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VCU beats St. Bonaventure 72-65

VCU beats St. Bonaventure 72-65

ST. BONAVENTURE, N.Y. (AP) Treveon Graham scored 17 points and pulled down nine rebounds and Troy Daniels added 10 points to lift Virginia Commonwealth to its 11th straight win, 72-65 over St. Bonaventure in Atlantic 10 Conference play Saturday.

Jarred Guest added nine points and Juvonte Reddic tallied eight points and nine rebounds as the forwards powered VCU (14-3, 2-0) to a 35-28 rebounding advantage and a 32-18 edge in points in the paint.

VCU pushed its lead to seven twice in the second half before St. Bonaventure's cut it to 50-47 on Charlon Kloof's layup. The Rams, however, outscored the Bonnies 16-6 over the next 7 1/2 minutes to take a 66-53 lead with 3:46 left.

Demitrius Conger helped St. Boanventure (7-8, 0-2) slice the deficit to six with 1:08 left, but the Bonnies made just one shot the rest of the way.

Conger led St. Bonaventure with 19 points.

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Ravens focused on ‘pretty hard’ task of re-signing pass-rusher Matthew Judon

Ravens focused on ‘pretty hard’ task of re-signing pass-rusher Matthew Judon

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — The Ravens’ biggest offseason decision likely is Matthew Judon’s expired contract and what to make of his imminent pay raise. 

The choice the Ravens are faced with is to let the team’s best pass-rusher walk in free agency, or to extend him to a long-term deal. Free agency opens on March 18, at which point the Ravens will have to have made a decision on Judon’s future with the organization.

Coach John Harbaugh, while he admitted the challenge of extending one of the team’s best defenders, said the team certainly wants to.

“We’re going to try,” he said. “Haven’t we signed eight of our guys already this year, if we do the count? So there’s no question that’s a priority for us. That’s something that’s really important to us. So we’re going to try and get as many of these guys re-signed as we can and Matt is probably right at the top of the list, for sure.”

Judon finished the season with 9.5 sacks, a career best for the 27-year-old fourth-year pro. In the three years prior, he had seven, eight and four sacks, respectively. He also had a career-high 33 quarterback hits.

Last season, the Ravens lost pass-rusher Za’Darius Smith in free agency to the Packers after he signed a four-year, 66 million dollar contract with 20 million dollars guaranteed. In a bit of a surprise, the Ravens appear to have gotten the short end of the stick on a free agency deal as it relates to Smith.

Smith had a career-high 13.5 sacks and 37 quarterback hits in Green Bay in a breakout year, and if the Ravens want to avoid a repeat of that, they’ll have to shell out for Judon. 

But if the team wants to wait, with younger edge rushers Jaylon Ferguson and Tyus Bowser on the roster, the possibility of putting the franchise tag on Judon still exists.

The move would cost the Ravens nearly 20 million dollars for one season, but would ensure they’ve got a No. 1 pass rusher on the roster. 

With an estimated nine picks in the NFL Draft there’s room to add talent in the front seven, but the Ravens would likely have to trade up to acquire a blue-chip edge talent.

The decision with Judon will affect the rest of the organization’s offseason plans, as a long-term contract restricts what else the Ravens can do across the roster in free agency and into the draft. 

Whether or not the team decides to let him walk, extend him long-term or slap the franchise tag on him, the decision will have ripple effects throughout the team for the 2020 season.

“There’s a lot of things that can go into that, as we all know, the business part of it that agents and general managers deal with back and forth,” Harbaugh continued. “I’ll stay out of that, probably Matt will stay out of that too. We’ll let everybody do their jobs. Our goal will be to have Matt back, that’s what we try to do.”

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Nationals will enter Spring Training in familiar territory with fifth-starter competition

Nationals will enter Spring Training in familiar territory with fifth-starter competition

For a team that rose to contention behind the strength of its pitching staff, the Nationals have never been afraid to leave the back end of their rotation up to chance.

It started with John Lannan vs. Ross Detwiler in 2012. Then Tanner Roark edged out Taylor Jordan for the fifth spot in 2014. AJ Cole and Erick Fedde battled it out for the fifth spot in 2018 before Jeremy Hellickson leapfrogged them both two weeks into the season.

This year, three familiar faces will be in the mix for that coveted No. 5 spot: Fedde, Austin Voth and Joe Ross. All three pitched in hybrid spot-starter/long-relief roles while jumping back and forth between the minors and major leagues. Each had their struggles but also showed flashes of what their potential could be.

“It was a year where I got to do a lot in the sense of starting and relieving,” Fedde said at the Nationals’ annual WinterFest event last weekend. “Kind of just been the same old role of whatever I can do to help this team. It’s a benefit to be on a winning team where they just try to fit you in wherever you can help. Just trying to taking things one step at a time this year.”

Fedde started his career higher on prospect rankings than his fellow competitors did, but he’s mostly failed to deliver on that promise in three years since breaking into the majors. In 2019, his up-and-down performances continued, with four quality starts mixed in with three outings in which he allowed 5+ runs.

But the biggest hurdle to Fedde making the Opening Day squad might be his rare fourth option. Both Ross and Voth are out of options heading into 2020, meaning the Nationals must place them on waivers if they don’t make the active roster out of Spring Training. Fedde, despite being optioned in three separate seasons, accumulated a fourth option due to his lack of service time at the major-league level.

So that puts the spotlight on Voth and Fedde. With the addition of the 26th man to the active roster this year, the Nationals have already said they’ll be expanding their bullpen to eight pitchers. That means the loser of the fifth-starter competition likely gets relegated to a relief role.

“I’ve done both before,” Voth said at WinterFest. “Obviously, I’m used to starting more often but if I was a reliever as well, long-relief guy, I’d be fine with that. Just want to have a role on this team and be a part of this team.”

Based on last season’s results alone, Voth would appear to be the frontrunner heading into the spring. The former fifth-round pick posted a respectable 3.30 ERA and 9.1 K/9 over nine appearances (eight starts) in what qualified as his rookie season. A shoulder issue prevented him from making the World Series roster, but he insists he’s healthy heading into this year.

Voth’s injury paved the way for Ross to make the World Series roster and thus fill in for Max Scherzer in Game 5 after the ace was scratched with a neck spasms. He pitched admirably for being given the ball on both short notice and short rest. Overall, Ross’ 2019 numbers weren’t stellar, but he was also in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

Both pitchers will enter Spring Training looking to showcase improvements they’ve made over the offseason. For Voth, he wants to improve the effectiveness of his sliders against righties, working to increase its depth and add more velocity to better differentiate it from his curveball. For Ross, he will look to show that he’s fully healthy and capable of returning to his 2016 form when he made 19 starts and accrued a 3.43 ERA.

Fedde shouldn’t be counted out, but he’ll have to have a lights-out start to Spring Training in order to garner serious consideration. The Nationals probably have more roster questions entering this season than they’ve had in a long time, but the fifth-starter competition is a game they’ve certainly played before.

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