No. 10 Tigers travel to face Blue Devils

No. 10 Tigers travel to face Blue Devils

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) Clemson entered the season hoping to win a second straight Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Time is running out for the 10th-ranked Tigers to make up lost ground in their division race.

Heading into Saturday night's trip to Duke, the Tigers (7-1, 4-1 ACC) haven't lost since falling 49-37 at Florida State on Sept. 22. They've won every game by at least 14 points and have had no trouble putting up big scoring totals even with star receiver Sammy Watkins having a quiet sophomore season.

But with the ninth-ranked Seminoles (8-1, 5-1) sitting just ahead of Clemson and holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, Clemson can't afford to stumble against the Blue Devils (6-3, 3-2).

``It's more just playing to a standard,'' quarterback Tajh Boyd said. ``There's so much out there for us to gain and we don't want to let it pass us by in any sense. Every goal we had coming into the season is still attainable.''

The Tigers are coming off a 42-13 win at Wake Forest in which they racked up 534 total yards. That included a breakout game for Watkins, an freshman all-American who had missed three games because of suspension and illness.

Watkins had a school-record 202 yards receiving and his first touchdown catch of the season. Boyd threw for a school-record 428 yards with five touchdown passes.

Coach Dabo Swinney wants his players focused on improving their consistency instead of worrying about repeating the late-season fade from last year.

``As I tell our guys all the time, it's about Clemson,'' Swinney said. ``That's what we've talked about all year. It's about our preparation, our focus, our attention to details, how we play the game and execute our plan to win. That has not changed. I'm excited about this last road game. I think it's a great opportunity for us to finish strong.''

The game is just as critical for the Blue Devils, who find themselves in the unusual position of playing meaningful games in November. Duke has already secured bowl eligibility for the first time since 1994 and still is tied atop the ACC's Coastal Division standings despite last weekend's ugly 48-7 loss at FSU.

Duke coach David Cutcliffe said his team was disappointed by its performance against the Seminoles, but not discouraged or embarrassed.

``We left everything we needed to leave in Tallahassee for one thing,'' he said. ``We've made corrections that we felt were necessary and the rest of it was left there and didn't come with us. ... This team is hungry. Anybody that thinks `You've hit the sixth win and are all cool' has really not watched this team.''

The Blue Devils are also 5-0 at Wallace Wade Stadium this year, tying a school record for home wins in a season. That included a comeback win in their last home game against rival North Carolina on a last-second touchdown pass in front of a packed stadium, a rare sight in Durham after years filled with struggle.

When Cutcliffe took over here in 2008, Duke hadn't won a home game in nearly three years.

``Being able to win in front of your home crowd is important not only for your fan base but for your program with recruiting, to get people behind you,'' senior quarterback Sean Renfree said. ``Our record so far has gotten people talking about football here. I wouldn't be surprised if we had a packed game this weekend and as good of an atmosphere as we had against Carolina.''

Duke's biggest concern will be to slow the Tigers' passing game in an offense that ranks second in the ACC with a 41-point average. DeAndre Hopkins has made up for Watkins' slow start and is closing in on 1,000 yards receiving to go with 10 TD catches.

The Blue Devils boast a secondary that includes three players who have been named ACC defensive back of the week this season.

The Blue Devils are hoping the FSU loss has prepared them for this week.

``It is difficult, but I think it's good to have them back to back,'' Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell said. ``You get the two fastest teams in the ACC. We went against Florida State and we might've gotten a little surprised by their speed, but now we're ready for Clemson's speed.''


AP Sports Writer Pete Iacobelli in Clemson, S.C., contributed to this report.

UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable


UMBC's NCAA Tournament hopes end vs. Kansas State, but its Cinderella run was unforgettable

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — UMBC's improbable run through the NCAA Tournament was brief. The statement the Retrievers made and their place in history is forever.

For one weekend in March, the tiny commuter school from Baltimore known for its academics and championship-winning chess team captured the hearts of the college basketball world and beyond. UMBC became the first No. 16 seed to knock off a No. 1 in March Madness, a victory over Virginia that made the Retrievers the ultimate Cinderella.

The fairytale came to an end Sunday night in a 50-43 loss to No. 9 Kansas State -- heartbreaking because it was a game UMBC could have won, but still satisfying because the Retrievers touched so many people by accomplishing what many thought was impossible.

"We put our name on the map. We gave hope to teams that come to the tournament with lower seeds," said senior guard K.J. Maura. "I think we gave hope to guys that are not even that tall like me. People that feel like they are underdogs in their life, I think we gave hope to everything they want to do in life."


Stephen Curry noticed the team and sent UMBC the sneakers the team wore against Kansas State. The Golden State Warriors had his Curry 5s, which are in limited release, and other swag sent to the team. U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams declared the Retrievers "Surgeon General approved" and posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing a sweatshirt from his alma mater.

NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers tweeted to UMBC guard Joe Sherburne, who claims to be Rodgers' biggest fan. And for a team addicted to the video game "Fortnite," their dreams were made when Ninja, a popular gamer who recently played against rapper Drake and JuJu Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, FaceTimed with the team early Sunday.

"They play with passion, they play with heart, they play together," coach Ryan Odom said. "We do things together for one another, and obviously when you have a big win like that (over Virginia) and it's so shocking, you know, people love to see that. They love to see the upset.

"And our guys handled it with grace and understood the circumstances. They weren't pounding their chests or anything. They expected to be here and expected to compete."

When UMBC returned to the locker room following its ouster, Odom had written just one word on the whiteboard. The Retrievers needed a buzzer-beating 3 against Vermont to win their conference title and make the NCAA Tournament, but they showed up believing they could beat Virginia, and the same about Kansas State.


So Odom simply penned "Proud" on the board for his players.

"Just very proud of these kids and what they've been able to do as the representatives that they are for our university," Odom said. "Just captured our country and beyond, to be honest, from a sporting perspective and it's really, really neat to see."

Sherburne said Odom relayed stories from friends who had texted or called from outside the country to rave about UMBC. Near tears after an 0-for-9 shooting night, Sherburne found consolation in the joy UMBC brought to so many.

"From when we beat Vermont until the last two hours were the greatest time of my life," Sherburne said. "What we did, everyone in here, it's the greatest time of our lives."

Odom arrived at UMBC two years ago and inherited a team accustomed to losing. He told them he was going to get them to .500 that first year; they thought he was joking. But slowly the culture changed and the Retrievers did everything Odom told them they could accomplish.

And then some.

"When I got here, first we were a four-win team that year, and then the next year we went on to win seven games," said graduate student Jairus Lyles. "Then Coach Odom and his staff came in, we won 21 games and this year we had a tremendous season."

Odom doesn't know how far the UMBC program can grow. Those four letters are now synonymous with the biggest upset in college basketball history, but it's a long way from becoming a basketball school.

"UMBC is a unique place -- lot of high achieving kids on campus," Odom said. "We want guys that want to be great from a basketball perspective and want to play after college. But, at the same time, we want folks that are highly motivated academically that want to do great things past basketball. Because the air goes out of the ball at some point for everybody."


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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Phil Chenier tells stories ahead of his jersey retirement

Associated Press

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Phil Chenier tells stories ahead of his jersey retirement

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, host Chase Hughes was joined by Bullets/Wizards legend Phil Chenier ahead of his jersey retirement set for this upcoming weekend on March 23.

Chenier looked back on his playing and broadcasting career and told great stories. He also shared some memories of the 1978 championship as the franchise gets ready to honor its 40th anniversary.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!