Nationals

No. 23 Mississippi piling up points, victories

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No. 23 Mississippi piling up points, victories

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) Mississippi's Nick Williams knows what it's like to just miss the NCAA tournament.

That's why the fifth-year senior isn't too giddy about the Rebels' current seven-game winning streak, including a 4-0 start in Southeastern Conference play and a national ranking for the first time since 2010.

``We don't want to just be 4-0,'' Williams said after Saturday's win over Arkansas. ``We want to keep it going.''

The cautious approach is probably warranted.

The Rebels have been in the NCAA tournament hunt many times over the past several years, only to falter down the stretch during late January and February. The program has won at least 20 games in five of the past six seasons, but has no NCAA tournament appearances during that span, settling for the National Invitation Tournament in all five of those seasons.

Ole Miss hasn't been to the NCAA tournament since 2002 - the longest drought in the SEC.

But there's little doubt seventh-year coach Andy Kennedy has his most talented team - and certainly his most dynamic on the offensive end. No. 23 Ole Miss (15-2) is averaging more than 82 points per game this season, which ranks 3rd nationally out of 345 Division I teams and easily leads the SEC.

It's an experienced, diverse group that includes Marshall Henderson, a sharpshooting guard who's averaging a league-best 18.9 points per game. But when Henderson's touch goes cold, there are plenty of other options. Murphy Holloway is the only player averaging a double-double in the SEC, with 15.8 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.

Reginald Buckner and Williams are also averaging more than 10 points per game. Buckner - a 6-foot-9 forward who combines with Holloway to form a ferocious duo in the paint - is second in the SEC with nearly three blocked shots per game.

``That's the great thing about our team, we've got so many different people who do some many different things,'' Williams said. ``When two or three people aren't doing what we need to win, we've got other guys who can step up. We're a deep team.''

And because of that, the Rebels are rolling, though they're certainly not invincible. They needed a 35-footer from Henderson at the buzzer in regulation to tie Vanderbilt and eventually beat the Commodores in overtime last week.

But a win is a win, and because the SEC as a whole struggled so badly during nonconference play, the Rebels will likely need a lot of them during the conference's 18-game slog to stay in the NCAA tournament picture. The NCAA's current RPI rankings have Ole Miss at No. 32.

``My hope is that our guys will continue to embrace the grind, because that's what it is,'' Kennedy said. ``We're two weeks into a nine-week grind. We've got seven more and we've got to be ready for those.''

The third week begins on Thursday when Ole Miss hosts Tennessee (9-7, 1-3) at Tad Smith Coliseum.

Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin had high praise for the Rebels on Tuesday, saying ``they have all the pieces to be very successful.''

Ole Miss certainly played well against Tennessee two weeks ago, beating the Volunteers 92-74 in Knoxville. Henderson scored a career-high 32 points in that game - combining hot shooting with some added theatrics that irritated some of the Tennessee players.

But Martin didn't seem to have an issue with it. He suggested that if his players were embarrassed by Henderson's show, they should play better defense.

``The guy's scoring baskets, making plays. I enjoyed watching him,'' Martin said. ``I hate being on the other side, but this is competitive basketball. You've got to step to the plate.''

Henderson might be the main focus of Tennessee's defensive attention on Thursday, but the entire program is starting to deal with added expectations.

Holloway says he doesn't expect any slippage just because the Rebels are starting to get noticed. If anything, he said it adds to the excitement. Ole Miss has announced two straight sellouts at Tad Smith Coliseum, and expects another on Thursday.

``I've waited so long just to be relevant,'' Holloway said. ``We've still got to be hungry.''

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AP Sports Writer Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

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3 things to watch when the .500 Nationals head to Colorado

The Nationals face the Rockies at Coors Field for the first half of this work week. Here are three things to watch for:

  1. Can the Nationals stay above .500? Stephen Strasburg’s impressive start along with Ryan Zimmerman’s two homers and two RBI kept Washington from being swept by the lowly Marlins.

  2. Who will produce with Anthony Rendon out? While the Nats 3B was sidelined with an elbow injury after being hit by a pitch in Saturday’s outing against the Marlins, Howie Kendrick started in his place. Kendrick went 1-for-3 vs Miami with one RBI and one strikeout. In terms of replacing Rendon’s hitting prowess, Victor Robles has started a streak of his own. The youngster is hot on a seven game hit streak, including a bunt over the infield Sunday.

  3. Will the Nationals ever sure up their end game? Yesterday’s ninth inning was on the brink of disaster. Kyle Barraclough allowed back-to-back walks, then Sean Doolittle loaded the bases. Luckily for the Nats, crisis averted.

Download the MyTeams app (https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/myteams-nbc-sports ) for even more Nationals content, and check out the latest episode of the Racing Presidents podcast below.

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NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

NHL Playoffs 2019 Roundup: Blues eliminate Jets, Stars and Capitals pull ahead 3-2

Friday saw the Toronto Maple Leafs pull ahead 3-2 and the Colorado Avalanche eliminate the favored Calgary Flames. Saturday provided another elimination game and two teams pulled ahead 3-2 in their series.

Here are the results from Saturday.

St. Louis Blues eliminate Winnipeg Jets with 3-2 win

The Blues return to the second round of the playoffs after they were eliminated in the first round last season.

The Blues rally started 23 seconds into the game, when Jaden Schwartz put home a Brayden Schenn rebound.

Schwartz followed with two more goals, completing the hat trick. It's the second natural hat trick in a playoff series clinching game since Geoff Courtnall in 1992.

The Blues await the winner of the Nashville-Dallas series.

Dallas Stars pull ahead of Nashville Predators in 5-3 victory

The Stars were able to steal one from the Predators at Bridgestone Arena thanks to Jason Dickinson and Alexander Radulov's two goal performances.

Tyler Seguin added a goal of his own to pull the Stars ahead 4-2 at the end of the second period, and Ben Bishop recorded 30 saves.

The Stars have a chance to close the series at home Monday night.

Washington Capitals take upperhand on Carolina Hurricanes with 6-0 shutout

After dropping Game 4 in Carolina 2-1, the Caps exploded for six goals against the Hurricanes in a 6-0 win.

Nicklas Backstrom scored the opening two goals. He leads the Capitals in playoff goals with five and had a four point night.

The Caps also got production from their bottom six with Brett Connolly's goal and Nic Dowd's converted penalty shot. It's the first penalty shot a Caps player has successfully made in the playoffs.

Braden Holtby's shutout gave him seven in the playoffs, surpassing Olaf Kolzig's six for the franchise lead. The Caps have a chance to win the series in Carolina Monday night.

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