Tiger Woods confirmed Saturday at Sherwood Country Club that he contributed $4 million to what he called “bridged the gap” that was needed to help the World Challenge presented by Northwestern Mutual meet its operating costs.“I’m not going to tell you the exact amount, but it’s a good number,” Woods said in an interview after shooting a third-round 69 that put him five strokes back of tournament leader Graeme McDowell. But the Associated Press reported the figure at $4 million.“What’s important is that if it wasn’t for this tournament, we wouldn’t have the success with the (Tiger Woods) foundation,” Wood said. “The Learning Center (in nearby Orange County) would not have happened. We wouldn’t have gained the awareness that we have now.“There have been so many kids that we have helped, just because of this event. It’s important to me, to the foundation. This is what got us on the map.”This tournament began in 1999, and was inspired in part by Woods’ late father, Earl. Although he now has an affiliation with the AT&T National in Washington, D.C., and the Deutsche Bank Championship near Boston, this is the tournament that Woods holds dear, said his agent, Mark Steinberg.“He started this one with his father,” Steinberg said. “And he didn’t want to see the foundation take a hit in order to stage the tournament.”Since its inception, the World Challenge has raised more than $25 million for the foundation. It helped Woods start his Learning Center — to which he contributed the first $5 million — as well as other endeavors in other parts of the country.Woods has been contributing his prize money from the World Challenge, the AT&T National and the Deutsche Bank Championship to the foundation. He won the World Challenge last year and the AT&T over the summer, victories that were worth more than $1 million each. He’s contributed more than $14 million of his prize money alone over the years.“It’s kind of a running joke with the foundation,” Woods said. “You better win the tournament because we’re kind of counting on this amount of donation. So it’s fun.”Steinberg said a potential title sponsor fell through in the fall, leaving event organizers in a tough spot.The tournament would have been forced to dip into reserve funds or possibly not be played if it were not for Woods’ support. And while the proceeds from the event are helpful, Woods said the exposure it brings to his charitable causes are also reasons for wanting to keep it going.“It’s both, fundraising and awareness,” he said. “This provides us a platform to show people how we are helping kids. This is where it all started. We are a foundation, yes, but people really didn’t understand what we were trying to do. Once we built the Learning Center, because of this event, that allowed us to do that.”
Jordan, who crafted his Hall of Fame career with the Chicago Bulls, is owner of the Charlotte Bobcats, He is engaged to marry Yvette Prieto next month. Former Chicago Bulls star player Michael Jordan is being sued for child support by an Atlanta woman who claims he fathered her 16-year-old son during an affair in 1995, when Jordan was married to Juanita Vanoy.According to TMZ, Pamela Smith filed legal documents three weeks ago in Fulton County demanding that the player, widely regarded as basketball’s all-time best, submit to a paternity test to prove the teenager, Taj, is his son.The teen’s formal name is Grant Pierce Jay Jordan Reynolds, and he has used YouTube to spread the word that he is Jordan’s offspring.In it the suit, Smith claims that she and Jordan had sex in 1995, the year Jordan made a return to the NBA after a year off to play baseball. She says their son was born in June 1996. Smith has also asked the judge handling the case to officially change her son’s last name to Jordan.In a video posted on YouTube last month, the teenager said he was Jordan’s son and claimed he was in touch with the star.Jordan’s representatives refused comment on Smith’s claims.This is not the first time Jordan has been the subject of a paternity suit. In 1991, his former lover Karla Knafel claimed the star was the father of her child, but a DNA test proved that this is not the case.
2013-144.524.47392.250.7 Sources: synergy sports technology, Basketball-Reference 2016-174.822.896.3109.560.4 2014-154.326.16692.452.1 2012-132.718.3%86.492.351.5% 2013-142.010.789.792.250.7 SEASONPLAYS/GAME% OF ALL PLAYSPTS/100 PLAYSPTS/100 PLAYSTRUE SHOOTING % Bradley Beal’s pick-and-roll points per play 2015-165.229.58197.954.7 Even with all the puzzling players floating around the NBA, Bradley Beal has always stood out. He was drafted as a dead-eye shooter, a seemingly ideal foil for John Wall, the Wizards’ supersonic point guard. But despite shooting about as well as can be expected from long distance, and despite possessing many of the tools required of an All-Star guard, Beal has never quite matched his potential.But this season, amid the Washington Wizards’ rise to legitimate Eastern Conference dark horse, Beal has become the version of himself that Washington fans have always hoped would show up.The change looks simple: Beal is attempting more 3-pointers than ever before (he’s up to 7.4 per game this season) and making them as well as he ever has (40.6 percent). This has brought his true shooting percentage up to an elite level (60.4 percent), and it has been crucial to the Wizards posting their best offensive efficiency in his time with the team. But Beal’s transformation from a bundle of unrealized potential into a true partner for Wall is not merely the result of taking more threes. He has also made fundamental changes to his game in search of those shots.Let’s start with the basics: Beal has always been a perfectly good spot-up shooter, but being an NBA star who specializes in shooting is about more than just stroking open jump shots. Just about any NBA-level guard can stand in the corner and hit a decent percentage of the threes that come his way. In the past, the Wizards tried to get Beal to fill out his game by acting like a traditional star guard, running the high pick-and-roll and doing his best Kobe Bryant impression. This didn’t work out so well. Bradley Beal’s off-screen points per play SEASONPLAYS/GAME% OF ALL PLAYSPTS/100 PLAYSPTS/100 PLAYSTRUE SHOOTING % Sources: synergy sports technology, basketball-reference 2012-132.416.5%5692.351.5% PICK-AND-ROLLOVERALL 2015-162.715.290.597.954.7 OFF-SCREENOVERALL 2016-174.722.1101109.560.4 2014-152.817.077.492.452.1 Until this season, Beal ran the pick-and-roll the way most guards in the NBA do. He’d hold the ball, wait for his screen to arrive, and then feel out the space the defense gave him, looking to drive or pass. He has improved this part of his game over the years, but he was never better than about average (and often was far worse than that). That’s mostly because, while he has a good first step, he has never been a strong dribbler; when he can’t go in a straight line to the basket, he’ll often lose his handle and have to reset or will dribble ball off his foot and out of bounds.Having Beal play as though he were a prototypical star shooting guard was not a great use of his talents. So the Wizards have switched things up, getting him open in other ways, away from the ball. After years of spending the greatest portion of his possessions churning out mediocre pick-and-rolls, Beal now gets more shots from running off of screens than from any other play type. And focusing on the off-ball movement has opened up the rest of his game, making him much more effective when he does have the ball. This season’s Wizards commonly start plays with Beal on the wing (or making a run across the baseline to emerge on the opposite wing) and run off a screen that gets him toward the middle of the floor. Because Beal is a threat to shoot off of the screen, the defender has to chase him over it and the screener’s defender has to help discourage a shot. If neither closes him out, Beal can rise up for a shot. If one or both defenders contest, he can use his first step to drive to the rim, which is less congested than it would be if he’d begun the play holding the ball and staring down the defense.That’s a fairly common play type in the NBA, and one that the Cleveland Cavaliers will often run to get Kyle Korver open. But the important thing about these plays isn’t how effective they are — though at 95 points per 100 plays, they’re a perfectly good option for Beal in the half-court — but how much they’ve helped Beal improve those same pick-and-roll plays that had been weighing him and the Wizards down. Last season, Beal scored a career-high 81 points per 100 plays as a pick-and-roll ball handler; this season, he’s taken that to 103 points per 100 plays. That’s due in large part to the space and matchups he’s able to create coming off of screens, which comes from excising a bunch of the slow, pounding, high pick-and-rolls that get him into trouble.Many of this season’s Beal pick-and-rolls are hardly recognizable compared to those of past seasons. In fact, some are more like extensions of Beal’s off-the-screen work than they are traditional pick-and-rolls.Instead of beginning possessions with the defense set, and therefore having to create openings with his dribbling, Beal now often receives the ball after coming around a screen — essentially the play you see above — and then re-engages with the screen for the pick-and-roll going back the other way, or he runs around a second screen set by another Washington big. Instead of immediately exploring the space, however, his first move is now to look for the pull-up 3. It may not sound like much, but the idea is to build Beal’s biggest strength (his jumper) into a primary weapon while minimizing his reliance on things he doesn’t do as well (dribbling and passing).Not every play can be quite that complex. But even when Beal isn’t curling around screens, he’s finding more opportunities to begin the pick-and-roll action early in the shot clock, when the defense is not yet set (which is when he’s looked his best in previous years). Other times, Beal simply needs to run a standard high pick-and-roll while Wall takes a break. Even then, however, it seems like he goes to his jumper more quickly than he used to and looks a little sharper driving into traffic (though he’s still not above occasionally dribbling the ball off of his shin or missing a rolling Marcin Gortat by several feet).These tweaks put several kinds of pressure on the defense. First, it has to guard Beal’s initial run off of the screen, which he’s perfectly happy to use to create a shot. But then, if the defense is successful, Beal can turn his defender back the other way around the same screen to begin the pick-and-roll, where he’s also a threat to pull up. And because all this is happening on a dynamic play instead of in a grinding two-man game, Beal has more clear lanes to the hoop that don’t require any of the fancy moves that get him into trouble, like “changing direction” or “avoiding a defender.”We have to go back to the crates to find someone who both runs a lot of pick-and-rolls and uses them the way Beal does. It turns out that this new-and-improved version of Beal plays a lot like the player he was compared to coming out of college: Ray Allen.Allen didn’t have a partner like Wall to draw attention away from him, but the way he navigated his screens and made defenders come to him would be right at home in 2017’s NBA.For the Wizards to make much noise this spring, a lot of things will have to break their way. The defense will have to snap out of a troubling recent downturn (they’ve allowed 111 points per 100 possessions since the All-Star break, compared to 108 before it), and fellow Zards breakout Otto Porter will need to emerge from a cold spell (he’s shooting 35 percent from three since the break, down from 47 percent before it). But those are more temporary, will-they-or-won’t-they type problems. The biggest change to the Wizards this season is more hardwired than that: Bradley Beal has developed a game that suits his skills, and it’s the game of a perennial All-Star.
FiveThirtyEight Embed Code More: Apple Podcasts | ESPN App | RSS | Embed Welcome to the latest episode of Hot Takedown, FiveThirtyEight’s sports podcast. On this week’s show (May 9, 2017), we’re joined by FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring to break down the latest news from the NBA playoffs as we edge closer and closer to the conference championships. We discuss Celtics vs. Wizards and the sweeps by the Cavaliers and the Warriors. Next, the Mets have had a wild week, but is their injury-ridden squad cursed? Finally, FiveThirtyEight’s Christie Aschwanden returns to fill us in on the attempts to run a two-hour marathon. Plus, a significant digit on Ryan Howard.You can check FiveThirtyEight’s latest NBA predictions, which are updated after every game.The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks says the Celtics-Wizards series has been a game of coaching Whac-A-Mole.In his latest piece, FiveThirtyEight’s Chris Herring takes a look at Draymond Green’s defensive prowess.Chris also wrote about how Isaiah Thomas, the shortest guy in the NBA, became unstoppable.Rob Arthur wrote about the Mets’ unremarkable injury woes.FiveThirtyEight’s latest MLB predictions (updated after every game) currently give the Mets a 38 percent chance of making the playoffs.FiveThirtyEight’s Christie Aschwanden shared some thoughts on Eliud Kipchoge’s attempt to run a two-hour marathon. He came tantalizingly close.Significant Digit: .184, Ryan Howard’s batting average for the Atlanta Braves’ Triple-A Gwinnett team. Howard was released from his contract on Monday after 11 games.
Baseball creates an endless evolutionary cycle where hitters and pitchers battle to find an edge and maintain it. The periods where one side or the other seizes control have often been measured more in decades than years. Earlier this decade, pitchers gained the upper hand and they did so — at least in part — by throwing baseballs really, really fast. The pendulum has now swung back toward the hitters in the past couple seasons, and only time will tell whether that was the result of the ball itself or some other factor. Regardless of how this unfolds, one thing is clear: Those really, really fast pitches are no longer making hitters look silly.While more pitches than ever have been coming in at 95-plus mph,1This also includes pitches that are between 94.5 and 95 mph, to match the rounded numbers you see on TV broadcasts. today’s hitters have seemingly adapted, gaining the supernatural ability to hit these pitches. Last year, according to ESPN Stats & Information Group, hitters faced 110,529 fastballs traveling 95 mph or faster. That’s an increase of 124 percent from 2011, when hitters saw the fewest such fastballs in the period (starting in 2009) for which this data is tracked, and a spike of 32.6 percent from 2016. But the returns are diminishing as blazing-fast heaters become the norm. In 2017, 28,749 plate appearances were decided2This includes any plate appearance that ended on a pitch at this speed, whether that pitch was a ball four, a strike three, or something hit into play. on a 95-plus mph fastball, and batters’ on-base plus slugging percentage against them was .734. That’s 80 points higher than in 2014, when OPS against these pitches hit a low of .654, and the high mark for the period in which the velocity data is tracked. Hitters produced home runs on 2.8 percent of plate appearances decided by 95-plus mph pitches in 2017, also the highest since 2009, and an increase of 75 percent from a low of 1.6 percent in 2014. Weighted on-base average, which more precisely assesses the value of every plate appearance, also spiked against 95-plus gas last season, and players were less likely to make the kind of soft contact that can lead to easy putouts. YearNo. of 95+ mph fastballsall pitches95+ mph fastballsDiff. league OPS against … 200951,0440.7510.701-0.050 201149,2650.7200.665-0.055 201359,6270.7140.678-0.036 * Any pitches whose speed rounds to at least 95 mph, so includes pitches of 94.5 mph and above.Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 201463,5840.7000.654-0.046 This is a one-sided development. Think of these hitters like the cheetah evolving enough speed to catch a gazelle: This advantage doesn’t mean they can’t also catch slower prey, and MLB hitters are feasting on slower fastballs, too. In 2017, batters across the league were almost as good at hitting fastballs that came in at 95 mph or above — .734 OPS — as they had been in 2014 at hitting midrange fastballs — .754 OPS on fastballs between 92 and 94 mph. And on fastballs under 92, big league hitters sported a .906 OPS last year. In other words, hitters have gotten better at handling all species of fastball.Of course, some are better at it than others. Over the previous two seasons, the king of smacking fast fastballs, according to wOBA, was J.D. Martinez, now of the Red Sox. In 128 plate appearances decided by fastballs at 95-plus mph, Martinez hit .360 with a wOBA of .542 (far above the league average of .327) and a 1.314 OPS that includes an .830 slugging average, courtesy of a Ruthian 10.9 percent homer rate.3Actually, “Ruthian” doesn’t do Martinez’s rate justice. In his career, Babe Ruth “only” homered in about 7 percent of his plate appearances. (For reference, among active players who had at least 100 plate appearances decided by fastballs of 95-plus mph, Brandon Moss was second in the league in home run rate on these pitches over the last two seasons, and he was more than two points behind Martinez at 8.7 percent.) The Cubs’ Anthony Rizzo isn’t far behind Martinez in wOBA (.457) among active players, and he posted a 1.059 OPS in plate appearances decided by high-octane pitches. And while pitchers understandably try to muscle up to retire Joey Votto, one of game’s greatest hitters, the Reds’ future Hall of Famer is undeterred — he managed a higher on-base percentage (.479) and a nearly identical slugging average (.563) in 217 plate appearances against pitches at 95 mph and above as he had against all pitches in those two seasons (.444 OBP, .564 slugging).Pitchers do find that pure velocity can still put some hitters away, of course. Fans wondered why the Rays gave up on Corey Dickerson this spring, but in 2016 and ’17, the current Pirate had one of the biggest drops in production4Among players with a minimum of 100 plate appearances decided by fastballs of 95-plus mph. (his OPS fell by 475 points) against high-octane heat compared to fastballs thrown at 94 and below. Trevor Story of the Rockies struggled after a record-setting debut in 2016, and it seems like teams have figured out that the hard stuff can get him out, as his OPS drops by 441 points against 95-plus mph fastballs compared to slower heaters. And there’s Chris Carter, who had 113 plate appearances decided by 95-plus mph fastballs in the previous two seasons, and who posted an OPS that was 609 points worse against the fastest fastballs (1.053 against fastballs up to 94 mph compared to .444 against fastballs at 95-plus mph). That helps explain why the player who hit 41 home runs for the Brewers in 2016 is currently a proud member of Salt Lake Bees.Check out our latest MLB predictions. 201683,3250.7390.726-0.013 201051,9670.7280.692-0.036 2017110,5290.7500.734-0.016 201581,5720.7210.698-0.023 201252,0120.7240.685-0.039 Hitters are catching up to the fireballersHow MLB hitters have fared against fastballs of 95-plus mph,* by on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS), 2009-2017
For most sports fans, this past weekend meant near-nonstop basketball watching — of the college variety, that is. But NBA players were also in action, so it’s time for this week’s edition of FiveThirtyEight’s NBA Power Ratings.How do these numbers work? All 30 NBA teams are ranked according to a projection of their true talent over the upcoming week — and the upcoming week only — using Real Plus-Minus (RPM) player ratings provided by Jeremias Engelmann and Steve Ilardi. For more details on the methodology, see our introductory rankings post.With the NBA playoffs rapidly approaching (they begin April 18), here’s a look at how the playoff picture in each conference has come together since the first time we issued power rankings and postseason odds on Jan. 19:The Western Conference playoff field has been relatively set since we started tracking it. Six of the eight slots were all but locked up in late January (the Portland Trail Blazers brought up the rear of that six-team group with a 94 percent playoff probability). The seventh spot was strongly favored to land with the Houston Rockets, who had an 80 percent likelihood of making the playoffs. Barring a Rockets collapse, the battle for the final spot out West was going to be between the injury-riddled Oklahoma City Thunder and the Phoenix Suns, with OKC holding the inside track because of a superior talent rating.Fast-forward to today, and seven Western Conference slots are practically set in stone (according to our model), as Houston quickly added the remaining 20 percent to its playoff probability not long after our inaugural rankings. That leaves three teams — the Thunder, Suns and New Orleans Pelicans — currently duking it out for the West’s eighth and final playoff slot.While the Thunder have continued to struggle with injuries, their chances of grabbing the No. 8 seed in the West are still 86 percent, as the Suns lost 49 percentage points of playoff probability since mid-January and the Pelicans have been treading water. Phoenix and New Orleans currently have better RPM talent ratings than Oklahoma City (despite the Suns jettisoning a lot of talent at the trade deadline), and both teams are within striking distance of the Thunder’s record. But the Suns’ remaining schedule is significantly more difficult1As measured by the average RPM power rating of their remaining opponents after adjusting for home-court advantage. than that of either Oklahoma City or New Orleans, and the Pelicans’ slim schedule and talent edges over OKC probably aren’t enough to offset a three-game deficit in the standings.Meanwhile, the Eastern Conference playoff picture isn’t a whole lot clearer than it was in January. Back then, six of its eight playoff slots were essentially locked up, with six other teams possessing a playoff probability between 15 and 70 percent. Now there are still six spots almost completely wrapped up, with five other teams’ playoff chances hovering between 15 and 75 percent. Only the Detroit Pistons dropped out of the race completely, shedding 39 percentage points of playoff probability since Jan. 19.Realistically, the Brooklyn Nets (17 percent playoff probability) are still long shots, and the Miami Heat (75 percent) are relatively likely to grab one of the two available spots. But the race for No. 8 is as wide-open as ever.A few weeks ago, the Indiana Pacers had a 71 percent chance of making the playoffs, but they’ve lost 29 percentage points of playoff probability since March 9, and now are only marginally better positioned than the Charlotte Hornets or Boston Celtics. Charlotte, too, has seen their playoff chances decline over the past two weeks; after having a coin-flip’s chance at the playoffs in early March, they’re looking at just a 35 percent shot at the postseason.And whenever one team loses playoff odds, another team (by definition) is there to scoop them up. One of those teams, the Heat, spent the past two weeks drastically shoring up their playoff chances after seeing them drop to 30 percent on March 9. Meanwhile, the Celtics have added 23 points of playoff probability since their odds bottomed out at 12 percent in late February. (Although Boston also lost 10 percentage points from their playoff chances over the past week.) Even the aforementioned Nets, left for dead at 6 percent a week ago, clawed their way back into the mix as Boston and Indiana saw their probabilities fall since last week.All of this figures to set up an intriguing three weeks of basketball to close out the regular season. Whoever wins out will have earned the right — in all likelihood — to lose in the first round of the playoffs. That said, most of the teams battling for the final playoff spots are good enough to keep the top seeds in each conference on their toes.
OSU redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard (6) sacks Tulsa redshirt senior quarterback Dane Evans during the first quarter against Tulsa on Sept. 10. The Buckeyes won 48-3. Credit: Alexa Mavrogianis | Photo EditorCoach Urban Meyer and the No. 3 Ohio State football team head to Norman, Oklahoma for Saturday’s battle with the No. 14 Oklahoma Sooners. The last two opponents, Bowling Green and Tulsa, provided few challenges for the Buckeyes, but this game is a little different.“I think the two (teams) we’ve faced, they’re both going to win games. This one’s real, real real,” Meyer said.Oklahoma will be the most potent offense OSU has faced to date in 2016, possibly all season. Redshirt junior quarterback Baker Mayfield is a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate who has an elite arm and the ability to scramble and avoid tacklers to extend plays. He has completed 71.7 percent of his passes for 567 yards and five touchdowns.Along with Mayfield, the Sooners’ backfield has NFL-like talent in both of their running backs. OSU associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator Greg Schiano said he believes junior Samaje Perine and sophomore Joe Mixon are two of the top five running backs in college football.For OSU to slow down coach Bob Stoops’ offense, the defensive line will have to put pressure on Mayfield and contain the run game, something OSU has struggled with at times thus far.“They have a big offensive line and we got to stop the run first,” said redshirt sophomore defensive end Sam Hubbard.For some perspective on the size of the Oklahoma offensive line, its five starters average height is 6-foot-6 and average almost 315 pounds in weight. Left tackle Orlando Brown boosts most of those stats, standing at 6-foot-8, 340 pounds.Hubbard registered his first sack on Saturday against Tulsa for an 11 yard loss on a third down in the first quarter. He finished the day with three tackles, all of which came in the backfield.The Buckeyes have totaled four sacks so far this year, compared to last year’s six sacks through two games. Replacing former defensive end Joey Bosa and defensive tackle Adolphus Washington was never going to be an easy task, but the team’s two sack leaders from 2015 in Hubbard and redshirt junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis returned this year and lead a D-line that has underperformed statistically.On Saturday, this is an opportunity for the unit to establish itself in the national picture.“We want to make that statement because we believe we are one of the best units in the country,” Hubbard said. “It’s going to put us on the national stage for everyone else to think that, so it’s a big opportunity for us.” For Hubbard, Lewis and junior defensive lineman Jalyn Holmes will be tested going up against the physically intimidating Brown on the Sooner offensive line. He added that he hasn’t ever tried to move someone that big, but it’s important for him to be violent with his hands, if he and the D-line hope to get to Mayfield in the backfield.More than ever, this week’s preparation is critical for the defense. Hubbard said that going up against redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett has improved the play of the defense because Barrett is just as elusive as Mayfield.Saturday also serves as the first statement game for the young defensive lineman like redshirt freshman Dre’Mont Jones, redshirt freshman Robert Landers and freshman Nick Bosa. Schiano said he’s excited to see how his young guys respond to the environment awaiting the Buckeyes at Gaylord Family Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.“This is big-boy football. Do we know how they are going to respond? No. A lot of these guys have never been in this situation,” Schiano said. “As a coach, you just try to prepare them the best they can. I believe we have the right people here, but that gap between knowing and doing is the biggest gap there is.”For someone who has played in games against Michigan, Michigan State and Notre Dame, Sam Hubbard said a game like this is the reason he plays at OSU.“I want to get there and make a big play,” he said. “I know Tyquan does, and everyone on the line does.”
OSU redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett huddles up with teammates prior to the Buckeyes 30-27 double-overtime win against Michigan. Credit: Mason Swires | Assistant Photo EditorSaturday’s win for the Ohio State football team over Michigan in double overtime solidified the Buckeyes as a playoff contender. In Tuesday’s latest installment of the College Football Playoff poll, OSU finds itself at the No. 2 spot, awaiting to hear whether they it be playing in the Peach Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl.Alabama remained at the top spot, and will be playing No. 15 Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship. At No. 3, Clemson moved up to replace Michigan following the Wolverines’ loss to the Buckeyes on Saturday. Washington rounds out the playoff spots in No. 4. Michigan dropped to No. 5.No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State will compete in the Big Ten Championship game, and both hope their respective performances are good enough to convince the committee to give them a spot in the playoffs.In the top six spots, the Big Ten has three teams, so the conference will have at least one representative in this year’s playoff.
LaDarius Green of the San Diego Chargers tries to make a catch during a game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Qualcomm Stadium Dec. 1. The Bengals won, 17-10. Credit: Courtesy of MCTThe Cincinnati Bengals increased their lead in the AFC North to two games with a 17-10 victory over the San Diego Chargers.Timely plays by the defense and a steady ground game powered Cincinnati (8-4) to victory against a San Diego team that was coming off an impressive victory over the Kansas City Chiefs one week before.The Bengals played conservatively against the Chargers (5-7) after having lost their last two road games in overtime. By not asking quarterback Andy Dalton to win the game, his mistakes were limited. Though Dalton failed to reach 200 yards for the second straight game, he only turned the ball over once and did not take a sack. Instead, the Bengals decided to let their defense and running game do the talking.With the game tied at seven in the third quarter, Cincinnati’s second-year cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick changed the game’s momentum when he outmuscled 255-pound tight end Antonio Gates for an interception. That play set up a 21-yard touchdown pass from Dalton to wide receiver A.J. Green.Leading 17-7 in the fourth quarter, Bengals safety George Iloka forced wide receiver Keenan Allen to fumble after a 14-yard reception. On its next drive, San Diego only managed to kick a field goal.The Bengals’ ground game would then seal the deal. With just under five minutes to play, Cincinnati ran out the clock with an 11 play, 61 yard drive behind a power running game. In the win, the Bengals totaled 164 yards on the ground.Sunday’s game offered a number of encouraging signs for Cincinnati fans. The secondary, which has not fared well on the road this season, was not daunted by the task of having to slow down the prolific Philip Rivers (23 touchdowns, nine interceptions and 3,633 yards passing). Dalton also seems to be learning that he gives his team a better chance of winning when he simply puts the ball into the hands of the team’s many playmakers. Running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (20 carries, 92 yards, one touchdown) and Giovani Bernard (14 carries, 57 yards) showed that they can carry the team to victory in close games.If last week’s bye accomplished anything, it allowed the Bengals to re-establish their identity, which is key for a young team heading into the stretch run before the playoffs begin.The Bengals head back to Cincinnati next weekend to host the Indianapolis Colts. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
It was a win, but nothing came easy for the Buckeyes.The Ohio State women’s basketball team took down Iowa, 91-85, in overtime Saturday night, advancing to the Big Ten Tournament final.Tied 37-37 at halftime, the Buckeyes roared back to take out the Hawkeyes for their second straight tournament win in Hoffman Estates, Ill.Freshman forward Alexa Hart connected on a free throw with 17 seconds to play to give OSU an 81-79 lead, but the Hawkeyes answered with a layup at the three-second mark to tie the game and force overtime.Iowa held the Big Ten’s leading scorer, OSU freshman guard Kelsey Mitchell, to 21 points in regulation, but she took over in overtime with a pair of 3-pointers and two late free throws, sealing the win for the Buckeyes.OSU is set to face No. 1 seeded Maryland in Sunday’s championship battle at 7 p.m.