Capitals

Harris lead Virginia past No. 19 Wolfpack, 58-55

Harris lead Virginia past No. 19 Wolfpack, 58-55

Mark Gottfried acknowledged that North Carolina State's latest victory was a considerable step in his program's resurgence. To take another big stride, Gottfried's team will likely need to start winning consistently away from home.

In their next attempt to improve on the road, the 19th-ranked Wolfpack, the ACC's top scoring team, will try to get past the league's stingiest one, Virginia, on Tuesday night.

North Carolina State owns two NCAA titles and a combined 17 ACC regular-season and tournament championships. The Wolfpack, though, haven't won the league tournament since 1987 and last finished atop the conference standings in 1988-89.

Until Gottfried arrived last season, the program experienced a number of lackluster finishes in recent seasons, but the new coach got its fortunes heading quickly in the right direction by ending a six-year NCAA tournament drought last year.

NC State appeared to gain another meaningful bit of progress Saturday by ending a 13-game skid to rival North Carolina. Lorenzo Brown had 20 points and 11 assists in that 91-83 win, and freshman T.J. Warren contributed 19 points off the bench.

"It's a significant win for us," Gottfried said. "To get where you want to be as a program, you have to take certain steps to get there. This was a big one for us."

The Wolfpack (16-4, 5-2), who are undefeated at home, are also trying to get back on top of the conference but trail Miami by 1 1/2 games. Their two losses have come in each of their last two league road contests, and they might have a challenge in their next visit in trying to overcome a clash of styles.

Virginia's attempt to slow opponents down has worked well so far, evident by the 51.1 points per game its allowed on 36.8 percent shooting. The Cavaliers (14-5, 4-2) have held two of their past seven opponents under 40 points, including a 56-36 home win over Florida State on Jan. 19.

"They're very good at what they do, and we feel that we're pretty good at what we do too. We really like to get out and run," Gottfried said.

The Cavaliers have used their defense to overcome the league's least prolific offense (62.8 ppg). The Wolfpack, meanwhile, are averaging a league-best 79.8 points on 50.9 percent shooting but rank 11th in points allowed per game at 70.2.

"They've got experience. They know how to score," Virginia junior forward and North Carolina native Akil Mitchell told the school's website. "We've got to tighten down and be ready for a good one Tuesday. I'm excited about the competition."

The Cavaliers won their third straight and 11th in a row at home Saturday, 65-51 over Boston College, by limiting the Eagles to 36.2 percent shooting. Virginia converted at a 56.3 percent clip at its end, but Mitchell and Justin Anderson were the only two players in double figures with 16 points apiece.

Leading scorer Joe Harris (14.8 ppg) was held to seven points, ending a string of eight consecutive games in double figures.

Harris is one of the top 3-point shooters in the ACC at 46.7 percent but was 1 of 4 on Saturday. He's 8 for 16 from beyond the arc in three games against NC State and has averaged 16.3 points.

NC State snapped a four-game skid to Virginia with a 67-64 win in last season's conference tournament. The Wolfpack shot 54.0 percent in that game after being held under 41.0 in each matchup during the skid, and C.J. Leslie led the way with 19 points and 14 rebounds.

They've averaged 56.8 points on 40.4 percent shooting in four consecutive losses at Virginia.

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Canadiens halt Capitals' point streak at 13

Canadiens halt Capitals' point streak at 13

WASHINGTON -- You've got to lose sometime. The clock finally struck midnight on the Capitals' point streak on Friday as Washington fell 5-2 to the Montreal Canadiens. A sleepy first period gave way to an onslaught in the second where Montreal scored four of its five goals.

The loss was the Caps' first regulation loss since Oct. 14, ending a streak of 13 straight games with at least a point.

Here is how the Caps lost.

Ovechkin’s hit

Early in the second period, it would be fair to call this a lifeless game. The score was tied at 0 with neither team generating much in the way of offense. There were no real highlight plays, highlight, nothing. It was just...blah.

Alex Ovechkin changed that.

Just over four minutes into the second, Ovechkin obliterated Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin with a heavy hit.

Drouin was slow to get up and immediately headed to the locker room. Those type of hits can be momentum-changers, but it is not always the hitter that gets that momentum boost. In this case, it seemed to wake up Montreal and not the Caps.

About two minutes after the hit, Phillip Danault would score the first of four goals the Canadiens would score in the second period. All four goals came in a span of 8:20.

It's hard not to draw the connection between the hit and the immediate response from Montreal on the scoresheet.

Defensive zone turnovers

Defensive zone turnovers are very dangerous in hockey. When a team has possession of the puck and is trying to break out, players head down the ice ready to transition from defense to offense.

In the second period, the Caps and Canadiens were locked in a board battle off a faceoff in Washington's defensive zone. John Carlson kicked the puck up near the blue line and T.J. Oshie stepped in. It looked like he was going to get the puck out or at least that's what his four teammates thought. Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom were already out of the defensive zone and both while Carlson and Kempny began skating up after them. Tomas Tatar and Ben Chiarot continued battling for the puck on the boards and prevented Oshie from getting it out. The puck squirted away from the boards and Montreal took possession. The Caps thought they had the puck on the breakout, but the defense suddenly found itself out of position thanks to the turnover. Tomas Tatar passed to Danault who was all by his lonesome in front of the net and he made it 1-0.

It wasn’t just that one moment. Puck management was an issue all night long for the Caps and it cost them again about five minutes later.

Now down 2-0, the Caps shut down an offensive zone possession for Montreal and had taken away the puck. Lars Eller attempted a stretch pass from the defensive zone right up the middle, but Tatar batted the puck down with his stick and Nate Thompson picked up the puck right behind the blue line and took it right back in to continue the offensive pressure. Less than 20 seconds later, Jordan Weal backhanded a shot that hit off the post and bounced off Samsonov to barely trickle over the goal line.

Out of gas

Lengthy streaks can be exhausting for teams and it certainly looked through 40 minutes like the Caps were just out of gas.

Montreal played well, but each goal in the second seemed to take more of the wind out of Washington's sails until there wasn't much left in the second period.

Through the first 40 minutes, the Caps were being outshot 30-18 in shots on goal and 50-36 in total shot attempts. The team rallied somewhat in the third period with Ovechkin and Evgeny Kuznetsov each scoring to make things interesting, but there was not enough time or energy left for Washington to mount a real comeback.

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Karl-Anthony Towns gets technical foul for frustration with Mo Wagner

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Karl-Anthony Towns gets technical foul for frustration with Mo Wagner

Mo Wagner became the NBA's leader in charges drawn Friday night, and his activity during the first half helped him get under Karl-Anthony Towns' skin. 

After Wagner attempted to draw yet another charge on Towns, the Minnesota big man finished a layup on the drive and laid the ball in Wagner's lap when the foul went uncalled. 

Towns received the technical foul as the Wizards continued to play a strong first half against one of the better offenses in the league on the road. 

Towns has been on a mean streak this season. He got in an epic brawl with Joel Embiid earlier this season and got into it with Rudy Gay just a few nights ago. He's demonstrated that he's a player you can get to, and Wagner did just that early on. 

The Wizards' defense has seemingly responded to Wagner's activity, so we'll see if they can keep it up to supplement one of the league's best offensive units. 

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