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Thomas, No. 4 Ohio State streak past Albany 82-60

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Thomas, No. 4 Ohio State streak past Albany 82-60

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Late in the first half, with his team trying but failing to create any opportunities, Ohio State coach Thad Matta called a timeout.

``I saw Thad jump off the bench and it looked like he had a 40-inch vertical,'' Albany coach Will Brown said. ``I saw how animated he was. That timeout, obviously, I think that lit a fire under them.''

Deshaun Thomas scored 13 of his 19 points in what turned out to be a 17-2 run to end of the half, leading No. 4 Ohio State to an 82-60 victory over the Great Danes on Sunday in the Buckeyes' belated season opener.

The Buckeyes were supposed to play on Friday night against Marquette in Charleston, S.C., aboard the USS Yorktown, but condensation on the court led to that game being canceled.

``When they announced we weren't going to play I looked at some of the crowd and some of the faces and I felt so bad that we didn't get to play,'' said Lenzelle Smith Jr., who added 18 points. ``They go to war for us every day. I was thinking the least we could do was play a game for them.''

Instead, the Buckeyes channeled their desire to play into their next game.

``They were itching to play,'' Matta said.

Thomas, one of the stars of the Buckeyes' Final Four run last season, hit just one of his first seven shots and Ohio State trailed 23-22 late in half. But he asserted himself as the Buckeyes took control.

Matta's angry timeout talk ignited the Buckeyes.

``He just told us to play hard,'' said Thomas, a junior who had contemplated jumping to the NBA before electing to return to Ohio State. ``He said, `Don't let up.' As a team we just kept saying, `Boost it up. Let's get (the lead) to 30.'''

Aaron Craft, considered an outside-shooting liability a year ago, hit 5 of 7 3-pointers for a career-high 20 points to go with seven assists.

Asked he was now the Buckeyes' go-to guy on perimeter shooting, Craft cracked, ``Could you say that again, please?'' Nodding to Thomas and Smith, he added, ``These guys didn't hear you.''

Craft spent untold hours working on his shot for several months. It paid off in more confidence, not only for him but also by his teammates in Craft's shooting.

``Teammates have to trust me to shoot the ball as well, too,'' he said. ``So throughout this summer and fall, I was trying to get their confidence in me as well. They did a good job of finding me. You get a lot of open shots when guys are driving and kicking (out passes). It's not too difficult to knock down wide-open shots when you've got great players around you.''

Smith was 8 of 11 from the field, making both 3s he attempted.

The Buckeyes shot 57 percent from the field (32 of 56) and made 12 of 20 shots behind the arc.

Smith gave Ohio State a 39-25 lead at the halftime buzzer by swishing a 3-pointer from the right wing off a pass from Craft.

Over the last 4:46 of the half during the Ohio State run, the Buckeyes hit 6 of 8 shots from the field to Albany's 0 for 4, didn't have a turnover and outrebounded the Great Danes 6-2.

Ohio State then opened the second half by scoring eight of the first 10 points to take a 20-point lead.

Craft and Ross hit 3s to make it 55-33. The lead hovered around 20 the rest of the game.

Matta conceded that his timeout might have turned the game around.

``It definitely sparked a run,'' he said, adding that he was unhappy with how the Buckeyes were handling adversity on the court. ``Our team's not good enough to let one negative compound to another negative. I kind of got into them and said, `Hey, let's go.'''

The contest was a first-round game in the Basketball Hall of Fame Tip-Off Tournament.

Mike Black had 20 and Jacob Iati 13 for Albany (1-1).

Brown was asked if he would've liked the Buckeyes to have played on Friday night.

``I wish they would have played, and that that game would have gone, like, five overtimes,'' hes

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Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

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USA TODAY Sports

Trotz's future in Washington remains unsettled on eve Stanley Cup Final

Caps Coach Barry Trotz doesn’t have a contract beyond the Stanley Cup Final, and any potential talks about an extension will wait until the trophy is awarded, GM Brian MacLellan said Friday.

“No,” MacLellan said, asked if a decision on Trotz’s future had been made. “We’re going to address everything after the playoffs are over.”

Trotz’s four-year contract expires at season’s end.

It’s rare for a head coach to enter a season while in the final year of his deal. But that’s how the Caps decided to handle Trotz’s situation last offseason after another strong regular season performance ended with yet another second round playoff exit at the hands of the Penguins.

It was a suboptimal situation for Trotz, a 55-year-old who ranks fifth all-time in regular season victories but, until this year, had never led any team beyond the conference semifinals.

Despite his lame duck status, all Trotz did was produce his best coaching performance to date. 

Consider:

  • While visiting his son in Russia last summer, Trotz visited Alex Ovechkin in Moscow to discuss the changes he’d like to see the Caps’ captain make to his training and his game.
  • When the Caps reconvened for training camp in September, it was clear there were still some hurt feelings in the locker room. So Trotz and his assistants backed off, allowing some necessary healing to occur.
  • When the team suffered back-to-back blowout losses in Nashville and Colorado back in November, Trotz initiated a tell-it-like-it-is team meeting that many players have pointed to as the turning point of the regular season, which ended with the team’s third straight Metropolitan title.
  • Trotz also got his highly-skilled lineup to buy into a more structured, detailed style of play late in the campaign, a transformation that prompted MacLellan to call this playoff run the most defensively responsible of Trotz’s tenure.
  • In each of the two previous conference semifinals, Washington was defeated by Pittsburgh and, as a result, the Penguins had become a physical and a mental hurdle for the Caps. Earlier this month, Trotz helped direct Ovechkin and Co. past the two-time Cup champions.

Although MacLellan wouldn’t say much about Trotz’s contract, he did say that he’s noticed a big change in Trotz’s day-to-day approach to his job, a change possibly prompted by the coach’s free agent status.

“I think his demeanor has changed a little bit,” MacLellan said. “He seems a little lighter, a little looser, a little less pressure. Maybe a little more freedom about how he goes about things. He’s more relaxed, I guess would be the way to describe him.”

MacLellan also acknowledged the job Trotz’s has done this season, beginning with his delicate handling of the dressing room to start the year.

“I think he’s done a good job managing it,” MacLellan said. “To come in this year with so many questions—from my point of view, the lineup questions weren’t that big of a deal—but just the emotional state of our coming into to start the year [and] how to handle that. I think he’s done an outstanding job.”

Indeed, Trotz’s situation remains unclear on the eve of the Final. But we do know this much: He’s having one of the best contract years in NHL coaching history.

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Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

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FB/The Town of Lovettsville

Small Virginia town changes name to Capitalsville ahead of Stanley Cup Final

Welcome to Capitalsville, Va., population: #ALLCAPS

Hoping to become the Washington Capitals' Stanley Cup headquarters, the small Northern Virginia town of Lovettsville has renamed itself to Capitalsville, Va.

Caps superfan and Mayor of Lovettsville, Bob Zoldos, had a lightbulb moment while watching Game 7 in a local bar and restaurant, Velocity Wings. Overcome with emotion from the win, he decided to take his idea to the town council meeting Thursday and Capitalsville was born after a unanimous vote to "unleash the fury."

This is not the first time name changes have occurred ahead of a big game. Ahead of the Caps' first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Blue Jacket Brewery located in downtown D.C. changed its Twitter handle to "Grujacket Brewery" in support of goaltender Philipp Grubauer.

The name change from Lovettsville to Capitalsville is temporary, with the plan to keep the new name through the end of the Stanley Cup Final. However, Zoldos hopes the sign brings in other Caps superfans from across the DMV to take in a piece of history 20 years in the making. 

Here's to hoping Capitalsville brings the city some luck heading into Game 1 on Memorial Day.

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