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Arizona should get boost from knocking off Florida

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Arizona should get boost from knocking off Florida

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Arizona was largely ignored as it raced through the early part of its schedule.

Sure, the Wildcats were ranked in the top 10 and off to their best start in 14 years, but the schedule wasn't exactly difficult.

The perception should change after their pull-it-out-of-thin-air win over No. 5 Florida on Saturday night.

Rallying from six points down in the final minute to beat at top-five team? That's a pretty good statement.

``We're the real deal,'' sophomore guard Nick Johnson said. ``Everybody said something about our schedule before this and this was the opportunity to prove ourselves in front of the nation.''

They certainly did, though it took them a while to get going.

After winning its first seven games by an average of 20 points, No. 8 Arizona had its hands full in the McKale Center's first matchup between top 10 teams since 2004.

Deep and talented, the Gators also were undefeated coming in and had one of the nation's best defenses, holding teams to 48 points per game.

Florida's mix of zone and man defenses, not mention its size inside, gave the Wildcats all kinds trouble in the first half. Arizona managed to keep it close, only to fall behind by double digits again early in the second half.

The Wildcats managed to chip into the lead, only to fall back again.

Trailing 64-58 with a minute left, Arizona appeared to be done.

Instead, the Wildcats pulled off a magic act that likely will be remembered for a long time in Tucson.

It started with a couple of free throws by Kevin Parrom with 56 seconds left. Arizona's press created a turnover to set up a layup by Solomon Hill, then did it again to send Grant Jerrett to the line.

The freshman hit 1 of 2, leaving the Wildcats a point behind, so they were forced to foul Florida's Kenny Boynton. A 90 percent free-throw shooter this season, he missed with 21 seconds left and Arizona snared the rebound.

Mark Lyons ended up with the ball on the right side and, seeing he was being guarded by Florida's Patric Young, put his head down and charged toward the basket. Facing pressure from the 6-foot-9 center, Lyons angled his body and flipped up a shot that hit high off the glass and fell through with 7 seconds left.

Arizona's defense closed it out, forcing Florida to fumble the ball away before launching a desperation 3-pointer that was nowhere near going in.

The victory sent the Wildcats charging off the bench, a handful of students onto the floor and coach Sean Miller into the arms of athletic director Greg Byrne.

In the short term, it should give the Wildcats a big boost of confidence.

Long term, the come-from-behind victory over the No. 5 team in the country is going to look awfully good come March, maybe even into April.

``We didn't win the national championship tonight,'' Miller said. ``But what we did do is we have a win in our pocket that's going to be very, very meaningful because Florida isn't a good team - I think they have the makings of a great team.''

Arizona may as well, thanks to the addition of Lyons this season.

Miller has been a superb recruiter in his four seasons at Arizona, landing one stellar class after another.

His class last year netted Johnson and athletic forward Angelo Chol, and this year's class includes three of the best incoming big men in the country: Jerrett, Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski.

Combined with a solid core of upperclassmen, the Wildcats were going to be in good shape this season no matter what.

Lyons could put them over the top.

A former recruit of Miller's at Xavier, he led the Musketeers to the NCAA tournament three times, including the regional finals a year ago. As a graduate, he was allowed to transfer to Arizona without having to sit out, giving the Wildcats a heady, experienced point guard to lead all those young players.

Lyons struggled at times early in the season as he adjusted to new teammates, getting more turnovers than assists. Coming off a four-point game against Southern Miss on Dec. 4, he had a breakout game against Clemson, scoring 20 points while helping the Wildcats rally in the second half for a 66-54 win.

His confidence rising, Lyons stroked in some big shots against Florida, including his fearless drive over the outstretched arms of a player eight inches taller for the winning basket.

``We believe in a lot of guys on this team, but no one believes in Mark Lyons more than me,'' Miller said. ``I've seen him since he's been in 10th grade. Some guys are wired for the big moment, big stage. That big shot, he wants to take it or make the big play and no question when he drove I knew that something good was going to happen.''

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Rui Hachimura says, 'Kobe was a hero for me'

Rui Hachimura says, 'Kobe was a hero for me'

Kobe Bryant's popularity stretched far beyond the United States. He was a global icon and especially loved in Asia. 

Following the NBA star's shocking death on Sunday, the entire sports world grieved and shared fond memories of Bryant all over social media. 

Rui Hachimura grew up in Japan idolizing Bryant, so he took to Twitter a day after the accident to share his thoughts on his hero.  

"I was very shocked to hear of this incident," Hachimura said. "I really can't believe it. I can't speak. Kobe is also a hero to me, and I've seen [him] a lot since I was little. I have met him only once.

"Three years ago, during [the] Final 4, [Bryant gave] a special pair of shoes as a surprise to the team," he said. "Not only that, he talked about what Mamba Mentality is and what people should be before basketball players. 

"He was more than just a basketball player," he said. "It is really sad that this accident was like this. I wish good luck to his family and those who have been involved in this accident. Thanks, Kobe."

After Michael Jordan retired, Bryant became the most popular player in Japan. Along with Hachimura, he inspired players like Grizzlies forward Yuta Watanabe to play the game of basketball in the first place. 

Similar to what made Bryant so popular in the United States, Japan loved him for his tireless work ethic and killer instinct on the court. That's what earned him 15 All-NBA selections and five NBA titles, and along with his efforts off the court post-retirement, earned him the love and respect of so many people around the world. 

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Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

Ravens' options in a potential Matthew Judon trade

According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Ravens have expressed interest in moving on from Matthew Judon through a trade this offseason. 

Judon, who isn’t under contract for next season, was tied for 19th in the league in sacks with 9.5 — a team-high. He was also the team-leader in quarterback hits with 33. The next best pass-rusher was Tyus Bowser, who registered 10. 

Lined up for a big payday, and with a high-priced franchise tag an option, the Ravens could lose their second pass-rusher in as many years on the free agent market should they elect to not pay Judon the elite pass-rusher money he’ll likely command.

Which brings the Ravens to the report from Schefter that indicated the team could move on from Judon, 27, through the sign-and-trade route. 

Should Judon, or the Ravens, walk away from the negotiating table in free agency, two options exist: The Ravens could either let him walk freely to another team and likely receive a 2021 third-round pick as compensation, or place the franchise tag on Judon. 

With the franchise tag option, the Ravens could keep him for a season and essentially kick the can down the road for a year, or trade him for a return that would likely be greater than the compensatory third, and more importantly, the help would be immediate. 

A few weeks ago, coach John Harbaugh said re-signing Judon would be, “pretty hard,” but that the team was going to try.  

But if the Ravens aren’t able, or are unwilling, to sign Judon, a potential blueprint for a future trade might have been laid out last year by the Chiefs. 

Last season, the Chiefs traded Dee Ford to the 49ers for a second-round pick just a month before they sent first and third-round picks to the Seahawks for Frank Clark and a third-round pick.

Ford had 13 sacks in 2018 and 29 quarterback hits while Clark had 13 as well and 27 quarterback hits. They both immediately signed long-term, expensive contracts with their new teams. 

Baltimore could make a move similar to that with Judon and get better, and more immediate, compensation for him and later add a pass-rusher with the draft capital than the team added.

The Ravens have just under 29 million dollars in cap space, meaning they’ve got the space to sign Judon to a long-term deal or keep him on the franchise tag, but they’d need to make some moves to be able to field a full roster. And that full roster, if Judon isn’t in Baltimore in 2020, needs pass-rushing help. 

Baltimore had 37 sacks as a team, and just over a quarter of them came from Judon. It also had 111 total quarterback hits, and 29.7 percent came from Judon. 

So the report that the Ravens could move Judon could play out, perhaps the most interesting aspect of a Judon trade would be the replacement the Ravens would need to have lined up.

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