Sports Archives - Page 5 of 306 - SaintPetersBlog

Magic still struggling on the defensive end

The Orlando Magic has lost three games in a row and five out of six. The latest was a highly disappointing 120-115 setback on Monday night at the hands of the Sacramento Kings, a team that had lost their previous eight games.

Orlando has now lost 44 of their 68 games this season after being a competitive 15-18 in December. The calendar is now midway into March, and the last time the team won back-to-back games was around Christmas time.

The shortcomings of this team have been on display at various times throughout the season. Poor shooting has dogged them in several games, especially early in the season. After all, isn’t the objective to put the ball into the basket?

On the other end, the defense has been an even greater problem. After playing well enough early on to achieve the third-best defensive ranking, their defense has been described as “Swiss cheese” by some and a “sieve” by head coach Frank Vogel.

This team has lost three games by 30 points this season, topped by last week’s 40-point embarrassment against the Charlotte Hornets.

When they play bad defense AND struggle shooting the ball, those are the kinds of things that can happen with this team.

The last five games are a microcosm of the season. Despite Elfrid Payton stepping up big time with three triple-doubles during that span, the Magic lost four of those five games.

Payton’s first triple-double came in a home game against the New York Knicks. A fourth-quarter collapse led to a New York win.

The Magic were able to beat the Chicago Bulls in the next game. Chicago’s 12 made three-pointers were not enough to overcome another triple-double by Payton.

Charlotte shot 60 percent and made 10 three-pointers in the game from hell, while the Cleveland Cavaliers shot 50 percent and made 15 threes in a competitive loss at home.

On Monday, the Kings shot 54 percent and made 16 of 30 three-point attempts, thwarting another triple-double by Payton. Allowing a team to shoot that well means there are open threes as well as some layups and dunks.

“We’re giving up the three-point line now,” Vogel said following the loss to the Kings. “The last three games there are a high number of threes going up, and we’ve got to get that under control.”

While he praised the team’s improvement with their defense “in the paint,” he pointed out that “the transition defense really hurt us.”

That is what leads to layups, dunks and high shooting percentages.

If Vogel and the Magic are concerned about giving up three pointers, they have two days to work on it before heading to Oakland on Thursday night to play the three-point happy Golden State Warriors.

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USF Bulls hope to move upward after hiring new coach Brian Gregory

The USF Bulls, for years a non-essential basketball team, will try a new direction in former Georgia Tech coach Brian Gregory.

Gregory, 50, had a 20-win season for the Yellow Jackets and five 20-win seasons for Dayton. Before that, he was an assistant on a Michigan State team that reached three Final Fours and won a  national title.

The Bulls were only 7-23 this season under head coach Orlando Antigua and interim coach Murray Bartow. The school is under investigation for academic improprieties.

USF has won 12 games or less in four straight seasons since Stan Heath’s team won 22 games (two in the tournament) in 2012.

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Rookie Brayden Point leads the Lightning as its hot streak continues

So how did you spend your 21st birthday?

Odds are, Brayden Point has you beat. On Monday night, the rookie Point took over Madison Square Garden, scoring two goals to lead the Lightning to a 3-2 victory and brought the team to within one point of the final wild-card spot.

Point scored in the first and third periods, bringing his season total to 11 goals.

“I know this is cliché, it’s been used a million times, but he’s a hockey player,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s what he is. You saw it in the first development camp he came to us, he was more undersized than he is now, but I truly believe when you have commitment and the work ethic, that’s your first thing that you notice on a player, everything else will fall into place. And that’s what that kid has. He goes into a corner, and it doesn’t matter the size of the guy he’s going in against, I’m always sitting there thinking, ‘He’s going to come out with this.’ And you’ve got to have a will, and he does.”

Goaltender Peter Budaj notched his first win for the Bolts, stopping 26 of 28 shots. Rookie Gabriel Dumont also scored a goal, his second of the year.

“Just exceptional effort on a night where I actually thought both teams were off,” Cooper said. “And so that game was up for the taking. You’ve got to tip your hat to (Budaj) for making a big save on (Chris) Kreider in the opening minute. If he doesn’t stop that, who knows where our momentum goes. We weather the storm in the first, pretty fortunate to come out 1-1. The power play’s kind of chipping away for us, and then after that, it was anybody’s game. Our goalie just happened to make one more save than there’s and then the little engine that could, Point. He came through big for us.”

The Lightning has now pointed in 14 of its last 16 games (11-2-3). Tampa Bay plays at Ottawa tonight.

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Deondre Francois now in charge of the FSU football team

In Year Two, the kid has grown up. This FSU offense now belongs to quarterback Deondre Francois.

Now, we see how far he can carry it.

Francois, who starred as a redshirt freshman a year ago, is now the Seminoles’ undisputed leader. With a schedule that includes Alabama, Clemson, Miami and Florida, the expectations are on his shoulder.

“He’s been out there when the scoreboard mattered,” coach Jimbo Fisher told the Orlando Sentinel. “He’s been in big games, almost four or five game-winning drives last year if we could pull a couple of them off.

“He put us in good position to win a lot of games, and he did it under big time situations, so that always gives you confidence.”

As a freshman, Francois proved he had enough of an arm. He also showed he could stand up the physical abuse that comes with the job.

I’m not out here competing with anybody else, but I’m competing with myself internally,” Francois said. “If I’m tired, I have to keep going. The next ball has to be perfect. I can’t have any mistakes.

“I’m just competing to make myself better this spring than last spring.”

Francois led a comeback win against Ole Miss, then led scoring drives to beat Miami, N.C. State and Michigan.

Still, last year, FSU’s leader was running back Dalvin Cook. That’s no more.

“I’m going to miss Dalvin, but he reached his peak and had to go,” Francois said. “A lot of the young guys are learning fast, so it’s going to be fun.”

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Orlando hosts Florida-flavored NCAA Tournament first round

For NCAA Tournament organizers, their desire to fill seats at the eight first and second round sites, Orlando should be gold for them. With the Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles and Florida Gulf Coast Eagles coming to the Amway Center in Orlando on Thursday, fans of all three teams will not have far to travel.

Florida’s other NCAA Tournament is Miami. The eighth-seeded Hurricanes will open play on Friday in Tulsa against the ninth-seeded Michigan State Spartans.

The team traveling the furthest is the Xavier Musketeers from Cincinnati. Two familiar teams will be there as well.

The Virginia Cavaliers of the ACC and the Maryland Terrapins, formerly of the ACC, but now in the Big 10 will both be there. The other two teams are the East Tennessee State Buccaneers and North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks.

While Florida Gulf Coast was expected to be seeded 14th, Florida State was thought to be falling below the three seed they earned. That prompted a first-round matchup between the Seminoles and the Eagles.

Florida was also thought to be dipping below the fourth seed after losing their final three games. The committee kept them at four, leading to an interesting matchup with the Buccaneers.

Florida State and Maryland are on pace to meet on Saturday if the Seminoles get by FGCU and Maryland can handle Xavier. Florida and Virginia are bracketed together if the Gators defeat the Buccaneers and the Cavaliers can beat the Seahawks.

Orlando is hosting NCAA first round games for the first time since 2014. That year, the Gators started their Final Four run in Orlando with victories over Albany and Pittsburgh.

Florida State is making their first tournament appearance anywhere since 2012. Florida Gulf Coast had the magical run to the Sweet 16 in 2013 before the 15th seeded Eagles were finally ousted by the Gators.

Starting Thursday, the Amway Center will be the place to be.

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Canadian Adam Hadwin earns Masters’ trip with win at Valspar

There were times he threatened to turn a golf course into a race track. In the end, however, one stroke was enough for Adam Hadwin.

Hadwin, a 29-year-old from Moose Jaw, Canada, parred his final hole to edge American Patrick Cantlay. Cantlay had gotten back into the Valspar Tournament with birdies on five of six holes, but a bogey on the 16th did him in.

Hadwin hit a shot into the water on No. 16 to lead to a double-bogey. He parred his last two holes for the win, however.

“I don’t know what to say right now,” Hadwin said. “I fully expected Patrick to make that [par] putt. I said yesterday I just wanted a chance to win coming up the last fairway and I had that chance. I thought we were going to have make birdies to win it.”

Hadwin, who entered with three straight rounds of under 70 and a four-stroke lead, earned a trip to next month’s Masters win the win.

Cantlay was playing on a medical extension after missing all of 2016 with a back injury.

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Sabastien Bourdais wins St. Pete Grand Prix by going worst-to-first

Sebastien Bourdais started the day in last place. He finished in first.

Any questions?

Bourdais took the St. Petersburg Grand Prix Sunday, beating reigning Series champion Simon Pagenaud by more than 10 seconds. Bourdais, who is from France but lives in St. Petersburg, started the day in 21st place – last – after a problem in qualifying.

“It’s probably the hardest race to recover. The (passing) windows are super narrow, and it’s difficult to pass,” Bourdais said. “We had a pretty good car, and I just threw it away. I really didn’t know what to do myself. To turn the result from yesterday to today, I just thank the guys.”

Bourdais earned his 36th career victory, which broke a tie with Bobby Unser for sixth on IndyCar’s all-time win list. It was the fifth career win for the Coyne team.

“From last to first, that’s about all you can do,” Coyne said, adding of his new hires, “we knew we’d be much better than we were before.”

Bourdais led 69 of the 110 laps to give Honda a much-needed victory over Chevrolet.

Scott Dixon finished third for Chip Ganassi Racing, in its first race back with Honda. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fourth for Andretti Autosport, and Honda appeared much improved with four drivers in the top five. Takuma Sato was fifth in his first race with Andretti.

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Florida, Florida State falling in final day “Bracketology”

When the field of 68 NCAA tournament teams is announced on Sunday there is certain to be a surprise and a snub or two. What does the “Bracketology,” say about which bubble teams will make it and who will remain at home?

We know the names of the four Florida teams that will be called, but where will they go to open the tournament and what seed will they receive? If Joe Lunardi, the foremost expert in tournament projections is right, conference tournament performances have hurt some of them.

According to Lunardi, the swami of Bracketology, Florida will earn a fifth seed, but quite possibly a six. Florida State has fallen to a four, but the committee could take them down another spot.

Miami played well down the stretch to earn a No. 7 seed. Florida Gulf Coast, winners of the Atlantic Sun Conference Tournament will likely enter the tournament as a 14 seed.

Two weeks ago the Gators had a legitimate shot at a three seed. Unfortunately, they finished the season on a three-game losing streak.

Florida can blame their plunge on Vanderbilt. They lost to the Commodores twice in the span of seven days, who wound up beating the Gators three times this season.

Despite having a Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) ranking of 10th, the selection committee looks at different factors, including how well your team played over the final month. Losing three times to a team (Vandy) with 15 losses does not help your case.

Florida State had a luckluster February and never regained the magic that saw them in the top 10 before five double-digit road losses in the ACC. The Seminoles are still rated 13th in the RPI, but their finish keeps them from earning anything higher than a four seed.

Miami brings in an RPI rating of 42 and played well in the season’s second half. They are perfectly suited to the No. 7 seed Lunardi projects.

Florida Gulf Coast carries an RPI rating of 85, meaning they would be nowhere near the Big Dance without winning their conference title.

For those not aware of Lunardi, he has a sterling track record. Last year he picked 64 of the 68 teams in the field and either the spot-on seeding or within one spot of 60 teams. In 2015 he predicted 66 of the 68 teams with 61 of the 68 seedings being perfect or within one spot.

The bottom line is that fans of Florida’s four tournament teams can pretty much bank on their seed. It is tough to project where teams will open up, but Lunardi makes the case for Florida State playing their first and second games (if they win) at the Amway Center in Orlando. He has the Gators heading to Milwaukee, with the Hurricanes and Florida Gulf Coast off to Indianapolis.

All of the Bracketology becomes official Sunday afternoon at 5:30 p.m.

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Lightning overcomes two-goal deficit to take big win over Florida

The Tampa Bay Lightning is treating this playoff race like something real.

The Lightning won a memorable game against the Florida Panthers Saturday night, coming from a two-goal deficit to take a 3-2 victory. The Bolts are now 10-2-3 in their last 15 games.

After falling behind 2-0, the Bolts came back on a power-play by Nikita Kucherov, a short-handed goal by Yanni Gourde (his first in the NHL) and a tiebreaking goal off a deflection by Ondrej Palat. It was Kucherov’s 31st goal, and it tied him for the league lead in power-play goals.

Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper didn’t seem concerned that his team was down two goals in a hurry.

“To be honest, we were in the room thinking that there’s no way we should be down 2-0 in that game,” Cooper said. “I think the scoring chances were pretty even, shots were pretty even. Coby’s untimely break of his stick keeps the puck in the zone, and that was a tough break. The first one, I guess you realize why Jagr’s got 700-plus goals, to score a goal like that from that angle.

“So we thought, OK, maybe a couple of these weren’t getting the breaks, but we thought we were earning ours. We could’ve easily been up 2-0 in that period going into the break, but there was a lot of fight in the boys we had left. We felt we were playing well enough. It was keep working the way we were, and things will pay off, and they eventually did.”

For the Bolts, it was one of the team’s more impressive home stands of the season.

“Sometimes a little youthful exuberance injected in there, and guys don’t really care,” Cooper said. “They just want to go and try their hardest and try and win. Everybody knows where we are right now and it is desperation mode. The guys are playing with it.

“I don’t know how many kids we had that started the year in the minors that were in the lineup tonight. We talked earlier in the year. It’s not the 22 guys or the 23 guys at the start of the year that make this team. It’s 30-plus that are a part of our team. You need everybody to win.”

Goaltender Andrei Vasilevski is 5-0-1 in his last six games.

The Bolts travel to New York to face the Rangers on Monday and then on  to Ottawa on Tuesday.

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Rowdies drop exhibition match, 1-0, against Jacksonville Armada

As the regular season approaches, the Tampa Bay Rowdies defense is obviously ready.

The offense, however, could use a bit more effectiveness.

The Rowdies lost to the Jacksonville Armada Saturday in their next-to-last preseason game before the regular season, which begins March 25 against Orlando B. The Rowdies dominated much of the play, but could not finish.

Armada midfielder J.C. Banks scored the only goal of the match, just three minutes into the second half.

“Despite the result, the team continued to press and press, which is good as we continue to prepare for the home opener,” said Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell. “We need to continue to work on things ahead of March 25, but if we continue to create chances like we did tonight, we’ll find positive results.”

Trialist forward Martin Paterson had two chances in the first couple of minutes, but, as he was trying to capitalize on Armada’s defensive mistakes, the home club was able to put out the fire both times.

Jacksonville’s most dangerous chances came off two free kicks conceded by Rowdies defender Damion Lowe. Despite being in good positions, Jacksonville was unable to put either shot on frame.

As the second half began to settle down, Jacksonville found the only goal of the match via a great finish by Banks. After beating the offside trap, Banks was alone in front of goal and buried his shot past Rowdies trialist goalkeeper Akira Fitzgerald.

Rowdies midfielder Martin Vingaard nearly equalized in the 68th minute, firing a wonderful volley just inches wide. His volley jump-started the Rowdies’ offense, which searched tirelessly for the equalizer.

With just 15 minutes left, the best chance to equalize came via a header by defender Damion Lowe. A header from just outside the 6-yard box was denied from point-blank by Jacksonville goalkeeper Kyle Nastar.

Despite numerous corner kicks and crosses into the box, the Rowdies were unable to break a strong Armada defense, who held on for the 1-0 win.

“On any other night, we would’ve [scored] three or four goals, but it didn’t happen for us tonight,” said Campbell. “We need to look ahead to next Saturday and see what we need to improve as it’s our final test before our home opener against Orlando.”

The Rowdies will be in action next Saturday, March 18, when they travel to play Miami FC of the North American Soccer League. The match will kick off at 11 a.m. at St. Thomas University.

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