NCAA

Bills WR Johnson puts up big plays on losing team

Bills WR Johnson puts up big plays on losing team

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Stevie Johnson's season has gone much like the one-handed catch the Buffalo Bills receiver made last weekend.

It looked marvelous: Johnson leaping over the middle to snag the ball with one hand, bring it in and control it before he landed on the turf for a 25-yard gain. Trouble is, the drive stalled and Buffalo lost the game.

``It's a pretty cool catch,'' Johnson said Wednesday. ``I mean, it's just a guy trying to make a big play. But it didn't really lead to too much. So, it's just a play. That's it.''

The best receiver on a perennial loser is sick of the losing but hasn't been pouting or pointing fingers. On the verge of becoming the first Bills receiver to produce three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, the fifth-year pro is instead thinking about the best way to produce a winning culture in Buffalo.

``I don't think it's from maturity,'' Johnson said. ``I think it's just from me wanting to change things, me wanting to bring this team back.''

It wasn't that long ago that Johnson had to balance entertaining plays with embarrassing mistakes, exploding in social media after dropping a game-winning touchdown versus Pittsburgh in 2010 and being benched after a touchdown celebration penalty against the Jets in 2011.

He's learned from those errors and is already the first Bills player to get back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. Andre Reed didn't do it. Elbert Dubenion didn't do it. Nor did Eric Moulds. Johnson is 109 yards away from doing it for the third time.

But it means very little to him without respect for the organization.

``I'm a crucial part of the team and there are other guys who are crucial parts of the team and we feel the same: We want to keep Buffalo relevant,'' Johnson said. ``And it's been 13 years since we've been relevant. We made some noise, but it led to nothing this year, pretty much.''

Johnson, a former seventh-round draft pick, isn't a stereotypical diva receiver. He's grateful to be producing anywhere.

``You never know what's going to happen from this year to the next,'' Johnson said. ``You've got to get the picture fast and I definitely did. I can't say I (immediately) did with the shenanigans that I had going on early in my career. I'm here now and I have to be able to hold it for as long as I can.''

Smith scores 17 to help No. 6 Maryland beat Fairfield 74-55

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Smith scores 17 to help No. 6 Maryland beat Fairfield 74-55

Jalen Smith had 17 points and eight rebounds, and No. 6 Maryland used depth and balance to wear down Fairfield in a 74-55 victory Tuesday might.

The Terrapins (4-0) took the lead for good at 9-8, increased the margin to 14 at halftime and cruised to the finish.

Anthony Cowan Jr. scored 12 points to pass James Gist and move into the Top 20 on Maryland's career scoring list with 1,424.

Sophomore Ricky Lindo Jr. contributed a career-high 13 points, and Eric Ayala also scored 13.

Landon Taliaferro scored 15 for the Stags (1-4). Twelve of Fairfield's 18 baskets were from beyond the arc.

Coming off an overtime loss to Loyola Maryland in which they committed 21 turnovers, the Stags had 16 against the Terrapins -- at least one by nine different players.

Fairfield cut a 15-point deficit to 55-46 before baskets by Cowan and Smith began a 12-3 spurt that made it 67-49 with 6:12 left. The highlight of the run was a resounding dunk by Smith off an alley-oop pass from Hakim Hart following a Fairfield turnover.

The Stags made only one field goal over the final 8 minutes.

Nine players scored in the first half for Maryland, and the Terrapins overcame an early deficit to take a 41-27 lead at the break.

Fairfield went 7 for 11 from beyond the arc before halftime, but committed 10 turnovers and was whistled for 12 fouls.

Maryland led 13-12 before a 3-pointer by Ayala and a dunk off a steal by Darryl Morsell sparked a 12-2 run that put the Terrapins up by 11.

Despite getting off to another slow start, the Terrapins completed the opening 20 minutes with their largest halftime lead of the season.

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Diakite, No. 7 Virginia hold off Vermont, 61-55

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Diakite, No. 7 Virginia hold off Vermont, 61-55

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) -- Mamadi Diakite scored 19 points and No. 7 Virginia withstood a 3-point shooting display by Anthony Lamb and beat Vermont 61-55 on Tuesday night.

The Cavaliers (4-0) trailed before Diakite's basket gave them a 50-49 lead with 5:12 left and sparked a 9-0 run. Jay Huff scored twice in the spurt and Braxton Key hit a 3-pointer as Virginia held the Catamounts scoreless, and forced four turnovers, in a nearly four-minute span.

Lamb scored 30 for Vermont (4-1), including 25 in the second half, to nearly match the point total of the Cavaliers' first two opponents of the season, who each managed just 34 points. Stef Smith added 11 points, but Virginia turned Vermont's 13 turnovers into 20 points.

Kihei Clark scored 15 points and Key had 14 points for Virginia.

Virginia led 24-18 at halftime, but Vermont used a 10-2 run to start the half to take its first lead since the early going. Lamb had seven points in the run, including the last five, and tacked on his team's next 12 points with four 3-pointers as the score was tied five times.

BIG PICTURE

Vermont: The Catamounts hang their hat on defense, too, and came into the game with a 107-9 record since the 2011-12 season when holding their opponents to 60 points or fewer

Virginia: The Cavaliers' defensive excellence has been essential early in the season as they still are struggling to find an offensive rhythm. Highly regarded freshman guard Casey Morsell came into the game having made just 2 of 21 field goal attempts and was 1 for 6. Virginia has made 21 3-pointers in its first four games and allowed 31, including 12 by the Catamounts in 33 attempts.

UP NEXT

The Catamounts face Central Connecticut State on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

The Cavaliers face Massachusetts on Saturday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

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