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Johnson leads Vanderbilt past Nicholls State 80-65

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Johnson leads Vanderbilt past Nicholls State 80-65

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Kedren Johnson scored a career-high 25 points to lead Vanderbilt to an 80-65 victory over Nicholls State on Saturday in the season opener for both teams.

Johnson scored 15 points in the second half as Vanderbilt pulled away after leading by just six at halftime. After the break, the Commodores shot 66.7 percent and made eight 3-pointers.

A 36-14 run over a 13-minute span turned a four-point deficit into a blowout.

After ending the first half on a 15-5 spurt, the Commodores stayed hot. They made eight straight baskets, including five 3-pointers, to open the second half. Kevin Bright's 3-pointer in the corner put Vanderbilt up 49-31 with 15:35 left.

Bright scored 13 of his career-high 15 points after halftime. Kyle Fuller also finished with a career-high 15 points.

Fred Hunter finished with 21 points and 10 rebounds for the Colonels. Sam McBeath added 15 and T.J. Carpenter had 11.

Hunter, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder, scored Nicholls State's first 11 points. Behind Hunter's presence inside, the Colonels took a 17-13 lead at the 8:51 mark.

But Vanderbilt responded to regain the lead before halftime. Johnson sunk two 3-pointers and Sheldon Jeter drained another to spark the 15-5 run. The Commodores went into the break with a 28-22 lead on Fuller's jumper with 1 second left.

Fuller started the final half with another basket, this time hitting a 3-pointer from the top of the key.

His teammates followed his lead as Vanderbilt couldn't miss during the opening four-minute stretch. Five players contributed to 21 straight points.

All eight players scored for the Commodores, who improved to 13-1 in season openers under coach Kevin Stallings. The lone loss came in 2006 against Georgetown.

Last year, Vanderbilt won 25 games and the Southeastern Conference tournament title en route to reaching the NCAA tournament for an unprecedented third straight year.

However, the Commodores lost their top six scorers to graduation or the NBA Draft and do not have a senior this season. Johnson, a sophomore point guard, returned as the leading scorer after averaging just 3.1 points.

He paced Vanderbilt against Nicholls State, making 8 of 14 field goals and dishing out six assists. He also accounted for three of the Commodores' 12 3-pointers.

Continuing their brilliance beyond the arc, they made a 3-pointer for the 833rd straight game. Vanderbilt, Princeton and UNLV are the only schools with a 3-pointer in every game since the inception of the arc in 1986.

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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