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No. 20 Wichita State blitzes Bradley 73-39

No. 20 Wichita State blitzes Bradley 73-39

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Nick Wiggins scored 12 points and fueled a 16-0 run in the second half with three 3-pointers as No. 20 Wichita State completed a regular-season sweep of Bradley with a 73-39 victory Saturday night.

Jake White added 11 points for the Shockers (19-2, 8-1 Missouri Valley Conference), who won their 19th consecutive home game and ensured themselves of starting the second half of their conference schedule in sole possession of the MVC lead.

Cleanthony Early and Malcolm Armstead each added 10 points for Wichita State.

Walt Lemon Jr. led Bradley (12-9, 4-5) with 14 points.

WSU defeated Bradley for the seventh consecutive time, adding to its longest winning streak in series history. The Shockers led 39-30 with 15:20 remaining, but Early and Wiggins launched the game-breaking run as Bradley went more than 6 minutes without a field goal while Wichita State extended its advantage to 59-32.

After a sluggish start, Wichita State shot 51 percent from the field (26 of 51) and limited Bradley to 32 percent.

The Shockers took their first double-digit lead at 34-23 on Tekele Cotton's basket with 19:03 remaining. It took another 5 minutes for Wichita State to begin pulling away.

After Early made two free throws, Wiggins converted Armstead's steal into a fast-break dunk for a 43-30 lead. Wiggins sandwiched two 3-pointers around Anthony's layup, and Carl Hall scored off a Bradley turnover to stretch WSU's lead to 53-32 with 11:29 to play.

Wichita State also finished the first half on a 10-2 run to build a 32-23 lead.

Demetric Williams provided the big spark during WSU's run. He made two free throws with 14 seconds remaining, then stole the ball from Jake Eastman and converted it into a driving layup just before time expired.

The Shockers, who defeated Bradley 69-63 on the road earlier this month, struggled to gain the upper hand for most of the opening half. Neither team led by more than four points in the first 18 minutes. WSU, which made just five of its first 15 shots, reached 50 percent by halftime by making seven of its last nine.

Lemon, Bradley's leading scorer, kept the Braves close in the first half with 10 points, including two 3-pointers. The Braves made just two field goals over the last 8:34 of the first half and were outrebounded 20-12 before the break.

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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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