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Ole Miss, Pitt eye winning seasons in Compass Bowl

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Ole Miss, Pitt eye winning seasons in Compass Bowl

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace says first-year coach Hugh Freeze has pulled off a total makeover of the team's culture.

Freeze also has delivered an impressive new look to the Rebels' record.

Freeze needs a win in Saturday's BBVA Compass Bowl against Pittsburgh and its first-year coach, Paul Chryst, to cap an unlikely turnaround from last season's 2-10 finish.

Wallace joined the program as a transfer one year ago. He said he heard stories of problems in the 2011 season that disappeared when Freeze moved to Oxford.

``He totally changed the culture I feel like,'' Wallace said Friday. ``When I first got here in January, the stories you heard you don't hear anymore.''

Freeze took over a team that had lost 14 straight Southeastern Conference games. Redshirt freshman linebacker Daniel Nkemdiche said Freeze fix the problems, including selfish play, that led to the losing.

``The biggest difference is we're like a team now,'' Nkemdiche said. ``We love each other and we're starting to treat each other like brothers.

``The closer you are the better you do. ... The selfishness is totally out of the picture. It's been a total turnaround.''

Ole Miss and Pitt bring 6-6 records into the game, so a winning season is on the line. Each team had important final regular-season wins to become bowl-eligible.

The Rebels beat in-state rival Mississippi State for their first Egg Bowl win in four years. The Panthers closed with back-to-back wins over No. 21 Rutgers and South Florida.

Pitt is playing in its third straight BBVA Compass Bowl. The Panthers beat Kentucky two years ago and lost to SMU last season.

The Panthers are playing their last game as a Big East team. They are moving to the Atlantic Coast Conference next season.

Another Big East team headed to the ACC took a bowl upset when Louisville beat No. 4 Florida in the Sugar Bowl.

Chryst said Louisville's win has no connection to the Panthers' bowl game.

``I think it has nothing to do with any of the conferences,'' Chryst said. ``It's Ole Miss and Pitt. We have a chance to play a good team. It's those teams playing in a good venue. That's enough.''

Pitt went through four coaches in a span of 14 months, culminating with Chryst's hiring in January.

The Panthers used interim coaches in the last two Compass Bowls after Dave Wannstedt was released from his contract and Todd Graham left for Arizona State.

Chryst has had an up-and-down debut season. The Panthers took wins over two ranked teams - Rutgers and Virginia Tech. They almost pulled off a bigger win when they took Notre Dame to triple-overtime before losing.

Low points for the Panthers were losses Youngstown State and Connecticut.

Pitt may face a motivational disadvantage as its plays its third straight bowl game in Birmingham.

``You never know what's going to be your last football game, so just the opportunity to play another 60 minutes is motivation enough,'' said senior center Ryan Turnley.

The Panthers rank among the top 21 teams in the nation in scoring defense and total defense, but they could be challenged against Freeze's up-tempo attack.

``Certainly we're going to be who we are,'' Freeze said before adding he has seen other up-tempo teams struggle to maintain their pace early in other bowl games.

``We hope we can do it the entire time,'' Freeze said. ``It's advantageous for us we feel like. I'm not sure how much of our type stuff is done in the Big East. It doesn't look like a whole lot of it, but they've had a long time to prepare for this game.''

Pitt has strong balance with its 1,000-yard rusher, Ray Graham, and its 3,000-yard passer, Tino Sunseri, who has 19 touchdown passes and only two interceptions.

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Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Wizards committed more turnovers against the Raptors than they have in any game in 25 years

Whether it's good or bad, nothing the Wizards do is subtle. 

They'll score a million points and give up two million points. They'll beat the Heat, Nuggets and Celtics without Bradley Beal but also blow an 18-point fourth quarter lead to the Bulls. 

The Wizards had some turnover issues Friday night, but again, they're never subtle. 

Washington committed 28 turnovers on the way to a 29-point loss. Following the first seven minutes of play, the Wizards had seven turnovers and seven points. 

The last time the Wizards turned the ball over that much was April 2, 1994, in a 104-96 win over the Bucks. The last time an NBA team turned it over 28 times? The 2010 Suns. 

Nine Wizards players had multiple turnovers, while five players had at least three. 

Following Bradley Beal's comments criticizing the team's culture and need to develop winning habits, the Wizards' response left more than enough to be desired. Credit the Raptors defense utilizing their length and ball pressure to take advantage of when the Wizards were loose with the ball, but it takes more than good defense to turn it over 28 times. 

The bright side is this was an uncharacteristic performance for the Wizards. They currently average the 10th-fewest turnovers per game in the NBA, so there's a good chance they clean things up on Monday against the Pistons. 

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Wizards barely put up a fight vs. Raptors after Bradley Beal's strong comments

Wizards barely put up a fight vs. Raptors after Bradley Beal's strong comments

The Washington Wizards lost to the Toronto Raptors 140-111 on Friday night on the road. Here are five takeaways from what went down...

1. In case anyone was wondering how the Wizards would respond to Bradley Beal's strong comments about the team's culture, the answer is not well.

The Wizards barely put up a fight against the Toronto Raptors in a lopsided loss. They lost by 29 and trailed by as many as 33.

One reason was they committed 28 turnovers. They also allowed the Raptors to make 22 threes. That's the third-most allowed in one game by the Wizards in franchise history.

This was the Wizards' 41st game of the season. With a 13-28 record, they are on pace to win 26 games.

2. The Wizards didn't just lose this game, they may have lost backup shooting guard Jordan McRae for an extended period of time.

McRae stepped on a shoe at midcourt and rolled his left ankle. He immediately went down in obvious pain and had to be carried off the floor and into the locker room. 

It was reminiscent of the ankle injury Garrison Mathews suffered nearly two weeks ago. That one fortunately did not result in a fracture or ligament damage. He just had a bad ankle sprain.

Just like Mathews, McRae suffered his injury at a time when he was playing well and really coming into his own. Tough timing.

3. There weren't many positives for the Wizards in this one, but Isaac Bonga certainly was one. The second-year wing dropped a career-high 17 points to go along with 10 rebounds and a steal. Five of his rebounds were on the offensive end.

Bonga shot 6-for-9 from the field and hit two threes. His continued development as a scorer has been impressive to watch this season.

4. Davis Bertans is such a good shooter that when he releases the ball, it is expected to go in. Even rarer, it seems, he misses two in a row.

Every once in a while, once in a blue moon, he has a legitimate off-shooting night. Friday was one of those nights. Bertans had 12 points and shot 3-for-11 from three.

Per usual of late, Bertans wasn't exactly open due to his place on the scouting report but he got decent looks. Many of his threes clanged off the front of the rim. 

Maybe he had tired legs. Whatever it was, the Latvian Laser didn't have it like he usually does.

5. The Isaiah Thomas experience has not been good as of late. The Wizards point guard at another bad game, this time with eight points in 16 minutes.

He just looked off; sluggish and making mental mistakes. That included two turnovers in the first quarter when he passed the ball as the shot clock expired.

Those decisions were inexcusable and in his last 10 games, Thomas has averaged 8.5 points while shooting 34.4 percent. He has not been the same guy since coming back from his calf injury in mid-December. But it's been more than physical. His head hasn't seemed to be in the game like it was earlier this season.

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