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No. 9 Arizona beats up on NAU 93-50

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No. 9 Arizona beats up on NAU 93-50

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Mark Lyons scored 18 points, Nick Johnson had 10 points and seven assists, and No. 9 Arizona rolled over Northern Arizona 93-50 on Wednesday night.

Arizona (4-0) overwhelmed the Lumberjacks from the get-go, showing no signs of rust after an eight-day break.

Dropping in 3-pointers and soaring in for dunks, the Wildcats built an 18-point lead in the first half and shut down Northern Arizona in the second for their 29th straight win over the Lumberjacks (2-4).

Arizona shot 58 percent, made 12 of 21 from 3-point range and had 22 assists on 30 field goals to kick off a stretch of four games in 11 days.

Solomon Hill had 17 points, Brandon Ashley grabbed 11 rebounds and Johnson added four steals for the Wildcats.

Dewayne Russell had 13 points and Blake Hamilton 11 for Northern Arizona, winless in 24 all-time games against ranked opponents.

The game marked the return of Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy to McKale Center.

Murphy spent eight years at Arizona under coach Lute Olson, working his way up from student manager to director of operations. He also spent time as an advance scout for the NBA's Denver Nuggets under George Karl and was an assistant to Josh Pastner at Memphis, so he's worked for some of the best minds in basketball.

Murphy will need that knowledge to turn around Northern Arizona, a program that lost its coach last season and its final 16 games to finish 5-24.

The Lumberjacks did manage to pull off a big upset during their forgetful 2011-12 season, knocking off Arizona State 69-68 in Tempe when Stallon Saldivar hit a 3-pointer with less than a second left.

The Wildcats gave them no shot of a repeat, spoiling Murphy's return shortly after the opening tip.

Arizona scored the game's first nine points and had a 16-point lead midway through the first half.

Johnson was the catalyst early, forcing a turnover to set up a breakaway dunk and sailing in for a dunk on an alley-oop pass from Jordin Mayes to score seven quick points. He also gave NAU trouble by repeatedly getting into the lane, setting up Grant Jerrett for a dunk with an in-traffic bounce pass for one of his four first-half assists.

The Wildcats had 10 assists on their 15 first-half field goals - in 27 shots - and led 39-26 after NAU's Russell hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer.

Lyons led Arizona with eight points in the first half and put the game way out of reach to open the second, hitting two 3-pointers that helped push the lead to 53-28 in the first 4 minutes.

Arizona's starting backcourt gave NAU's guards all kinds of trouble defensively.

Lyons forced Russell into a 5-second violation on the Lumberjacks' opening possession of the game and defensive pressure on the perimeter led to another turnover to start the second half.

Combined, they helped force NAU's top four guards into 10 of the team's 15 turnovers.

The Lumberjacks didn't shoot particularly well, either, missing 16 of their first 20 shots before hitting a few down the stretch, after the game had long been out of reach.

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

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With Burakovsky out, is Chandler Stephenson the next man up?

With Andre Burakovsky out for the remainder of the first round at least, someone will have to replace him in the top six. Originally, it looked like Jakub Vrana was the man for the job. Based on Game 4, however, it now looks like Chandler Stephenson is the "next man up" for the Caps.

While Vrana may have top-six skill and a high ceiling, it was Stephenson who stepped into the second-line role on Thursday playing alongside Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie. Stephenson finished with two shots on goal in 17:28 of ice time. Vrana, meanwhile, played for only 6:40.

On Friday, Barry Trotz praised Stephenson's hockey IQ for allowing him to adjust to the top-six in a complementary role.

"[Stephenson's] an intelligent player," Trotz said. "He played with [Backstrom] a lot [Thursday]. If you talk with the real top-end guys, he has the ability to think like a top-end guy in terms of play with them. He’s a very intelligent player. He skates extremely well. He’s got some strength to his game. He can complement people. I think his ability to play those different roles and his hockey IQ when you play with those skill guys, he plays more of a give-and-go game than an individual game. When you play with those high skill guys, you’re able to compliment them very well."

Stephenson has spent the majority of the season on the fourth line. He was drafted as a natural center, but has played primarily wing since coming to the NHL. The ability to play both positions gives Stephenson more versatility than most forwards which Trotz credits for helping him see the game so well.

"The great thing about Chandler is he’s played multiple positions over the years. I think it’s allowed him to play a fourth-line role and with high-skill guys. At center-ice, you distribute the puck a little more.  He’s turning into a well-rounded player for us."

On the surface, having Stephenson on the fourth line over Vrana makes little sense. Vrana is highly skilled and has great speed, but he is also prone to giving up turnovers and his production can be inconsistent. Trotz has clearly put a premium on responsible play this postseason which gives Stephenson the edge.

But Game 4 was only one game. If you are going to get top-six minutes, Stephenson will be expected to produce offensively as well. Despite the limited ice time he has gotten, Vrana has shown he can have a major impact on games. In Game 1, he set up the team's only 5-on-5 goal and drew a penalty. In Game 3, he drew two penalties in less than two minutes, giving Washington a two-man advantage.

Stephenson had a fantastic game in Game 4 when he was given the chance to play in the top-six. The next step will be finding a way to have a bigger impact on the game.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—All-Redskins mock, fast-fading interest in Dez

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, April 21, five days before the 2018 NFL draft.  

The Redskins week that was

A look at some of the most popular posts and hottest topics of the week on Real Redskins and NBC Sports Washington

Should the Redskins pursue Dez Bryant? This topic was one like a meteor, very hot for a short period of time before it quickly faded out. It started to heat up as soon as the Cowboys cut Dez (about a month too late) and when it was reported that he wanted to play against Dallas twice a year it really picked up steam. But then people started to actually think and figured out that signing Bryant didn’t make much sense for the Redskins. Add to that the reports that the Redskins had no interest and would not look into signing Dez in the future and the Redskins fans quickly lost enthusiasm for the topic.

Seven-round Redskins mock draft—I think that most Redskins fans would be happy with this mock. Well, I’ll say some Redskins fans, most is a pretty strong word in this case. 

Is the draft pool deep enough for the Redskins to trade back? There is plenty of talk about the Redskins trading down in the first round to recoup the third-round pick they gave up in the Alex Smith trade. But they need to be careful. Many consider the draft to be top heavy and they may lose their chance to pick up an impact player if they trade back too far. The question then becomes one of quality vs. quantity. 

Three questions as offseason workouts get underway—There will be plenty more questions that we can ask about this team. But we don’t really know what to ask before the draft, particularly when it comes to the defensive line and running back. One the personnel settle into place we will know what we don’t know. 

Tweet of the week

On Chris Cooley’s thought that the Redskins might try to trade back and get Da’Ron Payne in the draft and the use the assets obtained to move up to get Derrius Guice. 

This is related to the questions about trading back. On paper it looks like a good idea, assuming the Redskins want Payne. We’re pretty sure they would like to have Guice but we haven’t heard as much about the Alabama defensive lineman. 

I had many reply that Guice won’t be there in the second round. It’s possible, perhaps even likely, but you just don’t know. There was zero chance that Jonathan Allen would be there at No. 17 last year, right? 

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

Timeline  

Days until:

—OTAs start (5/22) 31
—Training camp starts (7/26) 96
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 141

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