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UCLA uses fast start to beat No. 6 Arizona 84-73

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UCLA uses fast start to beat No. 6 Arizona 84-73

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) Shabazz Muhammad scored 23 points, Jordan Adams added 15 and UCLA rode a dominating start to an 84-73 win over No. 6 Arizona on Thursday night.

The Pac-12's top scoring and shooting team, UCLA (16-4, 6-1) tried to turn Arizona's whiteout into a blowout, racing to a 16-point lead in the game's first seven minutes. Even when Arizona chipped away at the lead, bringing the all-in-white crowd at the McKale Center to life, the Bruins kept their composure to pick up a huge road win.

David Wear added 15 points and eight rebounds for UCLA.

Arizona (16-2, 4-12) got off to a miserable start at both ends and never fully recovered, pulling no closer than four points after digging a huge opening hole.

Nick Johnson had 23 points, Mark Lyons added 16 and Solomon Hill 13 for the Wildcats, who went 5 for 24 from 3-point range.

Heading in, this was one of the most anticipated games of the Pac-12 season, two of the conference's most talented teams that score in bunches and have some of the best freshmen anywhere.

Arizona's freshmen big men - Kaleb Tarczewski, Brandon Ashley and Grant Jerrett - have been solid in their first season in the desert, though they have been able to fall back on Arizona's veterans when things have gotten tight.

After opening with 14 straight wins, the Wildcats' luck in pulling out tight games ran out with a 70-66 road loss to Oregon on Jan. 10. They responded with a pair of impressive wins, beating Oregon State and Arizona State both by double digits.

UCLA had some rough patches early in the season, losing to Cal Poly and needing overtime to beat UC Irvine, along with Tyler Lamb and Joshua Smith transferring from the program.

The Bruins rounded back into form after losing to San Diego State on Dec. 1, winning 10 straight games before losing to No. 16 Oregon on Saturday.

UCLA's freshmen - Muhammad, Adams and Kyle Anderson - handled a big road test in a win over Colorado two weeks ago, but the McKale Center and all those rowdy fans wearing white T-shirts and screaming at them.

No problem for these Bruins, young and old.

Confident and crisp on offense, UCLA made eight of its first 12 shots, racing out to a 19-3 lead. Arizona helped out by clanging shot after shot, opening 1 for 13, with most of those around the rim.

The Wildcats were getting decent shots, though, and a few started to fall as they chipped away at the lead.

Arizona climbed its shooting percentage up to 31 percent (11 for 25) by halftime, but had trouble stopping the Bruins, who went 19 for 34 from the floor for a 40-30 lead. Muhammad led the way with 11 points.

Even without Travis Wear, who sat out the second half with a head injury after scoring six points in the first, UCLA maintained its composure.

Scoring on the break, inside and on tough drives to the basket, the Bruins kept dropping in shots, pushing the lead to 55-41 in the first seven minutes of the second half.

Arizona wasn't quite done, though.

Sparked by Johnson's three-point play, the Wildcats scored the next 10 points to get within four and crank up the volume in the McKale Center.

The Bruins made sure they didn't get any closer.

Tony Parker scored on a three-point play, Muhammad dropped in a 3-pointer and UCLA pushed the lead up to 70-60 with just over four minutes left.

Arizona kept clanging from the perimeter and the Bruins made the shots and free throws when they needed to, pulling out their biggest road win of the season.

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

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John Carlson agrees to big-money deal to stay with the Capitals

On Friday, the Capitals shipped out Philipp Grubauer and Brooks Orpik to clear space on the salary cap for John Carlson's massive contract extension.

On Sunday night, Carlson signed on the dotted the line. 

The 28-year-old became the latest core Cap to sign a long-term deal, inking an eight-year extension that will carry an $8 million average salary. 

His cap hit is now the second highest on the team—behind Ovechkin’s $9.538 million charge and just ahead of Kuznetsov’s $7.8 million hit.

With Carlson locked up, the defending Stanley Cup champion now has the majority of its core signed through at least the 2019-20 season. Among the players with at least two years remaining on their deals are forwards Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Nickas Backstrom and Lars Eller, defensemen Carlson, Matt Niskanen and Dmitry Orlov and goaltender Braden Holtby.

The Carlson news did not come as a surprise.

The Caps wanted to keep him. Carlson, who makes his offseason home in Washington, wanted to stay with the club that drafted him 27th overall in 2008. And on Friday night in Dallas, GM Brian MacLellan all but guaranteed that a deal was going to happen when he said, “We’re close and hopefully we can close the deal here over the next 24 hours.”

It ended up taking a little more than 24 hours, but in the end MacLellan got his D-man.

“John has been an exceptional and consistent player for our franchise and has blossomed into being one of the top defensemen in the NHL,” said MacLellan in a statement on Sunday. “Defenseman like John are a rare commodity in our League and, at 28 years of age, we feel he is just entering his prime.”

Indeed, Carlson notched a career-high 15 goals and 53 assists last season, and his 68 points led all NHL defensemen. He also became the eighth defensemen in Caps’ history to record 60 points in a season and the first since Mike Green accomplished the feat in 2009-10. Meanwhile, Carlson’s average ice time (24:47) also marked a career high.

“As a right-handed defenseman, John plays in all key situations and has contributed greatly to our team’s success on the special teams,” MacLellan added. “We are pleased for both parties to have come to an agreement and for him to continue his great career as a Washington Capital.”

With Carlson under contract, the Caps now have a little more than $13 million in cap space underneath the $79.5 million ceiling, according to www.capfiendly.com. Michal Kempny, Jay Beagle, Alex Chiasson and Jakub Jerabek are all unrestricted free agents, while Tom Wilson, Devante Smith-Pelly, Travis Boyd and Madison Bowey are restricted free agents.

Carlson’s also signing kicks off a big week for MacLellan.

In addition to negotiating with the free agents he hopes to retain, he’s expected to have a formal interview with associate coach Todd Reirden, who is the leading candidate to replace Barry Trotz as head coach.

So buckle up, there figure to be a few more important announcements in the coming days.

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

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Interested teams have begun reaching out to John Carlson

Free agency does not start until July 1, but John Carlson's agent is already taking calls from other interested teams.

The interview period began at 12 a.m. on Sunday morning, which means teams are now able to reach out to any potential free agents, but no contracts can be signed until July 1. While Brian MacLellan said Friday that a new deal with Carlson to keep him in Washington was "really close," Carlson's agent, Rick Curran, has made it clear there was no deal in place yet as of Sunday.

So does this mean Carlson now has one foot out the door?

Not necessarily.

At this point in the negotiation, Carlson has a major advantage and that advantage is time. Sunday's interview period is just another way to hold the Caps' feet to the fire. The closer we get to July 1, the more pressure the team is under to get a deal done.

But the Caps still have some leverage too.

“I love it here and all that,” Carlson said during on breakdown day. “I want to stay here, but there's more to it than that.”

By rule, as his current team, the Caps are the only team that can offer Carlson an eight-year deal.

So Carlson may have turned up the heat a few degrees on the Caps, but it's not time for fans to worry just yet.

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