NCAA

Vokoun shuts out Rangers in Penguins' 3-0 win

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Vokoun shuts out Rangers in Penguins' 3-0 win

NEW YORK (AP) Tomas Vokoun stopped 28 shots for his 49th NHL shutout, and the Pittsburgh Penguins scored on the first shot of the first and third periods in a 3-0 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.

Evgeni Malkin gave the Penguins the lead just 1:24 in, James Neal added a power-play goal 28 seconds into the third - after another costly too many men on the ice penalty for the Rangers - and Simon Despres netted his second NHL goal to give Pittsburgh (4-3) its second win in five games.

Malkin added an assist, as did captain Sidney Crosby, on Neal's goal. Despres came out of the penalty box to score at 10:23 of the third right after Rangers defenseman Anton Stralman hit the post at the other end.

Pittsburgh is winless at home but 4-1 on the road. The Penguins have two wins in New York this season, one fewer than the host Rangers, who had won three of four overall.

Vokoun was steady throughout in earning his 289th NHL victory, but wasn't challenged much by the Rangers (3-4), who have scored two goals or fewer in four games. He was bailed out twice in the third by drives that struck posts behind him.

New York struggled to generate offense in its first game without captain Ryan Callahan, expected to be sidelined 10-14 games by a shoulder injury sustained Tuesday in a win against Philadelphia.

Vokoun, who relieved goalie Marc-Andre Fleury in Pittsburgh's 4-1 loss to the New York Islanders on Tuesday, got another start against the Rangers. Vokoun (2-1) has split time with Fleury and has played in four games. His only wins this season have come at Madison Square Garden.

The Penguins jumped on the Rangers early, just as they did in New York's home opener on Jan. 20 when Pittsburgh chased goalie Henrik Lundqvist from the net.

Malkin fired a drive from the lower portion of the right circle that got through a screen and beat the surprised Lundqvist at 1:24. Pittsburgh scored just 1:48 into the previous matchup - the first of three first-period goals en route to a 6-3 victory.

Lundqvist, who has played in every game this season, made 26 saves.

Play was disjointed in the second period and filled with numerous offsides and icing calls along with a variety of penalties on each side. The Rangers were whistled for four penalties, including the too many men call that carried over into the third period.

New York coach John Tortorella fumed Tuesday after Carl Hagelin jumped onto the ice early, a penalty that led directly to Philadelphia's only goal in the Rangers' 2-1 win. Tortorella was no happier after this one.

The call came right after the Rangers managed to keep their deficit at one goal when Lundqvist deflected away a drive by Crosby on a breakaway with 50 seconds left in the middle period.

Crosby was already aggravated in the opening minute of the second when he was knocked down after the whistle by defenseman Dan Girardi, who was called for roughing.

The Rangers showed aggressiveness several times after play was stopped, including in the first when Marc Staal engaged in a scuffle behind the New York net with Malkin. Both players were sent off for roughing, a similar situation to Tuesday when Callahan was injured in a tussle with Max Talbot.

NOTES: Vokoun, a 14-year veteran, is the only NHL goalie with at least four shutouts each season since 2005-06. ... Rangers D Matt Gilroy made his season debut, taking the lineup spot created by Callahan's injury. ... Pittsburgh claimed LW Zach Boychuk off waivers from the Carolina Hurricanes. He is expected to join the team on Friday. ... D Robert Bortuzzo made his season debut for Pittsburgh. D Ben Lovejoy sat out. ... The Rangers were 0 for 4 on the power play and are 3 for 28 this season.

2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

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2018 Big South Tournament Bracket, How to watch, Dates, Preview, Location

The Big South conference had a surprising start to their league play this year with preseason favorites UNC-Asheville and Winthrop losing two of their first three games.  Since, things have settled down in the Big South with those two squads separating themselves from the pack late in the season.

This 2017-18 season, the Big South is a single bid conference but does have opportunities to get a couple of teams into the NIT. Depending on how this tournament plays out, there may be two or three teams in the second biggest tournament in the country.

READ MORE: NCAA TOURNAMENT BUBBLE WATCH

Like always the tournament will be hosted at multiple sites. The first round will be on campus-sites with the No.7 and No. 8 teams hosting their respective games. From there, the remaining teams will head to Asheville, NC for two rounds as the Bulldogs earned the No. 1 seed. The highest remaining team will then host the championship game.

Home-court advantage will clearly be a factor for which ever team hosts, but it has also been a theme of the Big South. Combined, the entire conference is 88-38 at their home court. Only Liberty has a winning record on the road at 5-4. The host of the quarterfinals and semifinals, UNC-Asheville, is 13-1 at Kimmel Arena. The lone loss being against Liberty.

Only one year in this format, Winthrop won the championship in 2016-17 as the hosts.

TOURNAMENT INFORMATION:

When is the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be Tues. Feb 27, March 1-2, and the Big South championship is on March 4.

Where is the Big South Tournament?
The Big South tournament will primarily be hosted at Kimmel Arena in Asheville, North Carolina. The higher seeds will host the first round match-ups. The Big South Championship will also be at the highest seed’s home court.

How to watch the Big South Tournament?

The Big South Tournament will be televised as a part of ESPN’s family of networks, excluding the first round. The first round can be seen on the Big South Network, the quarterfinals and semifinals will be streamed on ESPN3, and ESPN will televise the Big South Championship.

Who is the defending Big South Champion?

The Winthrop Eagles won the 2016-17 Big South Championship after hosting the main portion of the tournament. It was the Eagles 11th Big South Championship in their history, the most ever in the Big South.

2018 BIG SOUTH TOURNAMENT BRACKET:

First Round – Tuesday, Feb. 27

No. 9 Presbyterian at No. 8 Charleston Southern 7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)
No. 10 Longwood at No. 7 High Point                     7:00 pm (Big South Network/ Roku)

Quarterfinals - Thursday, March 1

7/10 Winner vs. No. 2 Radford                     1:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 6 Gardner-Webb vs. No. 3 Winthrop   3:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
8/9 Winner at No. 1 UNC Asheville              7:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
No. 5 Liberty vs. No. 4 Campbell                  9:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Semifinals - Friday, March 2

TBD vs. TBD                          6:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)
TBD vs. TBD                          8:00pm, at Asheville, NC (ESPN3)

Big South Championship - Sunday, March 4

TBD vs. TBD                          1:00pm, higher seed host (ESPN)

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PREVIEW:

Even as the No. 3 seed and losers of their last two games, Winthrop is probably still the favorite heading into the tournament. Their offense is one of the highest scoring in all of college basketball (80.7 ppg), with Xavier Cooks scoring 17.6 ppg (3rd in Big South). However, the Eagles’ offense is not powered entirely behind three-point shooting, it is done with balance on both sides of the ball. They have the best two-point shooting percentage in the league (47.3 percent), lead the Big South in rebounding averages, blocks, and field goal defense. In addition, their guards’ three point shooting ability is pretty good too at 37.5 percent and making 9.5 deep balls a game.

However, when they go quiet from long range or another team matches their three-point shooting for a contest, they are susceptible. Also as defending champs, they have been here before and are motivated to get back to the NCAA Tournament.

As the Big South tournament hosts, UNC Asheville will have a leg up on the competition, but they have not been as dominant as a top seed should be. The Bulldogs are one of the most consistent teams in the conference with all five starters scoring in double figures each game. If one is betting, they are the safe bet to win it all based on what is mentioned above.

While Radford was a pleasant surprise throughout league play, do not anticipate that they will be a contender. They are eighth in scoring in the conference (68.2) and around the same mark when it comes to shooting. Their defense has bailed them out as probably one of the top defensive units in the league, but their leading scorer is a post player, Ed Polite Jr.  (13.6 ppg) and if shut down in the paint, there is no offense.

Liberty is the darkhorse in the Big South Tournament. The do boast the best defensive numbers in the conference (64.0 points against per game) and have a high-powered offense, although it is spotty.  Two players are shooting well above 40 percent or better from behind the arc. Dominating the boards, they limit other team’s second chance opportunities. Do not bet against the Flames in a one-on-one contest.

PICK: No. 3 Winthrop

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

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Wizards vs. Sixers: TV, live stream and radio info, things to watch

Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre, Jr. and the Washington Wizards battle Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick and the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday night.

Here is all you need to know: TV, live stream and radio info, tip-off time, plus three things to watch:

WASHINGTON WIZARDS VS. PHILADELPHIA 76ERS

Where: Capital One Arena
Tip-off: 8 p.m.
TV: NBC Sports Washington (coverage begins at 7 p.m.)
Live stream: NBCSportsWashington.com
Radio: 1500 AM

Another test

The Wizards continue their difficult stretch coming out of the All-Star break against a very dangerous Sixers team. Philly has proven to be very streaky this season, but right now they are rolling. They come to Washington having won their last seven games dating back to Feb. 6 when they beat the Wizards at the Wells Fargo Center. The Wizards are also playing well, having won eight of their last 11, despite their loss to the Hornets on Friday.

The Sixers are currently seventh in the East and appear on track to make the playoffs. If they keep rising the standings, they could meet the Wizards, who are currently fourth, in the first round. 

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Season series

Speaking of the playoffs, this game could end up looming large for postseason seeding. The Sixers have won two of the three matchups between these teams this year. If they win on Sunday, they will take the season series and own the tiebreaker over Washington.

If the two teams tie head-to-head and end up with the same record at the end of the season, it will then come down to conference record. The Sixers currently have a better record against East teams than the Wizards. But if they can beat Philly this time, the Wizards will have a chance to secure the conference tiebreaker down the stretch of this season.

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Sixers are tough to guard

The Wizards have found out the hard way this season just how difficult it can be to match up with the Sixers, who are led by two emerging stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Embiid is 7-foot-1 with rare abilities to stretch the floor and beat opponents off the dribble. Simmons is 6-foot-10, yet can lead the fastbreak with rare speed and vision to find his teammates with crisp passes.

The mobility for their size is almost unmatched and it has not been easy for the Wizards to answer. In their last meeting earlier this month, Simmons had 15 points, eight assists, six rebounds and three steals. Embiid had 27 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks. The Wizards have to try to limit those guys while also dealing with other challenges like Robert Covington, Dario Saric and J.J. Reddick.

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