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LSU, South Carolina, still eying titles

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LSU, South Carolina, still eying titles

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) Sam Montgomery's philosophical musings have led him to the conclusion that LSU has regained a certain focus, intensity and chemistry that had been lacking in recent weeks.

The proof came in the Tigers' 23-21 triumph Saturday night over a previously undefeated South Carolina team that came in ranked No. 3, a result which vaulted LSU back up the rankings from ninth to sixth.

``At the beginning of the season, it was about the national championship. But at the end of the day, it's all about family. I think we got back to that,'' Montgomery said. ``Last year, we never would have talked about a national championship. We took it week by week by week by week, getting closer and closer.''

LSU (6-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) had the appearance of a team in a slide for the previous several weeks, which included several unimpressive victories over heavy underdogs, followed by a loss at Florida on Oct. 6 in which first-year starting quarterback Zach Mettenberger and the Tigers' offense were unable to get into the end zone once.

``Maybe we needed a loss to be humbled, to get that hunger back, to get adversity knowing that everything doesn't comes so easily,'' said Montgomery, a defensive end, who had two sacks of South Carolina quarterback Connor Shaw. ``It was something we needed to wake us back (up), to get us playing tough, hard-nosed football.''

LSU, which hasn't dropped back-to-back games since 2008, extended its school-record home winning streak to 22 games.

South Carolina (6-1, 4-1), meanwhile, was unable to extend its school-record 10-game winning streak, which dated to last season. The Gamecocks also seemed to lose a little of the swagger they had when they overwhelmed Georgia 35-7 the previous week.

Although the final score was close after a late South Carolina touchdown, LSU dominated statistically and might have won easily if not for four drives to the Gamecocks 15 or father that resulted in four field-goal attempts, one of which missed.

LSU outgained South Carolina by almost double, 406-211. The Tigers converted 11 of 19 third downs, compared to 3 of 13 for South Carolina. As a result, LSU had the ball for nearly 37 minutes.

``Our front seven didn't come to play,'' said South Carolina star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who was in on six tackles but did not have a sack. ``We gave up way too many yards and too many third down conversions. We can't win like that.''

Clowney went on to suggest some of his teammates may have let the intense and hostile Death Valley environment get to them, that they may have played ``scared.'' He said the Gamecocks would have to address that before they head to the Swamp next weekend to face unbeaten No. 3 Florida in a game that will decide the leader of the SEC East.

``All of our goals are still there,'' said South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who was held to 35 yards on 13 carries, but impressively broke safety Eric Reid's tackle for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter. ``We can still accomplish them.''

Reid made up for it later with an interception on Shaw's overthrow in the fourth quarter, returning it to the South Carolina 22 and setting up a go-ahead field goal.

Shaw was under pressure much of the night, acknowledging his unit was ``stunned'' by its inability to run the ball. He was sacked four times in all, once by Josh Downs for a 9-yard loss that took the Gamecocks out of field-goal range late in the first half. Barkevious Mingo also got to him.

LSU was saved by its running game, which accounted for a whopping 258 yards despite having only two opening-week starters on the offensive line.

A pair of freshmen linemen, right tackle Vadal Alexander and right guard Trai Turner, earned praise from coach Les Miles after the game, having proved themselves against an elite defensive front. Then there was freshman running back Jeremy Hill, who announced his arrival as a big-time back with 124 yards on 17 carries, scoring LSU's only two touchdowns, the second on a 50-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Entering the season as the fifth-string running back, Hills' emergence highlighted the Tigers' embarrassment of riches at that position.

The Tigers opened by giving the ball to Spencer Ware until he was briefly sidelined by cramps and nausea. Miles turned to Hill, who led LSU to a win that kept the Tigers well in the hunt for SEC and national titles.

``Jeremy Hill's a pretty talented back and has really great speed for a big man and he's developed right along,'' Miles said. ``He certainly came along at the right time. ... We were fortunate that Hill was ready to step in.''

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Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One Bank just made a Caps-themed update to its logo and we're here for it

Capital One is repping the district in a big way: by changing their logo to incorporate the Capitals' font and name. 

The new Capital One logo appears on the bank's websites and social media ahead of the Caps' Stanley Cup Final games, which begin on Memorial Day Monday in Vegas.

The McLean, Virginia, based bank recently purchased the naming rights to the Capitals' home arena, formerly known as "Verizon Center." And in the first year of its renaming, the Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in 20 years. Coincidence? 

We've seen a small, Northern Virginia town change its name to "Capitalsville," and now Capital One Bank is all-in for the Caps.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

2017-18 Wizards roster review: Jodie Meeks

To wrap up the 2017-18 season, we are looking at each player on the Wizards' roster. Today, we evaluate Jodie Meeks' season...

Player: Jodie Meeks

Position: Shooting guard

Age: 30

2017-18 salary: $3.3 million

2017-18 stats: 77 G, 14.5 mpg, 6.3 ppg, 1.6 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg, 0.1 bpg, 39.9 FG%, 34.3 3P%, 86.3 FT%, 49.1 eFG%, 111 ORtg, 112 DRtg

Best game: 11/29 at Sixers - 21 points, 4 rebounds, assist, steal, 5-for-11 FG, 3-for-6 3PT, 8-for-9 FT

Season review: The Wizards took a flier on Jodie Meeks last summer in what seemed at the time to be a low-risk contract with a potentially high reward, if he could stay healthy and play to his career norms. They were in obvious need of help at backup shooting guard and three-point shooting for their bench.

Meeks fell short of those expectations for a variety of reasons. Though he stayed healthy for the first time in years, he could not make shots at the clip the Wizards were hoping for. His field goal percentage was not far off from what he posted in recent years, but his three-point percentage was nowhere near the 38.8 percent he shot in his previous four seasons.

Meeks bottomed out midseason, shooting 28.9 percent from three in December and 28 percent in January. Those numbers ticked up beginning in February, but Meeks never fully gained the trust of his coaching staff. He rarely got hot enough to alter games and his best stat-lines often came in blowouts. 

There was a domino effect from Meeks' struggles, as starting shooting guard Bradley Beal had no one to spell him. As a result, Beal logged the fourth-most minutes of any NBA player this season.

For Meeks personally, it was a bittersweet year because staying healthy was no small feat. He had a run of bad luck and finally broke out of it this season. On the other hand, he never made the impact he felt he was capable of and that wasn't easy for a guy joining a new team and a new locker room.

Meeks' 2017-18 season was ultimately defined by more than his shooting woes. First, he expressed interest in a trade in February and did not get his wish. Then, he was suspended for allegedy using performance-enhancing drugs after the regular season ended. He was out for the playoffs and will miss the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season without pay as he waits out a 25-game ban.

Meeks may or may not serve that suspension as a member of the Wizards. He has a player option for next season worth $3.5 million. He has yet to inform the team of his decision, but the expectation is that he will pick it up. Given how poorly his season went and ended, it would likely be the smart move financially for him to opt in and hope for better results next season.

Potential to improve: Shooting percentage, perimeter defense, passing

More player season reviews:

John Wall, PG

Bradley Beal, SG

Otto Porter, SF

Markieff Morris, PF

Marcin Gortat, C

Kelly Oubre, Jr., SF

Tomas Satoransky, PG

Ian Mahinmi, C

Ty Lawson, PG

Tim Frazier, PG

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