North Carolina at Clemson

North Carolina hopes to continue its dominance over Clemson when the 20th-ranked Tigers host the No. 17 Tar Heels on Tuesday. The Tar Heels have won 10 straight against the Tigers dating to 2010, including an 87-79 home victory on Jan. 16.

Clemson is 11-0 at home but North Carolina has won in its last four trips to Littlejohn Coliseum. The Tigers have split their last six games and are coming off a 72-70 win at Georgia Tech on Sunday. North Carolina is trying to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2014. The Tar Heels followed last Monday’s 80-69 loss at Virginia Tech with a 95-91 overtime loss to North Carolina State on Saturday.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

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ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (16-6, 5-4 ACC): The Tar Heels aren’t the most efficient team at the offensive end, but they can push the pace and have several proven scorers with forward Luke Maye (18.6 points, 10.5 rebounds) and guard Joel Berry II (17 points) leading the way. Forward Kenny Williams (11.2 points) has struggled to get involved on offense recently, scoring in double figures in only one of the past five games. The Tar Heels have struggled a bit at the defensive end, especially on the perimeter – allowing 10.2 3-pointers per game, which is on pace for the most in program history.

ABOUT CLEMSON (17-4, 6-3): The Tigers have taken on a different dynamic since losing forward Donte Grantham (14.2 points, 6.9 rebounds) for the season, taking on a more guard-oriented approach built around Marcquise Reed (15.4 points), Gabe DeVoe (12.3 points) and Shelton Mitchell (12 points, 4.1 assists). DeVoe scored a career-high 25 points against Georgia Tech, and Reed dished out 11 assists and had three steals. The Tigers still have a strong big man in Elijah Thomas (10.5 points, 7.4 rebounds), but he was limited to 19 minutes before fouling out against the Yellow Jackets and could be in for more of the same without Grantham to help in the post.

TIP-INS

1. North Carolina has won 16 of 18 meetings when both teams are ranked in the Top 25.

2. Clemson is 5-1 in games decided by five points or fewer or in overtime.

3. The Tar Heels lead the nation in rebounds per game (43.4) and are second in rebound margin (11.7).

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Posted in CBB

Northwestern at Michigan

No. 25 Michigan looks to get back into the win column when it hosts Northwestern on Monday. The Wolverines have dropped two of their last three games, including a 92-88 setback to third-ranked Purdue on Thursday to fall out of the race for the Big Ten title, and hope to string together some victories down the stretch to solidify a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

Michigan is 11-1 at home this season, with its lone loss coming to the Boilermakers (70-69) on Jan. 9, and aim to continue their dominance in Ann Arbor by knocking off the Wildcats for the seventh consecutive time at Crisler Center. Northwestern has won back-to-back games for the first time since December following a 77-69 victory against Minnesota on Tuesday. The Wildcats snapped a three-game road losing streak and swept the season series with the Gophers in the process as they hope to ride the momentum to their first victory in Ann Arbor since 2010. “I feel like in the last two weeks we’re starting to play good basketball,” Northwestern coach Chris Collins told reporters. “The resiliency of our group, the sense of urgency and the way we’ve approached everything I’m really pleased where our team is at right now.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

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ABOUT NORTHWESTERN (13-9, 4-5 Big Ten): Vic Law scored 18 points and pulled down a career-high 13 rebounds to register his second double-double of the season in the win against Minnesota. Bryant McIntosh added 18 points and three assists against the Gophers to become the fourth player in Big Ten history to notch at least 1,600 points and 650 assists in his career. Scottie Lindsey tallied 15 points while Dererk Pardon contributed 10 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots to help the Wildcats beat the Gophers for the fourth consecutive time in Minneapolis.

ABOUT MICHIGAN (17-6, 6-4): Senior guard Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman buried six 3-pointers en route to a career-high 26 points in the loss to Purdue. Zavier Simpson matched his career high with 16 points and dished out five assists while Moritz Wagner scored 15 points as the Wolverines fell to the Boilermakers for the second time this season despite shooting a sizzling 60 percent from the floor. “We’ve played some really good teams and (Purdue) twice, tough and that means we can play with a lot of people,” Michigan coach John Beilein told reporters. “But playing with them wasn’t why we’re here, trying to win was why we were here.”

TIP-INS

1. Four of the last five meetings between Michigan and Northwestern have been decided by four points or fewer.

2. Simpson has dished out at least five assists in seven of his last eight games.

3. Lindsey is 12-of-62 from 3-point range over his last 10 contests.

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Posted in CBB

Notre Dame at Duke

Fourth-ranked Duke won’t have too long to think about its first home loss in ACC play this season as injury-plagued Notre Dame pays a visit Monday night for another league battle. The Blue Devils trailed by 10 at halftime and a rally fell short in the 65-63 home loss to second-ranked Virginia on Saturday, ending their streak of 80 or more points at 16 straight games.

“Our guys have not been in a game like that,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told reporters after his team committed 16 turnovers. “The level of intensity and the high level of defense that they play, I thought knocked us back. And then in the second half, I thought we played really well. We fought. All this is a big learning experience.” The Blue Devils must recover fast after getting just six minutes from their bench players Saturday – partially due to illness and injury – as they try to take advantage of the depleted Fighting Irish, who have dropped five in a row. Notre Dame’s leading scorer and rebounder Bonzie Colson (foot) is not expected back until March and senior guard Matt Farrell (15.7 points, 5.3 assists) is likely out for Monday’s game with an ankle injury. Coach Mike Brey was still pleased with his team’s effort in the 80-75 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday: “I’m disappointed, but I’ve got no beef with my guys, man, as long as they keep emptying the tank like that.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

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ABOUT NOTRE DAME (13-8, 3-5 ACC): Sophomore guard T.J. Gibbs has emerged as the go-to-player through all the injuries, averaging 19 points the last four games after scoring a career-high 27 against Virginia Tech. Gibbs is the top active scorer (15.4) overall and senior forward Martinas Geben adds 10 per game to go along with 8.1 rebounds overall while averaging a double-double (12.3 points, 10.6 boards) in ACC play. Junior guard Rex Pflueger (8.7 points) scored 15 against Virginia Tech on Saturday after totaling the same amount in his previous four contests combined.

ABOUT DUKE (18-3, 6-3): Marvin Bagley III has posted at least 30 points in four of his last eight contests and boasts 17 double-doubles to lead the Blue Devils in scoring (22.0) and rebounding (11.6) while shooting 61.4 percent from the floor overall. Duke’s next two top scorers – senior guard Grayson Allen (14.7) and freshman guard Gary Trent Jr. (14.4) – were just 5-for-19 from the field combined against Virginia. Freshman forward Wendell Carter Jr. (14.3 points, 9.4 rebounds) owns four double-doubles in his last five games and is 28-for-41 from the field over the past four.

TIP-INS

1. Notre Dame sophomore F John Mooney has averaged 14 points and nine rebounds the last two games while draining five 3-pointers.

2. Duke freshman G Trevon Duval leads the ACC in assists (6.1), but is 5-for-19 from the field over the last three contests.

3. The Blue Devils won both matchups last season after dropping five of the previous six against Notre Dame.

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Posted in CBB

The “underdog” Eagles are one more victory away from claiming the franchise’s first Lombardi Trophy

One month ago, critics felt the Philadelphia Eagles’ Super Bowl hopes snapped right with Carson Wentz’s ACL. But after an up-and-down finish with replacement Nick Foles, the quarterback caught fire during the playoffs.

Impressive performances against the Falcons and Vikings had the Eagles fighting back as an overlooked top seed. Labeled an underdog for two straight weeks, they proved doubters wrong and will need to do so a third time against the defending Super Bowl champs, the New England Patriots.

After seeing Sunday night’s performance, I wouldn’t bet against them. Here are five reasons why these Eagles can topple the Belichick-Brady dynasty. Don’t forget to reserve your spot for this Sunday FanPicks Super Bowl contest.

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5 Reasons Why the Philadelphia Eagles Will Win Super Bowl LII

1. Nick Foles just had the game of his life

Foles has played in three career playoff games. He’s now racked up QB ratings of 100-plus in all of them, throwing for five touchdowns and no interceptions. Guess who else has accomplished such a feat? Waiting… waiting… The answer is no one. Not Joe Montana. Not Troy Aikman. Not even the man named Tom Brady, who has five Super Bowl rings and four MVPs on his resume will be on the opposite sideline on Feb. 4.

Peaking when it matters, Sunday night was easily Foles’ best postseason performance. He had four completions of 35 yards or more, making the Eagles forget about Wentz in Sunday night’s rout of Minnesota. He threw for more than 300 yards for the first time in over three years, ending the night turnover free. Suddenly, a scheme that once looked too daunting for a backup has been reconstructed perfectly around his strengths.

Could Foles be running on borrowed time? Sure. But look at what the Patriots’ defense allowed to much-maligned Jaguars starter Blake Bortles Sunday — 293 passing yards, a touchdown, no turnovers and a QB rating hovering around 100.

Outside of that game, Bortles has a career QB rating of around 80.8. Foles? He’s at 87.4 and even made the Pro Bowl (2013). So don’t count out another monster game against a Patriots defense whose “bend but not break” scheme nearly broke them.

2. The Eagles’ defense causes turnovers

The pick-six of Case Keenum was the game-changer that ultimately tilted momentum in Philadelphia’s direction for good. The Eagles’ 31 takeaways during the regular season ranked fourth in the NFL, and their five defensive TDs trailed only Jacksonville for the league lead.

There’s talent up and down the Eagles’ 11-man front, from Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox to Sunday’s hero Patrick Robinson in the secondary. There’s experience, too, from former Patriots Super Bowl defensive end Chris Long and eight-year veteran Brandon Graham. Other than the first drive against the Vikings Sunday, no one flinched. Minneapolis miracle worker Keenum looked like a chump just seven days later.

Certainly, the high-powered Patriots offense could prove a tougher challenge. But the Eagles have the talent on this side of the ball to go punch for punch.

3. It’s a true team effort on offense: no one person can bring them down

With the exception of maybe Foles, whose backup Nate Sudfeld hardly inspires confidence, the Eagles are a combination of quality offensive pieces. They’re not built like the Patriots, who have struggled through short stretches without star tight end Rob Gronkowski.

This team had zero players with 1,000 rushing yards or receiving during the regular season. But their running game was feared through teamwork: LeGarrette Blount, midseason pickup Jay Ajayi, and young Corey Clement all shared the load. Any one of them is capable of a breakout performance in Super Bowl LII.

There also is a trio of 700-yard receivers, with Zach Ertz, Alshon Jeffery and Nelson Agholor all making an impact. Sure, there may not be a legendary name in there, but there’s such a variety of strong targets it’s nearly impossible to stop them all.

It’s strength in numbers that means someone will likely be positioned to have their moment to shine.

4. Rob Gronkowski might not even play

The Patriots’ star tight end and easily the second-best player on the team got knocked out of the AFC Championship Game with a concussion. There’s no telling how the protocol will go over the next two weeks but you have to think Gronk will do anything to get cleared.

However, the injury history of one of the NFL’s most fragile stars is well-documented. Would anyone be surprised if Gronk suffered the poor luck of post-concussion syndrome? Or if the injury hampered his ability to be 100 percent? While the Pats made a gutsy comeback, surging back in the second half against the Jags they’ve also wilted in late-season losses without him.

5. The Eagles have nothing to lose — and they’re playing like it

“We’ve been kicked to the curb since Carson got hurt,” head coach Doug Pederson said in comments that were aired on FOX during the NFC Championship Game. Pederson has played up the underdog role with his team and they’ve bought it hook, line, and sinker.

No one expected this team to be here after Carson Wentz went down with a season-ending injury. Even better yet, they’re positioned to be in the big game for years to come with their franchise quarterback on the mend. Reaching the Super Bowl this year with a young, growing team feels like an extra credit bonus.

That means the Eagles will be playing Super Bowl Sunday as a hungry team with little to lose. It sounds a lot like the Jaguars in the AFC Championship Game and we know how close they came.

At some point, David will hit Goliath with a slingshot that knocks Brady and Belichick off the top of the mountain. Why can’t that moment come with these Eagles?

Posted in NFL

Wizards at Thunder

A pair of newly minted All-Star point guards will square off when Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder host John Wall and the Washington Wizards on Thursday. Both Wall and Westbrook were named All-Star reserves when the rosters were announced on Tuesday.

Westbrook celebrated his All-Star selection by scoring 32 points to lead the Thunder to a fifth straight win, 109-108 over Brooklyn on Tuesday, but was upset that teammate Paul George was not named to the All-Star team. “Unbelievable. I think it’s just outrageous, in my opinion,” Westbrook told reporters of the snub. “I don’t know who else made the team but got four people from one team, you’ve got guys complaining about getting snubbed until they get in, you’ve got guys just talking about it all the time. But the guys that deserve it — should be in — are not. I just don’t understand. Doesn’t make any sense.” The Wizards are struggling with losses in three of their last four games, including a 98-75 setback at Dallas on Monday, but had two players named to the All-Star team as shooting guard Bradley Beal joined Wall. “It’s a blessing and an honor,” Beal, who is heading to his first All-Star Game, told the Washington Post. “Still hasn’t hit me yet, a little bit. I’m definitely happy about it. I’m sure it will probably hit me later tonight, whenever it does.”


TV: 8 p.m. ET, TNT

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ABOUT THE WIZARDS (26-21): Beal (23.6 points) leads Washington in scoring while Wall (9.2 assists) ranks second to Westbrook (10) in the NBA in assists. “It’s an honor,” Wall told reporters of being named to his fifth All-Star team. “Without my teammates and coaching staff and the fans and the other coaches respecting (me), I wouldn’t be in this position. To be able to be with Brad for his first time is a big honor. We all know it should be his second time, but it’s an honor I get to be with him at the same time.” Wall hasn’t been playing much like an All-Star of late as he is shooting 35.6 percent while averaging 4.8 turnovers in his last five games.


ABOUT THE THUNDER (27-20): George, who made the Eastern Conference All-Star team four times while with Indiana, is averaging 20.9 points while shooting 42.2 percent from 3-point range in his first season with Oklahoma City. The 27-year-old collected 28 points and nine rebounds in Tuesday’s win after going off for 36 points on 12-of-19 shooting in a win at Cleveland on Saturday. “It wasn’t going to put me in a funk or cause me to be in a lost place or a sunken place,” George told reporters of not being named an All-Star. “I didn’t make All-Star. It is what it is. I’ve got a longer break in between the season now.”

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Thunder F Carmelo Anthony, a 10-time All-Star who also missed out this season, had a string of three straight performances of 20-plus points come to an end when he scored only 10 on Tuesday.

2. Washington SF Otto Porter Jr. (hip) is sitting out practice and questionable for Thursday.

3. The teams split two meetings last season, with Oklahoma City earning a 126-115 win at home behind 35 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists from Westbrook.

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Posted in NBA

Blackhawks at Red Wings

The Chicago Blackhawks take to the road in an attempt to halt their slide and get back into the playoff picture in the Western Conference as they begin a four-game trek Thursday against the Original Six-rival Detroit Red Wings. Chicago dropped a 3-2 overtime decision to Toronto on Wednesday to conclude a 1-4-1 homestand with its fourth straight loss (0-3-1).

Nick Schmaltz recorded a goal and an assist in the setback, giving the Blackhawks six players with 13 or more tallies and helping them climb within six points of the second wild-card spot in the West. Detroit is looking to halt a home losing streak that reached four games (0-3-1) with Tuesday’s 3-2 overtime setback against Philadelphia. Petr Mrazek made his second start in two days but was unable to post his third straight shutout as his career-best scoreless streak ended at 145 minutes, 5 seconds. The first of the netminder’s blankings came on Jan. 14, when he made 27 saves in a 4-0 triumph at Chicago.

TV: 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, NBCS Chicago

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ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (22-19-7): Patrick Kane notched an assist against the Maple Leafs, drawing within four of 500 for his career. It was the 801st point for the 29-year-old right wing, who leads Chicago with 49 but has been kept off the scoresheet in six of his last nine games. Artem Anisimov also moved closer to a milestone on Wednesday, setting up a goal for his 298th career point.

ABOUT THE RED WINGS (19-20-8): Luke Glendening made an impact in his return to the lineup Tuesday, recording a pair of assists and a plus-2 rating over 13 minutes, 25 seconds of ice time in the loss. The 28-year-old forward, who has notched seven goals and 12 points in 35 games this season, missed 12 contests with a wrist injury. Detroit could get back another player Thursday in Justin Abdelkader, who has sat out five games with a groin injury but was mentioned as a “possibility” to return by coach Jeff Blashill.

OVERTIME

1. Red Wings C Frans Nielsen scored a goal against Philadelphia, ending his eight-game point drought.

2. Chicago converted two of its four power-play opportunities against Toronto after going 0-for-16 over its previous five contests.

3. Detroit recalled C Dominic Turgeon from Grand Rapids of the American Hockey League and assigned veteran LW David Booth to the Griffins.

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Posted in NHL

Michigan at Purdue

Third-ranked Purdue looks to stay on track for its second straight Big Ten regular-season title when it hosts No. 25 Michigan on Thursday. The Boilermakers have won 15 consecutive games, including an 87-64 victory against Iowa on Saturday, to remain undefeated in conference play and hope to move to 9-0 in the Big Ten for the first time in program history by sweeping the season series with the Wolverines following a 70-69 triumph on Jan. 9.

Purdue has won its last three games overall by an average margin of 28.3 points, and hopes to extend its home winning streak to 13 with another dominant showing. Michigan bounced back from its worst performance of the season against Nebraska with a 62-47 win over Rutgers on Sunday. The Wolverines finished a stretch of eight games in 22 days with six wins, but hit the 70-point plateau just once in their last five contests and hope to rediscover their shooting touch against a Purdue squad that has held three straight opponents to 50 or fewer points. “I’ve never seen anybody just annihilate people like Purdue is doing right now,” Michigan coach John Beilein told reporters. “The way Purdue is playing we have quite a challenge.”

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN

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ABOUT MICHIGAN (17-5, 6-3 Big Ten): Moritz Wagner led the way with 16 points to go along with six rebounds in the win against Rutgers after being held to a season-low two points in the 72-52 loss to Nebraska in his previous game. Duncan Robinson provided a spark off the bench as he drained four 3-pointers en route to 12 points against the Scarlet Knights to move within three 3-point field goals of passing Stu Douglass (205) for seventh place on the Wolverines’ all-time list. Charles Matthews added 10 points while Zavier Simpson contributed 10 points, a career-high eight rebounds and four assists to help the Wolverines improve to 10-0 all-time against Rutgers.

ABOUT PURDUE (19-2, 8-0): Sophomore guard Carsen Edwards was named the Co-Big Ten Player of the Week after averaging 21.5 points and 5.5 assists in the wins over Iowa and Wisconsin (78-50). Edwards scored 22 points and dished out eight assists while Vincent Edwards added 19 points as the Boilermakers set a single-game record with 20 3-pointers in the victory against the Hawkeyes. “We try to find guys in rhythm, in transition shooting those 3s,” Purdue coach Matt Painter told reporters. “Good decision making leads to pretty good shots and a pretty good percentage from the field.”

TIP-INS

1. Purdue has won 10 consecutive Big Ten regular-season games dating back to last year.

2. Michigan G Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman is ranked second nationally in assist-to-turnover ratio (5.38).

3. The Boilermakers have made 10 or more 3-pointers in four straight games.

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Posted in CBB

Celtics at Clippers

The Boston Celtics have lost a season-worst four straight games and they look to break out of their sudden funk when they visit the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday. Boston opened a four-game road excursion with Tuesday’s 108-107 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers, which followed up Sunday’s stunning 103-95 home loss to the Orlando Magic, a squad now tied for the worst record in the NBA.

All-Star guard Kyrie Irving scored 33 points in Tuesday’s loss but didn’t receive a chance at a game-winning shot as teammate Marcus Smart grabbed a rebound with 5.7 seconds left and never gave up the ball before badly missing a 3-point attempt as time expired. “He felt like he had a good look, and we’ve got to live with the results after that,” Irving said afterward. The Clippers have dropped their last two games after winning 12 of the previous 15 to salvage their season. Power forward Blake Griffin had 32 points, matched his season best of 12 rebounds and posted a season-high 12 assists during Monday’s 126-118 loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves and is averaging 26.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 6.3 assists over the past four games.

TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN, NBCS Boston, Prime Ticket (Los Angeles)

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ABOUT THE CELTICS (34-14): Post player Al Horford is in the second season of a four-year, $113 million contract with the squad and accepted a complimentary role this season with Irving and injured small forward Gordon Hayward joining the mix. His teamwork and unselfishness were noted by NBA coaches, who voted Horford to a spot on the All-Star team when the reserves were announced Tuesday. “It makes me feel good because I feel like I’ve always taken a lot of pride in playing the right way and putting the team first always,” said Horford, who has only eight 20-point outings this season. “The coaches have seen that and have rewarded me over the years. It’s a big honor for me.”

ABOUT THE CLIPPERS (23-23): Shooting guard Lou Williams has kept Los Angeles in the playoff hunt with his stellar play that includes scoring 20 or more points in 15 of the past 16 games. But his solid campaign and career-best 23.3 scoring average didn’t result in an All-Star spot and Williams simply tweeted “Lol” when the television show announcing the reserves concluded. The team’s backcourt depth has been thin lately with Austin Rivers (heel) missing the last 12 games and coach Doc Rivers said his son will likely miss two more weeks.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. The Clippers have won six of the past eight overall meetings, as well as the last five played at the Staples Center.

2. Smart scored 22 points against the Lakers – one shy of his season best.

3. Los Angeles C DeAndre Jordan (ankle) is listed as doubtful and could miss his sixth straight contest.

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Posted in NBA

DePaul at Georgetown

Jamorko Pickett and Jahvon Blair will try to come through for a second straight game when Georgetown hosts DePaul on Wednesday in a Big East game. The freshmen duo combined for 31 points Saturday in a double overtime win over St. John’s and will try to lead the Hoyas to a season sweep of the Blue Demons.

“They finally showed that they’re not freshmen anymore,” coach Patrick Ewing told the media of Pickett and Blair. “They still made some mistakes, but for the most part they did a lot of things for us – rebound, make shots and played great defense.” Pickett, a 6-7 forward who also posted nine rebounds and four assists, hadn’t scored in double figures since the final non-conference game, and Blair, a 6-3 guard, had alternated between good and bad games for the Hoyas. Each made a career-high four 3-pointers as the Hoyas matched their season-high with 11 treys, which helped to overcome 36.2 percent shooting from inside the arc. Max Strus rebounded from a couple off shooting nights to score 27 points against Butler, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Blue Demons from losing their third straight game and sixth of their last seven contests.

TV: 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1

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ABOUT DEPAUL (8-11, 1-6 Big East): Even at full strength, the Blue Demons have a tough time winning in the Big East, but they were missing one of their key components in Saturday’s loss to Butler. Marin Maric, a senior who averaged 15.3 points and 7.6 rebounds in the past seven games, missed the game because of an unspecified injury and his status is questionable for this game. Peter Ryckbosch and Paul Reed shared the forward spot in his absence, combining for nine points and 13 rebounds, but both were limited because of foul trouble. 

ABOUT GEORGETOWN (13-6, 3-5): No player was more important to the win over St. John’s than Marcus Derrickson, who put up a career-high 27 points and made some key shots during both overtimes. The junior hit three free throws and a 3-pointer to send the game to a second overtime, where his two free throws accounted for the winning points. “We were using the Syracuse and Butler games as motivation,” Derrickson told the media about a pair of games in which the Hoyas blew late leads. “We didn’t want to have outcomes like those again.”

TIP-INS

1. Georgetown’s Jessie Govan has gone three straight games without recording a double-double, the longest streak of the season for the junior center.

2. The Hoyas, who lead the series 30-8, had won six straight and 20 out of 21 games against the Blue Demons prior to losing at home in the second meeting last season.

3. With five 3-pointers against Butler, Strus has made 55 on the season, good for 15th on DePaul’s single-season list.

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Posted in CBB

Maple Leafs at Blackhawks

The Toronto Maple Leafs were unable to slow down the league’s hottest club and now will try to post their first victory in Chicago in nearly 15 years. The slumping Maple Leafs, losers of eight of 11 (3-4-4) following Monday’s 4-2 loss to Colorado, will look to rebound against the skidding Blackhawks, who are buried in last place in the Central Division.

Chicago started the calendar year by winning three of four and amassing 21 goals, but stumbled badly on its six-game homestand, scoring six times during the 1-4-0 swoon while getting blanked twice during the current three-game slide. “We’ve had games this year where we’ve played great against top-notch teams,” star forward Patrick Kane told reporters. “So we know it’s in here. We know we can be confident, given some of the games we’ve had in the past.” Toronto has lost five of six (1-2-3) but, unlike the Blackhawks, has the luxury of playing in a weak division (Atlantic) and holds a double-digit point cushion for third place. The Maple Leafs halted a five-game losing streak in the series by rallying for a 4-3 overtime win Oct. 9, but have dropped seven in a row in Chicago and last won in the Windy City in February 2003.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, NBC Sports Network, Sportsnet, TVA (Toronto)

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ABOUT THE MAPLE LEAFS (26-18-5): Coach Mike Babcock shuffled his lineup at Tuesday’s practice, splitting up longtime linemates Nazem Kadri and Leo Komarov, but said it was only for the next two away from home. “I’m looking to have more balance and more attack, especially on the road when I don’t have last change,” said Babcock, who dropped Komarov to the fourth line and replaced him with Mitch Marner on the second unit. Kasperi Kapanen was recalled from Toronto of the American Hockey League and skated on Komarov’s line.

ABOUT THE BLACKHAWKS (22-19-6): Chicago certainly wasn’t lacking for chances in Monday’s 2-0 loss to Eastern Conference-leading Tampa Bay, launching 40 shots on goal and failing on six power plays to fall to 0-for-16 with the extra skater on the homestand. “It has to be better, myself included. Myself especially,” defenseman Duncan Keith, who along with captain Jonathan Toews did not practice Tuesday because of a maintenance day, told reporters. Toews scored at Toronto on Oct. 9 but has been held off the scoresheet in five straight.

OVERTIME

1. Toronto G Frederik Andersen is 2-2-3 with a 2.74 goals-against average versus Chicago.

2. Blackhawks F Patrick Kane has torched Toronto for 10 goals and 22 points in 14 games.

3. Maple Leafs D Morgan Rielly was placed on injured reserve and is out through the All-Star break.

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Posted in NHL

Louisville at Miami

Louisville continues to make its case for a spot in the polls with fourth straight victories to move into second place in the ACC behind Virginia. The Cardinals look to follow up Sunday’s 77-69 over Boston College when they head south to face a Miami team that has been up and down since conference play began, but the 24th-ranked Hurricanes put an end to their two-game skid Sunday with a strong 86-81 road victory over North Carolina State.

The Hurricanes were efficient in the victory over the Wolfpack, shooting a blistering 57.6 percent, including 10-of-19 (52.6 percent) from 3-point range, while recording a season-high 26 assists on 34 field goals – their most ever in an ACC game and their most in any game since Nov. 16, 2009 – but those numbers will be difficult to match against Louisville. Under interim coach David Padgett, the Cardinals are playing with great intensity on defense, forcing turnovers and contesting shooters on the perimeter, limiting them to just 29.6 percent on their 3-point shots. “We got to focus on being a good defensive team,” Padgett told reporters following the Boston College win. “Our offense will be fine. We’ll have games where we can’t shoot the ball well and that’s just where we got to rely on defense and our guys have just been working extremely hard in practice every day and we’re playing well because of it.” The Hurricanes are likewise making a living out of strong defensive play, but while they are allowing just 63.1 points per game and have held nine opponents below 60 points, their last two foes have surpassed 80.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN2

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ABOUT LOUISVILLE (15-4, 5-1 ACC): Deng Adel, the team’s leading scorer at 15.8 points per game, had a quiet first half in the win over Boston College but he roared back in the final 20 minutes with all his points (18) and rebounds (10) to finish with his third double-double in the last five games. Center Anas Mahmoud and forward Ray Spalding make up a dominant duo up front, with Mahmoud swatting down 3.53 shots per game to rank as the nation’s fourth-best shot blocker – Louisville is second in the nation with 7.3 blocks per game – while Spalding is nearly averaging a double-double with 11.4 points and a team-high 9.3 rebounds per game. The Cardinals recorded 10 steals against Boston College and the team is now 7-0 when it amasses double-digit steals.

ABOUT MIAMI (14-4, 3-3): Center Dewan Huell is one of just two Hurricanes averaging in double figures for the year (13.6) but he was held to eight points on 4-of-9 shooting in the win over N.C. State, just the fourth time this season he failed to reach double digits. Sophomore guard Bruce Brown Jr. (11.5 ppg) stepped up with a near-perfect shooting performance, hitting 7-of-8 shots from the field (3 of 3 from downtown) and finished with team-bests in points (19) and assists (nine), while Ebuka Izundu was 7-for-7 from the field and scored a season-high 15 points, his third double-digit outing of the year. Opponents are shooting just 39.1 percent from the floor against the Hurricanes and 30.4 from 3-point range, both ranked in the nation’s top 20, but Miami couldn’t slow N.C. State’s shooters, who hit 54.4 percent of their shots from the field, second highest by a Canes’ opponent this year (55.4 by Duke).

TIP-INS

1. Louisville has won 10 of the 13 meetings between the teams, including a 3-1 edge since joining the ACC, but all three Miami wins have come at home.

2. The Cardinals have the fifth-most ACC road wins in their four years in the conference (16).

3. With its win over N.C. State, Miami is now 10-0 when leading at the half.

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Posted in CBB

Rockets at Mavericks

James Harden and Chris Paul are both healthy, and the Houston Rockets are rolling again. The Rockets will try to push their latest winning streak to four in a row when they open a two-game road trip at the in-state rival Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday.

Houston swept its three-game homestand by knocking of three playoff teams, capped by a 99-90 victory over the Miami Heat on Monday in which it trailed by 14 points in the first quarter before battling back. “After the initial hit we took from them, the 33 points (allowed in the first quarter), I thought our defense really stepped up,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni told reporters. “We played hard as heck. I thought it could be that way after we got an emotional victory on Saturday (over the Golden State Warriors) and then to get going, we just didn’t come out of the gate very well. But after that our defense is solid.” The Mavericks are coming off a strong defensive performance as well after opening a three-game homestand with a 98-75 win over the Washington Wizards. “It was a great team effort,” rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. told reporters. “Everybody did their part tonight. We gave up a couple of offensive rebounds, but that’s bound to happen. We kept fighting from quarter one to quarter four, so it was a great effort all around.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN, AT&T SportsNet Southwest (Houston), FS Southwest (Dallas)

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ABOUT THE ROCKETS (33-12): Houston can score as well as any team in the league but is getting stronger on the other end as well and limited Miami to 57 points over the final three quarters on Monday after holding Golden State to 17 fourth-quarter points on Saturday. “We have to, every single night,” Harden told reporters about defending. “Our shots might not fall, or we might not have our rhythm, but defensively we’ve got to compete and match each opponent’s intensity. If we do that, we give ourselves a chance every night.” Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring (31.4) poured in 28 points on Monday — his highest total in three games since returning from a hamstring injury.

ABOUT THE MAVERICKS (16-31): Smith highlighted his 17-point effort on Monday with a 360 dunk on a breakaway in the first quarter and is averaging 21.5 points over the last four contests. The 20-year-old North Carolina State product added six assists on Monday to help small forward Harrison Barnes break out of a shooting slump. Barnes finished with 20 points on 9-of-16 shooting in 31 minutes after going 3-of-13 from the floor in a loss at Portland on Saturday.

BUZZER BEATERS

1. Rockets SG Eric Gordon is 0-of-16 from 3-point range over the last two games.

2. Mavericks PG Devin Harris (concussion) sat out Monday and is questionable for Wednesday.

3. Houston took the last five in the series, including a 107-91 win in the first meeting of the season at home on Oct. 21.

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Posted in NBA

Mississippi State at Kentucky

Kentucky plays as an unranked team for the first time in nearly four years when it tries for its 11th straight victory over visiting Mississippi State on Tuesday. The Wildcats are coming off back-to-back losses at South Carolina 76-68 on Jan. 16 and to No. 22 Florida 66-64 on Saturday, but coach John Calipari still has faith in his young team coming together at the right time.

“I know there’s some people out there that will be panicked and all this,” Calipari told reporters after the Gators snapped Kentucky’s 30-game SEC home winning streak. “Be panicked. I’m glad I’m not sitting with you because I am fine.” The Wildcats hope to receive a boost from 6-9 freshman forward Jared Vanderbilt, who has averaged 5.0 points, 5.5 rebounds and 13.5 minutes in his first two games of the season since recovering from a foot injury. “I think I’ve showed flashes,” Vanderbilt told Kentucky.com, with Calipari adding that Vanderbilt could be the leader the Wildcats appear to be missing. “As I get in better shape, the more minutes I play … just to have an extra spark of energy, just a boost for the team.” The Bulldogs are coming off a 68-62 loss at Alabama – their fourth setback in the last five games, and have dropped 11 straight on the road.

TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN

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ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (14-5, 2-4 SEC): Junior forward Aric Holman (12.1 points, team-high 7.3 rebounds per game) has recorded double-doubles in consecutive contests, averaging 14.5 points and 12 boards. Junior guard Quinndary Weatherspoon leads the team in scoring (14.5 points) and assists (4.1), also contributes 5.8 rebounds, and is 17-for-34 from the field in his last three games – lowering his field goal percentage to 50.5. Sophomore guard Lamar Peters (8.0 points) scored 17 versus Alabama, making a season-high four 3-pointers in 10 attempts, and is averaging 12.3 in his last three contests.

ABOUT KENTUCKY (14-5, 4-3): The last time the Wildcats did not appear in the poll was March 10, 2014 before they made a run to the NCAA national championship game, losing to Connecticut 60-54. Freshman guard Quade Green (10.2 points) scored two points in 17 minutes versus Florida in his first game since missing three with a back injury. Freshman forward Kevin Knox (team highs of 14.3 points and 32.2 minutes) scored nine points Saturday after averaging 17.7 in his previous three contests.

TIP-INS

1. Kentucky has won 94 of the 114 meetings, including 47 of 52 in Lexington.

2. The Bulldogs lead the SEC in fewest points allowed at 64.7 per game and were 21st nationally in field goal percentage defense at 39.5 through Sunday’s contests.

3. The Wildcats have never lost three straight under Calipari, with the victories after a two-game losing streak by an average of 14.9 points.

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Posted in CBB