NCAA

Grizzlies still off to best season in team history

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Grizzlies still off to best season in team history

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) The Memphis Grizzlies are busy learning how to deal with success.

Sure, Memphis has been a good team reaching the playoffs the previous two seasons and even played in the Western Conference semifinals in 2011. The Grizzlies followed that up with their best winning percentage in last year's lockout-shortened season.

But their sizzling 12-2 start this season ratcheted up expectations enough that not even the Grizzlies' best record through 41 games and fourth in the West seems to be enough now.

``I think for certain outside the team, but somewhat inside the team as well,'' Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said about the expectations. ``I've had conversations with our group to remember who we are, when we were fortunate to get off to a good start and everyone was ranting and raving. But we're still the same team. We struggle to shoot at times and struggle to score at times.''

That the Grizzlies certainly do.

They beat the Lakers 106-93 on Wednesday night, just the 12th time they've scored at least 100 points this season and eight of those came during the 12-2 start. The good thing is their defense is so good that they are undefeated in those games because the Grizzlies rank second in the NBA giving up an average of 89.5 points per game.

Memphis now has held 37 of 41 opponents under 100 points this season, best in the NBA. That puts the Grizzlies on target to become the first team to hold opponents to a scoring average below 90 points over a season since 2005-06 when they did it (88.5) along with the San Antonio Spurs (88.8).

The Grizzlies also rank second in the NBA averaging 9.2 steals and forcing 16.2 turnovers.

Offensively is where they've been challenged most. They went into the game with the Lakers ranked 28th in the league averaging 92.9 points per game and just went through a six-game stretch where they didn't score more than 85 points in any of those games.

Center Marc Gasol said the challenge is teams know what the Grizzlies like to do with offensively getting the ball down low to himself and Zach Randolph, who has an NBA-best 27 double-doubles averaging 16.1 points and 11.6 rebounds, or over to Rudy Gay.

``We just have to play through it and find the other side of the court, move the ball better and get moving,'' Gasol said.

Point guard Mike Conley said the Grizzlies have faced an adjustment since that strong start.

``Not a lot of people thought we would start as quickly as we did, and now teams give us 110 percent effort every night regardless of who we're playing,'' Conley said. ``They're scheming us and trying to do different things to try to knock us off balance. We've tried to learn to play against it, and we're still learning. It's all new for us. We haven't started off this quickly and this well I think in history, so it's new territory for us, and we're still learning.''

The Grizzlies are three wins better through 41 games than ever before for this franchise. With 10 games left to the All-Star break, they are on target to top the 30-22 mark in 2003-04 that currently is the team's best at that point in a season.

Gay, averaging a team-best 17.3 points per game, has been the topic of trade rumors for weeks. He's not talking about that speculation and said the Grizzlies are looking to build as much momentum and consistency as they can heading into the All-Star break.

``We really need guys to pick it up and play hard ... and kind of get on a groove going into the break,'' Gay said.

What remains to be seen is how much Tuesday's trade helps Memphis. The Grizzlies avoided paying $4 million in luxury tax and got $2.4 million below the threshold by trading Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby to Cleveland.

Fans in Memphis are split on the trade. Many see the team's new owners giving up on the Grizzlies while others hope avoiding the luxury tax this season may keep those starters together for one more postseason run.

General manager Chris Wallace said only the move gives Memphis enough flexibility including trade exceptions that the team doesn't have to make a move by the trade deadline Feb. 21.

The Grizzlies host the Brooklyn Nets on Friday night in the third of a four-game home stand looking to build on their big win over the Lakers.

``If we build in the right direction and keep getting better, this team can be very good,'' Conley said.

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Follow Teresa M. Walker on Twitter at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

Miami outlasts Virginia Tech in triple-overtime thriller

Miami outlasts Virginia Tech in triple-overtime thriller

BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Kameron McGusty scored five of his 21 points in the third overtime to lead Miami to a 102-95 triple-overtime victory over Virginia Tech on Wednesday in the longest Atlantic Coast Conference game in 17 years.

Isaiah Wong added a career-high 27 points, and Chris Lykes finished with 23 for the ’Canes (14-12, 6-10 ACC), who won their third straight game and swept the Hokies this season.

The game marked the longest ACC game since Dec. 20, 2003 when a Chris Paul-led Wake Forest team won 119-114 in triple overtime over North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Tyrece Radford paced the Hokies (15-11 6-9) with a career-high 26 points.

Virginia Tech had a great chance to win the game in regulation, grabbing a 77-74 lead after Jalen Cone made the second of two free throws with 13 seconds remaining. But McGusty tied the game when he scored on a layup, and the Hokies’ Radford fouled him with five seconds to go. McGusty made the free throw to tie the game at 77, and Radford’s shot at the buzzer was blocked by Keith Stone, sending the game into overtime.

In the third overtime, McGusty hit one of two free-throw attempts with 3:29 left to give Miami a 93-90 lead. Moments later, he scored back-to-back baskets, pushing the Miami lead to 98-92 with 56 seconds to go. Lykes' layup with 20 seconds remaining, and Wong’s two free throws with 10 seconds left enabled the ’Canes to hold off the Hokies.

Wong’s two free throws capped an outstanding night at the free-throw line for Miami, which connected on 29 of 32 attempts.

BIG PICTURE

Miami: The ’Canes lost five of six games in a recent stretch, but are finally healthy, and with all the parts in all the proper places, they’re playing much better. The ’Canes opened the first of three consecutive games on the road in perfect fashion with a triple-overtime victory over the Hokies, and with four regular-season games remaining, they could convert a late-season run into a postseason bid.

Virginia Tech: After a 5-3 start to ACC play, the Hokies are struggling with a young roster that features six freshmen who see significant minutes. They have lost five of their past six games and now face the beef of their schedule with games at No. 6 Duke, vs. Virginia and at No. 11 Louisville.

UP NEXT

Miami: The ’Canes play at Notre Dame on Sunday.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies play at Duke on Saturday.

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Luwane Pipkins, Aplha Diallo lead Providence past Georgetown

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Luwane Pipkins, Aplha Diallo lead Providence past Georgetown

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alpha Diallo had 18 points and eight rebounds and Luwane Pipkins added 16 points as Providence defeated Georgetown 73-63 on Wednesday night.

Kalif Young added 11 points and nine rebounds and Maliek White had 11 points and seven assists for Providence (15-12, 8-6 Big East Conference).

Georgetown led 34-30 at halftime and protected a slim lead through the first eight minutes of the second half. The Friars tied it at 49 on a putback by Diallo with 11:50 remaining and pushed their lead to eight points when Pipkins hit a 3-pointer near the seven-minute mark. In the final minute, Pipkins made three free throws and Diallo two to preserve the win.

Providence scored 43 points in the second half, shooting 60% after halftime, 44% for the game.

Jahvon Blair had 20 points for the Hoyas (15-11, 5-8). Terrell Allen added 16 points and Jamorko Pickett had 12 points and 12 rebounds.

The Friars improve to 2-0 against the Hoyas on the season. Providence defeated Georgetown 76-60 on Dec. 31.

Providence plays Marquette at home on Saturday. Georgetown plays at DePaul on Saturday.

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