Back in Top 25, Cowboys seek more growth


Back in Top 25, Cowboys seek more growth

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) Now that Oklahoma State is back in the Top 25 for the first time in five years, the 24th-ranked Cowboys want to show they really belong.

For top scorer Le'Bryan Nash, that means playing the very best no matter who happens to be the opponent.

The Cowboys (8-1) are going through a rare six-game home stand that ends with a much-anticipated New Year's Eve game against No. 14 Gonzaga. The challenge for coach Travis Ford been maintaining focus up until then.

There's been even more chatter about the Gonzaga game - one of the highest-profile nonconference opponents to play at Gallagher-Iba Arena in years - following the announcement that booster Boone Pickens had agreed to pay for all of the remaining tickets to be given away free.

``It was getting a lot of notoriety what Mr. Pickens did for us and things like that, which is wonderful and great, but everybody's been wanting to talk about that,'' Ford said. ``That game seems so far away right now, it's unbelievable.''

Instead, Ford is concerned with practices that haven't been as productive as he would like because Brian Williams and Marek Soucek are both out with injuries. The roster previously had been thinned by several players transferring and Darrell Williams' departure following his conviction on felony counts of rape by instrumentation and sexual battery.

As a result, there have been growing pains with some ugly basketball in stretches during victories against overmatched opponents.

``We can sit here and talk about it, make excuses for it, and that's basically what I'm sitting here doing,'' Ford said. ``We would rather play games. Our practices, we just don't have a whole lot of bodies. We're not getting a whole lot done at practice. We're really not.''

Ford said most of the Cowboys' development has come in 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 sessions. When the real games come along, Oklahoma State has had to learn to bring its A-game, even against inferior competition. A big lull led to an 11-0 run by Missouri State to start the second half, and Central Arkansas opened its game by taking a 22-11 before Ford woke his team up during a timeout.

``That's one of my weaknesses in my game. I play to the level of my competition,'' said Nash, who's averaging 16.6 points. ``It happened earlier on this year, playing guys like Tennessee and N.C. State. I've been better about it now, and I can play how I want to play. I just have to keep telling myself to play hard and go out there to get the win.

``I let the game come to me and let my teammates give the ball to me in good situations where I can get a good shot off. When you play together, good things will happen for you.''

Ford said he tries to coach his players as though every game is championship-caliber. But he understands that it's human nature to not play at such a high level every minute of every game.

``He's right. I'm glad he admits it,'' Ford said. ``They say your first thing to correcting a problem is admitting it.''

Nash drifted in and out last season, when he was named Big 12 Freshman of the Year. He'd follow a magnificent game with a dud, showing promise clouded by inconsistency. He has tried to force himself to remain aggressive this season, setting a goal of being among the best at earning free throws.

``When he's getting to the foul line, I know he's playing his best,'' Ford said. ``All I have to do is look at that stat, if he's getting to the foul line, then he's doing what we're asking him to do.''

If that approach rubs off on Nash's teammates, it's only for the better as Oklahoma State tries to get back to being a regular in the NCAA tournament and the Top 25. Both have been elusive in the years since Eddie Sutton left. But with Nash and fellow McDonald's All-American Marcus Smart, the Cowboys have their best talent yet under Ford.

``When you looked at their caliber of players, the talent level, you can tell it's a lot higher now than it was before,'' Central Arkansas coach Corliss Williamson said. ``The young men they have now are taller, stronger and I think their basketball IQ is really high.''

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Redskins at Packers Week 14 Inactives: Washington thin at WR in Green Bay

Redskins at Packers Week 14 Inactives: Washington thin at WR in Green Bay

When the Redskins take the field to face the 9-3 Green Bay Packers on Sunday, Washington will be without two of their starting wide receivers.

Both Trey Quinn (concussion) and Paul Richardson (hamstring) were ruled out on Friday and will be inactive. Washington's likely starting wide receivers will be a trio of rookies: Terry McLaurin, Kelvin Harmon and Steven Sims.

Quinn suffered a concussion during the Redskins Week 13 victory over Carolina while attempting to receive a punt. Carolina's DeAndrew White was flagged for an unnecessary roughness penalty on the play and was fined by the league this week for his helmet-to-helmet hit.

Richardson will miss his third game in four weeks. He first injured his hamstring during the Redskins Week 9 loss to Buffalo. He missed the Redskins loss to the Jets in Week 11 but returned the following week. No. 10 re-aggravated the hamstring injury in the Redskins Week 12 victory over Detroit and has yet to return since. 

After missing the first game in his nine-year NFL career last week, Redskins linebacker Ryan Kerrigan returns to the lineup vs. Green Bay. Kerrigan was cleared from the concussion protocol on Wednesday and practiced in full all week.

Redskins right tackle Morgan Moses, who exited early last week with a back injury, is active. Earlier this week, he said he expected to play, and held true to his word. Moses has not missed a game since 2015.

Packers wide receiver Ryan Grant, who spent four years with the Redskins, will be inactive against his former team. Additionally, Green Bay will be without starting cornerback Kevin King.

Here are the full inactives:

Redskins at Packers Week 14 Inactives

Redskins Inactives:

QB Colt McCoy
WR Paul Richardson
WR Trey Quinn
LB Josh Harvey-Clemons
CB Aaron Colvin
LB Chris Odom
OL Ross Pierschbacher

Packers Inactives:

WR Ryan Grant
CB Kevin King
RB Dexter Williams
CB Troy Brown
CB Ka'dar Hallman
OL Adam Pankey
OT Yosh Nijmans


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Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

Nationals sign reliever Kyle Finnegan to major-league deal

The Nationals announced their first move toward rebuilding their bullpen for the 2020 season Sunday, signing right-hander Kyle Finnegan to a major-league deal.

Finnegan, 28, became a free agent for the first time this winter after seven seasons in the Oakland Athletics’ minor-league system. The A’s drafted him in the sixth round of the 2013 Draft out of Texas State, originally developing him as a starter until converting him into a reliever in 2016.

Oakland granted Finnegan an invite to Spring Training ahead of last season, but he never made his way onto the team’s 40-man roster. His breakout season was in 2019, when the organization asked him to lower his arm slot to generate more movement on his pitches.

Finnegan posted a 2.66 ERA with 14 saves over 42 appearances for AA-Midland and AAA-Las Vegas last year. His fastball has touched triple digits in the past but sits in the mid-to-upper 90s. His newfound success has also seen him rack up more strikeouts, as evidenced by his K/9 that jumped from 9.7 in 2018 to 12.8 in 2019.

Prior to signing with Washington, Finnegan joined the Aguilas Cibaenas of the Dominican Winter League. He has a 2.31 ERA in 14 appearances so far this winter.

The Nationals’ 40-man roster now sits at 30 with the addition of Finnegan following non-tenders of Javy Guerra and Koda Glover. It will move up to 32 once the signings of Yan Gomes and Howie Kendrick are made official. The move comes less than 12 hours before the MLB Winter Meetings are scheduled to begin in San Diego.