Nationals

No. 10 Gonzaga holds off Santa Clara 81-74

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No. 10 Gonzaga holds off Santa Clara 81-74

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) Kelly Olynyk made a key putback with 1:55 remaining on the way to a career-high 33 points, and No. 10 Gonzaga held off a late rally to beat Santa Clara 81-74 on Saturday night for its sixth straight victory.

Elias Harris added 14 points for the Zags (15-1, 2-0 WCC), determined to win another West Coast Conference crown after Saint Mary's snapped the school's run of 11 straight won or shared conference titles.

Olynyk also had 10 rebounds, scored Gonzaga's eight straight points late as the Zags shot 55 percent from the floor.

Kevin Foster scored 29 points and reached the 2,000 mark for his career and Marc Trasolini had 19 points and nine rebounds for Santa Clara (12-4, 1-1), which is off to the program's best start since 1997-98.

After Trasolini's dunk with 16:23 remaining pulled Santa Clara within 46-44, Olynyk scored four straight points and six of the Zags' next eight as his team began to pull away before one last-ditch Santa Clara rally.

Gonzaga also shifted to a zone defense and caused the Broncos problems getting to the basket.

Foster had 17 of his points in the first half with two of his team's six 3-pointers, then scored Santa Clara's initial six points after halftime before struggling to create shots.

His jumper with 6:55 left cut Gonzaga's lead to six, then Trasolini hit a pair of free throws the next time down the floor to make it 64-60.

But Gonzaga came through with the big plays down the stretch. Olynyk made a pair of free throws with 4:31 to go.

Santa Clara faced a top-10 opponent for the second time in exactly a week after losing 90-77 at No. 1 Duke on Dec. 29. The Broncos dropped to 9-3 at home.

The raucous, sold-out Leavey Center drew a standing-room only crowd of 4,907 - the largest attendance ever in the cozy arena.

Gonzaga grabbed the opening tipoff and Olynyk dunked just 4 seconds into the game, then the Zags came out in a full-court trap press.

The 7-foot, 238-pound Olynyk scored 17 points in the first half on 7-for-8 shooting, including six as Gonzaga used a 12-4 run over the final 5:35 to take a 41-34 lead at the break.

Olynyk was held to 4 of 8 shooting in a 78-62 win at Pepperdine on Thursday night.

With school still out for the holiday break until Monday and on-campus dormitories closed until Sunday, Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating did all he could to ensure a packed house - offering $100 hotel reimbursements from his own bank account to those students who live on campus but had nowhere to stay Saturday night.

A dozen students took advantage of the offer sharing four rooms, and there was no lack of spirit as is always the case when the Zags come to campus.

While Gonzaga swept both meetings last season, the Bulldogs had a nine-game winning streak in the series snapped with a 73-62 loss at Santa Clara's home court on Jan. 20, 2011.

Santa Clara ended a 17-game losing streak against conference opponents by beating San Francisco 74-69 on Wednesday night. The Broncos were trying to win their first two conference games for the first time since 2003-04.

They connected on 3 of their first 5 3-pointers 5:34 into the game and limited Gonzaga to six shots in the opening 6:40. The Bulldogs held an 18-12 rebounding advantage and shot 55.6 percent in the first half.

Foster went just 2 for 12 from long range.

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Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

Ryan Zimmerman’s return to the Nationals is finally happening

If Ryan Zimmerman did not return to the Nationals, he at least would have a future teaching how not to negotiate.

Zimmerman openly drove down his bargaining leverage for almost a year before signing a one-year deal on Friday to return to the only professional team he’s known, a source confirmed. The deal is reported at $2 million.

Throughout the season, Zimmerman openly discussed his interest in returning and understanding it would be at a low rate. As if his stance wasn’t already clear, Zimmerman explained at a screening of the Nationals’ championship video he would return or play more golf.

“So, we’ll be good to go,” Zimmerman said.

It’s baseball for now. Zimmerman rejoins the defending World Series champions to play his 16th season. He’s a 35-year-old platoon player this season. Zimmerman’s money and legacy have been established. He’s back in the fold to pursue another title. 

And he makes an already old Nationals team older. Zimmerman turns 36 years old the day after the 2020 regular season ends. Howie Kendrick will be 37 years old by midseason. Asdrúbal Cabrera is 34 years old. Eric Thames is 33 years old. Will Harris is 35, Daniel Hudson 32, Sean Doolittle 33, Max Scherzer 35, Kurt Suzuki 36. Yan Gomes will be 33 just after the All-Star break. 

Zimmerman will share first base with Thames and, occasionally, Howie Kendrick. They provide an intriguing splits-based platoon. Thames hits right-handers well -- 23 of his 25 2019 home runs came against them, as did much of his opportunity in Milwaukee -- and Zimmerman has a .917 career OPS against left-handed pitchers. Zimmerman is the much better defender.

He’s back because he -- and the Nationals -- believe Zimmerman’s production remains directly tied to his health. His September and postseason work showed Zimmerman’s bat speed remains intact. He is quietly one of the better defensive first baseman in the league. They think they can protect him. Overall, the Nationals are so comfortable with an expanse of older players because they plan to shield them with limited usage. Also, Josh Donaldson went to Minnesota, clearing the cash and providing a need for Zimmerman. 

Kendrick, Cabrera and Starlin Castro can play various infield spots. Thames and Zimmerman will reduce the other’s role, as well as pinch-hit when not starting. Davey Martinez has options. He also has the challenge of rotating players. One thing on his side: older players know they are just that. Grousing about playing time should not be an issue with the group, the majority of which played as role players last year on the way to a World Series title. 

One other thing to note about Zimmerman: he’s 30 home runs short of 300. Can he get there with another two years on the field? He has at least one more to add to his total, assuring his driver has another lonely summer.

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Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin named to NHL's All-Decade first team for 2010-19

Alex Ovechkin once again was named to one of the NHL's All-Decade teams.

This go-around, Ovechkin was named to the first-team for the All-Decade Team spanning 2010-2019. 

During those 10 seasons, there was no one that totaled more than Ovi's 437 goals. Only two others had more than his 730 points.

Through our eyes, we saw him mature from a unique superstar to a once-in-a-generation athlete. Ovechkin won his first Stanley Cup in the decade after years of heartbreak and dominant Capitals teams that could never escape the second round. 

Now, he's a mere eight goals away from reaching 700 and further etching his name in the fabric of the sport. 

He is joined with fellow forward Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith of the Blackhawks. Sidney Crosby of the Penguins, Drew Doughty of the Kings and Marc-Andre Fleury of the Golden Knights rounded out the six-player first team. 

NHL ALL-DECADE FIRST TEAM

Alex Ovechkin - F - Capitals
Patrick Kane - F - Blackhawks
Sidney Crosby - C - Penguins
Duncan Keith - D - Blackhawks
Drew Doughty - D - Kings
Marc-Andre Fleury - G- Golden Knights

NHL ALL-DECADE SECOND TEAM

Evgeni Malkin - F - Penguins
Patrice Bergeron - F - Bruins
Steven Stamkos - F - Lightning
Erik Karlsson - D - Sharks
Zdeno Chara - D - Bruins
Henrik Lundqvist - G - Rangers

The Great 8 was also named to the All-Decade team in 2000-10. Only Zdeno Chara and Sidney Crosby, named to the second team for the last decade, received the recognition last decade as well. 

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