Capitals

Top 25 Capsules

Top 25 Capsules

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Deshaun Thomas scored 25 points, 10 during a game-breaking 15-0 second-half run, to lead No. 11 Ohio State past Wisconsin 58-49 on Tuesday night.

The leading scorer in the Big Ten, Thomas took over the game as both teams tried to gain leverage in a typically physical matchup between them.

The victory moved Ohio State (16-4, 6-2 Big Ten) into third place in the Big Ten and dropped Wisconsin (14-7, 5-3) two games off the pace set by co-leaders Indiana and Michigan (6-1).

Traevon Jackson, the son of Buckeyes great Jimmy Jackson, led the Badgers with 12 points in the arena where his dad's jersey hangs from the rafters.

Jared Berggren added 11 points for Wisconsin.

Aaron Craft had 13 points for the Buckeyes.

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INDIANA STATE 68, No. 15 WICHITA STATE 55

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Manny Arop scored 17 points, including a celebratory slam in the final minute, and Indiana State snapped Wichita State's 19-game home winning streak.

The Sycamores (14-7, 7-3 Missouri Valley) stayed in the conference race with their first victory over a ranked team in five tries this season. Davonte Brown and Jake Odum both added 10 points.

Cleanthony Early had 15 points and Demetric Williams added 14 for first-place Wichita State (19-3, 8-2), which shot 27.1 percent from the field. The Shockers had just six field goals in the second half.

Indiana State ended the half on a 17-3 run over the last 4:12, taking a 39-28 lead. Wichita State got within 50-48 with 7:26 remaining, but never pulled even.

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KENTUCKY 87, No. 16 MISSISSIPPI 74

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Kyle Wiltjer scored a career-high 26 points and Nerlens Noel set a school record with 12 blocked shots for Kentucky.

Kentucky (14-6, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) took a 73-56 lead with 10 minutes remaining. The Rebels roared back with 16 straight points, cutting the deficit to 73-72 with 4:22 left.

Ryan Harrow nailed a 3-pointer to stop Ole Miss' run and Kentucky was able to hold on and win for the fifth time in seven games. Archie Goodwin scored 24 points and Alex Poythress added 15.

Ole Miss (17-3, 6-1) had its nine-game winning streak snapped. LaDarius White led the Rebels with 22 points while Marshall Henderson added 21. Henderson made 5 of 19 shots from the field, including just 2 of 11 from 3-point range.

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VIRGINA 58, No. 19 N.C. STATE 55

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) - Joe Harris scored 22 points, seven during a game-ending 13-6 run, and Virginia won its fourth straight.

Akil Mitchell added 14 points for Virginia (15-5, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), including an 18-foot jumper that put them ahead to stay, as the second-stingiest defense in the country put the clamps on.

North Carolina State (16-5, 5-3), which arrived averaging nearly 80 points per game, became the 17th team, including all seven ACC opponents, to be held under 60 points by Virginia.

C.J. Leslie, playing despite being under the weather, led the Wolfpack with 20 points and 14 rebounds. Richard Howell had 12 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Jontel Evans hit two from the line with 26 seconds left to make the lead three. The Wolfpack never got off a good shot in the closing seconds.

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No. 23 MINNESOTA 84, NEBRASKA 65

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Rodney Williams scored 23 points for Minnesota, which snapped a four-game losing streak.

Andre Hollins scored 14 points and Austin Hollins had 13 points and five assists for the Golden Gophers (16-5, 4-4 Big Ten).

Ray Gallegos had six 3-pointers and scored 30 points for Nebraska (11-11, 2-7), which committed 13 turnovers to offset some impressive shooting. The Huskers shot 54.5 percent for the game, but were outrebounded 36-19 and forced just six turnovers by Minnesota.

The Gophers started the season 15-1, with the only loss to Duke. They climbed to No. 8 in the AP Top 25 before losses to Indiana, Michigan, Northwestern and Wisconsin.

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I Am The Prospect: Capitals' prospect Alex Alexeyev is focused on one goal - making the roster

I Am The Prospect: Capitals' prospect Alex Alexeyev is focused on one goal - making the roster

Alex Alexeyev is the third Washington Capitals' prospect featured in NBC Sports Washington's I Am The Prospect series. Click here to check out more profiles from I am The Prospect.

Like most prospective NHL players, Alex Alexeyev dreams of the day he gets to lift the Stanley Cup over his head.

“It’s the best league in the world," Alexeyev said. "In childhood, they (are) always dreaming about raising that Stanley Cup. It’s my dream too.”

Standing at 6-foot, 3.5-inches tall, the 19-year-old from St. Petersburg, Russia, was the Capitals' last pick of the first round in the 2018 NHL Draft.

“He’s an untapped resource," Capitals head coach Todd Reirden said. "I was really impressed with him last year, seeing him for the first time."

Alexeyev's journey to the big leagues began three years ago when he made the move from Russia to North America, earning a spot on the top pair of the Red Deer Rebels' roster in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada. It was there in March of this past year that he sustained a "scary" knee injury, almost certainly sidelining him for the time being.

“I was scared and I felt like something (was) definitely wrong with my knee but after some time where I figured out, everyone figured out that it’s not that scary,” Alexeyev said.

Alexeyev rebounded quickly, rehabbing his injury with the Capitals' AHL affiliate, the Hershey Bears.

“The injuries, it’s too bad, but players do get injured and that’s something that can’t be helped, Capitals assistant general manager, Ross Mahoney said. "But he had a really good first half of the season with the Red Deer and exceptional World Junior Tournament, the under-20 tournament.” 

Since then, Alexeyev was a standout at the Caps' Developmental Camp in June.

“He just looks like he’s at a different level than the rest of the kids both physically and ability to play," Capitals general manager Brian MacLellan said. "He’s big, he’s strong, he’s got a good skill level, he moves the puck well, he seems to have a good attitude a good work ethic, I’m excited to see him in training camp and see his progression here as the year goes on.

With the loss of Capitals' veteran defensemen Matt Niskanen and Brooks Orpik, Alexeyev is focused on making the Caps' 2019-20 roster.

“Alex is a really intelligent player," Mahoney said. "I think he’s got great vision on the ice. He has that ability also to be very patient with the puck.” 

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The Las Vegas Aces have no answer for the Mystics ‘missing piece’ Emma Meesseman

The Las Vegas Aces have no answer for the Mystics ‘missing piece’ Emma Meesseman

WASHINGTON – A year ago the Washington Mystics made it to the WNBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Top-to-bottom they were a loaded team that finally made the jump led by one of the most talented women’s basketball players in the world in Elena Delle Donne. 

But Delle Donne was hindered, battling through a knee injury throughout the entire playoffs. There was no one to give her relief, which resulted in the Seattle Storm sweeping the Mystics in the Finals. 

A full 365 days and some change have passed. Nearly everyone returned to the Mystics for another go at a championship. The younger players added a year of experience. Expectations are just as high. This year though they believe that they already have what it takes to win a championship; Emma Meesseman came back to the team.

“Emma is the missing piece for us,” Natasha Cloud said after Game 2. “From last year’s to this year’s team she the difference-maker in making us a championship team. She’s putting us on her back… Emma is an All-Star of her own. I’m extremely proud of the player she’s grown into.”

The first leg of the WNBA Semifinals against the Las Vegas Aces in Washington saw different ways Meesseman can be the reason why the Mystics lift the trophy at the end of the season. 

Game 1 she led all scorers with a season-high 27 points. Thirteen of those came in a 26-point third quarter that erased a seven-point lead for Las Vegas. Her explosion allowed the Mystics to surge back into the game. Complementary to Delle Donne’s 25 points, they were a dynamic duo. Las Vegas couldn’t hone in on one of them when they were both on the court. Washington won by two.

Game 2 the Belgian matched that performance. Meesseman tied a career-high with 30 points going 11-for-19 from the field and 5-for-7 from 3-point range. A majority of those (22) came in the second and third quarters to take firm control of the game. Each time the Aces attempted to come back, Meesseman would hit another dagger. Washington won by 12.

“She ain’t missing any shots. That’s the main thing,” Aces’ Liz Cambage said on how they’ve been unable to stop Meesseman. “She came out tonight – [the Mystics] all shot so well tonight.”

Put her in the paint and the flex player posted up and drove against the 6-8 Cambage, or forced her out to clear the lane for other Mystics. Stretch Meesseman out to the arc and she knocked down threes over shorter guards. She’s a Swiss army knife for the Mystics, versatility that is similar to the 2019 MVP Delle Donne.

That comparison is drawn from her own teammates, including Cloud. One that Meesseman believes to be a big honor.

Last year Meesseman missed the season to take a break and work on her game. She was winded after the 2017 season and the toll that it took on her. While away from the WNBA, a lot of her time on the court was with the Belgium national team. There she had to be the team's primary scorer. 

This year in Washington, she’s applied that mentality and aggressiveness to her play. While she’s come off the bench for essentially the whole season, Meesseman has been a huge asset. Now, she’s starting with a big line-up for Washington.

“You can’t just have one or two [go-to players]. We need three or four to win a championship and [Messeeman has] embraced that this last part of the season,” Mystics head coach Mike Thibault said. “She was aggressive, she was looking for the ball, just there is a whole different body language to her about this right now.”

Only twice this season had the 6-4 forward reached 20 points for the Mystics. One was in the penultimate game in the regular season. Granted, she missed 11 games for her national team obligations, but it has been rare to see this explosion. 

"Emma has got a chip on her shoulder. She clearly was watching last year and wasn't happy with the result,” Delle Donne told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. “Emma is playing unreal basketball. She is so good, one of the greatest in the world. To add a piece like that and for her to step up like this has been so big for us."

But Meesseman doesn’t see herself as being the difference-maker. She’s just playing basketball and trying to contribute to an already established championship-level team. 

During Game 1’s postgame press conference Meesseman shut down being labeled as the “missing piece.”

“I’m not sure I agree with that-“ 

“Emma, stop it,” Delle Donne said. “We didn’t win Emma. We need you. I’ll take your 27 and 10 any night.”

She still isn't embracing that title after Game 2. Although if you ask the rest of the Mystics, Meesseman is alone in that regard.

Whether she likes it or not, Meesseman is the clear difference in the Mystics roster as opposed to the team that fell short in the WNBA Finals. When league historians look back at the 2018 and 2019 Mystics teams, she will stick out. 

The only question is will the “missing piece” push the Mystics to where they want to go. 

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