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Austin Hollins leads No. 9 Minnesota past NW 69-51

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Austin Hollins leads No. 9 Minnesota past NW 69-51

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Austin Hollins hit five 3-pointers during an impressive three-minute stretch in the second half, finishing with 19 points and sparking ninth-ranked Minnesota to a 69-51 victory over Northwestern on Sunday night.

Hollins missed his career scoring high by one, collecting 17 points during a 26-7 run that gave the Gophers a 45-25 lead. Minnesota (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten) has won 10 in a row for its longest winning streak since it opened the 2008-09 season with 12 straight victories.

Dave Sobolewski had 10 points, five assists and four steals for the Wildcats (9-6, 0-2), who were outrebounded 47-20. That's the fewest rebounds by a Gophers opponent all season.

Reggie Hearn returned for Northwestern after missing two games because of a sprained left ankle, finishing with 11 points. But the Wildcats, missing star Drew Crawford because of season-ending shoulder surgery, couldn't keep up down the stretch.

Hollins hit his first four 3-pointers from almost exactly the same spot on the left wing. After a timeout, he moved to the right corner and swished one from there, too, drawing a chant of his name from the impressed crowd.

Northwestern hasn't won at Minnesota since coach Tubby Smith took over for the 2007-08 season.

This was an important win for the Gophers, who play at No. 11 Illinois and No. 5 Indiana next week. It was the fewest points allowed by Minnesota in a Big Ten game in almost two years, since giving up 45 to Iowa on Feb. 13, 2011.

The Wildcats were stuck with a daunting start to the Big Ten season, with five of their first seven conference games against teams ranked this week in the top 11 of The Associated Press poll, though a lot of teams will face similar stretches this year in this top-heavy league.

In a 94-66 loss to No. 2 Michigan on Thursday, the Wildcats were lured by the Wolverines into an up-and-down, faster pace they can't play. So in this one, coach Bill Carmody made sure his team stayed with the usual deliberate offensive style that complements the tricky 1-3-1 zone defense.

The strategy worked for a while.

The Gophers helped the Wildcats by missing their first five free throws, ending the slide in the final minute of the first half when Williams swished a pair, prompting a mock cheer from the restless crowd and pushing Minnesota's lead to 17-13.

What gives this Gophers team a true advantage over a lot of opponents is defense - currently the conference leader in blocks and steals - to endure a shooting slump in an ugly game. The first offensive highlight came with 14:22 remaining when Mbakwe drove into the lane and finished with a tomahawk dunk to bring the fans to their feet and put the Gophers in front 26-18. He set that up, though, by jumping in the lane and using his exceptional reach to swat a short shot by Alex Olah.

Then Hollins took over. He made two of three foul shots, and Williams cut across the lane to catch the rebound of his miss with one hand and smoothly tip the ball for a banked-in put-back.

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Evgeny Kuznetsov accepts IIHF suspension for cocaine while Capitals, NHL lay out next steps

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Evgeny Kuznetsov accepts IIHF suspension for cocaine while Capitals, NHL lay out next steps

After news broke of Evgeny Kuznetsov’s four-year suspension by the IIHF for testing positive for cocaine, the Capitals center released a statement Friday accepting the suspension and expressing his regret for the situation 

Said Kuznetsov:

"Recently, the IIHF notified me that, due to a positive test for a banned substance, I would be suspended from international competition for four years. I have made the decision to accept this penalty. Representing my country has always been so close to my heart and something I take so much pride in. Not being able to put that sweater on for four years is very hard to take. I have disappointed so many people that are important to me, including my family, teammates and friends. From the first day I took the ice in D.C., the Washington Capitals organization and our fans have been nothing but great to me and my family. I feel absolutely terrible for letting you down. I realize that the only way I can win you back is to take ownership of my situation and my actions from this point forward."

The question now is what happens next?

Both the Capitals and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly also released statements on Friday saying that Kuznetsov “has voluntarily sought help through the education and counseling program provided for in the NHL/NHLPA collective bargaining agreement and has agreed to a regular testing protocol relating to his involvement with that program.”

In addition, Kuznetsov will meet with commissioner Gary Bettman “to discuss his situation and review his conduct prior to the start of Training Camp preceding the 2019-20 season.”

While the positive test has resulted in a four-year suspension with the IIHF, it is unclear if any such discipline will be levied on Kuznetsov by the NHL.

Said Daly, “Unlike the IIHF, cocaine is not considered a performance-enhancing drug and is therefore not a Prohibited Substance under the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program.  Instead, it is considered a drug of abuse that is tested for and for which intervention, evaluation and mandatory treatment can occur in appropriate cases.”

Daly left the door open for NHL discipline as he concluded, “We intend to reserve further comment on any additional actions that may or may not be taken with respect to today’s announcement (disciplinary or otherwise) pending the completion of the Commissioner’s meeting with Mr. Kuznetsov.”

The Capitals, meanwhile, expressed support for Kuznetsov saying “we are committed to ensuring he has the necessary support required to work through this situation.”

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Evgeny Kuznetsov receives IIHF suspension after testing positive for cocaine

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Evgeny Kuznetsov receives IIHF suspension after testing positive for cocaine

Evgeny Kuznetsov has been suspended for four years by the IIHF after testing positive for cocaine, the organization announced Friday. The test was found in a sample taken on May 26, 2019, at the World Championship.

The suspension will last through June 12, 2023.

A video posted on Twitter in May showed Kuznetsov in a hotel room next to lines of an unidentified white powder. The Capitals center released a statement afterward saying that he has “never taken illegal drugs in my life and career.” He also claimed the video was from 2018 in Vegas after Washington won the Stanley Cup.

After a review, both the NHL and the Capitals accepted Kuznetsov’s explanation of the situation and considered the matter closed.

A team official told NBC Sports Washington on Friday that the team does intend to make an official comment on the news of Kuznetsov’s suspension.

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