Nationals

UConn topples Harvard 57-49

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UConn topples Harvard 57-49

STORRS, Conn. (AP) DeAndre Daniels scored a career-high 23 points and Connecticut beat Harvard 57-49 on Friday.

Ryan Boatright added 16 points for the Huskies (7-2) who were coming off a four-point loss to No. 25 North Carolina State earlier in the week.

Wesley Saunders had 14 points and Steve Moundou-Missi added 10 for Harvard (4-4).

Harvard trailed by three at halftime and was down just 33-32 after a layup by Saunders early in the second half.

But the Huskies went on a 13-2 run over the next 7 1/2 minutes and stretched that lead to 12. An alley-oop from Shabazz Napier to Niels Giffey made it 46-34 and brought the crowd to their feet, and UConn was able to keep Harvard at arm's length the rest of the way.

Daniels, who played despite suffering back spasms in the Huskies' loss to North Carolina State on Tuesday, had 15 points in the first half and eight during a 15-2 UConn run that opened the game.

The Crimson missed their first six shots, and had five turnovers before they scored their first basket, a dunk by Jonah Travis, six minutes into the game.

UConn, meanwhile, hit six of its first seven shots.

Junior center Enosch Wolf made his first career start after putting up career highs of 12 points and nine rebounds against North Carolina State. He blocked the game's first shot and had two early baskets in UConn's opening run.

When he went to the bench for a rest, Harvard got back into the game by going on an 11-0 run. Christian Webster had two 3-pointers during that stretch and three in the half.

The Crimson got within a point at 25-24 on a layup by Moundou-Missi, and trailed 27-24 at halftime.

Daniels (15), Boatright (eight), and Wolf (four) were the only Huskies to score in first half. A dunk by Giffey that made it 39-34 midway through the second half was the first basket by another Husky.

Napier had just six points, all in the second half. But he had nine assists and added seven rebounds. Napier had been averaging 18.6 points a game, and almost 13 of those in the second half.

UConn, a guard dominated team, was outrebounded 27-20 and has been outrebounded in eight of its nine games.

Harvard falls to 0-4 against UConn under coach Tommy Amaker, and the Huskies lead the series 16-2. Harvard hasn't beaten UConn since 1972.

The loss snaps a two-game winning streak for the Crimson, who had beaten Fordham at home and Boston College on the road.

Harvard is playing short-handed all season after losing co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry to a cheating scandal that had them take one-year leaves of absence from the team.

The Huskies, who were ranked as high as 21 earlier in the season have played to the level of the competition. They beat Michigan State and played N.C. State tough, but also won by single digits over Quinnipiac, Stony Brook and New Hampshire.

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Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

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Nationals win despite having to turn to little-known pitcher for pivotal start

WASHINGTON -- If any bump was coming from a return home or Mike Rizzo’s public pregame words or simply being out of New York, it was not apparent Friday.

Three errors committed in the first four innings. The first reliever into the game, Joe Ross, allowed three earned runs before recording a second out. Starter Kyle McGowin barely made it through the fourth inning of an eventual and desperately needed 12-10 win.

The rally kept the Nationals from creeping toward of new level of dubiousness in this muck-filled season. They pushed 2 ½ games in front of the Marlins for the National League’s worst record. Juan Soto hit a three-run homer in the eighth. Matt Adams followed with a solo homer. Sean Doolittle had trouble, but closed the game. Those efforts kept this from being another story about the bullpen (five more runs allowed Friday).

So, here’s a different question to ponder (there are a million or none, depending on point of view) after Friday night: How did the Nationals end up with 27-year-old McGowin starting a surprisingly pivotal game?

The nuts-and-bolts version is because of injuries. Both Anibal Sanchez -- who threw a simulation game Friday -- and Jeremy Hellickson are on the injured list. The deeper answer comes from looking at the recent erosion of pitchers in Washington’s minor-league system.

McGowin made his second career start Friday because there is no one else. No hot minor-league prospect, no early-round pick who has been up and down and received another shot, no veteran stashed in the minor leagues for such situations.

Looming behind all of this is the 2016 trade of three pitching prospects to acquire Adam Eaton. Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning were all sent to Chicago for Eaton’s advanced-stats and cost-friendly contract. The departure of three starting pitchers in one shot reverberated Friday when the Nationals were forced to use McGowin in a spot start as the seventh starter of the season.

This is more a volume than quality issue. Neither Lopez or Giolito were effective in limited chances at the major-league level with Washington before being traded. Once in Chicago, Giolito became arguably the worst pitcher in baseball in 2018. No one allowed more earned runs or walks that season. Lopez had a quality season, finishing with 3.1 WAR.

The two have reversed outcomes in 2019. Giolito has rediscovered his velocity. After throwing 100 mph in the 2015 Futures Game, his velocity caved. Giolito was down to 92-93 mph with the Nationals and, initially, Chicago. Thursday, he hit 97 mph in the ninth inning of a shutout against Houston. The outing drove his ERA down to 2.77.

Lopez is struggling. His 5.14 ERA is venturing toward Giolito’s status of a year ago. His walk total -- always the concern -- is up, as are his homers allowed.

But what Giolito and Lopez have, at age 24 and 25, respectively, is potential. Giolito, who often fussed with his mechanics in Washington, has discovered a delivery to expedite his fastball and an approach to boost the effectiveness of his changeup. Lopez’s 2018 showed he can be a solid back-end rotation member. They were expected to follow behind Erick Fedde and Joe Ross in establishing a future rotation. But, those two are in Chicago, Ross is in the bullpen, where he gave up three runs Friday, and Fedde just returned to the rotation after being moved to the bullpen.

So, it was McGowin on the mound Friday. Four innings, six hits, five runs, one walk, two strikeouts, two home runs allowed. Why? No better choice is available.

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Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic and Nationals grant boys wish to be a player for a day

The Nationals welcomed 10-year-old cancer patient Parker Staples as the newest addition to their team on Friday, in conjunction with the Make-A-Wish Mid-Atlantic Foundation.

While battling lymphoma, Staples learned he would receive a wish and didn’t hesitate about what he wanted to choose. After being sidelined for two years during treatment, Parker couldn’t wait to celebrate his remission by becoming part of his favorite baseball team. 

Staples was introduced to his new teammates and got signed autographs from Matt Adams, Juan Soto, Anthony Rendon, and Yan Gomes. He also got to spend time hitting and playing catch with his new teammates, as well as being interviewed as the newest member of the team. It gets even better than that, Staples threw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park leading up to the Marlins-Nationals game Staples 

"My favorite moment was throwing the first pitch. It was really cool," Staples said.

"Probably the biggest day of my life."

The Nationals are hosted the Miami Marlins in the series opener Friday.

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