Carlson: Carlson had a hand in both of Washington's goals on Monday. He recorded a secondary assist on Ovechkin's goal as he made a blue line pass to Djoos which Djoos fired on net and Ovechkin deflected. Carlson then managed to hit the puck past the goal line in a scrum next to Johnson. It looked initially like Kyle Okposo had managed to kick out the puck just before it crossed, but Carlson was awarded the goal as a review showed the puck had completely crossed the line.

3. Philipp Grubauer: A Sabres team that ranks last in the NHL in scoring and that was also without its leading scorer did not test Grubauer much in the first two periods. Facing a 2-0 deficit, however, Buffalo made a third period push to try to tie the game, but Grubauer was up to the task as he turned aside 15 of the 17 shots he faced in the final 20 minutes. He finished with 32 total saves on the night.