Wizards

Top 25 Capsules

Top 25 Capsules

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Andrew Smith scored 15 points, Kellen Dunham added 11 and No. 13 Butler used a stifling defense to pull away from Richmond for a 62-47 victory in its first Atlantic 10 Conference home game Wednesday night.

Butler (15-2, 3-0) heads into Saturday's home showdown with No. 8 Gonzaga on a 12-game winning streak. The Bulldogs won without top scorer Rotnei Clarke, who missed the game with a severely sprained neck and has already been ruled out of Saturday's game.

Richmond (11-7, 1-2) was led by Darien Brothers' 12 points but has lost two straight and five of seven. The Spiders were playing without their second-leading scorer, Derrick Williams, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained ankle.

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MARYLAND 51, No. 14 NORTH CAROLINA STATE 50

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) - Alex Len dropped in a missed shot by teammate Pe'Shon Howard with 00.9 seconds left for Maryland.

Howard drove the left side and came up short on a 5-footer, but the 7-foot-1 Len grabbed the ball in front of the rim and eased it through the hoop. It was Maryland's first win over a ranked team since March 3, 2010, against No. 4 Duke.

Len had 10 points for the Terrapins, who ended N.C. State's 10-game winning streak.

Maryland (14-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) has won 10 of 11 against the Wolfpack (14-3, 3-1), including five straight at home.

Lorenzo Brown scored 17 points for NC State and C.J. Leslie had 13. The Wolfpack came in leading the NCAA with a 52.8 shooting percentage, but in this one they shot a miserable 31.1 percent.

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No. 16 KANSAS STATE 67, TCU 54

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Rodney McGruder scored 21 points and Kansas State stretched its winning streak to seven games.

The Wildcats (14-2, 3-0 Big 12) got off to a slow start before taking control with a 19-4 run midway through the first half.

McGruder's layup with 11 minutes left in the first half tied the game at 10, after Kansas State had fallen behind 10-5. The Wildcats led for good when McGruder had a defensive rebound and turned that into a fastbreak 3-pointer by Will Spradling. A floater by McGruder stretched the lead to 24-14.

Adrick McKinney had 18 points and nine rebounds for TCU (9-8, 0-4).

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No. 17 MISSOURI 79, GEORGIA 62

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) - Earnest Ross scored 15 points to help Missouri rebound from its biggest loss of the season.

Alex Oriakhi had 13 points on 5-for-5 shooting, eight rebounds and four blocks for the Tigers (13-3, 2-1 SEC), who were held to a season-low 49 points in a 15-point loss at Mississippi on Saturday. Their second game without leading scorer Laurence Bowers, who has a sprained right knee, was a major improvement for a team that's 10-0 at home this season and 26-1 at the Mizzou Arena in two seasons under coach Frank Haith.

Vincent Williams had a career-best 23 points on 7-for-10 shooting for Georgia (6-10, 0-3), nine more than his previous best after entering with a 4.1-point average. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the Bulldogs' lone player averaging in double figures, added 15 points.

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No. 18 MICHIGAN STATE 81, PENN STATE 72

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. (AP) - Adreian Payne scored 20 points after spending the first half on the bench following a morning scuffle with Michigan State teammate Brandon Dawson.

Payne made up for lost time by dominating the post in the second half. He had 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting in a stretch of 6-plus minutes after entering the game with about 16:30 left.

Payne added a 3-pointer - only his second of the season - in the middle of a 20-8 run to help the Spartans (15-3, 4-1 Big Ten) pull ahead midway through the second half.

Penn State (8-9, 0-5) stayed closed much of the game in large part to Jermaine Marshall, who scored 22 of his career-high 29 points after halftime.

An argument between roommates Dawson and Payne escalated into an exchange of punches in a second-floor lobby of a Penn State campus hotel, before the Spartans boarded a bus for the Jordan Center.

Police were called after a wall was dented at the hotel. The players were expected to pay for the damage.

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No. 19 NEW MEXICO 79, BOISE STATE 74, OT

BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Tony Snell scored 22 points and Hugh Greenwood added 15 to lead New Mexico to the overtime win.

Snell and Greenwood dominated the overtime, teaming for nine of the Lobos' 16 points. The win was the third straight for the Lobos (16-2, 3-0 Mountain West Conference).

Derrick Marks scored 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting for Boise State (13-3, 1-1), which saw its seven-game winning streak snapped and have yet to beat New Mexico since joining the Mountain West last season.

Greenwood put the game into overtime when he took advantage of a Boise State miscue on defense and drove a wide-open lane for a layup, tying the score at 63 with 54 seconds left.

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No. 25 MARQUETTE 69, SETON HALL 62

MILWAUKEE (AP) - Reserve forward Davante Gardner scored 17 points to lead Marquette over injury-depleted Seton Hall, which had just eight available players.

The Golden Eagles (13-3, 4-0 Big East), who moved into the AP Top 25 on Monday for the first time this season, got 12 points from Todd Mayo to win their season-high sixth straight game.

Vander Blue had 11 points and four assists as the three Golden Eagles combined to go 17 of 18 from the free throw line to claim their 19th consecutive home victory.

Aaron Cosby had 15 points for Seton Hall (12-6, 1-4), which never led in the game.

Haralds Karlis added 14 points and six rebounds for the Pirates, who dropped their season-high fourth straight game.

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Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

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USA Today Sports Images

Scott Brooks preparing Wizards for much tougher road ahead

The Wizards entered the All-Star break having won seven of their previous nine games since John Wall went down with an injury, so a natural question to head coach Scott Brooks looking ahead to their first game back on Thursday was how he and his team can keep that momentum going in the second half.

Brooks immediately pointed to the Wizards' schedule, which gets notably more difficult in the coming weeks. They have a stretch of games over the next month-plus that features the best teams in basketball and Brooks knows that will be a big factor in whether they can sustain what they have going.

"Definitely the schedule gets tougher," Brooks said. "We've got a lot of good teams coming up starting with the first one in Cleveland. It's five games in seven nights against really good teams."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

In the next five weeks, the Wizards will play 15 of 17 games against teams currently holding playoff spots. That includes the Cavaliers, Warriors, Celtics, Spurs (twice), Raptors and Timberwolves. 

That will represent a marked shift for the Wizards, who to this point have the weakest strength of schedule. Though they boast impressive wins over the Celtics, Rockets, Raptors and Timberwolves, they are about to play teams of that caliber more frequently with few nights off to rest. They have four back-to-back sets all in the next three weeks.

The upcoming stretch has been on the Wizards' minds for a while. Several players referenced their tough schedule before the All-Star break, knowing those wins leading up to the time off could prove extra important in hindsight.

The Wizards return to action on Thursday night against the Cavaliers, a team that has already beaten them twice. Both of those games were against the old version of the Cavs before they traded much of their roster at the deadline.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

Gone are Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Isaiah Thomas, Iman Shumpert, Jae Crowder and Channing Frye. But they still have that guy LeBron James.

"Shoot, they looked good the other time, right? They beat us twice with the other group," Brooks noted. "LeBron is going to go down as one of the best ever. They are younger and more athletic. They're a good team and they still have an All-Star in [Kevin] Love who hasn't played because he's hurt."

The Cavs haven't lost in three games since the All-Star break and that includes road wins over the Celtics and Thunder. They look rejuvenated and, at least so far, improved from the aging, incongruent roster they had just weeks ago.

The Wizards have also been playing better lately, of course, and this upcoming stretch will be a major test for them. Wall has been out three weeks since he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee. He is likely to miss another three-to-five weeks. The Wizards will have to get through this without him.

If they can remain competitive and even beat some of these elite teams, they will only gain more confidence in their potential. That's the way Brooks plans to approach the schedule.

"We still want to be a better team when John comes back," Brooks said. "But the schedule definitely gets a lot tougher."

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS

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Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

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USA TODAY Sports

Braden Holtby puts loss to Tampa solely on his own shoulders

The mood in the Capitals locker room following a 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday was one of frustration. Forty minutes of strong play from Washington amounted to nothing because of a disastrous opening first period in which the Lightning jumped out to a 3-0 lead.

No one in the locker room was more frustrated than Braden Holtby.

"Obviously you don't want to go down three," he told reporters after the game. "That's on no one else but me. The third goal, especially the third, fourth goal, that's the difference in the game. I thought we played a really strong game against a really good team. We should have got a better result and that's on me why we didn't."

Tampa scored three goals in the first off of only eight shots. For the game, the Lightning managed to pierce Holtby four times off of only 19 shots.

RELATED: WHY THE CAPS LOST TO THE LIGHTNING

Frustration seemed to boil over on the fourth goal when a normally stoic Holtby was visibly upset after allowing Nikita Kucherov to beat him on a breakaway in a play similar to what we saw in the All-Star Game.

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"The key to getting better is learning from your mistakes and obviously I didn't do that," Holtby said. "I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn't trying to cheat towards that move and he came at it a different way. That's on me for not recognizing it. That's not a goal I can give up in that situation after our team battled the way they did, especially in the third."

The frustration Holtby feels likely is not the result of one goal, but the culmination of a recent slump that continues to plague the Vezina winner.

Holtby has lost four straight starts and has given up at least four goals in each of those games.

While Holtby was quick to take the blame for Tuesday's loss, head coach Barry Trotz was quick to defend his netminder.

"No one takes the loss," he said. "We all take a loss. I take a loss, the group takes a loss and Braden's part of the group. ... He's had a little tough stretch. It's no different than, we've got guys that haven't scored in 15, 20 games. It's no different than a player."

The challenge now is overcoming that slump.

For a slumping skater, Trotz could try different line combinations or play someone in different situations over the course of the game. Getting a starting goalie out of a slump, however, is more difficult. Most of the work has to be done in practice with the hope that it will carry over into the next game.

"You analyze how the goals are going in, what you're doing differently," Holtby said. "There's always some stuff that you can't control and stuff that you can and it's focusing on those contrallables that you can make a difference at. Like the first goal in Chicago, the last two goals here, those are goals that I could and should stop. You get to practice the next day and you focus on that and work hard until you figure it out so you don't do it again."

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Part of the problem in Washington is that team defense is the Caps' biggest weakness. For most of the season, and even in years past, Holtby has made up for much of the team's mistakes on the backend. Now that he is slumping those mistakes become much more glaring and costly.

"The goaltenders in this league are erasers," Trotz said.

Lately, Holtby has not been able to erase those mistakes.

But the team has already moved to address the defense. Brian MacLellan added a puck-moving defenseman in Michal Kempny to help the team get the puck out of the defensive zone more quickly. Waiving Taylor Chorney could also signify another move may be coming before Monday's trade deadline.

As for Trotz, even during the slump, he made clear his confidence in Holtby has not wavered.

"He has been a rock since the day I've been here the last four years and he's been an elite goaltender and I look at him that way."