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No. 20 Bulldogs roll past Kentucky 27-14

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No. 20 Bulldogs roll past Kentucky 27-14

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen was slightly concerned about his team's focus against Kentucky coming off a bye week.

Not only did the No. 20 Bulldogs ease his mind on that issue, they did it effectively.

Tyler Russell passed for two touchdowns and Mississippi State held Kentucky to just 228 yards on offense, leading to a 27-14 victory Saturday.

``We lost our focus a couple of times with a couple of people, but overall I'm real pleased,'' Mullen said. ``I think our defense played very well over the course of the game.

``I would've liked a couple more scores.''

LaDarius Perkins carried 25 times for 110 yards, including a 31-yard score, and Devon Bell kicked field goals of 20 and 37 yards as Mississippi State moved to 5-0 for the first time since 1999. The Bulldogs are 2-0 in the Southeastern Conference.

Russell was 23 of 39 for 269 yards, hitting Adrian Marcus and Chad Bumphis for touchdowns of 10 and 27 yards, respectively.

Bumphis, who finished with 9 receptions for 104 yards, also broke the school record with his 17th career TD.

``It's a big deal to get it (the record) out of the way, finally,'' Bumphis said.

Mississippi State finished with 158 yards rushing and 427 overall, splitting its season-high 78 plays evenly running and passing.

Freshmen quarterbacks Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow both led scoring drives for Kentucky (1-5, 0-3), which lost its fourth straight. Whitlow played the second half after Towles sprained his ankle just before halftime.

Whitlow finished 10of-21 passing for 73 yards, adding 26 rushing yards on eight carries. Towles was 5 of 6 for 71 yards.

``I thought both of them competed hard,'' Kentucky coach Joker Phillips said.

But it was all about the Bulldogs, who showed no rust from a week off. The defense allowed its second-fewest yards this season, 12 more than it allowed in a 28-10 victory over Auburn last month.

``It's good to get a win even though we didn't cause any turnovers,'' cornerback Darius Slay said. ``We at least had about seven or eight 3-and-outs, so it put the offense in good field position a lot.''

Offensively, Mississippi State converted 10 of 18 third downs and one fourth down.

The offense started deliberately in taking the opening kickoff and driving 85 yards in 13 plays. Russell's mix of quick slants and short out patterns accounted for 57 yards on 6-of-8 passing, including a screen pass to Marcus for the first score.

Marcus was helped by a collision between Kentucky defensive end Taylor Wyndham and safety Martavius Neloms as they appeared to have him hemmed up in the backfield. That cleared his path to the end zone.

The Bulldogs had an easier time taking a 14-0 lead, moving 61 yards in six plays with little resistance from the Wildcats, especially on the final two snaps. After Russell's fourth-down run for 4 yards to Kentucky's 31, Perkins broke through the right side virtually untouched for his sixth touchdown this season.

``We wanted that kind of fast start, playing on the road against a team with freshman quarterbacks,'' Mullen said.

Kentucky stumbled to consecutive 3-and-outs totaling 3 yards with Whitlow starting at quarterback. The Wildcats had suggested alternating him and Towles from play to play, but the switch didn't happen until the third possession.

Towles entered the game to cheers, and he drew even more in leading a 10-play, 80-yard scoring drive.

The highly touted freshman was 5 of 5 for 71 yards, completing it with a 32-yard TD pass to wide-open La'Rod King. But the Wildcats couldn't sustain anything else, and Towles sprained his ankle on a second-quarter sack and did not return.

Neloms left the game with a hamstring injury.

Bell's field goals made it 20-7 for Mississippi State, which outgained Kentucky 172-17 in the first quarter and 278-90 for the half. The Bulldogs' first two plays of the second half culminated in a 27-7 lead as Russell found Bumphis for his second TD pass, a 40-yard drive helped by defensive holding on Wildcats cornerback Cartier Rice.

Whitlow returned to help Kentucky back into the game by making it 27-14, finishing a 46-yard drive with a 3-yard scoring run in the third quarter.

That score resulted from a shanked Mississippi State punt. The Bulldogs also lost two fumbles.

Those were the only mistakes on an otherwise complete day. The Bulldogs rarely allowed the Wildcats inside the 40 in the second half and ran out the clock after taking over on downs at Kentucky's 33.

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Jeff Green lifts Wizards as fellow Hoya Otto Porter watches late again

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USA Today Sports

Jeff Green lifts Wizards as fellow Hoya Otto Porter watches late again

The Wizards’ 117-109 win over the Orlando Magic Monday night was the tale of two Hoyas.

Washington brought Jeff Green back home this summer to help anchor the second unit with his defensive versatility and scoring spurts. Both aspects were on display in the fourth quarter, as the Wizards finally broke free from the Magic.

Another former Georgetown star, Otto Porter, was nowhere to be found in the fourth. Zero minutes for a third consecutive game for the Wizards’ highest-paid player, thus adding another layer of weird to his season.

The why is a topic. For a team that registered its first winning streak of the season after a 2-9 start, all that matters is finding success. That was the postgame message from Scott Brooks.

There’s no detective work required as to why Green turned into a late-game staple.

After his 19-point outing in Saturday’s win at Miami, the streaky scorer had 10 of his 18 in the final period against Orlando with four 3-pointers. Defensively the 6-foot-9 forward offers Brooks an option the roster lacked last season: a versatile player capable of guarding on the perimeter and, as was the case against Orlando center Nik Vucevic, inside against bigger players.

“We need his all-around play,” Brooks said. “He can guard just about everybody on the floor. … I thought [Jeff] did a pretty good job on the big fellow.”

Green and Markieff Morris handled the interior spots the entire fourth quarter. When the forwards can match up with opposing four’s and five’s on defense, it typically means their scoring presence opens the court for penetrating guards John Wall and Bradley Beal on the other end.

Green sinking bombs throughout the game helped as well. He finished four of five from deep with two coming in the fourth. The career 33 percent 3-point shooter is 9 of 13 from beyond the arc overall during the last four games, and 21 of 28 overall.

“He's starting to get a little bit of rhythm from the three-point line, and we need that from him,” Brooks said.

Maybe Green isn’t the ideal athletic-4 Wall called for in recent years, but the on-court connection between the power forward and point guard is evident. During the decisive 14-4 run, the two hooked up for an alley-oop lob that's turned into a go-to play for Washington.

With shooters surrounding the duo, Wall dribbles toward the left elbow, taking all eyes with him. Green immediately turns down an open lane and rolls to the rim before rising high to meet the toss.

“We have shooters, we have guys that have to [be] respected,” Green said of the play. “It keeps [defenders] at bay, and with John’s speed, to get downhill at the rim, you have to help (on him).”

Wall passed on offering any keys to the play’s success (“We just tweaked a little bit of the play. I can’t tell you about, but it’s kind of working for us.”), but he praised Green’s performance with ease.

“That’s what we got Jeff for,” Wall said.

The Wizards matched that massive four-year, $106.5 million restricted offer sheet Porter signed with Brooklyn in 2017 for all kinds of reasons. Among them, he’s an instinct-rich player who makes winning plays and ranks among the most accurate 3-point shooters in the league. Those traits haven’t kept Porter on the court late in games recently in part because they haven’t shown in full-throated ways.

The term “benching” is harsh, though the situation is odd. Morris sat out the final periods at Orlando and Miami. Dwight Howard didn’t enter the fourth Monday despite finishing with 17 points and eight rebounds. Only Porter’s sit streak reached three games.

The small forward played a strong defensive game in Saturday’s win at Miami, but Brooks rode with a group that gained momentum as Washington surged past the Heat.

Porter is 9 of 16 on 3-pointers over the last four games. That’s only one aspect of the game. Brooks is looking for more. Porter took only one shot attempt in the first half Monday, lacked vigor defensively, and scored six points in 21 minutes. Kelly Oubre Jr., Porter's primary backup, played the entire fourth quarter instead despite finishing 0 for 5 from the floor.

"I mean, it's trying to find a blend of guys that are going to compete and going to play hard,” Brooks said of his lineup choices.

Asked specifically about Porter, Brooks said, “It’s just the way it is. Some games Otto is not going to have good games. Tonight isn’t one of them. He’ll bounce back. The guy is a winner. He knows how to play.”

Green and Porter honed their games at Georgetown under coach John Thompson III and turned into top-5 NBA Draft selections. The program is mostly closed off to the outside world, but a strong bond between the players exists regardless of when they played. The two forwards never joined forces until this season. Green knows Porter, enough to tell whether a helpful chat is required. This isn’t one of those times. 

“Otto is a pro, man,” Green told NBC Sports Washington. “I don’t have to say anything to Otto. He’s a team-first guy. He’s a guy who’s going to make sure whenever his name is called he’s going to be ready. He’s not worried about if he’s playing. I’m sure he’d like to be playing. He’s doing whatever it takes it to make sure the team is in a place to win.”

So is Scott Brooks. For now, that includes one former Georgetown star in the fourth quarter. It’s just not the obvious one.

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5 must-see moments from Wizards' 117-109 win over Magic, including Bradley Beal's big dunk

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USA Today Sports

5 must-see moments from Wizards' 117-109 win over Magic, including Bradley Beal's big dunk

The Washington Wizards topped the Orlando Magic 117-109 on Monday night. Here are five plays or moments worth revisiting...

1. Like most games the Wizards have played this season, on Monday they started out scorching on offense while defense appeared optional. 

This play was an exception. Bradley Beal, whom you will see plenty more from in this post, got a steal that led to a three for Otto Porter Jr. on the other end:

Though the Wizards won, Porter was held to just six points in 22 minutes of action.

2. Back to Beal. Though that first-half play was nice, he was quiet for much of this game. It wasn't until less than five minutes were remaining in the third quarter that he flipped a switch.

But when he did, there was nothing the Magic could do to stop him. This was one of the plays he made during his third quarter takeover. He used a nifty behind-the-back crossover to set up Dwight Howard for an and-1 bucket:

3. Beal accounted for 10 points in a three-minute stretch, capped off with this steal and dunk:

Beal started the game 3-for-13 from the field, but ended it with 21 points, eight rebounds, four assists, two steals and a block.

4. John Wall (25 points, 10 assists) and Jeff Green (18 points, six rebounds) also had big nights. They connected on this alley-oop in the fourth quarter:

Green had 10 points in the fourth quarter and Wall had nine.

5. Wall kept it going late with this fadeaway jumper to force a Magic timeout. The way he toyed with the defense off the dribble was quite impressive:

Speaking of Wall, if you ask Beal, it was the media (and more specifically ESPN's Stephen A. Smith) that set the five-time All-Star off. Wall, Beal says, was playing with some extra motivation with Smith sitting courtside:

Don't question him. Just go with it.

The Wizards have now won two straight games. In a sign that it's still super early and probably not time to freak out about the big picture, the Wizards are now just 1 1/2 games out of the eighth seed in the East.

 

 

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