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Pitt beats Lehigh 78-53 in NIT Season Tip-Off

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Pitt beats Lehigh 78-53 in NIT Season Tip-Off

PITTSBURGH (AP) Tray Woodall scored a season-high 23 points and Talib Zanna tied a career-high with 20 as Pittsburgh crushed Lehigh 78-53 in the NIT Season Tip-Off on Tuesday night.

Woodall added eight assists for the Panthers (3-0), who will play Michigan in the tournament semifinals next week.

Pitt kept Lehigh's C.J. McCollum in check for most of the night. The senior preseason All-American finished with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting but was a nonfactor when Pitt broke it open.

The Mountain Hawks (1-2) hung tough during the first half but had no answer during a 21-5 burst by Pitt early in the second half. Zanna scored seven straight points during the run while Woodall sandwiched layups around a basket by Steven Adams as Pitt turned a 35-32 lead into a comfortable 56-37 cushion.

Lehigh, which upset Duke in last year's NCAA tournament, shot just 32 percent in the second half.

The Panthers are looking to erase the memory of last season, when they endured the worst year of coach Jamie Dixon's tenure. Pitt missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade and lacked the kind of typical offensive efficiency that's been one of the program's hallmarks under Dixon.

Those issues appear to have disappeared.

Dixon's decision to start freshman James Robinson at point guard has taken some of the pressure off Woodall to do everything and allowed him to play with more freedom. The fifth-year senior is thriving and so are the Panthers.

Pitt had 17 assists on its 29 baskets and outscored Lehigh 36-12 in the paint, many of them layups for big guys like Zanna and Steven Adams created by Woodall.

Woodall fed Adams for a dunk during the game-turning run that pushed Pitt's lead to double digits. He added a 3-pointer a minute later then pump faked, drew a defender and fed Zanna for another easy basket.

The Mountain Hawks simply couldn't keep up. Gabe Knutson added 12 points but Lehigh was outrebounded 38-22 and had just five assists while turning it over 15 times. Coach Brett Reed exhausted his timeouts during Pitt's surge, but it did little to slow down the Panthers.

Pitt - which struggled at home last season - had little trouble the rest of the way against one of the country's better mid-major programs.

The Mountain Hawks stunned second-seeded Duke in the NCAA tournament last spring and have one of the best guards in the country in McCollum, who bypassed on the NBA to help raise his draft stock and guide Lehigh to another Patriot League title.

McCollum wasted little time asserting himself, scoring Lehigh's first five points, though he had plenty of help during a back-and-forth first half that featured nine lead changes and six ties. Pitt eventually moved in front 35-30 at the break on the strength of the quickly improving Zanna, who has emerged as the Panthers' top big man early in the season.

Slipping into open spaces and being assertive with the ball in his hands, Zanna exploited his size advantage to overwhelm the undersized Mountain Hawks in the lane.

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

How the Caps won their first round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets

Things did not look good for the Capitals after two games.

Facing a 0-2 series hole after losing both games in Washington, it looked like it could be an early summer. The Caps were going to be the first team to ever lose a series in the playoffs to the Columbus Blue Jackets.

HOW DID THE CAPS WIN THEIR SERIES AGAINST COLUMBUS? FIND OUT HERE

But the Caps rallied.

Washington won the next four games and turned what looked like it would be another postseason disaster into a postseason triumph.

Only once in franchise history had the Caps rallied from a 0-2 deficit and only once had the Caps won four straight games to win a series. They managed both against the Blue Jackets.

Here's how the Caps were able to rally to a first-round victory over Columbus.