Wizards

Mississippi State's defense ready to rebound

Mississippi State's defense ready to rebound

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Mississippi State's veteran defense is one of the biggest reasons the program has emerged as a consistent competitor in the Southeastern Conference over the past three seasons.

But it's also been a big contributor to the Bulldogs' disappointing finish to this regular season, which included losses in four of five games.

Senior linebacker Cameron Lawrence says he's glad Mississippi State (8-4) has one more chance to leave a good impression when it plays No. 21 Northwestern (9-3) in the Gator Bowl on Jan. 1.

``We've had time to get our bodies back together, get our bumps and bruises healed up,'' Lawrence said. ``Now we've got to keep working on the little things. It was a hard stretch for us - we played a really tough schedule toward the end of the season - but now we've just got to focus on the details. The sky is the limit for us.''

Mississippi State was scheduled to arrive in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday to begin preparations for the Gator Bowl. It will be the last game for Lawrence, cornerback Johnthan Banks, safety Corey Broomfield and defensive tackle Josh Boyd - a quartet of longtime starters.

The 6-foot-3, 230-pound Lawrence was a role player in his first two seasons, but moved into a starting role as a junior and has responded with a combined 234 tackles over the past two years.

Banks won the Thorpe Award earlier this month - which goes to the nation's top cornerback - and the 6-foot-2, 185-pounder will almost certainly be an early selection in April's NFL draft. He has 16 career interceptions, using a blend of size and speed rarely seen at cornerback.

Broomfield and Boyd don't have the gaudy numbers but have been consistent the past four seasons, providing the constant production that Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen craves.

But the past five games haven't reflected that experience.

Mississippi State won seven straight to start the season - rising to No. 13 in the nation - but then hit a brutal portion of the schedule that produced lopsided losses to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU. The Bulldogs responded to beat Arkansas, but then lost 41-24 to rival Mississippi in the Egg Bowl.

In those four losses, the Bulldogs gave up nearly 40 points per game.

``We've always been known for playing hard and giving great effort out there,'' Boyd said. ``But we've been forgetting little things. It's frustrating because we know we can do better. We've been working really hard to make sure Northwestern gets our `A' game instead of our `B' game.''

Northwestern's offense will provide another difficult challenge for Mississippi State. The Wildcats are averaging more than 31 points, which ranks third in the Big Ten, and are averaging more than 230 yards on the ground.

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald and Mullen are two young head coaches who have developed a friendship over the past several years, discussing ideas and philosophy as they try to build their programs. That should lead to plenty of familiarity in the Gator Bowl.

``They're a team that probably should have won their conference and played in the Rose Bowl,'' Mullen said. ``Very talented in every phase of the game - very explosive offense, one of the top rushing offenses in the country. They run at a high tempo, and they have stout, physical offensive linemen, some fast playmaking receivers, and a quarterback and running back who can score every time they touch the ball.''

Mullen was particularly concerned with Northwestern running back Venric Mark, who has rushed for 1,310 yards and 11 touchdowns and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. He's also scored two touchdowns as a punt returner.

``They get him the ball in the open field and he can score from anywhere,'' Mullen said.

Mississippi State has stopped players like Mark before. That's one reason the Bulldogs are playing in their third bowl game in three seasons.

And Boyd is ready to prove the defense can do it one more time.

``We want to show everybody that we're still us - that we're still a great defense,'' Boyd said. ``This is the last college game of our lives, so we want to go out on top.''

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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NBA Draft 2019: Rumors, predictions, and a preview of draft night

NBA Draft 2019: Rumors, predictions, and a preview of draft night

The day we have been waiting for has finally arrived. 60 prospects will be selected and their careers will begin. This year’s draft has a lot more anticipation than many others in recent memory, and that can be attributed to one man who needs no introduction. Zion Williamson took the NCAA by storm for. Duke last season, and New Orleans is prepared to add him to their core as soon as the draft commences. There will surely be surprises, trades, storylines, and a lot of emotion when the 2019 NBA Draft begins, and NBC Sports Washington has everything you need to know to get you ready for the big night.

2019 NBA Draft Preview

The 2019 NBA Draft takes place on Thursday, June 20. The Wizards hold the ninth overall pick. Here's everything you need to know...

When: 7:30 p.m. ET
Where: Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York

TV: NBC Sports Washington will have Wizards-centric draft coverage starting at 6:30 p.m. on TV and the MyTeams app, the official broadcast is on ESPN

Final Mock Draft: READ

Final Big Board: READ

I Am the Prospect:

Bruno FernandoFrom Angola to the NBA Draft, Bruno Fernando is about to make NBA history. FEATURE.

Ty JeromeTy Jerome's relationship with his hard-driving father shaped him into a bona fide NBA prospect. FEATURE.

Isaiah Roby: Isaiah Roby's journey from small-town unknown to potential NBA Draft steal. FEATURE.

Nickeil Alexander-WalkerVirginia Tech's Nickeil Alexander-Walker is ready to elevate Canada's profile in the NBA. FEATURE.

DeAndre HunterNBA Draft prospect De'Andre Hunter is ready to make his family proud at the next level. FEATURE.

Wizards Draft Prospects by Position:

Guards: The Wizards have worked out multiple prospects that will be able to assist them in the backcourt from the get-go. With John Wall sidelined for the foreseeable future, Bradley Beal can't do it all. Hopefully, some reinforcements will lighten his workload.  READ

Wings: In this era of NBA basketball, there is no such thing as too much wing depth. After adding Troy Brown Jr. in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Wizards could look to add to their arsenal. READ

Big Men: Bobby Portis and Thomas Bryant are free agents. Jabari Parker may not be back in D.C. next season. The Wizards could opt for some help down low. READ

2019 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles:

Zion Williamson, F, Duke: The freshman sensation may be the most talked about prospect heading into the draft since LeBron James. Profile.

Ja Morant, G, Murray State:
The mid-major star broke onto the scene in his sophomore campaign, and the Memphis Grizzlies look to be sold.  Profile.

R.J. Barrett, G, Duke:
The Canadian swingman was the presumed No. 1 pick for a long stretch prior to Williamson’s arrival, and is slotted to go in the top four. Profile.

DeAndre Hunter, F, Virginia: After a strong showing in the NCAA Title Game, Hunter has a lot of buzz going in his favor. Profile.

Darius Garland, G, Vanderbilt:
The biggest wild card of the 2019 Draft, Garland has been gaining a lot of traction ahead of the big night. Profile.

Jarrett Culver, G, Texas Tech:
An impressive 2019 season and Final Four run has propelled Culver into a lottery prospect. Profile.

Coby White, G, North Carolina:
Breaking Michael Jordan's freshman records at UNC, White is near the top of most big boards. Profile.

P.J. Washington, F, Kentucky:
Don't call him a one-and-done from Kentucky. Washington raised his stock with a second year in college. Profile.

Rui Hachimura, F, Gonzaga:
Hachimura was one of the best players in the NCAA last season, but evaluators see flaws in his game. Profile.

Cam Reddish, F, Duke:
Reddish took a backseat behind Williamson and Barrett at Duke, how much will it cost him? Profile.

Jaxon Hayes, F, Texas: 
He's considered the best center of this draft class. Profile.

Bruno Fernando, C, Maryland:
You're not going to find a better rebounder in the draft than Fernando. Profile.

Bol Bol, C, Oregon:
The Oregon star dazzled when he was on the court, but that wasn’t often. Profile.

Nickeil Alexander-Walker, G, Virginia Tech:
The Hokies’ star is ready to contribute from the get-go. Profile.

Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky:
One of the many Wildcats projected to go in the first round, Johnson has a very high upside. Profile.

Brandon Clarke, F, Gonzaga:
The tip transfer last season in Spokane, Clarke provides a lot to like as a prospect.  Profile.

KZ Okpala, F, Stanford:
The Cardinal looks to be one of the more NBA-ready prospects in this class. Profile.

Romeo Langford, G, Indiana:
The Hoosiers missed the tournament in March, and Langford’s draft stock may have taken a hit as a result. Profile.

Sekou Doumbouya, F, France: 
The French forward has a lot of suitors and will surely be one of the first international players off the board. Profile.

Kevin Porter Jr., G, Southern California:
A major wild card, Porter showed flashes at USC of a bona fide star, but couldn’t stay on the floorProfile.

Grant Williams, F, Tennessee:
After a solid career in Knoxville, Williams will look to elevate his game at the biggest level. Profile.

Wizards Pre-Draft Workouts:

There were not many players expected to go around the ninth pick that worked out for the Wizards. However, there are several prospects expected to go in the later rounds, or perhaps would not be drafted at all.

-Coby White, G, North Carolina
-Nassir Little, F, North Carolina
-Keldon Johnson, G, Kentucky
-Brandon Better, G, Southern Utah
-Joe Cremo, G, Villanova
-Jon Davis, G, Charlotte
-Malik Dunbar, F, Auburn
-Paul Eboua, F, Africa
-Kaleb Johnson, F, Georgetown
-Aubrey Dawkins, G/F, UCF
-Jordan Caroline, F, Nevada
-Justin Robinson, G, Virginia Tech
-Kavell Bigby-Williams, F, LSU
-Elijah Thomas, F, Clemson
-William McDowell-White, G, Australia
-Bryce Brown, G, Auburn
-Jessie Govan, C, Georgetown
-Frank Howard, G, Syracuse
-Anthony Lee, G, Kutztown 
Myles Stephens, G, Princeton
-Harry Froling, C, Australia
-Shizz Alston, G, Temple
-Shannon Bogues, G, Stephen F. Austin
-Jamall Gregory, G, Jacksonville State
-Trey Mourning, F, Georgetown
-Ed Polite Jr., F, Radford
-Trey Porter, Forward, Nevada
-Corey Davis, G, Houston
-Jaylen Hands, G, UCLA
-Lyle Hexom, F, Peru State
-Jonathan Kasibabu, C, Fairfield
-V.J. King, F, Louisville

MORE NBA NEWS:

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Devante Smith-Pelly's new hockey pup is already a champion by name

dsp.jpg
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Devante Smith-Pelly's new hockey pup is already a champion by name

Stanley Cup champion and 2018 Washington Capitals playoff hero Devante Smith-Pelly has gotten a dog.

Smith-Pelly named the husky-mix puppy Stanley, of course. Because what’s more valuable in life than championships and puppies?

Stanley is pictured above, courtesy of DSP’s mom.

Smith-Pelly posted the same picture on his Instagram story earlier in the week.

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