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Harris leads Wake Forest past William & Mary 63-57

Harris leads Wake Forest past William & Mary 63-57

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) C.J. Harris scored eight of his 18 points in the final 1½ minutes, and Wake Forest rallied to beat William & Mary 63-57 on Friday night.

Travis McKie added 15 points for the Demon Deacons (3-2). They trailed by 13 in the first half before shooting 52 percent (11 of 21) in the second half while holding the Tribe to one field goal during a critical 8 minutes down the stretch.

Marcus Thornton scored 17 points for William & Mary (3-2). Tim Rusthoven added 11, and his layup with 9½ minutes left put the Tribe up 47-46. But William & Mary managed just three field goals the rest of the way, missing 11 of 12 from 3-point range before Thornton hit a contested 3 with 4½ minutes left.

Harris was 6 for 6 from the free-throw line in the final 90 seconds and hit a layup to help the Demon Deacons pull away and avoid their second home loss to William & Mary in four seasons.

The Tribe shot 41 percent (21 of 51) and finished 4 of 18 from 3-point range in losing their second straight.

They were denied their sixth victory on an Atlantic Coast Conference team's home floor - even though, for much of the game, it sure looked like they were going to get it.

William & Mary led for most of the first half and pushed its lead into double figures about 7½ minutes in when Fred Heldring capped a 15-2 run with a three-point play that made it 17-5. The Tribe stretched their lead to 24-11 on Rusthoven's free throw with 8:14 left.

The Demon Deacons dug themselves out of their big hole by starting the second half with a 16-9 run. McKie capped the spurt with a 3-pointer with just under 14 minutes left that tied it at 39 - the first time since the opening minutes that Wake Forest wasn't trailing.

Chase Fischer gave the Demon Deacons their first lead of the half when his layup at the 10-minute mark made it 46-45, and Madison Jones' layup three possessions later put the Demon Deacons ahead to stay at 48-47

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Troy Brown Jr. on Bradley Beal's extension, making a name for the Wizards

Troy Brown Jr. on Bradley Beal's extension, making a name for the Wizards

WASHINGTON -- The Wizards hoped Bradley Beal's decision to sign a contract extension last week would send a message to the younger players on the team. According to second-year veteran Troy Brown Jr., it already has. 

Brown, 20, said he was part of a group of players that cheered Beal when he arrived at the team's practice facility over the weekend, the day after news broke. 

"I was happy," Brown said. "We just appreciate him."

Brown's biggest takeaways from Beal's new contract, which will keep him in Washington through at least the 2021-22 season, involved the commitment he has made. Even as a two-time All-Star in his prime, he is willing to see through what the Wizards are trying to build.

That helped bolster Brown's opinion of the Wizards as an organization.

"It's good to see guys like Brad stay home," Brown said. "Like he talked about, he got drafted here. It makes younger guys like me, Thomas [Bryant] and Rui [Hachimura] feel good about the city, just to see the leader of our team taking that extension when he does have other options."

Like Beal, Brown is a first round pick. The Wizards selected him 15th overall in the 2018 draft, six years after they took Beal with the third pick in 2012. Beal has been around long enough to know exactly what it takes to be a star player in the NBA.

Brown has paid close attention and believes Beal can help him and the other young players on the team find success in the league.

"He leads by example every day. He comes in, works hard and is very vocal. Even if he's not talking a lot in practice, he's going hard," Brown said. 

"It's just one of those things where every time you know what you're going to get out of him. You don't really have to worry about Brad's effort or being a leader because he's going to do that every day."

What Beal has done is essentially say he's ready to be patient and help guide the Wizards through a transition period. While other NBA stars probably would have forced their way out of the situation he's in, Beal is laying down roots with confidence the team's new front office structure and philosophy will pay dividends down the road.

Beal has spoken about how he wants to build something new in Washington where the NBA franchise hasn't won 50 games or been to the conference finals since the 1970s. Brown has fallen in line, hoping to be part of a basketball renaissance in The District.

"We're all young guys in the league, but at the same time we understand the stuff that's going on with D.C. [with the Nationals, Capitals and Mystics]. It's not irrelevant to us. We want to make a name for the Wizards. I feel like with us, we take it more personal than other people do. We just want to turn this thing around," he said.

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Among Astros’ strategies to figure out Nats starters is phone a friend

Among Astros’ strategies to figure out Nats starters is phone a friend

HOUSTON -- Houston’s scramble started Sunday, not long after Jose Altuve sent it back to the World Series for the second time in three years.

Clearing the haze from a postgame celebration came first. Next was a crash course in what the Astros were about to tangle with: the Nationals’ starting pitchers.

Any argument suggesting the Nationals have a chance in the 115th World Series centers on their rotation. If those pitchers can obtain 21 -- or more -- outs, Washington will have a solid chance. Staying away from the center of the bullpen remains paramount. Managing pitch counts to last as long as possible is crucial. It’s so important, Max Scherzer is throwing softer in the first inning simply to manage his in-game workload. 

Houston knows this. The Nationals know this. Somehow, Washington has survived to this point with the worst regular-season bullpen in postseason history. The starters have relieved in order to stay away from hole on the team. Tanner Rainey is now the third option out of the bullpen. Fernando Rodney is next. They back up Sean Doolittle and Daniel Hudson. That’s the end of Davey Martinez’s trustworthy pitcher list.

The challenge for Houston is learning as much as possible about Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg, Patrick Corbin and Aníbal Sánchez in a short period. The Astros’ analytics department is touted as one of the best, if not the best, in baseball. There’s no information shortage. But there is a real-life experience gap.

Outfielder Michael Brantley faced Scherzer and Sánchez often when all three played in the American League Central Division. However, that was more than five years ago. Both Scherzer and Sánchez are different now.

“You can’t take too much information from something that was a few years ago,” Brantley said. “They’re great pitchers in their own right. They’re still evolving and making adjustments. We’ll watch video, we’ll study them, we’ll look at some video from the previous years, got to have a different gameplan going against them because they’re going to make adjustments just like I need to make adjustments.”

Houston’s World Series roster has faced Scherzer 92 times, Sánchez 83 times, Corbin 43 times and Strasburg just 27 times. Brantley owns more than half of those at-bats. Charts and information from the team will operate as the baseline for information. Players will also use their own preferred process to figure out Washington’s strength.

MVP-candidate Alex Bregman watched every postseason game the Nationals played. He paid particular attention to sequencing against players he felt are similar to him (he wouldn’t specify beyond middle-of-the-order, right-handed power bats).

He watched more video Sunday, then more Monday. He also grabbed his cell phone, because being in the box is so much different than watching a monitor.

“You can also call around the league and ask what other guys have seen and what they felt in the box, what they thought went wrong for them or what went right for them -- kind of pick their brain like that,” Bregman said.

Players use this tactic through the regular and postseason. As much as baseball has shifted to mathematical equations to expose tendencies and obtain advantage, players still prefer to hear from others performing the same job. 

Bregman wants to hear about sequencing and how pitches acted when coming toward a batter. Brantley is focused on tendencies against left-handed hitters, He wants to discover patterns in video from a most-recent start, as well as earlier in the year, noting an uptick in slider usage by Scherzer against left-handed hitters. He synthesizes the data next.

“I want all the information I can, and I’ll break it down to what I actually want to apply,” Brantley said. “I don’t need all the information, but I do need a lot of it to come up with my gameplan and what I want to do.”

Unlike Bregman, and many others, he will not call other players. 

“Because I want to see it through my own eyes and I want to trust my ability once I get to the plate and not have too many thought processes,” Brantley said. “Just want to be prepared.”

General philosophies apply, too. George Springer is more concerned about adjusting to what happens in real-time, or “on the fly” as he put it.

“In order to be successful, you have to understand what happened to you in that at-bat, whether it’s bad or good,” Springer said. “The good news is, you see the ball, you see what they may be doing. You know how hard they’re throwing. I know that these guys are that don’t necessarily throw their hardest in the first inning. They’re throwing 94, 95, which is still fast. By the eighth, they’re still throwing 99. You just understand kind of what the ball is going to be doing, then you have to adjust from there.”

Is he excited to face them?

“I wouldn’t say ‘excited’ is the right word to face a guy like Max Scherzer or Stephen Strasburg,” Springer said with a smile. “It’s a fight. It’s a grind.”

Houston’s first chance is Tuesday night against Scherzer. Strasburg follows. Corbin or Sánchez is next.

“It definitely is an advantage to have faced people before,” Ryan Zimmerman said. “But with the guys that team has, I’m not going to discount them at all. I’m pretty sure they’ll have a pretty good plan. But, yeah, I think if you’ve seen Max or Stras a hundred times or zero times, it’s not going to be fun.”

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