Capitals

No. 21 Minnesota beats North Florida 87-59

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No. 21 Minnesota beats North Florida 87-59

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) North Florida coach Matthew Driscoll knows that the loss to No. 21 Minnesota will help his team later in the season in Atlantic Sun Conference play.

Driscoll said the Ospreys wouldn't face another team as physical as the Gophers, so he offered a different point of view about Saturday's 87-59 loss, stating the games are more important for the individual matchups than the team.

His prime example: junior forward Travis Wallace.

Wallace - making his fifth straight start - scored eight of North Florida's first 16 points as the Osprey's took an early lead against Minnesota. Wallace finished with a season-high 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting and had six rebounds in Saturday's loss, continuing his development as a key starter for North Florida.

``We talked about this the other day privately,'' Driscoll said. ``He's an all-league player and he has the ability to be an all-league player. And when he plays within himself, and he plays within our system, he's an all-league player. Just sometimes, like all kids, sometimes they get out of doing things at certain times and other teams figure things out. You got to be able to fight through that.''

Parker Smith added a team-high 22 points for the Ospreys (3-5), but a season-high 22 turnovers and season-low 35.1 percent shooting doomed North Florida, which had won back-to-back games. The Ospreys were playing without guard Jerron Granberry, who has missed three games since the death of his father, and forward Andy Diaz, who has missed four games with a leg injury.

Diaz's injury opened the door for Wallace to start and Driscoll believes starting has helped Wallace's game grow. He's scored in double-figures in five straight games and adds an interior presence for a team that relies on 3-point shooting. Perhaps playing against the bigger, more physical Gophers will add to Wallace's progression.

Sunday he was matched up often with Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, an athletic 6-foot-8, 245-pound big man who was named to the preseason Lute Olson All-America team. Mbakwe scored 11 points, had six rebounds and three blocks.

``It's just not him, whoever you play you've got to come out there and give it your all,'' Wallace said. ``You got to be physical with them. People at this level, they're all physical, they're all big. You got to find the angles. It's not really who you're playing, its really what you do.''

But Minnesota's physicality was an issue for North Florida. Rodney Williams scored 15 points and had eight rebounds, and Austin Hollins added 12 points for the Gophers (8-1), winners of four straight. Minnesota outrebounded the Ospreys 48-35, including 25 offensive rebounds for the Gophers.

``We really struggled with their physicality,'' Driscoll said, later adding: ``Our room for error in playing these kinds of games is very small. But these guys know that. It isn't like this is the first time they've ever played a ranked team or whatever. It's not like this is new to us, and that's part that struggles for me as a coach because I believe we can win every single game.''

After hitting its first five attempts of the game, the Ospreys made just five shots on 23 shooting the rest of the first half as the Gophers forced tough looks and 11 North Florida turnovers in the first 20 minutes. Minnesota trailed 18-10 with 11:45 to play in the half, but followed with a 20-3 burst that included a 7 1/2-minute scoreless stretch for the Ospreys. Six of the eight field goals during the Gophers' run were layups or dunks.

``The thing that we struggle with is when a team raises its intensity to another level,'' Driscoll said. ``I don't know what their run was, but it seemed like we were stuck on 21 for six, seven minutes.''

Smith connected on just 6 of 19 attempts, including a 3-for-11 mark from the 3-point line.

The Gophers blocked a season-high 13 shots, including a career-high four from Andre Hollins and three from Mbakwe. Minnesota also tied a season high with 15 steals.

Minnesota scored 16 points off turnovers in the first half and used its size advantage to grab 14 offensive rebounds turned into 13 points. The Gophers finished with a season-high 25 offensive boards, ultimately outscoring North Florida 54-24 in the paint.

``We just don't see this kind of girth at our level,'' Driscoll said.

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Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

Possible playoff opponents for the Capitals are starting to come into focus

With their 3-1 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday, the Capitals' playoff future is starting to come into focus. Washington has only one game remaining and can finish in either third or fourth in the round robin standings. That limits the number of possible playoff opponents for the Caps when the games really start to matter.

First, before talking about who the Caps may play, it is important to remember why. Under the NHL's regular format, a normal year would see teams advance in a bracket, meaning each team knows going in they will be playing the winner of a specific matchup if they advance. This year, the NHL is going back to its old format of re-seeding after each round. This makes determining matchups a bit harder to figure out.

Here's what we know. The Caps are going to finish in the bottom half of the round robin meaning they will play one of the highest two seeded teams coming out of the qualifying round. The Carolina Hurricanes swept their qualifying round series against the New York Rangers. As the No. 6 seed coming in, Carolina is going to be one of the top two qualifying round teams.

RELATED: DEFENSIVE BREAKDOWNS AND MORE FROM CAPS LOSS TO FLYERS

Washington's final seed will be determined by Sunday's game against the Boston Bruins. A win in regulation, overtime or a shootout will mean the Caps are No. 3, while a loss in any fashion will bump them down to No. 4.

The simplest scenario for Washington is that If the Pittsburgh Penguins rally to win their series against the Montreal Canadiens, the Caps are guaranteed to play either Pittsburgh or Carolina as the No. 5 and 6 seeds, respectively. It gets a little trickier if the Penguins lose. If that happens, the Hurricanes become the top qualifying team and will play No. 4. The top team behind them then becomes No. 6 which, as of now, could be the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs or the Columbus Blue Jackets.

So a rematch with the Hurricanes is a definite possibility for the Caps, as is a matchup with the rival Penguins.

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Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Stephen Strasburg will start for Nationals Sunday against Orioles

Davey Martinez said Friday that Stephen Strasburg will start Sunday against the Baltimore Orioles.

Strasburg has yet to pitch this season because of a right wrist impingement which led to a nerve problem in his right hand. He missed his first start, slated for the second game of the season on July 25, then what would have been his second start five days later. Strasburg said his hand was falling asleep in the middle of the night. The Nationals medical staff needed to give Strasburg multiple injections in his hand in order to help the pain subside.

RELATED: IS NATIONALS VS. ORIOLES A TRUE RIVALRY?

He threw a heavy bullpen session Wednesday before throwing 32 pitches in a simulated game. Martinez said Strasburg felt well during the simulated game, so instead of continuing, they had him stop in order to throw 70-plus pitches Sunday against Baltimore.

"The tingling in his thumb is gone," Martinez said Friday. "That's a good sign. We watched him, like I said, he's thrown some really good [bullpen sessions]. That was the big thing for me. Nothing in his mechanics has changed. Everything's good. Based on conversations with him, he feels good. He wants to pitch. He's ready to pitch on Sunday."

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Max Scherzer left his Wednesday start after just an inning because of a hamstring "tweak" from the day before when he was running sprints. He was expected to play catch Friday. Martinez labeled him "day-to-day."

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