Redskins

No. 16 NC State edges UNC Asheville 82-80

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No. 16 NC State edges UNC Asheville 82-80

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) Richard Howell scored 23 points, including the go-ahead basket with 3:06 left, to help No. 16 North Carolina State rally past UNC Asheville 82-80 on Friday night.

Howell finished with 15 rebounds and also knocked down two free throws with 5 seconds left to secure the win for the Wolfpack (4-1), who finally shook free of the Bulldogs late after trailing most of the way. UNC Asheville (1-5) led by seven with 8 1/2 minutes left before N.C. State finally inched ahead, pushing in front when Howell corralled a deflected pass and scored in the paint while drawing an intentional foul.

Scott Wood added 14 points, including a pair of clutch jumpers in the final 3 minutes that helped N.C. State hold on.

Jeremy Atkinson scored a career-high 28 points for the Bulldogs, who lost their fifth straight since beating Western Carolina in the opener.

This looked like a game that would give N.C. State the chance to regroup after a 20-point loss to Oklahoma State in the Puerto Rico Tipoff championship game on Sunday. Instead, N.C. State's struggles continued against an aggressive and opportunistic bunch of Bulldogs who wouldn't go away.

While N.C. State shot 56 percent for the game, it committed 19 turnovers that UNC Asheville converted into 31 points. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-4 Atkinson frustrated the Wolfpack the entire way by being quick enough to get his shot off the dribble or muscle around in the paint. N.C. State tried freshmen Rodney Purvis and T.J. Warren on Atkinson before turning to junior C.J. Leslie in the final minutes.

After the Wolfpack took the 70-69 lead on Howell's basket, Wood followed with a straightaway jumper that pushed the lead to four. Two possessions later, Wood answered a 3-pointer by Trent Meyer with one of his own, losing Keith Hornsby around a screen on the right wing to make it 76-72 with 1:16 left.

UNC Asheville got as close as 80-78 on a three-point play from Hornsby with 16.5 seconds left, but Howell made it a two-possession game with his free throws and the Bulldogs managed a meaningless putback just before the buzzer to end it.

N.C. State improved to 18-0 all-time against UNC Asheville, led by former Wolfpack player Eddie Biedenbach.

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The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

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@kerrigan91

The Kerrigans are having a baby and, WOW, this is all so very exciting

The Kerrigan family is about to make a big-time addition to its roster.

Ryan and his wife, Jessica, already have two very, VERY, very, very cute bulldogs in their household. 

But on Tuesday, the two announced in separate Instagram posts that Jessica is 18 weeks pregnant and that a third human Kerrigan will arrive in 2019.

"Can I eat dis sign aftur da picturr iz over?" George the bulldog said when reached for comment on the news.

"How did dey gett such a smawl jerzey for da baby alreddy?" Franklin the other bulldog added.

This is all very wonderful.

Come next March, the world is about to get a little precious-er.

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The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

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USA Today Sports

The Caps are a bad faceoff team, here’s what they’re doing about it

Tuesday’s practice was a lot like every other for the Caps until the end. After working on the power play, the team gathered at one end of the ice and began working on faceoffs. It was not just the centers, but wingers and defensemen alike got into the action with every win celebrated by loud cheers from teammates.

It should could as no surprise to see faceoffs as a point of emphasis for Washington considering just how much the team has struggled with them in the early season. The Caps rank 30th in the league in faceoff win percentage at only 43.8-percent.

“Yeah, there's little details that can help our game,” Lars Eller told reporters after practice. “The more you have the puck, easier the game is gonna be for you. We have a little more time in between games than usual during the season here, so we have the time to work on something like that, which can be little things that makes the difference.”

The team as a whole watched video on faceoffs prior to practice and then worked as a five-man unit during the drill. The main point of emphasis head coach Todd Reirden wanted to drill into his players was that faceoffs are not simply the responsibility of the centers alone.

“The days of it just being center vs. center and a clean draw being won back are a rarity now so it's important to have all five guys helping, something we watched video on earlier today,” Reirden said.

“You ask any centerman if they have a good group of wingers that can help them out on draws, that makes a huge difference,” Nic Dowd said. “I've been lucky, I have [Devante Smith-Pelly] on my right and I'm a righty so I win all my draws my backhand side so a lot of pucks go his way and he wins a lot of draws for me. That's huge. You have a guy that's sitting over there that's sleeping, you could go easily from five wins to five losses and then that's your night. It makes a big difference.”

Faceoffs were always going to be more of a struggle for the Caps this season with the departure of Jay Beagle who was, by far, the team’s best faceoff man for several years. Whenever the team needed a big draw, Beagle was the player relied upon to win it. With him gone, it is no surprise to see the team struggle.

But the Caps don’t like the idea of keeping possession off a draw just 43.8-percent of the time.

“It's essentially like the ref is creating a 50-50 puck and you snap it back, you get possession, now you're forechecking and it makes a huge difference,” Dowd said. “You play against those top lines, they want to be in the O-zone. Well, if you lose the draw, now you're playing D-zone, you win the draw now you're playing O-zone. So effectively, you've shut down their shift.”

There is a school of thought suggesting that perhaps the importance of winning faceoffs is overrated and a team’s faceoff win percentage is not overly important. Eller himself admitted as much to reporters.

What no one can argue, however, is that while some faceoffs may not matter all that much, there are some that are hugely important in a game. The Caps recognize that. For them, being a strong faceoff team is not necessarily about improving the team’s win percentage, but more about being able to win those critical draws.

“It's something that for the most part the players understand and a neutral zone faceoff with 14 minutes to go in the first period is not nearly as important as one that's 5-on-6 at the end of the game,” Reirden said. “We all know that. It's important to put the right people on those situations and give them the best chance to have success.”

“A center ice draw, I could see where guys could make the argument, well you lose it you still will play hockey and stuff could still happen,” Dowd said. “But I think the game is such a possession game now that any opportunity you can win a 50-50 puck whether that's a faceoff or a board battle, it makes a huge difference.”

 

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