No. 3 Kentucky still has some growing up to do


No. 3 Kentucky still has some growing up to do

ATLANTA (AP) For the Kentucky Wildcats, these are the necessary growing pains.

Clearly, they have as much talent as anyone in the country - who couldn't think that after watching Alex Poythress put on a dunk-a-thon against Duke - but they're still learning just what it takes to win at this level.

The Blue Devils provided the schooling Tuesday night.

Senior guard Seth Curry scored 23 points and No. 9 Duke held off a furious comeback by the third-ranked Wildcats, preserving a 75-68 victory at the Georgia Dome.

Both teams hope to return to Atlanta in April, when the Final Four will be held in the same building.

``I wouldn't mind having some of their guys,'' Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. ``And I'm sure they would like to have some of our guys.''

The Blue Devils relied heavily on their experience to hold off coach John Calipari's latest group of stellar freshmen, who nearly came all the way back from a 14-point deficit in the second half.

Even so, Calipari actually sounded happier about the way his kids played in a loss than he did after their season-opening win over Maryland.

``We're getting better,'' he said. ``This team just had some seniors. But we had a chance.''

Calipari scanned the scoresheet and was pleased with the way the shots were spread around. Among the starters, everyone had between five and 12 attempts.

``That's pretty good. They're sharing,'' he said. ``What they don't understand is how hard they have to play every possession, how a minute and a half can cost you a game. They don't know it yet. It's never been important to them. Our job is to teach them. We've got to get them in stronger shape mentally and physically.''

Duke (2-0) appeared to be in control, even with Mason Plumlee on the bench in foul trouble. The Blue Devils ripped off a 13-3 run, capped by Rasheed Sulaimon's 3-pointer that made it 58-44 with 9 1/2 minutes remaining.

But Kentucky (1-1) wasn't done, rallying like a defending champ even though this is essentially a whole new team in Calipari's one-and-done system. The Wildcats outscored Duke 17-6 over the next six minutes and actually had a chance to tie it.

Julius Mays missed a 3-pointer with the Blue Devils clinging to a 64-61 lead.

Curry made sure youthful Kentucky didn't get any closer. He blew past Archie Goodwin on a drive - using a pump fake to get by the freshman guard - that essentially clinched the win.

This was the first meeting between the storied programs since 2001. In the stands, Christian Laettner cheered on his alma mater, a reminder of perhaps the most famous game in the series - the 1992 NCAA regional final, in which Duke's Grant Hill heaved a long pass to Laettner, who turned and sank a buzzer-beating jumper that sent the Blue Devils on to their second straight national title.

There were no such heroics in this one.

Poythress led Kentucky with 20 points, soaring over the Blue Devils for several dunks, including a thunderous one-handed slam off a missed jumper by Mays. Nerlens Noel and Goodwin added 16 points apiece. All are freshmen, with plenty of room to grow before tournament time.

This was a good starting point, getting a chance to play in a doubleheader featuring four of the nation's best teams. In the opener, No. 21 Michigan State knocked off No. 7 Kansas 67-64.

``I think we learned a lot about ourselves,'' Noel said. ``When you go up against a team like Duke, you've got to bring it every possession. Tonight was a learning process.''

Calipari wasn't happy with his team's effort against Maryland - especially on the boards. They were outrebounded 54-38 by the Terrapins, including 28 at the offensive end.

That was simply unacceptable given Kentucky's vaunted frontcourt featuring the 6-foot-10 Noel and 7-footer Willie Cauley-Stein.

Rebounding wasn't as much of an issue this time - Duke finished with a 31-30 edge - but the experienced Blue Devils showed a bit more poise down the stretch.

``Nerlens played way more aggressive than he did against Maryland,'' Calipari said. ``When we got it to three I said, `We're going to win this.' They just made their free throws.''

After Duke let Kentucky back in the game by continuing to put up errant jumpers, Curry finally changed things up. He gave a slight fake and took off for the hoop with just over 2 minutes remaining, forcing Goodwin to grab him by the arm. The senior knocked down both ends of the one-and-one, pushing Duke to a 66-61 lead with 2:04 remaining.

Poythress gave the Wildcats a semblance of hope, putting back a missed shot, but Curry blew by Goodwin again for a layin that made it 68-63 with 1:13 left and essentially sealed it. Calipari called a timeout and screamed at Goodwin as the freshman walked toward the bench.

In the final minute, Curry added two more free throws to finish off the Wildcats.

``I had it going,'' he said, ``so they kept coming to me.''

Kentucky still must address the same point guard questions it had before the opener. Sophomore transfer Ryan Harrow has been suffering from flu-like symptoms and didn't even make the trip to Atlanta, ruining a chance to impress the home folks. He played his high school ball in suburban Marietta.

Mays, a graduate student, started in place of Harrow but had only seven points and three assists.

Calipari said he shouldn't have played Harrow against Maryland. As it was, the guard was only able to go 10 minutes. Now, while the team awaits the results of blood tests, the coach vowed not to play him again until he's fully recovered.

``He said he could go, but he wasn't ready,'' Calipari said. ``We need to get him healthy.''

In the meantime, he hopes the loss will benefit the Wildcats down the road.

``If this is what we look like in December and January, this is not going to be the team everybody thinks,'' Calipari said. ``We have to figure out exactly how we're going to play - then get after it.''


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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

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The 2018 salaries of five Redskins become fully guaranteed today

It may be the 18th of March but today could be like Christmas for five Redskins players.

The Redskins decided to use today, four days after the start of the league year, for some contract triggers. In this case, the triggers are all 2018 salary guarantees (some teams will pay out roster bonuses on trigger dates, but the Redskins rarely use that type of structure).

Here are the players whose have guarantees that kick in today 4 p.m. All data is via Over the Cap.


CB Josh Norman, base salary of $13.5 million becomes fully guaranteed—This was a window for the Redskins to move on from Norman if they were not happy with his performance after two seasons. He is 31 and he had no interceptions last season, leaving some to wonder if the Redskins might think about releasing him. But it never was a consideration.

TE Jordan Reed, $8 million of his $8.25 million salary becomes fully guaranteed—No, I’m not sure why they are leaving that $250,000 out there non-guaranteed. Fans thought that the Redskins might move on from Reed due to his injury issues. But, as with Norman, it never was a consideration.

S D.J. Swearinger, $3 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—This is a mere technicality, Swearinger wasn’t going anywhere after helping to solidify the safety position.


RB Chris Thompson, $1.996 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—His rehab is going well and after last year Thompson’s two-year, $7 million contract extension signed last September looks like a good deal for the team.

DE Terrell McClain, $3.25 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed—If the Redskins sign a top free agent D-lineman or draft on early in the draft they could be in a numbers crunch. That new acquisition would be guaranteed a roster spot along with Jonathan Allen, Matt Ioannidis, Stacy McGee, and Anthony Lanier. That makes five and the Redskins kept six last year. Ziggy Hood is a favorite of the coaching staff but he has no guaranteed money left on his contract. That could tip the sixth spot in favor of McClain if he is on the roster at the close of business today. If they release McClain after today, they would take a cap charge of over $2 million. It seems unlikely that anything will happen but it’s something to keep an eye on.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.


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It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

It's hard to tell after three games how the Wizards and Pacers would match up in the playoffs

The Wizards crossed off an important goal on Saturday night by beating the Indiana Pacers and therefore securing the season series. If the teams tie with the same regular season record, the Wizards will get the higher playoff seed. As of today, that would mean home court advantage in the first round.

Though the Wizards have beaten the Pacers in two of their three matchups this season, we only know so much about how they would match up in the playoffs. The first game between them didn't feature Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo and John Wall didn't play in any of the three games. The Pacers were without both Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis on Saturday night.

Given the Pacers underwent so much change over the summer, there is no real data to go off of from before this season. They are a completely different team with Oladipo leading the way and Paul George now in Oklahoma City.


There are reasons to believe, however, that the Wizards would fare well against the Pacers over the course of a seven-game series. For one, they figured out how to slow Oladipo and his teammate Bojan Bogdanovic on Saturday night. Both had killed the Wizards in previous matchups.

Oladipo was held to 18 points, over five points below his season average of 23.5. He had four turnovers, shot 7-for-16 (43.7%) and finished a -18 in a game the Pacers lost by seven.

The Wizards had some success with Tomas Satoransky guarding Oladipo. Satoransky is 6-foot-7 with long arms. He was able to recover on several occasions to alter Oladipo's shots.

Satoransky and Bradley Beal also did a good job keeping pace with Oladipo on the fastbreak. The Pacers had only four fastbreak points in the game. Oladipo is especially dangerous in the open court.

“We just made sure that we were aggressive with him and made sure he saw a lot of bodies in the paint," Beal said. "The last game, he got a lot of easy ones in transition. We just made sure that we got back on the shot, loaded to the ball and forced the other guys to attack.”

For Bogdanovic, it was about limiting open shots from the perimeter. Bogdanovic had 11 points, three below his season average and had four turnovers. Beal and Otto Porter stripped Bogdanovic for steals and Marcin Gortat took a charge on one play in the third quarter.


But it was all about taking away the outside shot. Bogdanovic only hit one shot in the first half and it was a three. The only reason he got it off is because Kelly Oubre, Jr. lost his balance backing up. That gave Bogdanovic the window he needed. Otherwise, Oubre helped frustrate the former Wizards small forward. So did Gortat and Ian Mahinmi, who did a good job covering their teammates off screens.

The Pacers are an average offensive team, ranking 16th in points per game and 14th in offensive rating. They are better defensively, ranking ninth-best in opponents points per game and 12th in defensive efficiency.

If the Wizards can limit Oladipo and Bogdanovic, the Pacers' two leading scorers, they should have a good shot at beating the Pacers in the playoffs. Beyond them, the Pacers are thin in the scoring department. Turner only averages 13.6 points and no one else beyond him can consistently make an opposing defense pay for mistakes. Conversely, several Wizards players have given the Pacers major trouble through three games this season.

Gortat, who had 18 points and eight rebounds on Saturday, has averaged 13 points and eight rebounds on 57.7 percent shooting against Indiana. Kelly Oubre, Jr., who had 16 points in 18 minutes, has averaged 15.5 points and is shooting 50 percent from the field.


In addition to those guys, Markieff Morris, Porter, Mike Scott, Mahinmi and Satoransky are all shooting over 50 percent against the Pacers. Satoransky is shooting 71.4 percent through three games.

The Wizards have the pieces to counter what the Pacers do best. Indiana is seventh in three-point percentage, but the Wizards are the best team in basketball in opponents three-point percentage. The Pacers are built around an All-Star guard, but the Wizards have two All-Star guards. The Pacers have a collection of talented wing players, but so do the Wizards.

"Hypothetically, I do like Indiana," Beal said. "I like how we match up with Indiana and I feel like there is a lot of stuff that we can take advantage of. In a lot of categories, I think we can win them."

Add it all up and the Wizards have every reason to feel confident if they see the Pacers in the posteason. Keep that in mind because they very well could meet up in the spring.

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