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Pitt beats Lehigh 78-53 in NIT Season Tip-Off

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Pitt beats Lehigh 78-53 in NIT Season Tip-Off

PITTSBURGH (AP) Tray Woodall scored a season-high 23 points and Talib Zanna tied a career-high with 20 as Pittsburgh crushed Lehigh 78-53 in the NIT Season Tip-Off on Tuesday night.

Woodall added eight assists for the Panthers (3-0), who will play Michigan in the tournament semifinals next week.

Pitt kept Lehigh's C.J. McCollum in check for most of the night. The senior preseason All-American finished with 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting but was a nonfactor when Pitt broke it open.

The Mountain Hawks (1-2) hung tough during the first half but had no answer during a 21-5 burst by Pitt early in the second half. Zanna scored seven straight points during the run while Woodall sandwiched layups around a basket by Steven Adams as Pitt turned a 35-32 lead into a comfortable 56-37 cushion.

Lehigh, which upset Duke in last year's NCAA tournament, shot just 32 percent in the second half.

The Panthers are looking to erase the memory of last season, when they endured the worst year of coach Jamie Dixon's tenure. Pitt missed the NCAA tournament for the first time in over a decade and lacked the kind of typical offensive efficiency that's been one of the program's hallmarks under Dixon.

Those issues appear to have disappeared.

Dixon's decision to start freshman James Robinson at point guard has taken some of the pressure off Woodall to do everything and allowed him to play with more freedom. The fifth-year senior is thriving and so are the Panthers.

Pitt had 17 assists on its 29 baskets and outscored Lehigh 36-12 in the paint, many of them layups for big guys like Zanna and Steven Adams created by Woodall.

Woodall fed Adams for a dunk during the game-turning run that pushed Pitt's lead to double digits. He added a 3-pointer a minute later then pump faked, drew a defender and fed Zanna for another easy basket.

The Mountain Hawks simply couldn't keep up. Gabe Knutson added 12 points but Lehigh was outrebounded 38-22 and had just five assists while turning it over 15 times. Coach Brett Reed exhausted his timeouts during Pitt's surge, but it did little to slow down the Panthers.

Pitt - which struggled at home last season - had little trouble the rest of the way against one of the country's better mid-major programs.

The Mountain Hawks stunned second-seeded Duke in the NCAA tournament last spring and have one of the best guards in the country in McCollum, who bypassed on the NBA to help raise his draft stock and guide Lehigh to another Patriot League title.

McCollum wasted little time asserting himself, scoring Lehigh's first five points, though he had plenty of help during a back-and-forth first half that featured nine lead changes and six ties. Pitt eventually moved in front 35-30 at the break on the strength of the quickly improving Zanna, who has emerged as the Panthers' top big man early in the season.

Slipping into open spaces and being assertive with the ball in his hands, Zanna exploited his size advantage to overwhelm the undersized Mountain Hawks in the lane.

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Follow Will Graves at www.twitter.com/WillGravesAP

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Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

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USA Today Sports Images

Need to Know: What’s the outlook for the Redskins’ secondary in 2018?

Here is what you need to know on this Monday, June 25, 31 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

Fan questions—The secondary

To be sure, there are reasons to be concerned about the secondary and we’ll get into those in a bit. But the popular notion that the secondary struggled last year is not accurate.

Do you want to go standard stats? They were ninth in the league in passing yards allowed and 10th in opponent passer rating last year.

Do you prefer more advanced analytics? They were sixth in defensive passing DVOA and 11th in adjusted net yards per attempt.

That’s not a great pass defense but it was a pretty good one. It should be noted that they also benefited from a solid pass rush; they were seventh in the league in sack percentage. Still, you don’t finish in the top third of the league in pass defense without at least a competent secondary.

The question is, will it remain competent? Kendall Fuller was indeed a key player, one of the best slot corners in the league. Bashaud Breeland was inconsistent, but he did shine on occasion. But the fact that he is still available as a free agent indicates what the league thinks of him, problems passing the physical notwithstanding. Those two will have to be replaced.

It is likely that Quinton Dunbar will take Breeland’s spot on the outside. That is at worst a lateral exchange if not an improvement. Dunbar has been working for three years to get this opportunity and there is confidence among the coaches and, perhaps more importantly, the players that he is ready.

Orlando Scandrick is the probable starter at slot. He is a downgrade from Fuller, no question about it. If he is healthy—a big if—Scandrick is good enough to get the job done. Don’t let the star he wore on the side of his helmet for so many years blind you to the fact that he’s a solid player.

The depth at slot consists of second-year player Josh Holsey, who played all of nine snaps on defense last year, and rookie Greg Stroman. That’s not ideal but most of the other teams in the NFL have a similar depth chart.

The wild card who could be the difference between this secondary being better than last year or worse is Fabian Moreau. He played only 59 defensive snaps as a rookie but he did show off his speed and hard-hitting style on some of his 349 special teams snaps. During the offseason practices that were open to the media, Moreau was mostly Josh Norman’s backup at left cornerback. The feeling is that he won’t remain a reserve. We will have to see how things sort out during training camp.

There should be some improvement at safety if Montae Nicholson figures out how to stay on the field in his second year. If he struggles with injuries again and Deshazor Everett has to line up alongside D.J. Swearinger for a good chunk of the season, the safeties are no worse off because that's what happened last year. 

The bottom line is that a secondary that was good last year may take a step down in 2018 but the decline should not be steep. And if Moreau can be the player the organization thought he could be when they used a third-round pick for him, it could be just as good if not better.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler.

Tandler on Twitter

I tweeted this in response to a discussion about the relative popularity of the NFL and NBA. Albert Breer’s tweet on the TV ratings for the leagues’ respective drafts was the nexus of the discussion.

Timeline  

Redskins cornerback Josh Holsey was born on this date in 1994.

Days until:

—Training camp starts (7/26) 31
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 45
—Roster cut to 53 (9/1) 59

The Redskins last played a game 176 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 76 days.

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Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

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USA Today

Nationals power through rain delay, come back against Phillies

WASHINGTON -- Daniel Murphy's two-run single drove in the tying and go-ahead runs in the eighth inning and the Washington Nationals rallied past the Philadelphia Phillies 8-6 on Sunday night to salvage the finale of the three-game series.

Anthony Rendon homered and doubled, Bryce Harper tied a career high with three doubles and Michael A. Taylor and Murphy each had three singles in a game that was delayed 38 minutes by rain in the bottom of the fourth inning.

Rhys Hoskins and Nick Williams homered for the Phillies, who had won three straight.

Pinch hitter Brian Goodwin led off the eighth with a walk against Victor Arano. With one out, right-hander Seranthony Dominguez (1-2) came on to face Harper, who doubled to right, with Goodwin stopping at third.

After Rendon grounded out, Juan Soto was intentionally walked and Murphy lined a 1-2 pitch to shallow right. Taylor's single made it 8-6.

Ryan Madson (2-3) pitched the eighth inning, and Sean Doolittle finished it for his 21st save.

The Phillies took a 6-2 lead in the fifth on a two-run triple by Odubel Herrera and a two-run homer by Williams.

Washington pulled within a run at 6-5 in the sixth with four two-out hits, including an RBI triple by Trea Turner and RBI doubles by Harper and Rendon.

Nick Pivetta went five innings and allowed two runs on eight hits for the Phillies.

Washington starter Jefry Rodriguez was charged with four runs and five hits in four-plus innings.

The Phillies broke on top on Hoskins's two-run homer in the third.

Rendon made it 2-1 with a solo homer in the fourth. The next three hitters singled, tying the game, but with the rain intensifying, out came the tarp. When play resumed, Pivetta struck out three straight to end the inning.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Phillies: C Andrew Knapp left in the seventh with a right knee contusion. ... 3B Maikel Franco slipped on first base and fell hard in the eighth. He stayed in to run, but left after the half-inning. ... INF Jesmuel Valent?n was placed on the paternity leave list and OF Dylan Cozens (left quadriceps strain) was reinstated from the 10-day DL.

Nationals: RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right hamstring strain) allowed 11 runs in 4 2/3 innings of a rehab start at Class A Potomac on Sunday. "I'm more concerned with the way he feels," manager Dave Martinez said, downplaying the results. "We'll go from there." ... RH reliever Brandon Kintzler (right forearm flexor strain) threw a scoreless inning at Potomac. ... RHP Stephen Strasburg (right shoulder inflammation) played catch on the field again. "We'll keep doing his throwing progression and figure out when he can actually throw from the mound," Martinez said.

UP NEXT

Phillies: RHP Vince Velasquez (5-7, 4.82) starts the opener of a series against the Yankees on Monday. He is 0-0 with a 3.24 ERA in two games vs. New York.

Nationals: RHP Gio Gonzalez (6-4, 3.08) opens a series at Tampa Bay on Monday. He is 2-2 with a 5.54 ERA in six games against the Rays.