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Buckeyes well aware of recent history with Kansas

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Buckeyes well aware of recent history with Kansas

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) After Kansas knocked off Ohio State last season in the national semifinals, Buckeyes guard Lenzelle Smith Jr. didn't have the heart to even watch the championship game.

As this season has progressed, Smith has grown more and more excited by the looming specter of a home rematch with the Jayhawks.

``I've kind of been waiting for this game ever since our schedule got released in the summer,'' he said about Saturday's game pitting No. 9 Kansas against seventh-ranked Ohio State.

These are not the same teams from a year ago, when Kansas beat Ohio State twice. But that doesn't mean there still won't be a little edge to the game. What would you expect with the teams' recent history?

``I'm sure they have some hard feelings toward us and it is going to be a really tough environment,'' Kansas big man Jeff Withey said of the contest at Ohio State's Value City Arena. ``We haven't really been on the road yet so we'll see how the new guys react to that. But we are definitely looking forward to it.''

The 13th-ranked Jayhawks won the regular-season matchup at Allen Fieldhouse almost a year ago, taking advantage of All-America forward Jared Sullinger's absence (bad back) in a 78-67 victory over No. 2 Ohio State.

Then they squared off in New Orleans in the Final Four, with the Buckeyes leading most of the game and by 13 points before withering down the stretch to fall 64-62.

``If you look at the games last year, we didn't play them very well at all, but they guarded us. And they didn't play great, but we guarded them,'' Kansas coach Bill Self said. ``The difference for us was in the second half we were able to get some 3-on-2s and some 2-on-1s and was able to make six or eight easy baskets and score easy points that we didn't have to go against half-court defense.''

The game figures to be a grade card for each team.

``Kansas right now is playing at a level as high as anybody in college basketball,'' Ohio State coach Thad Matta said. ``They start four seniors. It's like, wow. Their leading scorer is a redshirt freshman. So they're a very, very experienced, seasoned team. From the standpoint of the caliber of the team that they are, obviously you're going to hopefully learn quite a bit about your team as you get ready to head into January, February and March.''

Comparisons to last year are frivolous, since the two best players on the floor are now in the NBA. Kansas' Thomas Robinson had 19 points and eight rebounds in the Final Four and now plays for pay for the Sacramento Kings.

Sullinger had 11 points and 11 rebounds but had three shots blocked by Withey in New Orleans. Currently with the Boston Celtics, Sullinger was surrounded by defenders after teammate Deshaun Thomas got into foul trouble in the semifinal.

Thomas, who pondered skipping out of his final two years to join them in the pros, is averaging 20.4 points and 7 rebounds a game. The 6-foot-7 junior never met a shot he wouldn't take - and make - which makes guarding him the biggest task for the Jayhawks.

``If you're a natural scorer like he is and averaging over 20 a game you've got the green light to shoot some good contested shots and he is good at making them,'' Self said. ``He is a shotmaker. He is a professional scorer at our level and last year we didn't stop him.''

Thomas had 19 points and kept Ohio State in it before a raucous crowd in Lawrence, Kan., a year ago.

The Jayhawks (9-1) have benefited from a comfortable schedule so far. They've had six home games in addition to three games before friendly faces in Kansas City. Their only loss came in their lone foray far from home, a 67-64 defeat to Michigan State in Atlanta.

Ohio State (9-1) dropped its biggest previous challenge, a 73-68 decision at current No. 1 Duke on Nov. 28. In that game, much like the last meeting with Kansas, the Buckeyes led most of the night but didn't make enough plays down the stretch.

Aaron Craft, Ohio State's pesky defensive whiz at point guard, believes the rematch will come down to toughness.

``Who's going to be the tougher team?'' he said. ``They do a phenomenal job of getting second-chance points, grabbing 50-50 balls, really limiting possessions. We have to find a way to overcome that, and match or better their intensity and their toughness. Because that's what Kansas basketball is about.''

Funny, but that's what Kansas also thinks of Ohio State.

``They are physical and they play that Big Ten style where they try to bully you,'' Withey said. ``They do all that really well. We've got to come ready.''

No matter who wins, both would like a redo - when the NCAA Final Four shifts to Atlanta in April.

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Follow Rusty Miller on Twitter:http://www.twitter.com/rustymillerap

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3 Caps who impressed against the Blues in preview of the season opener

3 Caps who impressed against the Blues in preview of the season opener

Nicklas Backstrom scored with less than seven seconds remaining to give the Capitals the 3-2 win over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday in a preseason preview of the regular-season opener. Radko Gudas and Richard Panik also scored.

Here are three players who impressed for the Caps.

1. Richard Panik

Panik got plenty of practice on the penalty kill with 4:16 of shorthanded ice time shorthanded. In that time he gave a glimpse of why he was so coveted by the Caps as a free agent.

In the first period, Panik pounced on a loose puck at the top of the faceoff circle in the defensive zone. Seeing he had room to work with, he did not just clear it down the ice and instead elected to skate up with it. He fought off the backcheck from Tyler Bozak through the neutral zone, drew an additional two Blues players to him, then drew a holding call from Bozak because he would not give up the puck.

Panik's 4:16 of penalty kill time was more than top penalty killer Carl Hagelin's 2:26, though the fact that Hagelin took two minors on the night probably had something to do with it.

Late in the game, Panik was also added to the power play as a sixth attacker with the goalie pulled. He would score the game-tying goal with just 1:09 left in regulation.

2. The goalies

Vitek Vanecek and Ilya Samsonov both played about a half of the game. It is really hard to evaluate a goalie on just 30 minutes of work, so I will give a shoutout to both as both played very well.

Vanecek got the start. He looked a little awkward at first, but settled in as the game went along for a solid performance. He stopped 13 of the 14 shots he faced with the only goal he allowed a weird deflection off of Brett Leason’s skate.

Samsonov took over about halfway through the second period and within minutes found himself defending the net on a 5-on-3 penalty kill. The penalty killers helped out their young netminder allowing only one shot on goal, but it was a good one. Colton Parayko one-timed a slap shot, but Samsonov was there to stop with no rebound. Soon after the penalty was over, Vladimir Tarasenko was all alone in front of the net, but was denied by Samsonov’s who stretched the blocker to deny the high shot.

Sanford scores on the PP. Samsonov wasn't tight against the post. Showed him too much daylight and Sanford made him pay.

Samsonov finished with 11 saves on 12 shots.

3. Connor McMichael

Boy, somebody got a confidence boost from Monday’s game. 

McMichael was given a second preseason game as a reward for his solid performance on Monday and he definitely showed off the confidence that comes along with being a first-round draft pick.

In the first period, McMichael found himself all alone with the puck on a mini-breakaway on Jordan Binnington. Just a reminder, this is the Binnington who was the starting goalie for the Stanley Cup champions.

So what did McMichael do? He skated to the front and tried the stick between the legs shot. It may not have worked, but you have to respect the confidence this kid had just to try, though no doubt the coaches probably had a few words for him in the locker room about it.

There was one area in which McMichael struggled, however, and that was on the faceoff where he lost all five draws he took on the night.

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WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 2: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

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WNBA Semifinals: Aces at Mystics - Game 2: Date, time, TV channel, live stream how to watch

After a thrilling back-and-forth contest to start the WNBA Semifinals, the Washington Mystics and Elena Delle Donne are back in action to host the Las Vegas Aces for Game 2.

Washington took Game 1 97-95 over Las Vegas in their first game in nine days to start the series. Rusty and stuttering out of the gate, the Mystics were able to gut out a win after an explosive run in the third and early fourth quarter. 

Emma Meesseman (27 points) led the charge for Washington. In the third quarter, she took over the game totaling 13 of the team's 26 points and got the Mystics back in control of the contest. Elena Delle Donne finished with 24 points and hit the game-clinching basket in the final minute of regulation.

A'ja Wilson had 23 points in a losing effort, despite playing all but three minutes. Off the bench, Kelsey Plum emerged with 16 points to give the Aces an additional spark. 

Game 2 is on Thursday, Sept. 19 at 8:30 p.m. ET at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. The best-of-five series features the high-powered and No. 1 seeded Mystics against the most defensively sound squad in the No. 4 seeded Aces.

The Aces entered the series with a ton of momentum, fresh off one of the craziest wins in WNBA history. They gut-punched the top seed in the opening half and nearly stole it in the closing seconds. Nevertheless, it appears the Mystics with the third-best offense in the WNBA's existence found their footing and will be better prepared for Game 2. 

ACES VS. MYSTICS GAME 2:

Who: Las Vegas Aces at Washington Mystics

What: WNBA Semifinals Game 2

When: Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019, 8:30 p.m. ET

Where: Entertainment and Sports Arena, Washington D.C.

TV Channel: ESPN2

Live Stream: WatchESPN

MYSTICS vs. ACES WNBA SEMIFINALS SCHEDULE:

Game 1: Mystics 97, Aces 95 (Mystics lead 1-0)

Game 2: Thurs, Sept. 19: Aces at Mystics, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 3: Sun, Sept. 22: Mystics at Aces, 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2

Game 4: Tue, Sept 24: Mystics at Aces, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

Game 5: Thurs, Sept. 26: Aces at Mystics, Time TBD, ESPN2 (if necessary)

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