Nationals

Leonard Washington, Wyoming hold off SMU 59-56

Leonard Washington, Wyoming hold off SMU 59-56

DALLAS (AP) Leonard Washington scored 19 points, including a fast-break dunk with 16 seconds left, and pulled down 11 rebounds as Wyoming stayed unbeaten with a 59-56 win Wednesday night over SMU.

Washington stole the ball from Nick Russell and scored to put the Cowboys (13-0) ahead by three. Russell committed another turnover in the closing seconds as the Mustangs (10-5) fell to 5-1 at home.

Larry Nance Jr. added 12 points for Wyoming and Josh Adams had 11. Russell led SMU with 17 points and Cannen Cunningham had 14 points and 11 rebounds. Neither team managed more than a five-point lead.

Wyoming next opens Mountain West play by hosting Boise State on Jan. 9, while SMU starts Conference USA action against Tulsa on Sunday. That game pits SMU coach Larry Brown against Tulsa's Danny Manning, the Final Four Most Outstanding Player from Brown's Kansas team that won the 1988 national title.

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With no access to in-game video, Trea Turner’s swing has taken time to adjust

With no access to in-game video, Trea Turner’s swing has taken time to adjust

Heading into the Nationals’ four-game series with the New York Mets this week, Trea Turner was hitting just .196 on the young season with one home run. The vaunted base stealer had been thrown out on the basepaths three times while having yet to swipe a bag successfully. In the field, he’d racked up three errors.

It was a frustrating start for the 27-year-old shortstop, who’s coming off a season in which he played with only nine fingers and still found a way to serve as a catalyst atop the Nationals’ lineup. Now fully healthy, Turner was expected to play a role in helping Washington absorb the loss of Anthony Rendon in the middle of its lineup.

Normally, poor at-bats would prompt Turner to head down to the replay room for a quick look at his mechanics. He goes into the clubhouse in between innings and examines his previous swings to see if he needs to make any adjustments. It’s a practice Turner has grown to rely on over the course of his major-league career.

But this season, Turner hasn’t had access to the replay room after MLB banned in-game video as part of its health protocols for playing in the middle of a pandemic. Instead, he’s had to wait until after each game before being able to break down his swing. It’s made for slower progress, but after going 5-for-9 with two home runs and four RBIs over the first two games of the series in New York, he feels that his adjustments have started to pay off.

“I felt good in the box and I feel like my approach was good but not having video is a little different and I feel like in years past I was pretty good at going back and just checking out the swing real quick and making the little adjustment I need to make in game,” Turner said in a Zoom press conference after Tuesday’s 2-1 win.

“Finally made the right adjustment a few games ago and started putting the barrel on the ball and feeling a little better. The last four or five games or so my contact has been a little bit stronger and it was just a matter of time for the hits to start to fall.”

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Turner hasn’t been the only member of the baseball community to express how the lack of video access has changed their approach. On Saturday, Tampa Bay Rays manager Kevin Cash told MLB Network Radio that he wasn’t pleased with MLB’s decision to ban something that had become an integral tool for coaches and players during games.

“Without being too controversial, I think it's absolutely ridiculous,” Cash said. “It's probably one of the worst things that I've seen Major League Baseball do in take video away from players. Video is what makes us good. It helps us learn, it helps us coach, it helps us attack. And it's been taken away from us because of one team, or a couple teams' stupid choices.”

“We can't even watch a game; we cannot watch our own game. Our players cannot come in and watch a game in the clubhouse. It is asinine. The entire protocol system, how they came up with that, it is wrong. They're doing an injustice to players.”

While it’s unknown whether the real reasoning behind MLB’s decision is related to health protocols or the sign-stealing scandals that surrounded the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox over the offseason, Turner isn’t making any excuses. In fact, the results are beginning to turn his way.

Entering play Tuesday, Turner had a hard-hit percentage of 40.9 percent, well above his career rate of 32.5. His batting average on balls in play was just .238 (league average is .300), indicating he had been getting unlucky on some well struck balls. In fact, his groundball rate is down five percentage points from his career average while his flyball rate is up 10 percent.

Then came his home run off Mets starter Rick Porcello in the first inning. Turner took a breaking ball high and away and hit it off his back foot on a line straight into the seats in right field.

It was only Turner’s second opposite-field homer of his career after he hit none all of last season. Yet even with the adjustments he’d been making to his swing, he said that he didn’t go into the at-bat looking to hit anything to right field against Porcello.

“I think it’s just swing path and pitch,” Turner said. “I’ve hit a few balls to right-center out in certain stadiums, mostly probably at home, and I don’t know if those are opposite field per se. They might be more center field but I just think when you’re facing righties, to hit an opposite-field home run is fairly tough. He tried going toward that backdoor sinker and I just felt like it was the right swing on the right pitch and just keeping it fair and not slicing the ball.”

Turner will continue tweaking away at his swing, hoping to produce results like he has so far in the New York. But with or without the video replay room, he doesn’t expect the opposite-field homer to be the start of a new trend.

“I don’t have necessarily that oppo power some of these big guys get,” Turner said. “I usually have to pull them but every once in a while, if you get the right pitch on the right swing, it sneaks out. So I’ll take it.”

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Wizards' Bradley Beal shares disapproval with Giannis Antetokounmpo's headbutt of Moe Wagner

Wizards' Bradley Beal shares disapproval with Giannis Antetokounmpo's headbutt of Moe Wagner

Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo's headbutt of Wizards forward Moe Wagner led to an ejection, but also an explosion of reactions on Twitter.

Among the voices on social media was Wizards star guard Bradley Beal, who is not with the team in Orlando as he recovers from an injury.

Beal initially reacted to the moment with some choice words, saying that the move by Antetokounmpo was unacceptable. He, however, used an acronym that features words that cannot be written in this story.

Then, Beal elaborated on his feeling with some emojis that can be decoded to "angry."

Clearly, the guard was not pleased with what transpired, which is understandable. Not only did Beal watch his teammate be on the receiving end of the headbutt, but the action by Antetokounmpo is something that put both of them in danger, as any trauma to the head can be dangerous.

Beal may not be in Orlando to share with Antetokounmpo how he feels up close and personal, but NBA players have shown time and time again that they have no problem trading blows through Twitter. That means this may not be the last statement on the altercation in the bubble.

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