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Oregon upsets Iowa to advance to Sweet 16 – TSN

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INDIANAPOLIS — Oregon wove its way through a pandemic-altered season filled with injuries, pauses and uncertainty to win a conference title.

When another kink surfaced in the NCAA Tournament, the resilient, adaptable Ducks shook it off and soared.

Off to another Sweet 16.

Montreal-born Chris Duarte scored 23 points and Oregon showed no signs of rust after a long layoff, beating No. 2 seed Iowa 95-80 on Monday to reach the Sweet 16 for the fourth time in the past five NCAA Tournaments.

“The guys fought through it, they stayed together,” Oregon coach Dana Altman said. “I’m proud of the way they responded.”

The seventh-seeded Ducks (21-6) were put in an unprecedented spot, advancing to the West Region’s second round without playing a game. Virginia Commonwealth’s multiple positive COVID-19 tests took care of that, leaving Oregon with a nine-day break since losing in the Pac-12 Tournament title game.

Oregon’s offence hummed like it was fresh off the line once the ball went up, kicking off the NCAA Tournament’s first Monday of second-round games with a masterpiece.

The Ducks flowed on the floor and glowed on the scoresheet, shooting 56 per cent and hitting 11 3-pointers. LJ Figueroa hit five threes while scoring 21 points and Will Richardson added 19 points in an offensive domination.

Oregon moves on to face either Kansas or Southern Cal in the Sweet 16.

“We just said keep our foot on the gas,” Duarte said. “We did and it was a lot of fun.”

The Ducks’ sweet offensive movements left the Hawkeyes (22-9) flailing, one game short of the Sweet 16 for the fourth time under Fran McCaffery.

Luka Garza played like a two-time All-American, bulling in for three-point plays, hitting mid-range jumpers and dropping in the occasional three. He capped his stellar college career by tying the Iowa NCAA Tournament record with 36 points and grabbing nine rebounds before receiving a nice ovation from the limited crowd allowed in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

Joe Wieskamp added 17 points, but the rest of the Hawkeyes weren’t of much help to the big fella, sending them out of the bracket early with other top seeds Illinois, Ohio State and Texas.

“It’s heartbreaking, so surreal, it kind of hit me all at once that this is the last time I’ll put on this jersey and that hurts a lot,” Garza said. “I feel bad that I wasn’t able to lead this team to where it needs to go.”

The Ducks managed to navigate a difficult season full of pauses and injuries to win their second straight Pac-12 regular-season title.

Oregon earned a No. 7 seed in Indianapolis and faced what was expected to be a difficult opener against VCU and its Havoc defence. But the Ducks learned during their pregame meal that they would advance without playing a game, leaving them with a huge break before facing the No. 2 team in the region.

Nerves? Rusty? Nope.

The Ducks went on the attack from Richardson’s opening layup and used quick ball movement to set up open looks throughout the first half.

Oregon hit seven threes — two by Figueroa late — made 22 of 37 shots and used a 10-0 run to lead 56-46 at halftime despite having three players in foul trouble.

“The shots were falling, the energy was going,” Altman said. “Our guys were making plays for each other and we were getting a lot of good looks because the ball was moving.”

The biggest problem was stopping Iowa’s best player.

Garza had 12 points in the first seven minutes, even with Oregon shading a defender toward him in the post, and 20 by halftime. He shook off the smaller Ducks bouncing off him as he hit 8 of 10 shots and the lone three he attempted.

The Ducks kept soaring on offence and swarmed Garza with double teams in the second half, stretching the lead to 76-57 to all but put it out of reach.

“It’s a hard team to cover in so many different ways,” McCaffery said. “We tried man, zone, press with moderate success — not enough.”

BIG PICTURE

Oregon was considered one of the bracket’s most dangerous middle seeds and sure showed why against Iowa. The Ducks will be tough to oust the rest of the tournament if they keep playing like this.

Iowa had one of the best players in college basketball but still found itself short of the Sweet 16. Garza will have his No. 55 retired after the season, but he will be missing a 16 on his resume.

OMORUYI’S LIFT

Every team needs a player who does a little bit of everything and isn’t afraid to do the dirty work.

Eugene Omoruyi is that player for Oregon.

The physical six-foot-six forward from Rexdale, Ont., had a superb all-around game, finishing with 17 points, six rebounds, five assists, two steals, two blocked shots and lots of grit.

“Eugene’s our most physical player,” Altman said. “He battled his tail off in there despite giving up five, six inches and 20-something pounds.”

___

More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and updated bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket

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Boston Bruins Add Offense With Solid Taylor Hall Trade – Boston Hockey Now

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The Boston Bruins clearly understood they had serious deficiencies on their NHL roster this season and credit them for going and doing something about it.

The B’s finished off their Sunday night fireworks ahead of the NHL trade deadline by sending a second round pick and Anders Bjork to the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for top-6 winger Taylor Hall and bottom-6 forward Curtis Lazar. TSN’s Darren Dreger, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman and ESPN’s John Buccigross were the first to report about the completed deal between the Bruins and Buffalo Sabres in the hours following the B’s getting stomped by the Washington Capitals, 8-1, at TD Garden.

The Buffalo Sabres retained half of the $8 million salary that Hall signed for prior to the start of the 2021 hockey season.

The 29-year-old Hall is having a terrible season in Buffalo with just two goals and 19 points in 37 games along with a minus-21 rating after he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Sabres during the offseason. But he brings legitimate offensive talent as a former No. 1 overall pick and Hart Trophy winner to a Boston Bruins team that’s ranked in the bottom third of the NHL offensively all season.

The Bruins were one of the suitors for Hall prior to him choosing the Sabres months ago, and now they get him for a deep discount while keeping their own first round picks after making their deadline deals.

Holding onto their own first round pick was a priority for Boston Bruins GM Don Sweeney after spending first rounders at the deadline in two of the last three deadlines in trades for damaged goods Rick Nash and Ondrej Kase.

The 26-year-old Lazar has five goals and 11 points in 33 games as a bottom-6 forward for the Sabres this season and is signed for $800,000 for next season. It seemed clear that something was going on with the 24-year-old Anders Bjork over the last couple of weeks as he was a healthy scratch for five straight games, including Sunday night against Washington, and heads to Buffalo hoping to further develop a game built on speed and skill level that hasn’t translated into offense as of yet.

Hall should fit right into the top-6 with the Bruins as a skilled winger for playmaking center David Krejci, but it remains to be seen how he’s going to fit as another left winger on a team with Nick Ritchie and Jake DeBrusk.

Either Ritchie or DeBrusk is going to have to play the off wing with a Krejci/Hall combo, but that’s a problem that Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy will gladly figure out after being forced to piece together lineups all season due to injuries and offensive inconsistency. With the acquisition of Hall, Lazar and left-handed defenseman Mike Reilly on Sunday night, it would appear the Boston Bruins are largely done with deals ahead of Monday’s NHL trade deadline.

Interestingly enough, the Boston Bruins are set to play the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday night at TD Garden.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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