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No. 6 South Carolina dominates in 35-7 victory

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No. 6 South Carolina dominates in 35-7 victory

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) In a career of special moments, Steve Spurrier added another one in South Carolina's victory over fifth-ranked Georgia. And there may be some even bigger ones ahead for the Gamecocks and their ball coach.

Connor Shaw threw two touchdown passes and ran for another, Ace Sanders had a dazzling 70-yard punt return touchdown and No. 6 South Carolina's defense dominated fifth-ranked Georgia in a 35-7 victory Saturday night.

``If we play like this, maybe we have a chance for a real big year,'' Spurrier said. ``Maybe.''

Spurrier's caution is well placed. After all, this is the Southeastern Conference.

The Gamecocks (6-0, 4-0 SEC) head to angry LSU, the defending league champions who lost for the first time earlier Saturday, next week night, then go to Florida - the undefeated Gators beat LSU - for a game that should decide the Eastern Division.

South Carolina sure looks ready for the challenge.

``We definitely sent a message out to the whole country,'' Gamecocks tailback Marcus Lattimore said. ``It's not the old South Carolina. We can play with y'all. We can play with anybody.''

The Gamecocks their school-record 10th straight game with a performance that marked certainly marked them an Eastern Division front-runner - and maybe showed they're capable of even more.

``This was a special one,'' said Spurrier, who has a national title on his impressive resume from his time with Florida. ``It really was.''

South Carolina grounded ``Gurshall,'' holding Georgia's stellar freshmen Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall to 76 yards combined. The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1) finished with 224 yards, less than half their season's average coming in.

``First of all, the bad news is we took a whipping. The good news is we all took it together. It was a team loss,'' Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

Lattimore ended with 109 yards and a touchdown, the third straight time he's gone past the century mark on the Bulldogs. Coincidence the Gamecocks have posted their first-ever three game win streak in the series that began in 1894?

The Gamecocks 10th straight victory surpasses a school best set with their 9-0 start in 1984. That team reached No. 2 in the country and were poised for the top spot when No. 1 Nebraska lost, but South Carolina fell to Navy to lose perhaps its best-ever shot at a national champion.

This South Carolina team showed the brand of championship defense usually found on the SEC's best teams.

Georgia came in with a league-leading 48.2 points and 536 yards a game of offense - and where shut down by the Gamecocks.

Gurley and Marshall kept pounding the line to little effect, held scoreless after combining for 294 yards and five TDs in last week's win over Tennessee. Aaron Murray was 11 of 31 for 109 yards. He was sacked twice and threw one interception.

The game figured to be a matchup of Georgia's explosive offense against South Carolina's impenetrable D. The Gamecocks showed early it was no contest, holding the Bulldogs to just 111 yards of offense in the first half and taking control of the game.

South Carolina's offense set the tone at first, Spurrier once again showing there are few better at calling plays. Damiere Byrd outfought Georgia's Bacarri Rambo for a 42-yard catch on the game's second snap. Two plays later, Shaw hit a wide-open Bruce Ellington for a 20-yard TD catch that sent the record crowd of 85,199 into a frenzy.

They had more to celebrate moments later when Kelcy Quarles tipped Murray's pass high in the air and safety DeVonte Holloman made a diving interception. Shaw cashed in again for the Gamecocks, ending a 69-yard sequence when tight end Rory Anderson came open in the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown.

South Carolina used special teams - typically a Georgia strength - to extend the lead a few plays later after a three-and-out by the Bulldogs. Sanders bobbled the punt, got the ball back, broke several tackles and outrun the punter to the left pylon for a 21-0 lead with less than nine minutes gone.

The Gamecocks defense took control after that.

Georgia ``didn't move it very far when they were out there,'' Spurrier said with a grin.

South Carolina defensive end Jadeveon Clowney sacked Murray for a loss of 6 yards to stall one series. Gurley and Marshall were continually swallowed up for minimal gains. The Bulldogs looked as if they'd found their footing right before halftime, Murray converting three third-down passes to get to the Gamecocks 4. But on fourth-and-goal, Rantavious Wooten was stopped shy of the end zone after catching a short pass by D.J. Swearinger and Shaq Wilson.

First-year defensive coordinator Lorenzo Ward thought his team could put on a show against the high-powered Bulldogs. ``I believe in the young men that I coach every day, I believe in the system that we run and I believe we can play with anybody,'' he said.

The biggest drama of the second half was whether Georgia would leave with its first shutout since a 31-0 loss to Alabama in 1995. Spurrer kept his defensive starters in, yet the Bulldogs drove 75 yards to score on Ken Malcome's 3-yard TD run with 1:55 to go.

Malcome finished as the team's top rusher with 45 yards, all on Georgia's scoring drive.

``We hoped to make a play to change momentum but they never allowed us to,'' Richt said.

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John Tortorella ‘embarrassed’ by Columbus’ one-sided loss to the Capitals

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USA TODAY SPORTS

John Tortorella ‘embarrassed’ by Columbus’ one-sided loss to the Capitals

Before the Capitals dominated the Detroit Red Wings at Capital One Arena on Tuesday, they stopped off in Columbus on Saturday for what was expected to be a great game between the top two teams of the Metropolitan Division.

It wasn’t.

Instead of two heavy-weights trading blows or the Columbus Blue Jackets going after the Capitals in an attempt to exact some measure of revenge for last season’s playoff loss, Washington blew apart Columbus in a one-sided, 4-0 affair.

As you could imagine, Blue Jackets head coach John Tortorella was displeased with the result and sounded off on Monday in typical Tortorella fashion.

"I'm embarrassed as the coach of this team," Tortorella told reporters, according to The Athletic's Aaron Portzline. "I missed something along the way. I'm part of it also. I'm embarrassed that we embarrassed our organization."

The Caps took control of Saturday’s game early with three goals in the first period. The physical battle that had been the trademark of last season’s playoff series never came. Washington pushed and received no pushback from a Columbus team that looked like a shadow of the team that had jumped out to a 2-0 series lead over the Caps.

"It was disgusting," Tortorella said. "After our last home game, that debacle, 9-6 [loss to Calgary], to show up on a Saturday night for first-place seeding, against a team that knocked us out of the playoffs, in front of a full house, it's embarrassing."

The Blue Jackets seem to be reeling a bit of late. On Dec. 4, Columbus coughed up a 4-1 lead allowing five goals in the second period to the Calgary Flames in what turned into a 9-6 loss. A narrow overtime win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday was followed by the blowout loss to the Caps and on Tuesday, Columbus allowed two goals in a span of 1:18 late in the third period that turned a 2-1 victory into a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Vancouver Canucks.

Washington and Columbus have been locked in a standings battle the last few weeks (and years) with both teams vying for supremacy over the Metropolitan Division. Now, the Caps hold a five-point lead for first place in a division that seems to be rapidly declining. At mid-December, we are still waiting to see if another team can emerge to push Washington late in the season in a battle for first place in the division. A contender has yet to emerge and, the longer the season goes, the less likely it seems that someone will.

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When it comes to Wall vs. Kyrie debate, Stephen A. Smith believes Irving is 'just on another level'

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USA Today

When it comes to Wall vs. Kyrie debate, Stephen A. Smith believes Irving is 'just on another level'

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- After the Los Angeles Lakers selected Magic Johnson first overall in the 1979 NBA Draft, only one point guard (Allen Iverson) went No. 1 before the Washington Wizards snagged John Wall in 2010. Kyrie Irving’s selection by the Cleveland Cavaliers the following season turned an anomaly into a trend. A rivalry was born, debates began.

Fan bases and ardent backers made valid points and outlandish claims for their guy and against the other. This continued even after Irving joined the Celtics in 2017 and as physical ailments limited both players.

Entering the latest showdown, the head-to-head count read 8-8. Another thriller ensued. Irving took the win-loss lead from the speedy Wall Wednesday with a magical overtime performance in Boston’s 130-125 win.

For Stephen A. Smith, Irving scoring 38 points including the Celtics’ final 12 didn’t nudge the Boston star ahead of Wall, who wowed with 34 points and 13 assists. It just helped shine a light on a gap that already existed.

“It was a nice matchup. John showed up to play. I thought he played well in the fourth quarter. Over time he got a little bit erratic. That’s to be understood going up against Kyrie. Kyrie is special. Kyrie is something special. He’s just a spectacular player,” the often outspoken ESPN analyst told NBC Sports Washington following the game.

“John Wall reminded you how talented he is,” Smith continued, “but in the process, he also reminded you there are levels to this. Kyrie is just on another level and there is no other way around that.”

That statement joins a list of bold commentary in the long-running Wall-Irving arguments. There are certain dynamics that back up this claim.

Wall racks up assists, but Irving laps him as a shooter. Both players are five-time All-Stars with a single All-NBA selection. Irving’s résumé also includes Olympic Gold for Team USA in 2016 and one of the biggest shots in league history. He sank the series-winning jumper for Cleveland in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals. The Wizards, while improved recently compared to franchise norms, have not advanced beyond the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs since Wall's arrival.

“They’re very, very talented. There is no doubt about that,” Smith, who attended Wednesday’s contest, said of the guards.  “But in the same breath, they’re not on the same page. 

"John Wall is a tremendous, tremendous talent. His success is predicated on his ability to get to the basket, his athleticism, his conditioning. He came into this season he was clearly not in ideal shape. He was heavier than he usually is. He’s never really, really truly improved that jump shot.”

Irving’s heroics Wednesday included two 3-pointers in the final minute, one a go-ahead bomb with 17.3 seconds remaining. Wall missed the second of Washington two game-tying attempts from beyond the arc on the next possession.

“When you look at Kyrie Irving, how did he stick the dagger in you? Long 3’s,” Smith said. “Now, John can do that from time to time, but you can’t rely on him to do it. When he makes those shots you say, ‘Thank God.’ When Kyrie makes those shots you say, ‘Yeah, that’s what he’s supposed to do because that’s what he does.’

“A perfect example is that the game is waning, you’re in overtime. (Wizards guard) Bradley Beal misses a 3-pointer. You’re John Wall. You get the ball back. You launch a three when you should have got it back to Bradley Beal because he’s the shooter. That’s not what you do, but that’s what John Wall did. Again, that’s the kind of thing you look at.”

Wall’s primary statistics this season – 21.0 points, 8.5 assists – are worthy of All-Star consideration. His overall game is more under the microscope than usual because of the Wizards’ slow start and his four-year, $170 million contract extension that tips off next season.

“You look at [Wall] as a big-time talent. Somebody who I felt was worthy of his money considering the fact that it’s not like you can go out and get Kevin Durant or somebody like that. In the same breath, you’re looking for him to improve upon the game that he already has, not to bring you back the same old, same old,” Smith said.

“Unfortunately, that’s what you’re seeing right now. You’re seeing a guy who is a big-time talent, who can ball, but who is giving you nothing different or nothing better than what he’s been giving you, and that hasn’t been good enough to get this team to the next level. That’s where you have a problem if you’re the Washington Wizards.”

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