High-scoring Creighton looks to improve on defense


High-scoring Creighton looks to improve on defense

Creighton expects to be one of the best offensive teams in the nation again this season.

The Bluejays don't expect to be one of the worst on defense.

When the players were issued practice jerseys last month, they found the number ``222'' stamped on them - their national ranking in field-goal defense.

``Last year, we were so good offensively that we just fell into the mentality that we were going to try to outscore people,'' senior guard Grant Gibbs said. ``It put us in a lot of close games, and we were fortunate to win a lot of those. We have to have a mentality where it has to hurt when people score on us.''

With preseason All-American and Valley player of the year Doug McDermott and nine of the top 10 players returning, Creighton is the overwhelming choice to win the Missouri Valley Conference. The 16th-ranked Bluejays, who matched a school record with 29 wins, hope to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament after losing in the third round to North Carolina last March.

The Bluejays know they probably can't get away with allowing opponents to shoot 44.1 percent from the field, 36.1 percent on 3-pointers and average 69.7 points like they did last year.

``It's what the coaching staff has been preaching to us since the end of the season,'' junior guard Jahenns Manigat said. ``It's one of the reasons we couldn't get by North Carolina in the tournament. Seeing it on our practice jersey each and every day is a constant reminder of how terrible we were last year and how much better we could be as a team if we improve on that number.''

Scoring shouldn't be a problem.

McDermott's 22.9 points a game ranked third in the nation, and 82 percent of the scoring from a team that averaged better than 79 points is back. The Bluejays were second nationally in field-goal shooting (50.4 percent), third in 3-point shooting (42.4 percent) and second in assists (17.6).

Senior center Gregory Echenique, one of the Valley's top defensive players, resculpted his 6-foot-9, 260-pound frame in the offseason and has worked to improve on the offensive end.

Gibbs, who led the Bluejays in assists and steals, and Manigat, who shot 49.2 percent on 3s in Valley games, are the other returning starters.

The biggest change is at point guard, where sophomore Austin Chatman takes over for Antoine Young.

The rest of the Missouri Valley:

ILLINOIS STATE: Former Vanderbilt assistant Dan Muller is in the unusual of position of being a first-year coach who takes over a team in position to contend for a championship. Tim Jankovich left in April to become head coach-in-waiting under Larry Brown at SMU. The Redbirds are looking to get to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 1998, Muller's last season as a Redbirds' player. Jackie Carmichael, who averaged 15 points and 11.7 rebounds, is among four returning starters from the team that reached the Valley tournament final.

NORTHERN IOWA: The Panthers, coming off a fourth straight 20-win season, return four starters and four other players who have significant experience. Seth Tuttle, the Valley freshman of the year, shot a league-high 65.2 percent. The versatile Jake Koch was only Valley player with 30-plus 3-pointers, offensive rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. Anthony James is the top returning scorer (12.5 ppg). UNI will get tough Thanksgiving test in a Bahamas tournament, with Louisville, Missouri and Stanford on its side of the bracket and Duke, Minnesota, Memphis and VCU on the other.

WICHITA STATE: Coach Gregg Marshall is overseeing a team with lots of moving parts because of newcomers and injuries. Seniors Carl Hall (8.4 ppg, 5.0 rpg) and Demetric Williams (5.5 ppg, 2.1 apg) are the only starters back from the defending regular-season champion Shockers, who went to the NCAA tournament and won 27 games. Williams has been limited in practice after having ankle surgery in August. Transfer Malcolm Armstead made 52 starts in two seasons at Oregon and will help Williams at the point. Junior-college transfer Cleanthony Early should be a factor right away.

EVANSVILLE: The Purple Aces finished third in the Valley for their best finish in 13 years. Everything revolves around preseason all-conference pick Colt Ryan, whose 20.5-point average was 11th in the country. Point guard Troy Taylor (5.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg) can fill a stat sheet in a variety of ways. Ned Cox, who backed up Taylor, was the Valley's sixth man of the year after averaging 9.2 points. Ryan Sawvell (6.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg) was on the MVC all-freshman team.

DRAKE: Seth VanDeest, the Bulldogs' 6-foot-11 center, is back after missing last season because of problems with both shoulders. He's up to 265 pounds, 40 heavier than when he started every game as a freshman and sophomore. VanDeest's return to the post should help preseason all-MVC pick Ben Simons (16.4 ppg), a 43-percent shooter on 3s, and Jordan Clarke, who will be able to move back to his natural power-forward spot. Utah transfer Chris Hines averaged 9.6 points and started 26 games for the Utes two seasons ago.

INDIANA STATE: The Sycamores are in rebuilding mode after losing four senior starters. They do return preseason all-MVC pick Jake Odum, one of four players nationally to average at least 10 points, five rebounds and 4.5 assists. R.J. Mahurin (7.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg) is the only other returning player who was a significant contributor. The Sycamore sustained a blow when junior-college transfer Mike Samuels, the biggest player on the roster at 6-11, broke a foot during a summer exhibition tour of the Bahamas. He's probably out for the season.

MISSOURI STATE: Anthony Downing (11.5 ppg) will need to increase his scoring to fill the void created by the departure of graduated star Kyle Weems. Christian Kirk (3.7 ppg) and Nathan Scheer (2.5 ppg) are the other returning starters. Coach Paul Lusk likes his six freshmen. Bruce Marshall, at 6-10, is the biggest player on an otherwise undersized roster. Lusk touts the freshman's willingness to muck it up inside even though he weighs just 220 pounds.

BRADLEY: With four starters back, coach Geno Ford is confident the Braves will be better than the squad that won just seven games and finished last in the Valley. Walt Lemon Jr. (12.6 ppg) is the top returning scorer. Sixth-year post player Will Egolf, who averaged 8.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 2010-11, is back after missing last year with a torn ACL. Newcomers Ka'Darryl Bell and Tyshon Pickett are players to watch.

SOUTHERN ILLINOIS: Coach Barry Hinson, formerly at Missouri State, is back in the Valley after working for Bill Self at Kansas the past four years. Four starters are back. Wyoming transfer Desmar Jackson gives the Salukis plenty of depth at guard. Jeff Early (8.6 ppg) is the top returning scorer. Forward Dantiel Daniels (8.3 ppg) is out five weeks with a leg injury, a setback for a team already short on size.

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Ravens' Justin Tucker had the perfect reaction to his Pro Bowl snub

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Ravens' Justin Tucker had the perfect reaction to his Pro Bowl snub

The NFL announced Pro Bowl rosters for the 2018 season Tuesday night, and to the surprise of many Ravens kicker Justin Tucker was voted a first alternate for the second year in a row.

Named the backup to New York Jets kicker Jason Myers, not only were fans surprised but Tucker himself had the perfect reaction to the snub.

That GIF is from his shocking Week 7 missed field goal attempt against the New Orleans Saints, but so far in 2018 the most accurate kicker in NFL history has made 28 of 30 field goal attempts (93.33) and 33 of 34 extra point attempts (97.06). He was also named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month for September and November.

In comparison, Myers has made the most field goals in the NFL this season at 31, and his 93.9 success rate is ever so slightly higher than Tucker's. He's also made more from longer so far this season.

Tucker did earn Pro Bowl nominations back in 2013 and 2016. He owns an NFL-record seven-career games with multiple 50-plus-yard field goals and became the only kicker in league history to kick field goals from the 20-, 30-, 40-, 50- and 60-yard ranges in a single game. Week 12 against the Oakland Raiders, Tucker became the fastest pure kicker in NFL history to reach 900 career points in his 107th career game. The only overall player to hit this milestone faster was Gino Cappalletti in 106 games. 

Three Ravens did make this year's roster. Guard Marshal Yanda earned his seventh nomination after missing 14 games during the 2017 season with a fractured ankle. Safety Eric Weddle was named to his sixth Pro Bowl and his third straight with the Ravens, and linebacker C.J. Mosley earned his fourth nomination in five seasons. 

Left tackle Ronnie Stanley was named a second alternate. 

The Pro Bowl takes place Sunday, Jan. 27 in Orlando, Fl. 


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Penguins at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

Penguins at Capitals: Time, TV Channel, Live Stream, How to Watch

The Capitals take their five-game winning streak into Wednesday night's game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. With 43 points, the Caps currently have a four-point lead over the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Metropolitian Division. This season, the Caps are 1-0-1 against the Pens. Winning their last game, 2-1, back on Nov. 8.

Alex Ovechkin enters riding a career-high 14 game point streak. Ovi has also scored a goal in six straight games. He currently leads the NHL with 29 goals on the season.

Pittsburgh, who lost to the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, are tied for third in the Metropolitian Division with 36 points.

Here is everything you need to know about Wednesday's game.

Penguins at Capitals How to Watch

What: Pittsburgh Penguins at Washington Capitals, Game 33 of the 2018-19 NHL Regular Season
Where: Capital One Arena, Washington, D.C. 
When: 8:00 p.m. ET
TV Channel: NBC Sports Network
Live Stream: You can watch the Capitals host the Sabres on the new MyTeams by NBC Sports App.
Radio: Caps 24/7 Radio, 106.7 The Fan FM 

Penguins at Capitals TV Schedule

7:00 PM: Caps Faceoff Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)
7:30 PM: Caps Pregame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)
8:00 PM: Penguins at Caps (NBC Sports Network)
10:30 PM: Caps Postgame Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)
11:00 PM: Caps Overtime Live (NBC Sports Washington Plus)

Penguins at Capitals Injury Report

Capitals: Defenseman Christian Djoos (thigh) OUT

Penguins: RW Patric Hornqvist (upper body) OUT

Penguins at Capitals Players to Watch

Alex Ovechkin, LW, Capitals (29G, 14A): Named the NHL's first star of the week, Ovi continues to roll. He has scored seven goals over the last three games. His career-best scoring streak is at 14 games.

Nicklas Backstrom, C, Capitals (10G, 30A): Like Ovechkin, Backstrom has been on a roll over the last three games. He has six assists over that stretch included four assists against the Detroit.

Evgeni Malkin, C, Penguins (11G, 25A): Malkin snapped a six-game goalless streak with a first period tally against the Ducks on Monday. 

Penguins at Capitals Series History

Number of all-time Meetings: 291 (68 postseason)
All-Time Series Record: Penguins lead 149-126-16
Regular Season Record: Penguins lead 109-98-16
Playoff Record: Penguins lead 40-28
Last Meeting: Caps win 2-1 (Nov. 7, 2018)
Last 10: Caps lead 6-4