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NCAA rules UCLA's Muhammad ineligible

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NCAA rules UCLA's Muhammad ineligible

LOS ANGELES (AP) No. 13 UCLA took a big loss before its season even began on Friday night.

The NCAA ruled freshman Shabazz Muhammad is ineligible to play basketball after violating amateurism rules, leaving the Bruins without their highly touted recruit to start the season.

The school announced the NCAA's ruling in a statement from athletic director Dan Guerrero about 80 minutes before the Bruins' season opener against Indiana State on Friday night, which was expected to be a celebration of the reopening of newly renovated Pauley Pavilion. UCLA won 86-59 with Muhammad watching from the bench dressed in a blue UCLA sweat suit.

``The NCAA has finally determined that a violation of the NCAA amateurism rules has occurred involving UCLA freshman guard Shabazz Muhammad and his family,'' Guerrero said. ``As a result, he is ineligible for competition at this time. We are extremely disappointed that the NCAA has made this determination.''

Guerrero said UCLA believes ``the decision is incorrect and unjust to Shabazz.''

He said the school will pursue its options to challenge the NCAA ruling.

``Very disappointing,'' coach Ben Howland said after the game. ``I feel terrible for Shabazz because he is a great kid. We were very optimistic he was going to be cleared today. We're hopeful it's going to be something that is worked out in the near future.''

Howland said he found out the decision three hours before the game. He also said Muhammad practiced Thursday for the first time in two weeks after straining his right shoulder on Oct. 25.

The NCAA didn't give a timetable for Muhammad's ineligibility in its statement. It said he ``is not eligible to compete in tonight's game due to violations of NCAA amateurism rules. In addition to other pending issues, Muhammad accepted travel and lodging during three unofficial visits to two NCAA member schools.''

``He's handling it extremely well, the best he possibly could,'' said freshman Kyle Anderson, who was cleared to play last week after a separate NCAA investigation. ``He's keeping his composure and working hard waiting for the day he can get back out there.''

The NCAA had been investigating Muhammad for months involving alleged improper benefits he received in his recruitment from boosters of his Las Vegas AAU program and the alleged improper acceptance of airline flights for some of his recruiting visits. He chose UCLA over Kentucky and Duke.

The NCAA said its staff requested specific documents on July 31 to help evaluate Muhammad's eligibility. However, the NCAA said its enforcement staff didn't receive the majority of the requested documents for review until Sept. 25, followed by more information on Oct. 10, and what it called ``additional critical information'' on Nov. 1.

Muhammad's parents were interviewed last week, according to the NCAA. It said NCAA staff and UCLA submitted the agreed-upon facts on Nov. 9 and a decision was rendered within hours.

Muhammad tweeted, ``Cool shirts some fans made and will wear tonight if I don't play in the game!!!!'' He attached a photo of a blue T-shirt with his face that said ``Free Shabazz'' and added the hashtag (hash)lovethefansthough.

A fan at the game held up a sign with the same expression. Muhammad's photo and jersey number were shown during pre-game introductions on the video board.

Howland said last week that he was ``very confident'' about Muhammad being cleared to play.

Anderson was cleared to play after the NCAA said it found no evidence to substantiate claims of potential recruiting violations. The forward from Jersey City, N.J., was among the nation's top recruits last spring and had 10 points and 10 rebounds in his first collegiate start Friday night.

``That team, with or without Shabazz, is a team that can win the national championship,'' Indiana State coach Greg Lansing said.

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The details on Alex Smith's gruesome injury are even worse than you expected

The details on Alex Smith's gruesome injury are even worse than you expected

When Alex Smith went down in Sunday's loss to the Texans, the injury looked bad. From his reaction and the instant reaction of his teammates and coaches, it became obvious the severity of the situation. 

As soon as the video replays showed Smith's leg bend in the way it wasn't intended, the whole world knew bones were broken. 

Now, though, as details begin to emerge after Smith had successful surgery on the injury, it sounds even worse than it looked. 

On Monday, Jay Gruden explained that Smith faces a recovery time of six to eight months. That timeline puts Smith on pace to return for training camp in 2019, but that also assumes no complications from surgery and a full recovery. Smith will be 35 in May.

The Redskins acquired Smith via trade during the 2018 offseason, and immediately agreed to a contract extension with the quarterback. That deal includes $71 million guaranteed for injury.

In his first season as Redskins starter, Smith was completing 62 percent of his passes for 2,180 yards to go with 10 TDs against five INTs in 10 games before the injury. Smith guided the Redskins to a 6-3 record before leaving the Texans game and eventually landing on the injured reserve list. 

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Undermanned Capitals finish road trip in style with 5-4 overtime win in Montreal

Undermanned Capitals finish road trip in style with 5-4 overtime win in Montreal

Alex Ovechkin stared into the rafters at Bell Centre but he was not looking at all the championship banners. 

Ripping a shot from his office in the left faceoff circle with under one second remaining in Monday’s game against the Montreal Canadiens, Ovechkin assumed he had just won a wild one for the Capitals. 

Instead, goalie Carey Price’s desperate dive allowed him to get the knob of his stick in the way. Ovechkin looked upward and then all he could do was clap and tap Price as he skated away with a wry smile.

The smile was broader a few minutes later after teammate Lars Eller slipped a shot through Price’s pads at 3:34 of overtime to earn Washington a comeback 5-4 win and end a difficult road trip with a 3-1-0 record with two overtime victories.

Ovechkin scored twice and was robbed of a hat trick multiple times by Price, who allowed four goals but made some astounding saves. The fact that Washington won anyway epitomized a road trip where they played shorthanded from the start. 

Evgeny Kuznetsov and T.J. Oshie haven’t played since getting hurt in the second game of the trip at the Winnipeg Jets. Braden Holtby was a surprise scratch before the first game against the Minnesota Wild last Tuesday. He didn’t make an appearance until the second period against the Canadiens, who chased Pheonix Copley from the net with three goals in the first 95 seconds of the second period. 

Just like that a 2-1 lead was a 4-2 deficit and Holtby, out three games with an upper body injury, was needed. He stopped all 22 shots Montreal sent his way and gave Washington a chance to rally. Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin and, finally, Eller scored on Price to win it. 

“Those are huge for the season as it moves on,” Holtby said. “When you are in those situations, you get more and more comfortable. It’s been one of our big strengths the last couple years and to see it happening again, I think that’s a good sign for us.”

It IS a good sign going forward – provided Oshie and Kuznetsov are able to return to the ice soon. With a day off Tuesday and games Wednesday (Chicago Blackhawks), Friday (Detroit Red Wings), and Saturday (at New York Rangers) in a busy Thanksgiving Week there isn’t much practice time.

But for a short time at least missing two of their top five scorers wasn’t a problem. The depth the Capitals showed during last year’s Stanley Cup playoff run is still there. They needed it. And with another four games in six days upcoming, they might need it longer still. 

Copley wasn’t as good as he’d been in starts against the Wild, Jets and Colorado Avalanche. But Eller was able to handle a top-six role, Tom Wilson was again a factor in his fourth game back from a 16-game suspension and Washington got a goal from Connolly, who began the game on the fourth line after a rough night in Denver and by the second period against the Canadiens he was on the second line with Eller and Jakub Vrana.   

So after losing back-to-back games to end a five-game homestand, the Capitals have stabilized even without a full lineup. At 10-7-3 and with 23 standings points, Washington is in third place in the Metropolitan Division through 20 games. 

The Caps have made it through a dangerous first quarter of the season in a reasonable spot. They could be like the Pittsburgh Penguins (7-8-4), who are already making trades and sit in last place after four losses in a row, or the Philadelphia Flyers (9-9-2), who have lost three straight. 

Instead, they knocked off one tough road trip (Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal) in late October and then this one in mid November with a 5-3-0 record. Things could have gone off the rails. That they did not is a victory in itself.     

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