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No. 10 Florida, Georgetown embrace unique opener

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No. 10 Florida, Georgetown embrace unique opener

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) One of the first things Florida coach Billy Donovan did upon boarding the USS Bataan was ask about touring the gun turret.

Forget the wind, the open-air backdrop, the chilly temperatures and potential court condensation.

This was bigger than basketball, and Donovan knew it.

``To be on this ship, sharing a moment like this, means more than I can ever express,'' Donovan said.

No. 10 Florida and Georgetown were thrilled to be part of the once-in-a-lifetime event - Friday's season opener on the deck of an ambitious assault ship.

Both teams toured the 844-foot Bataan on Thursday, posing for pictures and talking to everyone wearing a uniform and taking part in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic. Donovan even invited three former Navy basketball players assigned to the Bataan to help run shootaround.

Georgetown coach John Thompson III was equally taken back.

``For these kids to get the opportunity to come here and meet the sailors and the Marines that are on the Bataan,'' said Thompson, ``most of them, if not all of them, would never get this opportunity. Georgetown is a learning institute; that's part of our job.''

Donovan handled a much different part of the job Thursday.

He suspended starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin indefinitely for an undisclosed reason.

Donovan declined to divulge what the 6-foot-2 junior did, but said it wasn't anything criminal or anything that would be considered an NCAA violation.

Donovan said ``information was brought to me'' early Thursday that led to the suspension.

``You've got a group of 12 other guys that are looking to see how a coach is going to respond with what's right and what's wrong,'' Donovan said. ``This was the right decision to have him not be a part of this game because he needs to understand there's a level of accountability and responsibility that he has being part of this team.

``It's important for our guys to understand there's a commitment you have to make each and every day - on the court, off the court, in school and in every aspect of your life.''

The Gators, who have won 21 consecutive season openers, also will be without swingman Casey Prather. He sustained his second concussion in nine days this week. Throw in the unexpected departure of forward Cody Larson last month and Florida will be playing with five returning players and four freshmen against Georgetown.

``He has enough pieces where he can quickly substitute and make changes,'' Thompson said. ``They're down two quality players, and all that means is two other quality players are going to get minutes.''

Coaches have plenty of other worries.

Temperatures were expected to dip into the 50s and wind could be a factor. Plus, there's a chance condensation would build cause slippery conditions on the outdoor court.

``Whether there's wind or how the lighting is, both teams are going to have to be dealing with that,'' Donovan said. ``I don't think anybody gets an advantage. ... The only thing that could interrupt the game is if you've got guys slipping and sliding like an ice skating rink.''

Officials tested the court Wednesday night and found no issues. Just to be safe, though, they will have more than a dozen workers drying the court during timeouts.

``I'm telling my guys it's not going to affect you at all,'' Thompson said. ``The backdrop's not going to affect you, the weather's not going to affect you. That's how we're approaching it.''

Kind of a ``Hoosiers'' speech?

``We're going to get (a tape measure),'' Thompson added.

Florida and Georgetown haven't played since the NCAA tournament's round of 16 in 2006, a game the Gators won on Corey Brewer's circus shot in the final minute.

That victory helped Florida get to the Final Four, where the Gators won the first of back-to-back national championships.

Playing on the Bataan could be even more memorable.

``This is a game that is bigger in my opinion than any game we've had the opportunity to play,'' Donovan said.

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Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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USA TODAY Sports

Wizards vs. Hornets: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Kemba Walker, Dwight Howard, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and the Charlotte Hornets on Friday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. CHARLOTTE HORNETS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 7 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 6 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

On a roll

The Wizards have some serious momentum going right now. With an impressive win over the Cavs on Thursday, they have now won three straight games and eight of 10 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. They had a week off due to the All-Star break, but didn't show any rust at all in their first game back.

The Wizards are now 34-24, 10 games above the .500 mark. They are fourth in the East and could move into third on Friday if they win and the Cavaliers lose. Even with Wall out, things continue to look up for Washington.

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Hornets have had their number

The Wizards haven't done so well against the Hornets so far this season. Charlotte has taken both meetings and that includes a 24-point win on Jan. 17. That game featured Dwight Howard taunting the Wizards late in the fourth quarter.

Howard has killed the Wizards through two games with averages of 22.0 points and 14.0 rebounds. Jeremy Lamb (20.0 ppg vs. Wizards) has been a big factor as well as All-Star Kemba Walker (21.5 ppg vs. Wizards).

The last time these teams played about a month ago frustrations boiled over in an incident that got Tim Frazier ejected. Michael Carter-Williams picked a fight with Jason Smith and Frazier went off:

RELATED: BEAL IMPRESSED BY LEBRON AT ALL-STAR GAME

Hornets coming in hot

The Hornets are outside the playoff picture at the moment at eight games below .500, but they have won two straight games and Walker and Howard are coming off huge games. In a win over the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday, Walker dropped 31 points and Howard grabbed 24 rebounds.

Those guys will be riding a high coming into Washington on Friday. But it should be noted that Howard complained after the game how tired he is at this point in the season. That exhausion could affect him more in the second game of a back-to-back.

RELATED: LATEST NBA POWER RANKINGS

 

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Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

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USA TODAY Sports

Tarik's 3 stars: Caps come up empty on an emotional night in Florida

Vincent Trocheck scored on the power play with 18.7 seconds remaining and the Panthers escaped with a 3-2 victory on an emotional night in Sunrise, Fla.

Trocheck’s goal was Florida’s second in the final four minutes…and the Caps were left to lament yet another incomplete performance. Washington has now lost three of its last four games and fell to 4-5-2 in February.

Tarik’s three stars of the game:

1-Vincent Trocheck, Panthers

Trocheck did what Trocheck does in the third period: The Florida forward scored a clutch goal in the final seconds, redirecting a Jonathan Huberdeau shot through Brooks Orpik’s legs and past Braden Holtby. Eller was in the penalty box when Trocheck scored his 13th third period goal of the season.

2-Andre Burakovsky, Capitals

After losing a goal to Eller in the first period, Burakovsky made sure he didn’t go home empty handed. No. 65 scored on the power play in the second period to put the Caps ahead 2-1. It was Burakovsky’s third goal in six games. He also earned a secondary assist on Eller’s redirection score.   

3-Braden Holtby, Capitals

Following a handful of un-Holtby-like performances lately, Holtbeast roared Thursday night at BB&T Center. He made at least one game-saving stop in each period: an arm save on Trocheck in the first period; a pad stop on Denis Malgin in the second and another extended pad stop on Evgenii Dadonov in the third. Holtby finished with 30 stops.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know what you think in the comments.