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Whittington, Georgetown top Liberty

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Whittington, Georgetown top Liberty

One challenge presenting the Hoyas this season involved replacing their top three scorers from the previous campaign. No one said anything about getting by without All-American candidate Otto Porter. Through two games, that's been the task. Against Liberty, the burden was hardly a chore, though any sense of urgency disappeared early in the second half.

With the All-American candidate sidelined over concussion concerns, fellow sophomore Greg Whittington carried the scoring load as Georgetown moved past the visiting Big South program 68-59 on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center in the regional round of the Legends Classic.

Whittington scored 12 of his career-high 18 points in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds for the Hoyas, who led by 16 points at halftime and double digits throughout until the final minute.

Before tipoff, the school released a statement from Coach John Thompson III that Porter, the Hoyas (2-0) leading returning scorer and rebounder, would not play as he "exhibited symptoms indicative of a mild concussion," following Sunday's 61-55 win over Duquesne.

Porter played a scoreless six minutes against Duquesne, holding his head and wincing in pain as he left the game for good midway through the first half. The 6-foot-8 forward and Preseason All Big East first-team selection did not return to the bench, though he watched from the sideline against Liberty after playing in the first 34 games of his Georgetown career.

"I think he's coming along fine," Thompson said following the Hoyas final tune-up before facing No. 13 UCLA on Monday in Brooklyn. After the semifinal of the Legends Classic, Georgetown will meet either top-ranked Indiana or Georgia on Tuesday.

"I think he'll be available but that's up to our medical staff," Thompson said. "He's progressing. It's mild, it's not moderate, or it's not serious."

Against the undersized Flames (0-3), the black suit sporting Porter watched his gray-jersey wearing teammates handle their business, but also play down to their overmatched opponent in stretches. The Hoyas extended their lead to 55-32 with 13 minutes remaining, but took their foot of the gas and ultimately outscored 34-27 in the second half.

"With all due respect to Liberty, we've got some games coming up, we're preparing for some teams a little bit better than them," said junior Nate Lubick, who also set a career-high with 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. "We use these games to find ourselves, to find what this team's identity is going to be...I think we've kind of struggled to do that the past two games. I don't think our sense of urgency has been there."

Liberty made its first two shots for a quick four-point lead only to see the Hoyas unleash an effective full court press that caused 11 first half turnovers and spark a 17-0 run.

Playing without three frontcourt options and with only one starter taller than 6-foot-5, the Flames found success from beyond the arc. Five first-half 3-pointers helped cut into the lead at 23-18, but the Hoyas closed the first half on 18-6 run.

Markel Starks' perfectly executed bounce pass to a streaking Whittington for a layup capped the first half scoring and gave Georgetown its largest lead of the half at 41-25. Whittington made 6 of 8 shots in the first half and the Hoyas finished 16 of 26 (61.5 percent).

"[Greg] has that responsibility slash burden to do a lot of different things," Thompson said of his other talented sophomore forward and the one who dominated the boards in Georgetown's season opener. "I don't think it's any surprise to see he scored points today no more than it was a surprise that he got 15 rebounds the last game."

Whittington's 3-point touch was not readily apparent, however, missing all five of his attempts. He was hardly an outlier from distance as Georgetown shot 2 of 15 overall from beyond the arc, missing eight of nine 3-pointers after halftime.

Defensively the Hoyas allowed Liberty to shoot 52.6 percent (10 of 19) from 3-point range. The Flames entered the contest making 27 percent of their 3-point attempts.

"They got Sunday, out at the park shots and they went in," Thompson said of the Flames from distance looks. "Our attention to detail at the defensive end, I don’t think was good all night. Our communication was not good all night, so regardless of the combinations coach has out there, we have to be better."

Casey Roberts led Liberty with 13 points.

"We probably caught Georgetown on a night that they weren't quite as inspired as they will be later in the year. It's understandable," Liberty coach Dale Layer said. "I thought we played our best that we've played, and it took every bit of our best just to kind of hang in there and not be a 30-point blowout."

Mikael Hopkins also tallied 13 points and freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 11. On the boards, the taller Hoyas only finished with a 29-27 rebounding margin.

"[Liberty] fought and scrapped and that’s a credit to their coach," Thompson said. "From our perspective, we’re trying to get ready for the future. So sometimes, you have in different lineups that you want to see how they work and different combinations and people in different positions. It’s hard to go through that and say let’s not look at the scoreboard, let’s remember what we’re trying to accomplish right here."

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Capitals vs. Pengiuns Preview: Three keys to how this year could be different for the Caps

Capitals vs. Pengiuns Preview: Three keys to how this year could be different for the Caps

The Washington Capitals enter the 2018 NHL Playoffs Eastern Conference Second Round in a similar position. A Metro division championship in hand and a seven-game series with the Pittsburgh Penguins. But while this year appears the same, the Caps are hoping for a different outcome. Will they finally be able to beat their arch rival and reach the conference final?

Here are three keys that will determine if this year will be different for the Caps.

Capitals vs. Penguins Preview:

Key to Victory No. 1: Discipline:

In the Capitals' two victories over the Penguins this season, Washington did not give up a power play goal. No team had a better power play unit during the regular season than the Penguins and we already saw how much foolish penalties hurt the Caps in the first round. Washington took 24 penalties in six games against the Blue Jackets and that is far too many.

They cannot win that way against the Penguins.

The problem is that in the second round with a heated rival, tempers can flare a bit. Just look at the last time these two teams played when Malkin was shooting Oshie's stick off the ice and tried to fight Kuznetsov for speaking Russian to him. Still, the Caps are going to have to keep their emotions in check.

Key to Victory No. 2:  Getting the goaltending advantage: 

The scoring depth of Pittsburgh is unmatched. The fact that a team can have Crosby, Malkin and Kessel all on the same team in the salary cap era is mind-boggling. Oh, and by the way, Jake Guentzel scores every time he touches the puck in the playoffs. Washington cannot win this series if they do not get better goaltending than Pittsburgh.

The good news is that Murray was not lights out in the first round. Yes, he had two shutouts, but there were also three games in which he let in at least four goals. A .911 save percentage is not where the Penguins really need him to be. The bad news is that while Holtby is statistically one of the best playoff netminders in NHL history, he struggles against Pittsburgh. In last year's series, Holtby managed only a .887 save percentage and 2.57 GAA.

One thing to keep in mind, on April 1 Grubauer started a critical game in Pittsburgh and was phenomenal. Could Trotz possibly think of going back to Grubauer if Holtby struggles against the Penguins?

Keys to Victory No. 3: The Mind Games

 Let's face it, there is a mental aspect to the Capitals' postseason struggles. When it comes to beating Pittsburgh or getting past the second round, this has become a mental hurdle. They have to come into this series with confidence they can win and maintain that confidence throughout, regardless of whether they get down in a game or in the series, regardless of whether there is a bad penalty call, regardless of whether Murray stands on his head again, regardless of any of the struggles they may face, they have to stay mentally confident.

When the Caps went down 0-2 against Columbus, Ovechkin said that the series would return to Washington tied at 2. The way he said it, it wasn't a guarantee or some massive proclamation, it was a statement of fact. Both he and the rest of the team believed they were going to come back and win the series. They need that level of confidence against Pittsburgh as well.

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Dez Bryant turned down multi-year deal from Ravens, is banking on himself in 2018

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Dez Bryant turned down multi-year deal from Ravens, is banking on himself in 2018

If you want to sign Dez Bryant in 2018, it will have to be on a one-year deal.

The 29 year-old wide receiver turned down a multi-year offer from the Baltimore Ravens in hopes of finding a one-year deal that enables him to test the open market again in 2019, Ed Werder of The Doomsday Podcast first reported.

Bryant - who finished 2017 with 69 receptions, 838 yards and six touchdowns -  is predicating a bounce back season in 2018 with hopes of a big money, long-term contract in 2019.

The offer was similar to that of Michael Crabtree's three-year, $21 million deal, according to NFL Insider Ian Rapoport. The Ravens had to offer Bryant a multi-year deal in order to fit his number under the salary cap.

Since turning down their offer, the Ravens signed former Saints WR Willie Snead to a two-year, $10.4 million contract. 

Bryant will now have to wait until after the 2018 NFL Draft to work out a deal with an organization, if one is still searching for a wide receiver going in to the tail end of his career. 

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