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August 2018
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NCAA TOURNAMENT: South Regional, Elite 8 Sunday Results

compiled from staff and news reports

With the Duke Blue Devils not reaching the Final Four since 2004, the loyal fan base were getting restless but coach Mike Krzyzewski says all the fuss didn’t bother him.

But don’t look now, Coach K has his team on the cusp of one win away from the national championship game.

Duke received a career-high 29 points from Nolan Smith in a 78-71 win over the Baylor Bears in Houston, Texas  that put Krzyzewski and the Blue Devils back into college basketball’s biggest stage, the Final Four.

Jon Scheyer (Duke photography)

Jon Scheyer added five 3-point baskets and scored 20 points for Duke, ending  local favorite Baylor’s dream run in the South Regional final.  The Blue Devils became this year’s only number 1 seed to advance to Indianapolis and earned their 11th Final Four berth under Coach K.

LaceDarius Dunn had 22 points and Epke Udoh scored 18 for the third-seeded Bears who end the season at 28-8. The Baylor program was in shambles and   under scrutiny when head coach Scott Drew took over in the wake of  scandal and murder almost seven years ago.

Drew took the Bears from the outhouse to the brink of their first Final Four appearance in 60 years.  After three consecutive 20-win seasons and an unexpected postseason run which now has the public recognizing it is a solid program and tragedy of the summer of 2003 can be put to rest for good.

Scott Drew was 32 years old when he was hired and had only been a head coach for just one season,winning 20 games at Valparaiso while his Dad, Homer Drew was on a sabbatical. Scott prior to that spent nine years as his Dad’s assistant. He had to rebuild his program in the always tough Big 12 Conference with a reduction in scholarships and a roster torn-apart by the transfers of the top three scorers after that tragic summer in 2003 when Patrick Dennehy was shot to death by a teammate.

Nolan Smith (Duke photography)

Baylor made it to the NCAA tournament two years ago, when it lost in the first round to Purdue, and to the NIT championship game last April.

The Bears, from Waco, Texas, were picked 10th in the preseason poll by the Big 12 coaches at the beginning of this season after losing three 1,000-point scorers to graduation.  But they were the last Big 12 team still playing.

By beating Baylor, the Blue Devils will play East Regional champion West Virginia in the national semifinals Saturday night.  They have won 11 of their last 12 regional finals under Coach K, but haven’t won a national title since 2001.

Mike Krzyzewski made his first Final four with the Blue Devils in 1986 and hadn’t had a gap this long between trips to the biggest stage in college basketball.

Duke ended the Final Four drought at Reliant Stadium, home of the NFL’s Houston Texans, only 3 1/2 hours from Baylor University’s campus in Waco.  Most of the crowd of 47,492 were dressed in green and gold colors of the Bears and had an impact on keeping Baylor in the game through the end.

NCAA TOURNAMENT: Midwest Regional, Elite Eight Sunday Result

compiled by the staff

When it comes to Michigan State basketball, they may lose players as the years roll on, but they are always a program that is an NCAA championship contender year-in and year-out. But the main constant is head coach Tom Izzo, who has made the Spartans “masters of the NCAA Tournament and the month of March and early April.

The fifth-seeded Spartans are on their way to their second Final Four in a row and sixth in 12 years after Raymar Morgan’s free throw with 1.8 seconds left vaulted Michigan State to a 70-69 victory over the Tennessee Volunteers in the Midwest Regional Final on Sunday.

Spartans coach Tom Izzo (msu)

No other team in the country, not Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina or UCLA, has been better during the Spartans run under Tom Izzo.

Izzo, is a disciple of the legendary coach Jud Heathcote, who was his mentor. Izzo took over from Heathcote in 1995-96. Izzo is 6-1 in regional finals.

The Spartans, last year’s national runner-up, will be looking for championship number 3 next weekend in Indianapolis. They will play the hometown favorite, Butler University, in the semi-finals Saturday night.

It’s hard to believe, but Michigan State is the only team from last year’s Final Four to make it back. North Carolina, which manhandled the Spartans in last year’s title game, didn’t even make the NCAA tournament field. Neither did Connecticut and Villanova was knocked out in the second round.

The 28-8 Spartans led the game by as many as eight in the second half, but Brian Williams pulled sixth-seeded Tennessee, now 28-9, to within one, 69-68 on a rebound follow shot with 2:10 left. Korie Lucious, the fill-in point guard for the injured Kalin Lucas, missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 29 seconds left and Scotty Hopson got the rebound.

Hopson was fouled at the other end, and made the first.  But after a Michigan State timeout, Hopson missed the second  and Lucious grabbed the rebound. Raymar Morgan was fouled by J.P. Prince with 1.8 seconds remaining and he made the first.  After timeouts by both teams, Morgan bricked the second shot of purpose.

Tennessee’s Brian Williams grabbed the rebound and head coach Bruce Pearl called a quick timeout. But J.P. Prince fumbled the inbounds pass and had to just throw up a prayer from midcourt just before the buzzer sounded. Michigan State was on its way from St. Louis and headed 5 hours east  to  Indianapolis and the Final Four.

Cavaliers honor Zydrunas Ilgauskas; sluggishly beat the Kings, 97-90

from staff and wire reports

The Cleveland Cavaliers honored their longtime center Zydrunas Ilgauskas before the game and the fans saluted him all day during the game with signs and cheers everytime he went in and out of the game, everytime he touched, shot, scored and rebounded the ball.

The team still had to play the Sacramento Kings.  The Kings at 24-50 are on the lower tier of the NBA pecking order and are battered, bruised and just playing out the string.  Sacramento has five of their 14 players on the injured list. The missing included Tyreke Evans, Spencer Hawes and then they lost Dominic McGuire in the first quarter of Sunday’s game.

Cavaliers coach Mike Brown (creative commons/wfe photo)

Kings head coach Paul Westphal ended up using  just seven players total and believe it or not, Cleveland with the NBA’s best record at 58-16 were leading one of the worst teams by one-point with 8 minutes to go in regulation.

The Cavaliers played very sluggish on Sunday,  their bench, which is long, talented and good, were outscored 36-12 and they were outrebounded, 42-38.

LeBron James scored 34 points but he said his game wasn’t the greatest and even called his performance, “low-energy.”

But the Cavaliers won the game by employing what makes them successful, a tough fourth-quarter defense, which generally works fantastic against teams like the Kings. After allowing them to shoot 50 percent shooting the first 3 quarters, Cleveland clamped down on the exhausted and short-handed Kings who only made four of 19 shots in the key part of the game, the fourth quarter. Cleveland has now won 28 in a row against teams with sub.500 and below records.

The Sacramento Kings surprisingly played well against the Cavaliers all game long.  Beno Udrih had his first career triple-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and 15 assists and sat for only 29 seconds the entire game. Center Jason Thompson played the entire game scoring 16 points and 14 rebounds. Andres Nicioni off the bench had 21 points.

Couples on a hot streak playing Champions Tour with 3rd straight win

compiled by the staff

Fred Couples was successful on the PGA Tour being a 15-time winner and a Masters champion. So when it was reported that he would be joining the Champions Tour, which is for players 50 years old and over, all the so-called golf experts, media and fans expected he would have no trouble winning events.

Well, he is off to a good start in his first four events which has proven everybody right.

Couples has now won three straight starts on the 50-years-and over tour, by shooting a course-record Sunday of 10-under-62 at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Punta Espada course in Cap Cana, Dominican Republic for a two-stroke win over Corey Pavin in the Cap Cana Championship. Couples made five birdies in a row from the second hole through the sixth. His reward for winning the tournament, $240,000.

Couples made 11 birdies in the final round and finished the tournament at 21-under-195.  Pavin finished with a 66.

Couples compares his first four tournaments in 2010 to a hot streak he had 18 years ago.  “I had a great stretch of golf back in 1992, but I must say that these past four weeks, I’m not missing many shots,”  he said.

Fred Couples Champions Tour (creative commons/wfe photo)

The 50-year-old Couples the ACE Group Classic and Toshiba Classic winner in 2010 after placing second in the season-opening event in Hawaii, hasn’t had a score higher than 68 and is 77 under in 12 senior tour rounds. He has earned $931,000 in four events on the Champions Tour.

Fred is the first player in Champions tour history to win three of his first four tournaments, and the eight player to win three straight starts, leaving him one behind the tour record set in 1987 by the legendary Chi Chi Rodriguez.

Couples started Sunday two strokes behind Pavin and one back of Nick Price.

Corey Pavin was the victim of bad luck when his second shot at the par 4  14th hole hit a sprinkler head on the side of the green and bounced 60 yards over the green.  He was unable to recover and made a bogey, losing the lead for the first time since the seventh hole.

Fred then ran off five more birdies in a row from the 11th hole through the 15th hole and maintained a one-shot lead over Pavin when both birdied the par-5 15th. Of Fred Couples’ birdies, only one came from outside 30 feet and eight came from inside 15 or less.

Russ Cochran finished third and there was a three-way tie for fourth place Nick Price, Tony Pernice Jr. and Bernhard Langer.

Fred Couples is making plans to play in the Masters Tournament at Augusta National golf course.

No revenge as Blue Jackets beat Chicago for the second time in 4 days

compiled from staff, wire and internet reports

After the Blue Jackets demolished the Chicago Blackhawks this past Thursday at Nationwide Arena, 8-3, most of the Blackhawks players including head coach Joel Quenneville couldn’t wait until Sunday to get the Jackets on their home ice for a payback. After all, Chicago had 3 days of practice to get ready, while the Jackets had to play on Saturday night at home and lost in overtime to the New York Islanders and had to travel late Saturday night to the Windy City for back-to-back games. All scenarios led to the rested Blackhawks ready to have a blow out of their own? Not at all!

Steve Mason, Jakub Voracek, Andrew Murray, Mike Commodore, Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger led the way for a 4-2 Columbus win over Chicago on Sunday night.

Steve Mason seems to be finally rounding into the form that everybody saw last season as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year, as he made 33 saves and allowed only 1 goal. The other Chicago goal was knocked into the net by a Columbus player by accident.

Jakub Voracek scored two goals and had an assist in the win over the reeling Chicago Blackhawks who are 2-4-2 in the last eight games.

Andrew Murray and Mike Commodore also scored for Columbus. Derick Brassard and R.J. Umberger each had two assists for the Blue Jackets.

Eventhough Columbus is out of the playoff chase, clinging to 5th place in the Central Division and 14th in the Western Conference, they have played well under interim coach Claude Noel who is 9-5-4 since taking over for the fired Ken Hitchcock on February 3.

Despite all of their recent inconsistent play, the Blackhawks remain seven points ahead of second-place Nashville in the Central Division, but they keep missing opportunities to gain on San Jose in the race for first place in the Western Conference.

Coach Claude Noel (cbj)

Early in the game, Chicago played as if they were out to put the game away early.  Dave Bolland was credited with the goal that opened the scoring at the 8:58 mark of the first period. Steve Mason stopped a Brent Seabrook shot off the right wing, and Bolland failed in his attempt to put in the rebound from the side of the net. Columbus center Antione Vermette  tried to clear the puck out of the crease area but accidentally knocked it past Mason, giving Chicago a 1-0 lead.

Andrew Murray brought the Jackets back into a 1-1 tie just shy of two minutes later during a delayed penalty call when he knocked in a loose puck from a scramble in the crease area.

Columbus basically put the game away in the second period by scoring twice for a 3-1 lead. Jakub Voracek knocked in a loose puck into a wide-open net with 6:35 left in the second  period for a 2-1 lead. After Chicago goalie Antii Niemi blocked Derick Brassard’s shot from the right circle and dropped to the ice and Voracek pounced on the rebound from the left side of the crease.

Mike Commodore pushed the lead out to 3-1, scoring on a shot from the point with 6.3 seconds left in the second period while his teammate Jakub Voracek was screening Niemi’s vision.

Goalie Steve Mason (cbj)

Patrick Sharp cut the deficit to 3-2 in the third period with 3:13 left when he scored on a short-handed breakaway. The goal gave Chicago late momentum, but Voracek scored on an empty net goal with 8 seconds remaining to seal the win.

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