Redskins

No. 1 Indiana gets stronger with 2 freshmen back

No. 1 Indiana gets stronger with 2 freshmen back

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) No. 1 Indiana, which has been playing short-handed all season, is getting reinforcements.

On Saturday, 6-foot-8 forward Hanner Mosquera-Perea and 7-foot center Peter Jurkin are expected to make their college debuts after completing an NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension. All the Hoosiers have to do now is figure out how to work the two freshmen into the lineup against in-state rival Butler.

``I think it's going to be sort of a game feel,'' Indiana associate head coach Steve McClain said. ``I think coach (Tom Crean) has an idea in his mind of how he wants to do this.''

He's just not saying what it is.

It's not as if the Hoosiers (9-0) need more help. They lead the nation in scoring (89.1 points) and victory margin (plus-31.7). They are fourth nationally in rebound differential (plus-13.8) and field-goal percentage (51.5). They even lead the Big Ten in defensive field-goal percentage (35.3) and defensive 3-point percentage (26.4) and have won every game by double digits.

Still, things were starting to get thin on the front line.

Derek Elston, a 6-foot-9 senior forward, had surgery Oct. 26 for a torn meniscus in his left knee and though his recovery is going well, he isn't expected back until after Christmas. Last week, sophomore forward Austin Etherington went down with a season-ending fractured left kneecap.

So getting the two freshmen back now will help at this weekend's Crossroads Classic, a double-header featuring Indiana's four best-known basketball programs - the Hoosiers, two-time national runner-up Butler and two more NCAA tourney regulars, No. 22 Notre Dame and Purdue.

Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin were ordered to sit last month by the NCAA, which determined the two had accepted improper benefits from their AAU coach, Mark Adams. He provided them with $9,702 and $6,003 in plane tickets, meals, housing, a laptop computer, a cellphone and clothing. Mosquera-Perea was told to pay back approximately $1,590 and Jurkin $250.

The NCAA said both players were qualified to receive the benefits from AHOPE, the nonprofit organization Adams uses to help international players obtain travel documents and cover travel costs to the U.S. The problem was that Adams also was considered an Indiana booster because he donated $185 to the Varsity Club from 1986-92, and boosters cannot provide benefits to players.

Now that they are with the team, it won't be as simple as just plugging Mosquera-Perea and Jurkin into a lineup that revolves around national player of the year candidate Cody Zeller. McClain said it may take a little time to figure it all out.

``Peter is a shot-blocker with length whereas Hanner is a shot-blocker who can step out on the perimeter and guard a perimeter player,'' McClain said. ``They both can rebound on a high level, so they bring a lot to the table.''

For the Bulldogs, it's another opportunity to slay a basketball behemoth in front of a national television audience.

Butler (7-2) captivated the nation by becoming the first school in Indiana's storied history to reach back-to-back championship games in 2010 and 2011, and the Bulldogs are up to their old tricks again. The Bulldogs have won four straight, five straight at Bankers Life Fieldhouse and have already beaten Marquette, North Carolina and Northwestern as rumors have spread that they may be looking to leave the Atlantic 10 and join a new conference with Marquette and other former Big East schools.

Athletic director Barry Collier declined to comment on those rumors Friday.

One thing Butler hasn't done yet: Beat a No. 1 team. In its only other meetings with the nation's top-ranked team, Butler lost at DePaul in February 1980 and at Michigan during the 1964-65 season.

This time, they'll play Indiana five miles from the Butler campus with a team that has steadily improved.

Butler's game plan revolves around two new hotshot shooters - Rotnei Clarke, the big-shooting guard who was an All-SEC player at Arkansas, and Kellen Dunham. Plus, 7-foot senior Andrew Smith and power forward Khyle Marshall have been playing better. Smith is coming off a 24-point, 10-rebound game at Northwestern, maybe the best game of his career, and Marshall has become an imposing inside threat.

Coach Brad Stevens nearly had Zeller to go along with that group, but he choose Indiana over Butler and North Carolina.

``They're No. 1 for a reason, they're very deep. I think they've got great skill, great athleticism and a selfless superstar,'' Stevens said of the Hoosiers. ``I think they'll be the team to beat all the way through April.''

While the Indiana-Butler game is Saturday's main feature, it's not the only popular attraction in town.

Notre Dame forwards Jack Cooley and Scott Martin will lead No. 22 Notre Dame (8-1) against the young Boilermakers (4-5). These schools, just 108 miles apart, haven't met on the basketball court since the 2004 NIT and the series is tied 20-20.

Martin, once part of a Purdue recruiting class dubbed the Baby Boilers, has downplayed the significance of facing his old school.

``I had some good times and some big wins, so I definitely enjoyed myself there (at Purdue),'' Martin said. ``Obviously, it didn't work out, and I don't think anyone was too thrilled about the way things happened, but I don't think anyone's bitter about it.''

The Boilermakers have struggled this season with three losses already to non-power conference schools - Bucknell, Xavier and last Saturday at Eastern Michigan 47-44. Their only win against a BCS-conference school came at Clemson.

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Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Three ways the Redskins helped Dwayne Haskins truly shine for the first time

Dwayne Haskins played really well Sunday against the Eagles, and it wasn't just on certain drives or in specific situations. Haskins put together a complete and encouraging performance in Week 15, and for that, he deserves a lot of credit.

But the Redskins' coaching staff, and most notably Kevin O'Connell, should be praised as well for setting Haskins up to shine versus Philly.

Here are three things O'Connell and the offense did at FedEx Field that contributed to the rookie's best effort as a pro.

They were more aggressive on early downs

The following two things are true: 1) Bill Callahan loves Adrian Peterson, and 2) Adrian Peterson has a legitimate shot at rushing for more than 1,000 yards this season. Because of those two facts, it felt like Sunday was setting up to be the Peterson Show, especially on first down.

It wasn't, though, and that greatly benefitted Haskins.

No. 7 found Terry McLaurin for a nine-yarder to start the contest, a throw that allowed the QB to settle into a nice rhythm from the start. The 75-yard touchdown pass from Haskins to McLaurin was also a first down toss, one that featured play-action:

A first down pass in the second quarter, meanwhile, led to a defensive pass interference that advanced the ball 14 yards. On that possession, Haskins would eventually find Steven Sims for a score. 

Throughout the matchup, the Burgundy and Gold seemed more comfortable with trusting Haskins to attack the Eagles, and that's something he very much enjoyed.

"I hope to continue to do it," he told reporters postgame.

They targeted Steven Sims a bunch

Want another example of O'Connell's influence over the gameplan? Look no further than how much Sims was involved.

Overall, Sims was targeted 11 times, and while he only hauled in five of those passes, he's a guy worth looking to often. O'Connell has talked for weeks now about how much he wants to use Sims, and while it may sound odd to say that an undrafted receiver from Kansas deserves lots of chances on a unit that includes McLaurin and Peterson, it's true.

He's really difficult for defensive backs to stay in front of and he's shown a penchant for making some tremendous grabs, including his toe-tapper for his first career receiving TD on Sunday.  

"I'm seeing everything and I'm playing faster," Sims said in the locker room. 

O'Connell and Haskins are seeing him, too, and his larger role is giving Haskins another weapon to rely on.

They introduced a creative option play

In addition to the uptick in aggressiveness, the Redskins also were more creative against the Eagles than they had been lately. The best example of that is the option they introduced and executed perfectly on two separate snaps.

On the first option, Haskins fake-tossed it to Peterson before lateraling it to him a second later. The fake from Haskins was a nifty way to buy more time for the play to develop and it set Peterson up to pick up a first down:

They went back to it again in the third quarter, but this time, Haskins kept the ball and cut upfield for a 23-yard gain:

Watch any NFL game on any weekend, and you'll see offenses trying new concepts and surprising defenses with those concepts. In Week 15, the Redskins were finally one of those offenses, and the group as a whole was the most effective its been under Haskins. And for that, both the player and the staff should be recognized.

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Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

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Mark Lerner reflects on Bryce Harper’s departure in free agency

For seven seasons, the Nationals and Bryce Harper enjoyed a happy marriage that included four NL East division titles, an MVP award and the respect from the rest of the league as legitimate playoff contenders year in and year out.

But principal owner Mark Lerner knew their relationship might not last forever. In an exclusive interview with NBC Sports Washington’s Donald Dell, Lerner talked about how the team balanced making a business decision with the personal side of hoping to extend Harper when he hit free agency last offseason.

“We all like Bryce but at the end of the day, there’s the economic factor, there’s other factors that come into it: clubhouse, interaction with teammates, everything you could imagine in a decision about a free agent,” Lerner said.

Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million deal with the Philadelphia Phillies, which at the time was the record for the most expensive contract in MLB history. The Nationals reportedly made him an offer for 10 years and $300 million that included $100 million in deferrals at the end of the 2018 season.

“He [was] a free agent for a reason, he earned that right,” Lerner said. “It’s his decision and his family’s decision where they play. And he chose to move on. He obviously got an incredible offer.

“Everybody seems to forget it’s not just a bidding war to get the players, the player has to want to play here and sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn’t.”

By the time Harper signed with Philadelphia in early March, the Nationals had already reported to Spring Training with starter Patrick Corbin signed to a six-year, $140 million deal as well as a slew of new faces on the roster that had joined the club through free agency. Lerner said Washington never heard back from Harper and didn’t want to wait for him to make a decision.

“We were moving down a different path at that point anyhow,” Lerner said. “Because, as you may recall, Bryce had not given us a response through his agent Scott Boras and we had decisions we had to make so we didn’t get caught waiting too long for him to find out we can’t get other players to replace him.

“And our choice at that point in time was either wait for him or we had the opportunity to sign Patrick Corbin. And we chose to sign Patrick Corbin and get another great starter, which has worked out great, and it was really more us at that point to say, ‘We have to move on.’”

The Nationals went on to win the World Series in 2019 while Harper posted an .882 OPS with 35 home runs in 157 games for the 81-81 Phillies. But as division rivals, Harper and the Nationals will see each other plenty over the next 12 years he’s locked into Philadelphia.

Only time will tell which side ends up wondering what could’ve been.

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