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Pitt routs South Florida 27-3 for bowl eligibility

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Pitt routs South Florida 27-3 for bowl eligibility

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Ray Graham rushed for a pair of touchdowns and went over 1,000 yards Saturday night to help Pittsburgh become bowl eligible with a 27-3 rout of struggling South Florida.

Tino Sunseri threw for 211 yards and one TD for the Panthers (6-6, 3-4 Big East) to join Graham in giving Pitt a 3,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rusher in the same season for the first time in school history.

USF (3-9, 1-6) finished its second straight losing season by losing nine of 10 following a 2-0 start, a slide that could cost coach Skip Holtz his job. A year ago, the Bulls dropped seven of eight following a 4-0 start that vaulted them into the Top 25 before a 44-17 loss to Pitt.

Graham scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, Sunseri tossed a 2-yard TD pass to J.P. Holtz, and a Pitt defense that's allowed just nine points the past two weeks held USF 117 yards and forced four turnovers, including three interceptions of Matt Floyd in the redshirt freshman's second career start.

Pitt bounced back from losing its first two games to Youngstown State and Cincinnati to qualify for a postseason berth for the fifth straight season. Along the way, the Panthers gave top-ranked Notre Dame its toughest test before losing in triple overtime. They also rebounded from a disappointing loss to Connecticut to upset Rutgers 21-6 and put themselves in a position to extend their first season under coach Paul Chryst.

Despite forcing turnovers on the Bulls' first three possessions of the game, Pitt only led 13-0 at the half. Jason Hendricks' interception and 10-yard return to the USF 21 set up Graham's TD and a sack-fumble led to Kevin Harper's 25-yard field goal early in the second quarter.

USF failed to take advantage of Marcus Shaw's long kickoff return to the Pitt 48 when Floyd was intercepted for the second time after moving his team to third-and-goal at the Panthers 5. Linebacker Todd Thomas broke on a throw intended for Demetris Murray and returned the pick 33 yards up the left sideline.

Sunseri extended his streak of consecutive passing attempts without an interception to 270. However, Pitt failed to establish much of a rhythm on offense before getting in the end zone twice within a five-minute stretch of the third quarter. Graham's second TD put the Panthers up by 20, and Sunseri's 19th TD pass of the season made it 27-0.

USF fell to 16-21 under Holtz, who led the Bulls to an 8-5 record and their sixth consecutive bowl trip two years ago. He inherited a program built from scratch with expectations of contending for Big East titles, but has gone 5-16 in the conference.

An announced crowd of 35,141 that appeared much smaller booed when USF's career scoring leader Maikon Bonani trotted onto the field to kick a 25-yard field goal to avert a shutout.

Sunseri finished 19 of 25 and boosted his season passing total to 3,103. Graham gained 94 yards on 26 carries, topping 1,000 rushing for the first time in his career early in the second half and ending the night with 1,042.

Pitt beat USF for the fifth straight season and has won the past two contests by a combined score of 71-20 - 51-3 over the past six quarters of those meetings.

Floyd completed 12 of 25 passes for 93 yards. The Bulls were held to 8 yards rushing.

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Bradley Beal fouling out nearly changed the series, but Wizards rallied

Bradley Beal fouling out nearly changed the series, but Wizards rallied

After calling an inconsistent game throughout the night, the referees made a decision with five minutes to go in Game 4 that nearly altered the entire series between the Wizards and Raptors.

DeMar DeRozan was chasing a rebound on the baseline and ran into Bradley Beal. Beal, who had a team-high 31 points, was levied a sixth foul. He was out of the game with the score tied.

Beal had unloaded for 20 points in 12 minutes in the second half, but now the Wizards would have to close it out without their All-Star shooting guard. Somehow, they were able to seal the win and tie the series.

Beal heard the whistle as he laid on the ground. He immediately hopped up and unleashed a tantrum that nobody could blame him for. He jumped up and down, screaming at the referees, who had just called by all accounts a questionable foul and in a key moment of a playoff game.

Both Beal and head coach Scott Brooks were incensed and with good reason.

“I was beyond emotional, beyond mad, frustrated," Beal said. "I honestly thought they were going to kick me out of the game I was so mad, but I was happy they didn’t do that."

Beal is probably lucky the referees didn't take offense to his reaction because it continued when he was on the bench. He walked past his teammates and leaned over with his hands on his knees, still furious. Then he returned to the sideline to yell at the refs. Center Ian Mahinmi helped convince him to step back and cool off.

Beal has made a major difference in this series. He averaged 14.0 points in the first two games, both losses. He has averaged 29.5 points in Games 3 and 4, two Wizards wins.

Getting him out of the game was a major break for the Raptors, but they couldn't take advantage. The Wizards closed the final five minutes on a 14-6 tear. John Wall stepped up to lead the charge with eight of those points.

The Wizards still had one star on the court and he played like one.

“Just go in attack mode," Wall said. "When Brad went out, I knew I had to do whatever it took... I just wanted to do whatever, so that we could advance to Game 5, tied 2-2.”

Once Beal composed himself, his confidence grew in his teammates. He and Wall feel comfortable playing without each other because they have done so often throughout their careers.

This year, Wall missed 41 games due to a left knee injury. Two years ago, Beal missed 27 games. Early on in his career, he had trouble staying healthy. Now he is an iron man who played in all 82 games during the 2017-18 regular season.

Beal has grown accustomed to being on the floor a lot, but he realized he can still affect the game from the sidelines.

"I just gathered my emotions, gathered my thoughts and told my team we were going to win, regardless. I knew if we still had John [Wall] in the game I loved our chances," Beal said. "Face the adversity that I had to overcome, just gather myself and be a leader, being vocal and keeping everyone encouraged in the game.”

Wall and others did the heavy lifting in the end. The Wizards used Kelly Oubre, Jr. as the shooting guard with Beal out and he made key plays down the stretch, including a steal on Kyle Lowry in the closing seconds.

The Wizards were thrown a significant curveball and they overcame it to put themselves in good position now having won two straight.

“You have to have resolve to win in this league," Brooks said. "You win playoff games and you win playoff series with having that. We have that, and we have to continue to have that because we have to win two more games and one of them has to be on the road."

When it comes to the officiating, the Wizards deserve credit for their resilience and restraint early in Game 4. The Raptors had 16 free throws in the first quarter compared to the Wizards' four. Washington perservered and ended up with more free throws (31) than the Raptors (30) did for the game.

In Game 1, the Wizards appeared to be affected by a lack of foul calls. That came was called loosely by the referees, while this one was officiated tightly. Though Beal went off, the Wizards for the most part stayed the course and were rewarded for it.

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The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

The Wizards supplied all the highlights and fireworks; 5 must-see moments from Game 4

WASHINGTON -- As the home team in a dire situation you have to take advantage, and that is exactly what the Washington Wizards did in their 106-98 win over the Toronto Raptors.

Highlight reel play after highlight reel play, the Wizards ignited the crowd with some of their best plays from the entire season to make it 2-2 in the series. Here are just a few of them:

1. John Wall collects posters in the first half

The first one was perhaps the best. Everything was going wrong for the Wizards, poor turnovers, bad shots, a three from Toronto. Then John Wall had enough. Not only did he fly past his defender Kyle Lowry, but he went up and slammed one home past the 7-foot Jonas Valanciunas. Up until that point, the Wizards were shooting 1-for-7.

Rinse and repeat, except this time Jakob Poeltl was Wall’s victim.

2. Wall to Beal alley-oop in transition

With the Wizards’ offense faltering, the Raptors remained on the verge of blowing the game open throughout the second quarter. But with a steal from Otto Porter Jr., Wall hung up the ball for Bradley Beal to slam home. The alley-oop kept the Wizards within single digits in the second with an uninspiring offensive effort.

3. Otto Porter breaks out of the half

A subdued offensive start to the game was due in part to the production from Porter. In the first half he went 0-for-4 with one point in nearly 17 minutes of action.

Throw that away in the second half. He broke out of halftime with back-to-back threes and 10 of the Wizards’ 26 in a monster 26-14 run to take the lead back in the third.

He finished the quarter with 10 points, an assist, and two blocks.

4. The Polish Hammer throwing it home

Are you convinced yet that Marcin Gortat’s new haircut is doing him some good? Gortat squeezed through two Raptors’ defenders, threw it down, gave a Goliath-type roar to the crowd before officially bringing the hammer down. 

5. Beal being called for his sixth foul of the game

Agree with the call or not, there is no denying that Beal’s removal from the game lit a fire underneath the Wizards. From that point Washington went on a 14-6 scoring run to end the game, closing out for the win.

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