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Charleston Southern plays No. 12 Arizona tough

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Charleston Southern plays No. 12 Arizona tough

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Charleston Southern brought experience and a matchup zone defense all the way across the country to face No. 12 Arizona.

For a long while, it was a mix that seemed capable of spoiling the season opener for the heavily favored Wildcats before the pesky Buccaneers finally succumbed 82-73.

``We're not satisfied with the loss,'' Charleston Southern's diminutive playmaker Saah Nimley said, ``but the way we came out and stayed in the game and fought hard at the boards even though we are outsized was something that we'll take.''

The Sunday performance was far better than the team's effort two nights earlier in its season-opening loss at Charlotte.

``Our first goal was to win and we didn't accomplish that,'' coach Barclay Radebaogh said, ``but our second goal was to improve and we significantly accomplished that.''

Wildcats seniors Mark Lyons, Solomon Hill and Kevin Parrom led the way in a late surge that finally put the game away.

Lyons, a transfer from Xavier, scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half. He also had six assists and no turnovers.

Arizona has one of the best groups of freshmen in the country, but coach Sean Miller leaned on his experience, even to the point of pushing Hill back to the power forward spot as the young Wildcats' front line struggled.

Hill scored 14, Brandon Ashley and Nick Johnson 12 apiece and Jordin Mayes 10 for the Wildcats. All of Mayes' points came in the first half.

``In a game like tonight, especially our season opener, you rely on your veterans,'' Arizona coach Sean Miller said. ``Our veterans, whether it be Solomon or Kevin Parrom, Jordin Mayes in the first half, certainly Mark Lyons, Nick - the guys that have been through it before, they were more ready.''

Arlon Harper scored 20 and Mathiang Muo 16 for Charleston Southern (0-2). Nimley added 11 points and seven assists for the Buccaneers.

Arizona went 11-for-32 from 3-point range against the Charleston Southern zone defense.

``We dared Arizona to shoot 3s to see how they were going to handle it,'' Muo said. ``In the first half they weren't handling it very well, but in the second half they figured out what we were doing in the zone so tey were trying to start hitting corner 3s. Once they started hitting, we adjusted but it was too late by then to wrap up the game.''

The smaller Buccaneers outrebounded Arizona 34-31 but committed 15 turnovers to the Wildcats' eight.

Charleston Southern trailed just 59-57 with eight minutes to play. Hill, on the bench much of the game with foul trouble, re-entered the game and sank a 3-pointer that put Arizona up 62-57 and the Wildcats slowly pulled away from there.

Nimley's two free throws with 4:29 to play cut Arizona's lead to 69-64, then Lyons drove the baseline, scored and was fouled. He converted the three-point play to make it 72-64 with 4:06 to play. Nimley was fouled on a three-point try and made two of the free throws, but Kevin Parrom responded with a three-point play to put Arizona ahead 75-66 3:25 from the finish.

Lyons' layup and Parrom's 3-pointer gave Arizona its biggest lead at 80-66 with 1:59 to play.

Arizona's two big freshman starters - 7-foot Kaleb Tarczewski and 6-10 Grant Jerrett - struggled much of the game against the smaller, quicker Buccaneers. Ashley, who comes off the bench, was the best of the freshmen in the opener, a performance that included a team-high eight rebounds, two blocked shots and a steal.

Charleston Southern, down 43-37 at the break, outscored the Wildcats 10-4 to start the second half, tying it at 47-47 on Cedrick Bowen's inside basket. Hill's 3-pointer put Arizona up for good, 50-47.

Ashley, one of four freshmen in the Wildcats' 10-man rotation, scored six in the final 1:34 of the first half.

Harper's two free throws gave the Buccaneers a 39-36 lead with 1:20 left in the half. Ashley's two free throws cut it to 39-38 with 1:01 to play, then after a Charleston Southern turnover, Johnson sank a 3-pointer to put Arizona up 41-39. The Wildcats' defense forced a five-second violation, and Ashley scored inside with 2.4 seconds to play to make it 43-39. He was fouled on the play but missed the free throw.

The Buccaneers, a preseason favorite in the Big South, made their first four shots to jump to an 11-4 lead and were up 25-19 when Jeremy Sexton sank a 3-pointer with 6:55 left in the half. But Arizona scored the next 10, the final eight by Mayes, to take a 29-25 lead on his 3 with 4:21 left in the half.

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A special night for Barry Trotz on his return to Washington

A special night for Barry Trotz on his return to Washington

WASHINGTON — Barry Trotz stood on an the unfamiliar visitors’ bench and scanned the rafters at Capital One Arena as the national anthem played. 

It had to be around here somewhere. He looked to one side of the scoreboard and then the other. Finally his eyes locked on the 2018 Stanley Cup banner hanging in the south end of the arena, a testament to a season he will remember the rest of his life. 

"I was just focused on the game. Until the national anthem, I didn’t even know where it was,” Trotz said. “I was looking on the other side, around the clock, and then I turn around and there it is. That’s a proud moment for everybody involved: ownership, Ted Leonsis, and [Brian MacLellan] in management, and the players and everybody, the fans. That’s the one you want.” 

Trotz could afford a reflective mood as he spoke after a 2-0 win against the Capitals in his first game back in Washington since leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup last June. The Islanders broke a scoreless tie with two goals in the third period just 2:26 apart. They are the surprise of the NHL after losing star center John Tavares to free agency last summer. They are all alone in first place in the Metropolitan Division now well past the halfway point of the season. 

Trotz stayed focused before the game. He arrived hours before game time and holed up in his office trying to figure a way the Islanders could win the second of a back-to-back against the rested Capitals.

At the first television timeout of the first period, Trotz steadied himself for the video tribute the Capitals put together. There, on the giant scoreboard, the indelible images flashed: Trotz at his opening press conference in 2014, promising his new team had what it took to win a championship, winning the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year, laughing with his players, skating the hot laps during last year’s playoffs, lifting the Stanley Cup. The Capital One Arena crowd stood and roared for the entire break in the action.  

“My heart got full of all the good memories,” Trotz said. “I was looking up there. I was trying not to look too much because I was getting pretty close to that sensitive side of myself. But it was extremely well done and it was just great memories. Everybody was a part of something special.”

Afterward they had another mini reunion outside the Washington locker room, his home for four years. Trotz and Lane Lambert, his assistant for all four years with the Caps, chatted with players as they came out. It wasn’t as emotional as the championship ring ceremony when the two teams first met on Nov. 26 in Brooklyn. Trotz’s voice wavered as he addressed his former players before that game. This time was all laughs. 

Capitals assistant Blaine Forsythe was there and head coach Todd Reirden briefly stopped by. Tom Wilson and Matt Niskanen and Devante Smith-Pelly came over to say hello. Brooks Orpik, who had a memorable night of his own with a ceremony for playing in his 1,000th NHL game earlier in the week, leaned against a wall and chatted with Trotz and Lambert, who jabbed Caps goalie coach Scott Murray and said he better have a “hotter suit” the next time they meet, which will be in New York on March 1.

Maybe then the Islanders will have come down to earth or maybe Trotz is in the midst of another magical season. Maybe these two teams, with so much shared history, are destined to meet again in the Stanley Cup playoffs. 

“They’ve got the same team. They’re a good hockey team. There’s no question,” Trotz said. “They’ve got lots of mettle and it starts with their leadership and [Nicklas Backstrom] and [Alex Ovechkin] and that core group….That whole group, Johnny Carlson, all the guys that have here for a long time, they’ve got lots of mettle. I’m fortunate to have another great group to work with on the Island. As I said to them, I hope we can have the same experience down the road. It’s special doing that.”

 

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Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

Barry Trotz returns to DC and hands the Capitals a fourth straight loss

The New York Islanders outlasted the Capitals in a defensive battle Friday with two third period goals to hand Washington a 2-0 loss in Barry Trotz's return to Capital One Arena. The loss is now the Caps' fourth straight and knocks them down to third place in the Metropolitan Division.

Here are three reasons Washington lost.

Defense

You could definitely see the effect Barry Trotz has had on this Islanders team in this one. Last year, the Islanders were laughably terrible on defense. On Friday, they frustrated the Caps offense all night long.

New York was positionally sound all game long, forcing the Caps to the outside and limiting all of their offensive opportunities. Every time it looked like Washington had a rush developing, the Islanders got back and got in front of the puck. Every time the Caps tried to set up their offense, New York forced them to the perimeter and kept them from the high-danger areas. Thomas Greiss was there to clean up the rest as he recorded his second shutout of the season.

Washington was limited to just 19 shots on goal on the night, 15 through the first two periods.

A third period breakthrough

Braden Holtby looked very sharp for the Caps all night long in his first game since he suffered an eye injury on Jan. 12. He was finally beaten in the third period thanks to a great deflection by Josh Bailey.

Mathew Barzal showed some great puck control as he entered the offensive zone, wheeled around away from the initial defensive pressure, carried it to the high slot and fired a shot. By wheeling around, that allowed Bailey the chance to park himself in front of Holtby for the deflection.

In such a tight defensive game, you knew it was going to be an ugly goal like Bailey’s that would finally break through.

A third-period 2-on-0

John Carlson pinched into the offensive zone. When that happens, that means it’s Michal Kempny’s job to hightail it back on defense if the puck gets past Carlson.

Instead, Kempny tried to step up and to try to keep the puck in at the blue line. Cal Clutterbuck got the puck past him, and it was off to the races with him and Matt Martin on a 2-on-0. Clutterbuck called his own number and finished off the play with the goal to put the Islanders up 2-0.

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