St. John's beats DePaul 79-74 in OT

St. John's beats DePaul 79-74 in OT

NEW YORK (AP) St. John's is in third place in the Big East Conference. No comments about the teams the Red Storm beat during their current five-game winning streak. Don't bring up how early in the season it is, either. They are doing some impressive things considering they are one of the youngest teams in the country.

The latest win was a 79-74 overtime decision against DePaul on Wednesday night at Carnesecca Arena. It was the sixth Big East victory for the Red Storm (14-7, 6-3), matching last season's total.

``We have a lot of momentum and, so what teams are doubting us because most of the wins were against the bottom half?'' said D'Angelo Harrison, who had 17 points for the Red Storm. ``We're going to come in ready to fight at Georgetown so they better be ready, too.''

The streak started with a win over then-No. 20 Notre Dame. Then came wins over DePaul, Rutgers and Seton Hall before DePaul lost to the Red Storm for a second time.

St. John's plays Georgetown on Saturday and then faces Connecticut at Madison Square Garden followed by road games with No. 6 Syracuse and No. 12 Louisville, the teams ahead of the Red Storm in the standings.

``Third place is big for us after people picked us 12th in the preseason,'' freshman JaKarr Sampson said.

Sampson is ready for the next four games.

``I feel like we're ready. I'm ready,'' he said. ``This is why I came to St. John's, to play big-time games like Louisville and Syracuse. We want to compete with those teams.''

St. John's coach Steve Lavin was asked if the upcoming stretch of games would let everybody know how good his team is.

``After three years in this league as a coach I found you just can't look for any universal truths out of a stretch of four or five games,'' he said. ``Just keep coaching and stay on the path of improvement until we see how things finish. You have to wait for the body of work.''

The Red Storm looked to be in trouble late against the Blue Demons, especially since Harrison had fouled out with 3:45 to play in regulation.

St. John's managed to tie it late in regulation and then controlled the overtime behind Sampson, who scored six of his 13 points in the extra 5 minutes.

``You feel helpless,'' Harrison, the Big East's second-leading scorer at 19.8 points per game, said of sitting on the bench for the game's last 8:45. ``I have faith in my teammates and they have faith in me. It was a grind-it-out game and we grinded.''

Brandon Young had 21 points for the Blue Demons (10-10, 1-6), who have lost five straight and seven of eight overall. They have lost eight in a row to St. John's.

``We've won a lot of games in the last 6 minutes. And we lost this one in the last 6 minutes,'' DePaul coach Oliver Purnell said. ``We had two 6-minute periods of time where there was 6 minutes left in the game and the score was tied, and there was a 5-minute overtime and the score is tied. Clearly, we did one of the three things we needed to do to win a 6-minute game very well and that was shoot free throws (18 of 20). We didn't take care of the ball a couple times and we didn't rebound defensively a couple times when we really needed to.''

Sampson's rebound basket with 1:49 left in overtime gave the Red Storm the lead for good at 75-74. Young missed a foul line jumper and, as Sir'Dominic Pointer went in for a layup, Young fouled him hard and a flagrant 1 was called. Pointer made both free throws - the Red Storm went 4 for 10 from the line in overtime - and even though St. John's didn't score on the ensuing possession, Sampson went 2 for 4 from the line to seal the win.

``I thought it was (a flagrant foul) right away but I think it looked worse than it was,'' Pointer said. ``They made the call.''

Jamal Branch made two free throws for St. John's with 1:18 left in regulation to tie it at 69. DePaul was called for offensive goaltending on its next possession. Sampson missed a jumper for the Red Storm and Young missed a 3-point attempt with 15 seconds left.

After a scramble near midcourt fouling the inbounds, Sampson missed a shot from down low at the buzzer. A foul was called against DePaul but the officials went to the monitor and ruled the foul came after the buzzer.

Phil Greene had 13 points for St. John's and Pointer had 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Cleveland Melvin had 10 points and 13 rebounds for DePaul, which finished with a 52-39 advantage on the boards.

DePaul finished the first half with a 28-15 edge on the boards - 12-4 on the offensive end - although St. John's led 38-31, the largest lead for either team to that point.

St. John's freshman Chris Obekpa, who leads the nation in blocked shots at 4.6 per game, had five to give him 96 for the season.

``Obekpa is such a good shot blocker,'' Purnell said. ``When he was in the game, he really changed some things. There's no question about it, St. John's really defended the rim pretty well. And they did at the end of the game. As well as we rebounded, we didn't come up with the critical rebounds we needed in overtime.''

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...


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Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

Stanley Cup Final 2018: X-factors that could swing the series

The Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights have met only twice in their history. Neither team was expected to get to this point so you can go ahead and throw away the stats, the matchups, the data and the history. A new story will be written in the Stanley Cup FInal.

Who will ultimately win the Cup? Here are four factors that could ultaimtely swing the series.

1. Goaltending

The Caps have faced elimination only twice in the playoffs and Braden Holtby did not allow a single goal in either game. He enters the Stanley Cup Final having not allowed a single goal in 159:27. Andrei Vasilevskiy began to take over the series with his performance in Game 3, Game 4 and Game 5, but Holtby outplayed him to finish off the series in Washington’s favor.

Marc-Andre Fleury, meanwhile, has been the best player in the playoffs. Not the best goalie, the best player.

Through 15 games, Fleury has a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. As good as Vegas has been this postseason, Fleury has stolen several games for the Golden Knights.

Both of these goalies are certainly capable of stealing away a series for their respective teams. Which one will outplay the other?

2. Time off

Rust is a real thing in hockey. Just any team when they come off a bye week. When the Caps and Golden Knights take the ice on Monday, May 28, it will be the first game for Vegas since May 20. That’s over a week off.

Yes, getting rest at this time of the year is important, but too much rest leads to rust and that should be a major concern for Vegas, especially for a team that was playing so well and has so much momentum.

In the Eastern Conference Final, the Caps stunned the Tampa Bay Lightning by winning both Game 1 and Game 2 in Tampa. Could they do it again with a rusty Vegas team? Will the long layoff cost the Golden Knights one or even two home games to start the series?

3. The McPhee factor

Vegas Golden Knights general manager George McPhee was the Caps’ general manager for 17 years starting with the 1997-98 season. He was fired in 2014, but was ultimately responsible for building the core of the Washington team that is now headed to the Stanley Cup Final.

But that also means he knows those players very, very well.

Nicklas Backstrom, Travis Boyd, Andre Burakovsky, John Carlson, Christian Djoos, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Dmitry Orlov, Chandler Stephenson, Jakub Vrana, Tom Wilson, Braden Holtby, Philipp Grubauer and of course, Alex Ovechkin were all drafted by McPhee. Jay Beagle was also signed by as an undrafted free agent.

A general manager does not sign or draft anyone without knowing a good deal about the kind of player they are. Does that give McPhee a bit of an edge when it comes to facing the Caps?

4. Speed

The Golden Knights are fast. When the expansion draft was all said and done it was clear McPhee had targeted two things specifically: defensemen and speed. The result is an exceptionally fast Golden Knights team that no one has been able to keep up with so far.

Vegas' speed mixed with the goaltending of Fleury has proven to be a lethal combination. Their mobility makes it hard to get the puck from them or even keep it in the offensive zone. Once they get it, it’s going down the ice very quickly and you better keep up with them or it's going to end up in the back of the net. Once they build a lead, it is very difficult for teams to dig their way out as evidenced by their 10-1 record this postseason when scoring first.

Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh were both fast teams as well and the Capitals were able to combat that with strong play in the neutral zone. The 1-3-1 trap has given opponents fits and generated a lot of odd-man breaks for the Caps. Will it be as effective against a speedy Vegas team?