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Williams, Mbakwe lead Minnesota past NDSU 70-57

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Williams, Mbakwe lead Minnesota past NDSU 70-57

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Rodney Williams scored a season-high 19 points, including a 360-degree dunk off a fast break, and Trevor Mbakwe grabbed a career-high 18 rebounds to lead 13th-ranked Minnesota past North Dakota State 70-57 on Tuesday night.

Mbakwe added 14 points and Andre Hollins had 11 for the Gophers (11-1), who have won 16 straight games in this series, last losing in 1936.

Lawrence Alexander led the Bison (8-3) with 19 points, Taylor Braun added 15 and Marshall Bjorklund pitched in 12. Braun, who won two of the last three Summit League Player of the Week awards, fouled out with 3:57 left on a pump-fake power move by Mbakwe for a layup and three-point play.

The Bison were more competitive than in their visit to No. 1 Indiana on Nov. 12, an 87-61 loss, but they weren't able to hang with the Gophers the way they did last year in outrebounding the bigger Big Ten foe and falling 63-59. NDSU has beaten Minnesota twice in football since 2007, but basketball hasn't brought the same success for the Bison against the only major conference school for hundreds of miles.

NDSU fell to 2-4 against nationally ranked opponents. The Bison beat Wisconsin and Marquette in 2006.

The Bison made the NCAA tournament in 2009, but they finished 11-18 the following year, 14-15 in 2010-11 and 17-14 last season, playing in the College Basketball Invitational. With the quick-and-lanky Braun leading the way, they've got the potential to push out unanimous Summit League favorite South Dakota State if Bjorklund and the rest of the bunch can provide enough production. NDSU was picked to finish second in the conference in the preseason poll of coaches, sports information directors and media.

Bjorklund, who played at Sibley East High School about an hour southwest of Minnesota's campus, led a swarming, physical defensive effort underneath early in the game that forced the Gophers into a lot of fruitless possessions. Minnesota didn't lead by more than four points until 5:36 was left in the first half, when Williams turned a steal into an uncontested fast break and the aforementioned fancy slam, the third 360 of his career, according to the Gophers.

Coach Tubby Smith received a plaque from athletic director Norwood Teague and pats on the shoulder from his players before the game in honor of his 500th career victory, achieved on Saturday at USC. He didn't look interested in the pregame fuss, and he wasn't happy with his team's early performance, either. After one turnover by Joe Coleman, Smith leaped from his courtside stool and angrily kicked at the air.

But the Gophers kept their cool and pulled away before the break. Hollins, on his 20th birthday, swished a couple of 3-pointers in the last 80 seconds to stretch the lead to 37-26. In between, Mbakwe jumped in the lane for a rebound and threw it down for a dunk in the same motion.

The improvement Williams has made since his sophomore season is remarkable, and he has Mbakwe's injury to thank for part of it, since he switched from small forward to power forward to fill in. Except for a two-point aberration last week against South Dakota State, Williams has scored at least 12 in every game this season. His outside shot is much better than it used to be, as he proved several times on this night when the driving lanes weren't there.

The Bison were simply overwhelmed down the stretch by Mbakwe's muscle and the athleticism of Williams, and they never came closer than nine points after halftime. They had only four turnovers over the last 23 minutes of the game, but they couldn't knock down enough shots to keep pace, finishing 7 for 20 from 3-point range.

The Gophers, whose only loss was to No. 2 Duke, host Lafayette on Dec. 22, their last game before the Big Ten season.

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Former Patriot and Eagle Pro Bowler Asante Samuel takes shot at Darrell Green

Former Patriot and Eagle Pro Bowler Asante Samuel takes shot at Darrell Green

Asante Samuel got hit Fourth of July fireworks started early Saturday morning with a negative tweet about NFL Hall-of-Famer Darrell Green.

The former Pro Bowler with the Patriots and the Eagles had a fine 11-year NFL career. He is a Super Bowl champion himself. But his out-of-nowhere tweets about Green, one of the NFL’s all-time great corners, were just…weird. 

Green was a dominant player on two Super Bowl champions, a seven-time Pro Bowler and an All-Pro in 1991. He was one of the fastest players in the league, a fearsome punt returner when necessary in playoff games and an all-around great player. Even other players from Samuel’s era were confused, including former Redskins safety Will Blackmon.

That's a pretty accurate description of the differences between Samuel's era and the way the game was played when Green was at his peak. Maybe he stuck around too long and maybe he wasn't close to the player he'd once been by the late 90s and early 2000s.

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But peak Darrell Green was an unquestioned Hall-of-Fame player. Teams didn't throw at him for a reason. When they did, they paid for it. Samuel got a little aggressive for a guy who might have cost the Pats an extra Super Bowl. 

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Tony Dungy, himself a great player and a Super Bowl champion as a player AND a coach, clapped back at Samuel for his ignorance of NFL history. 

That about says it all. 

For his part, Samuel doubled down responding to some tweets but by the afternoon he was starting to see the light. Sort of. 

 

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Ron Rivera reportedly hopes the Redskins can change their name before the 2020 season starts

Ron Rivera reportedly hopes the Redskins can change their name before the 2020 season starts

One day after his team announced they'd be launching a "thorough review" of its name, Ron Rivera told the Washington Post "it would be awesome" if the Redskins could complete the change before the 2020 season.

In fact, Rivera already has a few favorite ideas that he and Dan Snyder have tossed around in their recent, extensive discussions about the topic, though he wouldn't disclose them yet.

"We came up with a couple of names — two of them I really like," Rivera told Les Carpenter on Saturday.

In Washington's Friday statement, Rivera said, “This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military.”

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While talking with Carpenter, Rivera further explained that a new name must be respectful to both of those groups. 

"We want to do this in a positive way," Rivera said.

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It feels like more progress has been made toward a possible change in the past few days than the past handful of years.

Snyder, who once proclaimed his organization would "NEVER" make a switch, is clearly softening his stance now. That shift comes as outside pressure has really mounted from every direction since Thursday.

According to the Post, the owner and his new coach have really focused on going to a new name over the last month, with Rivera hoping to end the process soon.

"My eyes are wide open," Rivera said to Carpenter.

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