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Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

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Oklahoma State vs. Purdue in Heart of Dallas Bowl

DALLAS (AP) There are a couple of games Oklahoma State would like to have back.

Purdue certainly feels the same way, especially with the near-misses the Boilermakers had on the road against two of the nation's undefeated teams.

By losing its last two games by a combined 10 points, Oklahoma State became one of five Big 12 teams that finished 7-5 and slid down the league's bowl pecking order.

The Boilermakers (6-6), who had tight losses at top-ranked Notre Dame and No. 3 Ohio State, recovered from a five-game Big Ten losing streak midway through the season by winning their last three games just to get bowl eligible.

Oklahoma State and Purdue play in the inaugural Heart of Dallas Bowl on Tuesday. It will be the third consecutive New Year's Day game played in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium since the namesake game that this season features Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma moved to Cowboys Stadium.

``I know they might not be as excited as we are,'' Purdue running back Akeem Shavers said. ``But just coming from where we came from and where our season's went, we're just blessed to be here.''

Last January, the Cowboys capped a Big 12 championship season with a 41-38 victory over Stanford in the Fiesta Bowl. Three years ago, they were playing in the first Cotton Bowl at that shiny new NFL stadium.

But after a dominating 59-21 home win against Texas Tech, the Cowboys lost in overtime at Oklahoma after the Sooners scored the tying touchdown with 4 seconds left in regulation. Oklahoma State finished the regular season with a 41-34 loss at Baylor.

``Being part of the team last year and doing so many great things, we're ready to go out and get this eighth win and finish on a good note,'' Cowboys senior defensive end Cooper Bassett said.

When the bowl pairings were announced the day after the loss at Baylor, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said his team went wherever the conference sent them but said he was surprised to be in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

Now the focus is just on playing the game, in which the Big 12 Cowboys are more than two-touchdown favorites.

``I feel like our players, we are excited to be around each other for another month and playing a game,'' Gundy said. ``I mentioned this when those questions were asked several weeks ago; that I coached 11 years and never had an opportunity to play in a bowl game, and so I tried to stress the feelings and the opportunity for our players, and certainly our coaches. I feel like that they have handled it very well. I don't think there's any question when we start the season, we all have goals that we would like to reach.''

It's the first game between Purdue and Oklahoma State since 15 years ago in the Alamo Bowl, when the Boilermakers won 33-20 to cap then-coach Joe Tiller's first season.

This was their fourth season under Tiller's hand-picked successor, Danny Hope, who was fired at the end of the regular season with a 22-27 record.

Kent State coach Darrell Hazell was hired to replace Hope, but receivers coach Patrick Higgins is serving as interim coach through the bowl.

Purdue lost 20-17 at Notre Dame the second week of the season when the Irish, who play in next week's BCS national championship game against No. 2 Alabama, kicked a field goal with 7 seconds left.

The five-game losing streak included a 29-22 loss at Ohio State, which scored the tying TD with 3 seconds remaining in regulation. The Boilermakers trailed 34-7 at halftime the next week at Minnesota and lost at Penn State before their consecutive wins over Iowa, Illinois and Indiana.

``We had our backs against the wall, and we've kind of crawled out, and now this is an opportunity for us,'' quarterback Robert Marve said.

Higgins said the players realized after the Penn State loss that every game was like a championship game if they wanted to reach their goal of playing in a bowl. They won at Iowa for the first time in more than 20 years and won consecutive Big Ten road games, another rarity, before the rivalry win over Indiana.

``A lot of people counted us out when we were 3-6, and I think every game we won we weren't supposed to win,'' Marve said. ``So we're trying to keep the trend going in the bowl game.''

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Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

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USA TODAY Sports

Capitals Faceoff Podcast: On to Vegas!

The Capitals are the Eastern Conference Champions!

After dispatching Tampa Bay in Game 7, the Caps claimed the conference crown for just the second time in franchise history. But they're not done yet. Now it's on to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the Stanley Cup.

JJ Regan and Tarik El-Bashir break down the Caps' win over the Lightning and look ahead to the matchup with the Knights.

Check out their latest episode in the player below or listen on the Capitals Faceoff Podcast page.

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Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

Michigan's Moritz Wagner could be Wizards' solution for a stretch-five

The pre-draft workout process can be an exhausting journey for players, with so many flights, hotel rooms and NBA arenas that they can all blend in together. Michigan big man Moritz Wagner, though, may have felt a sense of comfort in Washington for his pre-draft workout for the Wizards on Wednesday.

It was just over a year ago that his Michigan Wolverines cut down the nets at Capital One Arena as champions of the Big Ten conference.

"It was good memories, man. Never gets old," he said while glancing around the stadium.

Wagner, 21, will be seeing a lot more of Capital One Arena once he joins the NBA ranks and it is conceivable he ends up in Washington. They hold the 15th pick in the first round and the 44th pick in the second round and Wagner could be within their reach.

Wagner had an impressive workout in Washington and could provide what the Wizards need. He is a big, mobile and can spread the floor. Wagner was terrific at stepping out to hit threes off pick-and-rolls at Michigan and that ability would work well with Wizards All-Star point guard John Wall.

Wagner measured in at just under 7-feet at this month's NBA Combine, fifth-tallest among those who attended. He averaged 14.6 points as a junior this past season and made 39.4 percent of his threes on 4.1 attempts per game.

With three years of college experience and an NBA-ready jumper, Wagner believes he can step right in and help the Wizards.

"I think what we did at Michigan, sharing the ball and playing as a team, very organized basketball, that can help big-time," he said. "It's basically pro basketball I was playing on a different level."

As Wagner will tell you, he is very confident in his abilities. He is comfortable in his own skin and that includes openly discussing his faults. He feels good about his ability to score at the next level. Defense is where he needs to prove himself.

Despite his size, Wagner wasn't much of a rim protector in college. He averaged just a half-block a game as a junior. The Wizards need rim protection badly and he likely would not provide that.

Wagner, though, believes he can bring more to the table defensively than the numbers would suggest.

"I think I've been an offensive guy all of my life, but the more that you mature as a player, you understand that both sides are important. Without defense, you aren't going to play at any level," he said.

"I think the most important thing that I wasn't able to show in college is that I'm able to switch the ball-screen, especially with the way the league is going. Switch on everything and stay in front of guards as a big guy."

Wagner is from Germany and looks up to Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki, who is entering his 21st season and will be in the Hall of Fame someday. Nowitzki's game has always been built around shooting and, though he developed into a decent shot-blocker in his prime, was never an elite rim protector.

Wagner hopes to follow in his footsteps playing a similar style.

"He was my MJ. He kind of shows you 'okay, this is possible and this is doable.' It's just basketball," Wagner said. "It gives you a lot of hope. It gives you a lot of belief and motivation."

Hear more from Wagner in his one-on-one interview with Chris Miller in our latest Wizards Tipoff podcast. His interview can also be found in the video above:

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