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No. 3 Kentucky seeks early answers vs. Maryland

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No. 3 Kentucky seeks early answers vs. Maryland

LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky coach John Calipari will be looking for a working rotation in the season opener against Maryland on Friday night.

The third-ranked Wildcats' latest group of top-level recruits will make its debut under New York's bright lights at the Barclays Center Classic in Brooklyn.

The coach who masterfully guided a Kentucky squad led by freshmen to the national championship last year doesn't know what to expect from this new group that includes guard Archie Goodwin, forwards Nerlens Noel and Alex Poythress and center Willie-Cauley Stein.

Calipari wants to leave the Big Apple with a win, but he really wants the Wildcats to develop an identity and more team chemistry while they're in the city.

``We'll see if we're ready to beat a basketball team,'' Calipari said Thursday. ``I'm just not sure; they're going to have to show me. We haven't done much situational work. Up eight (points), down eight, up three, down three. We just haven't had time.

``You can try to talk these guys and mush their minds by trying to go three-and-a-half hours a day, try to get everything in before you play. But we're just not there.''

Complicating matters is the uncertain status of two transfers expected to contribute this season at point guard, sophomore Ryan Harrow and graduate student Julius Mays.

Neither practiced on Wednesday. Harrow battled the flu and Mays rested a hyperextended right knee injury sustained in Monday night's 74-28 exhibition victory over Transylvania.

Mays said after the game that the injury wasn't serious and insisted that he could play. Nonetheless, Calipari has Goodwin available to play the point after he showed good ball-handling skills in both exhibition wins.

``It's not like we won't have enough to play,'' Calipari said. ``It's just limited players. We're starting to get down in numbers. In a game like that, with the excitement and the anxiety, guys can't play 40 minutes.''

That's why Calipari just wants a few good minutes from reserves Jarrod Polson and Jon Hood.

Hood has recovered from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that sidelined him for his sophomore season. Calipari said the 6-foot-7 guard has shown the ability to score from 3-point range but needs to develop more confidence shooting it.

Polson has the same potential and is yearning for the chances to show it.

``He's not going to be like the guy trying to get 30 points,'' Calipari said, ``but he's got some size with him, got some toughness. He'll make open shots.''

However, Kentucky's focus will be seeing how the freshmen perform against the Terrapins, keeping a close watch on Noel and 7-footer Cauley-Stein. They have played together and Calipari has used them separately with a number of combinations.

The coach has been encouraged by what he has seen from his big men - particularly the 6-foot-10 Noel, who said the biggest improvement in his game since arriving at Kentucky is his confidence.

``I know that I can go to the hoop and score from the block,'' he said.

Noel's freshmen classmates - Goodwin and Poythress - have seen the more demanding side of Calipari.

But have played well in spurts with Goodwin showing off his quickness and shooting ability and Poythress displaying power and versatility. But Calipari is trying to build up both players' stamina, particularly Poythress - who has seemed lackadaisical at times.

``I know what he's trying to do,'' Poythress said of his coach's barbs. ``He's just trying to get me to play hard and work hard every day.''

And not just Poythress.

Calipari is looking for consistent play from his entire team.

In their two exhibition wins against Northwood and Transylvania, the Wildcats showed lots of offensive promise when they weren't turning the ball over. On defense, they were lazy at times.

Calipari said those things can't happen against Maryland.

The Terrapins are coming off a 17-15 season and have recruited a top-20 class including Shaquille Cleare and Jake Layman. Maryland's prospects improved dramatically Wednesday when the NCAA declared Xavier (Ohio) transfer Dez Wells (9.8 points, 4.9 rebounds) eligible to play immediately after initially denying his appeal to waive the requirement that he sit out a year.

Wells was expelled from Xavier following sexual assault allegations that a grand jury declared unworthy of prosecution. The sophomore visited Kentucky's campus early this fall before enrolling at Maryland in September.

Calipari isn't really worried about Wells, he has other concerns.

He is anxious to see how a roster with no returning starters and six new faces responds against high-level competition. Kentucky's first two games against Maryland and No. 8 Duke serve as good measuring sticks.

``This is why I say we play these kinds of games early,'' Calipari said. ``I'd rather have had a game or two under our belts before we played it, but the reality of it is this team is so young, let's learn right away.

``Here's where we are. Here's where we're not. Don't get crazy.''

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Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. Packers

Need to Know: Five Redskins under pressure vs. Packers

Here is what you need to know on Thursday, September 20, three days before the Washington Redskins host the Green Bay Packers.

Talking points

At 1-1 with Aaron Rodgers coming to town, the Redskins are under pressure to win. The spotlight will shine brighter on these players on Sunday afternoon. 

—Against the Colts, QB Alex Smith didn’t lose the game but he didn’t do much to lift the team, either. In particular, the 0-2 in the red zone was damaging with both failures coming at key points in the game. That’s not all on Smith, but when the running game is struggling like it was on Sunday he has to elevate the team. He didn’t. He will have to play better—much better—if the Redskins are going to outscore the Packers. 

—The talk of Hogs 2.0 has just got to stop until the Redskins’ offensive line strings together a bunch of good games in a row. They were both beaten physically and out schemed against the Colts. That’s why the running backs had two rushing yards at halftime and only 22 for the game. All this took place while the Colts sat back in a soft Cover 2 zone, a defense that you should be able to run against.

—While many fans are complaining about the output of Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, who is usually the volume receiver in the offense, has the same number of catches as Doctson (5) for fewer yards (48-40). Crowder didn’t play at all in the preseason and missed considerable camp practice time with an undisclosed injury. Perhaps he just needs some time to get going. With the Packers coming to town, the Redskins will have to put up a lot of points to win and now would be a great time for Crowder to have a big game. 

—It’s hard to rattle Aaron Rodgers but like any quarterback, he doesn’t like immediate pressure in his face. It’s time for first-round picks Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne to step up. Or, rather, they need to step forward and disrupt Rodgers if he tries to get rid of the ball quickly. We need to see either Payne registering his first career sack or Allen get his the second of his career and his first in a year (first was Week 3). Or, preferably, both. 

—The entire defensive backfield will be under pressure against Rodgers, tight end Jimmy Graham and receivers Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. To pick one, I’ll go with Montae Nicholson. He hasn’t played poorly in the first two games. Some have blamed him for Andrew Luck’s two TD passes, but one was just a perfect throw and one was a pick that worked to perfection. Regardless, he is supposed to be an impact play guy and he doesn’t have any big hits or takeaways through two games and a game-changing play from him would help. 

Injuries of note

Did not practice: S Troy Apke (hamstring), LB Zach Brown (oblique), G Shawn Lauvao (calf), WR Paul Richardson (shoulder)
Limited: Brandon Scherff (knee), Trent Williams (knee)

The agenda

Today: Practice 1 p.m.; Jay Gruden and Greg Manusky news conferences and open locker room after practice approx. 3 p.m.

Upcoming: Packers @ Redskins (Sept. 23) 3; Redskins @ Saints (October 8) 18; Cowboys @ Redskins 31

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Orioles avoid three-game sweep with 2-1 win over Blue Jays

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Orioles avoid three-game sweep with 2-1 win over Blue Jays

One night after setting a dubious record for losses, the Baltimore Orioles were ready to savor a rare win against a division rival.

Rookie DJ Stewart hit his first major league home run and Baltimore used five pitchers to avoid a three-game sweep by beating the Toronto Blue Jays 2-1 Wednesday night.

The Orioles bounced back one night after taking their 108th loss of the season, the most since moving to Baltimore in 1954. They remained three away from the franchise mark set by the 1939 St. Louis Browns.

"I was thinking about it tonight how many times I walked down that long hall to get here after a great win, trying to temper the enthusiasm," manager Buck Showalter said. "I still feel elated after we win a game and then I think about all the good things that went on, especially defensively tonight."

Jimmy Yacabonis started for Baltimore and threw four scoreless innings, followed by Mike Wright (4-2), who blanked the Blue Jays over two innings. Miguel Castro allowed a solo homer to Billy McKinney in the eighth that cut the lead to 2-1 before Tanner Scott managed the final out of the inning.

Mychal Givens picked up his eighth save for Baltimore.

Stewart, who was promoted Sept. 11 from Triple-A Norfolk, gave the Orioles the lead when he led off the third with a towering shot off Estrada that caromed off the right-field foul pole. He also had a double in the seventh and scored an insurance run on a single by Cedric Mullins off Tim Mayza.

"I've felt comfortable every at-bat pretty much," Stewart said. "I think there was one at bat I kind of went up there chasing a little bit, just trying to get that hit. I felt comfortable for the most part, but whenever you see one fall for the first time, it's a little bit of a relief that not only are you feeling well but you're seeing the results also. It was definitely big for me."

Toronto won the season series 14-5.

"Any chance you have to try and sweep a team is a big one," Toronto manager John Gibbons said. "We have had a pretty tough year ourselves so you try to build and win as many games as you can."

The Blue Jays' Marco Estrada (7-13) bounced back from his previous outing when he tied a career-high by allowing eight runs against the Yankees. He was charged with one run and four hits with five strikeouts and one walk over six innings.

"It was a good outing. I made a lot of good pitches," Estrada said. "One got away from me and the kid hit it out, Congrats to him. Weren't too many hard hit balls."

The Blue Jays loaded the bases in the fourth against Yacabonis, who was making his fifth career start. However, he escaped the jam when Kendrys Morales hit a fly ball to Adam Jones, who threw out McKinney trying to score from third. It was Jones' 99th career assist and first in right field.

YOUTH MOVEMENT

Blue Jays C Russell Martin has not played since Sept. 3. Manager John Gibbons wants to give Luke Maile and rookie Danny Jansen an extended look behind the plate.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Orioles: Rookie C Chance Sisco will not travel with the team to New York. He took a foul ball off his mask Sunday against the White Sox and is still waiting to be cleared from concussion protocol.

UP NEXT

Blue Jays: Sam Gaviglio will start the opener Thursday in Tampa Bay. He has gone 1-8 since July 20 and lost both games against the Rays this season.

Orioles: Rookie Yefry Ramirez (1-6, 5.50 ERA) will make his 11th start Friday in New York. He tied a career high with seven strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings Saturday against the White Sox.