Wizards

Cotton notes: Stoops happy to be back in Oklahoma

201301041829665525670-p2.jpeg

Cotton notes: Stoops happy to be back in Oklahoma

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) When Mike Stoops got fired as Arizona's head coach last season, he had several opportunities for his next employment.

The one that made the most sense was returning to Oklahoma as part of brother Bob's staff again.

``It's a great program, it's working with your brother, it's familiarity, and you get to coach some awfully talented players,'' Mike Stoops said. ``There were a lot of other enticing opportunities. When everything started adding up, I felt Oklahoma was the best opportunity for me.''

Stoops is Oklahoma's associate head coach and defensive coordinator, and also coaches defensive backs.

The 12th-ranked Sooners earned a share of their eighth Big 12 title this season, going 10-2 in the regular season. They played No. 10 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl on Friday night.

Stoops led Arizona to three consecutive bowl games, and his 2010 team reached No. 9 in the polls. The Wildcats had lost 10 of 11 games when he was fired midway through the 2011 season, finishing 41-50 in his seven-plus seasons.

Before that, Stoops was co-defensive coordinator for the Sooners from 1999-2004, and helped the Sooners win the 2000 national championship.

``It's been fun being at Oklahoma. I think being with Bob is certainly, it's been a unique experience again,'' he said. ``After eight years, it's a little different getting back into it. ... Nothing has really changed, but everything has changed.''

There is one really big difference after being a head coach, and now being an assistant again.

``I like giving orders better than I like taking them,'' he said, smiling.

---

ONE MORE YEAR?: Texas A&M leading tackler Damontre Moore played his final college game Friday night in the Cotton Bowl. The defensive end announced earlier this week that he was bypassing his senior year for early entry in the NFL draft.

Many projections have Moore being among the top NFL draft picks.

That could also be the case for Aggies junior offensive tackles Luke Joeckel and Jake Matthews, though neither beforehand if they expected to the Cotton Bowl to be their last game at Texas A&M.

``I love the school, I love A&M. It was the best decision of my life just coming here,'' Joeckel said. ``It's going to be hard to leave all the people, no matter what happens, it's going to be hard.''

There are a few Oklahoma juniors that could have played their finales.

Safety Tony Jefferson, the Sooners' leading tackler, wouldn't talk this week about the grade he received from the NFL Draft advisory board.

Other Oklahoma underclassmen who could consider bypassing their senior seasons are cornerback Aaron Colvin, fullback Trey Millard and receiver Kenny Stills.

---

EXTRA POINTS: Texas A&M and Oklahoma were both 6-0 away from home during the regular season. ... The date for next year's Cotton Bowl hasn't been announced yet. This was the third consecutive season when the Cotton Bowl was played in prime time on a Friday night in the days before the BCS national title game. In that slot next January, the Orange Bowl is already set. ... The National Anthem was performed by the Gatlin Brothers, who also had that honor at the Cotton Bowl in 1979 and 1991. ... Former Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer and former Texas A&M coach Jackie Sherrill both attended the game.

Quick Links

Unsung LaToya Sanders’ two-way play has Mystics one game away from WNBA Finals

latoya_sanders_usat.jpg
USA TODAY Sports Images

Unsung LaToya Sanders’ two-way play has Mystics one game away from WNBA Finals

On a stacked Mystics team, LaToya Sanders knows her role. 

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound wisp of a center is asked to guard far bigger opponents throughout the season and still complement her teammates on the offensive end. It’s a lot to deal with. She does so without complaint. 

Sanders, the most unheralded of Washington’s five starters, did it all on Thursday night in a 103-91 WNBA semifinal win over the Las Vegas Aces at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

She finished with 17 points on a night when WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne (14 points, 5 of 15 shooting) struggled given her lofty standards. Sanders also played the kind of defense that left coach Mike Thibault insisting she should have been named WNBA first or second-team All-Defense. 

“My job is probably the easiest on the team,” Sanders laughed. “My job is basically to hit wide-open jumpers and lay-ups. Pretty sure I can do those two things.”

Indeed, she was efficient hitting 7 of 10 shots and all three free throws. Sanders also had to guard Vegas’ 6-8 center Liz Cambage, a big ask given their size difference. Cambage did have 23 points and 10 rebounds, but she only took 11 shots. 

Sanders and her teammates tried to make it as hard as possible for the Aces to get the ball inside for easy baskets in their two wins this week. Washington won Game 1 of the series 97-95 on Tuesday, a game that left Cambage visibly frustrated. She also earned a technical foul in Thursday’s game on a rough play underneath the Vegas basket.  

“When you’re LaToya Sanders and you’re 6-3 and you’re relying on your long arms to guard people, she takes a beating every night,” Thibault said. “She guards Camabge and [Phoenix Mercury center Brittney] Griner and [Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia] Fowles and all those people. And every night she wins a lot of those battles.”

But the really unsung part of Sanders’ game is her mid-range jumper. Thursday she was on when some of her higher-profile teammates like Delle Donne didn’t quite have their shot dropping. 

Sanders had six points in the third quarter as the two teams battled back and forth in a tight game and that set the stage for the decisive run that tilted the game toward the Mystics. She also had a hot start to the night with two baskets in the first quarter. 

“[Sanders is] a really good player. She's just on a team with so many other good players that she doesn't get as many shots,” Vegas guard Kelsey Plum said. “But she plays her role as good as anyone in the league. She's a vet. She rebounds the crap out of the ball. I just think that she does a great job for them. Everyone made us pay."

Thibault referenced a rebound Sanders grabbed in traffic to stifle a Vegas possession when they were trying to get the lead under 10 points in the fourth quarter. Instead, Washington was able to work the clock at the offensive end and score a knockout blow. It’s the little things that matter most when a team is pushing for a championship. The Mystics are one step closer. 

“Cambage is a talent, she’s a big girl,” Sanders said. “I just do what I can to try to make it difficult for her, but she’s going to hit some buckets here and there. I try to dish it out, but not take it.”  

MORE MYSTICS NEWS:

 

Quick Links

Orioles Roundup: Trey Mancini stays hot in 8-4 home loss to Blue Jays

mancini_usat.jpg
USA Today Sports Images

Orioles Roundup: Trey Mancini stays hot in 8-4 home loss to Blue Jays

In a fitting tribute to most games this season in Baltimore, Trey Mancini had a terrific day at the plate, but the pitching staff allowed too many home runs and the O's ended up losing.

Here's everything you need to know about the Orioles.

Player Updates:

OF Trey Mancini hasn't slowed down at all for the Orioles, turning in a 4-for-4 night to tie his career high in hits. He's hitting .286 with 34 home runs during his breakout season.

OF Austin Hays enjoyed a banner night, hitting his first home run of the season and making one of the year's highlight catches, robbing a home run well over the centerfield wall.

SP Gabriel Ynoa allowed three runs in 6.1 innings. He didn't walk anyone and allowed just six hits, but he also only struck out one batter despite pitching into the seventh inning, and two of the hits allowed were home runs.

Injuries

RP Hunter Harvey, biceps, sidelined, day-to-day

RP Josh Rogers, elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Alex Cobb, back, 60-Day IL, 2020

Coming Up:

Friday, 9/20: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Saturday, 9/21: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Sunday, 9/22: Mariners at Orioles, 1:05 p.m., Camden Yards