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Maryland LB Hartsfield leads nation's 7th-ranked D

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Maryland LB Hartsfield leads nation's 7th-ranked D

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) It's no accident that Maryland linebacker Demetrius Hartsfield leads the nation's seventh-ranked defense in tackles and sacks.

Hartsfield - affectionately called ``Meat'' by his coaches and teammates - works hard on the practice field and in the weight room. He also spends hours each week studying film.

``I've learned that how you practice and how you prepare is how you play,'' Hartsfield said Tuesday. ``As a young player you don't really understand that. It's crazy, because I've been told that since high school. But I don't think I realized that until end of my sophomore year here.''

Hartsfield was honorable mention All-ACC last year, and this season he's playing even better. The 6-foot-2, 240-pounder has 43 tackles and three sacks for a unit that is allowing only 257.2 yards per game.

Hartsfield and the defense are a big reason why the Terrapins (3-2, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) already have exceeded last year's win total.

``He studies the game,'' coach Randy Edsall said. ``He'll put the time and effort into watching film. He wants to be good. I think that's one of the things that's very important. I can see a big difference in him from last year in the knowledge and the confidence that he has been playing with.''

Hartsfield had 10 tackles in Saturday's 19-14 win over Wake Forest and sealed the victory with a fourth-down sack. After downing Demon Deacons quarterback Tanner Price on a fourth-and-15 with under a minute left, he celebrated the accomplishment with a display borrowed from teammate A.J. Francis.

``He had the gall to steal my sack dance,'' Francis said. ``After we stopped Wake at the goal line earlier, I was making fun about of how he does this high step off the field like he's Deion Sanders. So after the sack, he does his high step and then my sack dance.''

Hartsfield laughed when told of Francis' assertion.

``The only reason I did it is because he told me he was going to steal my celebration,'' Hartsfield said. ``So I stole his.''

Hartsfield had more reason to celebrate this week, because his performance against Wake Forest earned him honors as ACC linebacker of the week.

Off the field, Hartsfield also has an impressive resume. The fifth-year senior already has his diploma in criminal justice and is furthering his education this semester.

``God willing, I plan on playing in the NFL,'' he said. ``The backup plan is helping juveniles.''

Edsall describes Hartsfield as ``a great guy to be around but quiet. He never gets too high, never gets too low. Very steady.''

Hartsfield's demeanor takes a radical turn on game day.

``The majority of the time I'm pretty laid back,'' he said. ``But my teammates know I'm a jokester, wild and crazy. On the field, I'm nasty, I talk junk the whole game.''

The next challenge for Hartsfield and Maryland comes Saturday at Virginia (2-4, 0-2). Coming into the game, the Terrapins rank second in the ACC in total defense behind only Florida State.

``Yeah, but they played two easy teams (Murray State and Savannah State),'' Hartsfield said. ``I think we're in a good position to overtake them and become the No. 1 defense in the ACC.''

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Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Nets, including another rebounding disaster

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Five observations from Wizards' loss to the Nets, including another rebounding disaster

The Washington Wizards lost to the Brooklyn Nets 125-118 on Friday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. The Wizards have a real problem with the Nets, a team they had dominated not long ago. With a loss in Brooklyn on Friday night, the Wizards have lost four of their past six meetings with the Nets. Previously, they won nine of 10 matchups going back to 2015.

The Wizards, to be fair, aren't playing well against anyone right now. They have lost four straight games and six of their last nine. This game was supposed to be one that was manageable, but they couldn't take advantage.

2. One of the most crippling problems for the Wizards season just will not go away. Once again, the Wizards were outworked on the glass and by a significant margin. The Nets out-rebounded the Wizards 46-25 and it could have been worse if it weren't for both teams shooting 52 percent or better. 

Washington has now been edged in rebounds 22 times in 29 games this season. This time, it was a collective effort for their opponent. Seven different Nets players had four boards or more.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of Wizards players who came up short. Their entire starting lineup combined for eight rebounds. Thomas Bryant and Markieff Morris had three rebounds apiece.

3. Free throw shooting loomed large in this one, both in terms of attempts and percentage. The Nets took 31 free throws and made 26 of them, good for 83.9 percent. The Wizards attempted only 16 and made nine, for 56.3 percent.

Opponent free throw percentage is always an odd stat to evaluate. There is a certain amount of luck involved, as there's nothing teams can really do to affect it. 

Yet, the Wizards happen to be near the bottom of the league in opponents free throw percentage. Teams are shooting 79.3 percent at the line in games against them. Only the Lakers have seen teams shoot better, at 81.6 percent.

4. Otto Porter Jr. was out for the second straight game as he continues to deal with a right knee contusion. Just like Wednesday, Porter was considered a gametime decision but was ruled out after a pregame workout with trainers.

Porter only played seven minutes on Monday before leaving with the injury, so he has missed the better part of three games. The team has described it as non-serious, that it's just a deep bruise, but it has been enough for him to miss consecutive games for the first time in nearly a year, since Dec. 17 and 19 of last season. He hasn't missed three games since the 2015-16 season, by the way.

5. With Porter out, it was once again Sam Dekker who benefitted most. Jeff Green got the start in Porter's place, but it was Dekker who got the leftover minutes as a backup. Head coach Scott Brooks has opted for Dekker in consecutive games now over Troy Brown Jr. and Devin Robinson. Brown was their first-round pick in June and Robinson has been in the system for two years now.

While Dekker is above those guys on the depth chart at the moment, that doesn't necessarily say much about the big picture. The Wizards could simply be using Porter's absence as an opportunity to get an extended look at their newest acquisition. 

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Report: Wizards finalizing deal to trade Kelly Oubre Jr., Austin Rivers for Trevor Ariza

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Report: Wizards finalizing deal to trade Kelly Oubre Jr., Austin Rivers for Trevor Ariza

The current Washington Wizards, now 11-18 and losers of four in a row, need help. They may be bringing back one of their former players just for that purpose.

The Wizards are reportedly in "advanced talks" to acquire Phoenix Suns forward Trevor Ariza as part of a 3-team deal, according to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski. The scenario would send Kelly Oubre Jr. to the Memphis Grizzlies and Austin Rivers to the Suns. 

Ariza, 33, played two seasons with Washington from 2012-2014. His two-way presence helped turn the Wizards into a playoff team in 2014. One of the league's best 3-and-D players, Ariza continued his productive over the next four seasons in Houston. After he started for a Rockets team that reached the Western Conference Finals last season, the small forward signed a one-year, $15 million contract with the Suns.

Oubre, the Wizards' 2015 first-round pick, has significant potential but remains an erratic player four years into his career. He is also a restricted free agent this summer.

Washington acquired Rivers, a wing guard threat off the bench, this offseason for center Marcin Gortat.

By league rules, Saturday marks the first day players that signed as free agents this summer can be traded.

Ariza is averaging 9.9 points and 5.6 rebounds while shooting 36 percent on 3-pointers in 26 games with the Suns this season.

Check back for more on the Ariza rumor and more on NBC Sports Washington.

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