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Minnesota Sports

Johansson’s goal gives Wild another OT win against Kings

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Minnesota Wild won only two games last season when trailing after two periods. They have already equaled that total during the first week of the season.
Marcus Johansson scored with 11 seconds remaining in overtime Saturday night as the Wild rallied for a 4-3 victory over the Los Angeles Kings for the second straight game after trailing by two goals after two periods.
“You don’t want to continually do this, clearly, but two games in and if you have that good feeling and good belief hopefully it translates earlier more nights,” Wild coach Dean Evason said.
Johansson took the pass from Kirill Kaprizov and one-timed a wrist shot past Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick on his stick side to complete the comeback and give Minnesota its first 2-0 start since 2015-16.
It is also the first time since October 2014 that the Wild have overcome multi-goal deficits in the third period in consecutive games.
“I didn’t get a lot of it, but it turned out to be a nice little chip shot and I’ll take that any day,” Johansson said.
Ryan Suter sent it to overtime with 2 seconds remaining with a snap shot near the blue line that Quick was unable to get his glove on.
Matt Roy could have put the Kings up by two goals with 36 seconds remaining, but his shot hit the right post on an empty-net situation.
Matt Dumba and Joel Eriksson Ek also tallied goals for Minnesota, and Jordan Greenway had a pair of assists. Cam Talbot made 30 saves for the Wild.
Gabriel Vilardi, Blake Lizotte and Alex Athanasiou scored for Los Angeles while Jeff Carter had two assists. Quick stopped 40 shots.
The two blown leads have disappointed Kings coach Todd McLellan, who saw his team go 18-1-1 last season when it was up after two periods.
“I can see one slip away but not two. That’s unacceptable,” he said. “That’s two games in a row that played out almost identical in a lot of different ways. And there’s no reason why we should let either of them get away from us.”
COMES AT A COST
The Kings have killed off all 11 of their penalties this season, but McLellan is not happy with the amount of times they have been short-handed.
Eriksson Ek’s goal, which brought the Wild to 3-2, came after the Kings killed off their fifth penalty of the night. They weren’t able to clear the puck down ice and got caught in the middle of a line change.
“Some of the penalties are just awful decisions. You know, different situations that are completely preventable,” he said. “Is it because we haven’t played for a while? Possibly but I think that would be using it as an excuse. I didn’t think we were ready to play tonight. That’s not a good sign for us at all, especially early in the season.”
QUICK START
Dumba put the Wild up 1-0 just 21 seconds into the game when he threw it on net and it deflected off Kings defenseman Kurtis MacDermid and past Quick. It is the quickest goal by a defenseman in team history and tied for the eighth-fastest goal in Minnesota history
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Vilardi’s goal tied it at 1 with 3:02 remaining in the first period. Officials originally determined there was no goal, but it was overturned when replays showed the puck crossed the goal line before the net came off its moorings.
MILESTONE
Suter became the second active NHL defenseman and 28th all-time to reach 500 assists on Dumba’s goal. It was also his 300th with the Wild, making him the second player in team history to reach that mark.
GOOD EARLY IMPRESSION
Athanasiou has a pair of goals in his first two games with LA. He signed two days before the start of training camp after splitting time between Detroit and Edmonton last season. The 26-year-old forward gave the Kings a 3-1 lead midway through the second period on a rebound off a 2-on-1 break after Talbot stopped Jeff Carter’s first shot.
ICE CHIPS
Wild: Dumba owns 10 first goals of a game for Minnesota, which is second in team history amongst defensemen (Suter has 11). … Wild defensemen have eight of the team’s 18 points (three goals, five assists). Minnesota was fourth in the league last season in points scored by defensemen with 168.
Kings: G Cal Petersen and defensemen Sean Walker and Kurtis MacDermid were activated to the roster after being unavailable due to COVID-19 protocols. … Carter owns 27 points (13 goals, 14 assists) in 34 games against the Wild.
UP NEXT
Wild: Continue their four-game road trip on Monday against the Anaheim Ducks.
Kings: Host the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.
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Minnesota Sports

No. 23 Minnesota hands No. 7 Michigan 1st loss in 75-57 romp

By Dave Campbell
AP Sports Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Liam Robbins had 22 points and eight rebounds in 22 minutes to lead No. 23 Minnesota to a 75-57 victory over No. 7 Michigan on Saturday, handing the Wolverines their first loss.
Marcus Carr scored 17 points and Gabe Kalscheur added 10 points for the Gophers (11-4, 4-4 Big Ten), who played their seventh straight game against an opponent ranked in the Associated Press poll. Minnesota never trailed, holding the best shooting team in the conference to a season-low score and a season-high 20 turnovers.
According to Minnesota’s research, this is the most consecutive ranked opponents for any NCAA team since St. John’s played eight Top 25 teams in a row in 2011.
Chaundee Brown Jr. scored 14 points and Isaiah Livers added 11 points for the Wolverines (11-1, 6-1), who played without senior guard Eli Brooks due to a foot injury suffered in a recent practice.
The Gophers were back in their happy place after five days to recuperate and refocus from decisive defeats last week at Michigan and Iowa. Given that they’re not playing in front of fans, with no raucous student sections to create an energy boost at home or a daunting distraction on the road, the Gophers have displayed a remarkably split personality this season.
Their four losses — all to Big Ten teams ranked in the top 14 of the latest poll and all away from home — have come by an average margin of 19.8 points.
Robbins made all three of his 3-point attempts in the second half and exacted some revenge on Hunter Dickinson, who got the better of him in the first matchup of the 7-footers and two of the best big men in the nation. Dickinson, who had 28 points against the Gophers at home while going 12 for 15 from the floor, scored nine points and had five turnovers.
The Gophers missed their first 12 attempts from 3-point range, too often settling for a long try against Michigan’s intense ball pressure. Their own defense, against the best-shooting team in the Big Ten, was more than good enough to cover up for the shot selection issues.
The Wolverines had seven turnovers in the first seven minutes and just never established a rhythm in their half court. The Gophers had a 13-4 edge in fast-break points, 23-9 in scoring off turnovers.
Robbins picked up a reckless second foul less than four minutes into the game, but during the extended bench stay Eric Curry ably filled in and finished with six points and three steals.
Livers hit a 3-pointer late in the first half to slice Minnesota’s lead to 24-21, the only time Michigan was within one possession since the opening minutes of the game. Brown swished a corner 3-pointer to make it 41-35 with 13:58 left, but Robbins and the Gophers almost immediately took over after that without letting up.
Kalscheur finished a fast break with a 3-pointer after a block by Robbins, who followed with a tomahawk dunk in the lane on the ensuing possession. Carr and company kept attacking the basket off the dribble down the stretch, the most sound strategy for a team that entered the weekend second in the country in free throw attempts.
SATURDAY, IN THE BARN
The Gophers didn’t play a single Saturday home game in 2019-20. This season, with no fans able to buy tickets due to COVID-19 restrictions, five of their 10 conference home games are on Saturdays.
BIG PICTURE
Michigan: Fresh from their 77-54 thrashing of No. 9 Wisconsin, a third win by 19-plus points in as many matchups with ranked foes, the Wolverines have been playing like a Final Four team. At some point in this loaded league, a setback was bound to happen.
Minnesota: Finally through the thick of their front-loaded conference schedule, the Gophers have stacked up so many quality wins that simply landing an at-large NCAA Tournament bid would be a letdown. The only time in the last 15 years they’ve finished with a winning Big Ten record and higher than sixth place was 2016-17, when they were 11-7. Pitino improved to 3-11 against Michigan.
POLL IMPLICATIONS
Michigan will likely stay in the top 10 when the next AP poll is published on Monday. Minnesota, the sixth Big Ten team ranked, will undoubtedly slide up several spots.

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Minnesota Sports

More NBA games off, as league continues struggles with virus

By TIM REYNOLDS AP Basketball Writer
Another three NBA games were postponed Friday, including one in Minnesota only a couple hours before game time, as the league’s struggle with increasing coronavirus numbers continued.
Among the revelations Friday: Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns , whose mother and six other relatives have died from COVID-19, said he has tested positive. The Washington Wizards said that they have six players who are positive as well, and another three players out because contact tracing data suggested they could have been exposed.
“I pray every day that this nightmare of a virus will subside and I beg everyone to take it seriously by taking all of the necessary precautions,” Towns wrote on social media.
The Timberwolves’ game with the Memphis Grizzlies was called off, as were what would have been Wizards’ home games Sunday and Monday against the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“The NBA’s been pointing to this period for quite some time, that this was going to be very difficult,” Wizards general manager Tommy Sheppard said. “And they weren’t kidding.”
The current tally of postponements: 13 since the start of the season, 12 of them — involving 16 of the NBA’s 30 teams — since Sunday alone. Washington has seen four of its games pushed back, Boston and Phoenix have had three postponements. The Celtics returned to the floor Friday night against Orlando, Boston’s first game in a week.
“We’re all very grateful to be here and get a chance to play and compete,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens said.
Miami — which lost two games at Philadelphia this week with only eight players available — could get as many as six of its eight COVID-affected players who have missed time this week, largely because of contact tracing, back Saturday for a game against Detroit. All-Star Jimmy Butler will remain out, the Heat said, as will Avery Bradley.
The Wizards are just hoping to be able to have players in to resume workouts. No basketball has been played in their facility for most of this week; between COVID-related issues, and injuries to Russell Westbrook and Thomas Bryant, Washington has six players available right now.
The Wizards last played Monday, against Phoenix. The earliest they’ll play again is this coming Wednesday in Charlotte — and even that would seem iffy, based on what will likely be a lack of practice time in the coming days. The Suns had a three-game homestand wiped away because they didn’t have enough cleared players.
“I think four teams have missed multiple games,” Sheppard said. “I think that’s a small victory considering what’s going on out there around the league.”
Minnesota’s next game on the schedule is Monday, the league’s traditional game on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Atlanta. The news that any player has the virus would be crushing, and that it was Towns was particularly so given what his family has endured.
“Karl is the most important part of this organization,” Timberwolves President Gersson Rosas said. “For what he’s gone through, what Karl Sr.’s gone through, it couldn’t be more heartbreaking today.”
Postponed games, when possible, will be made up in the second half of the season, which will take place from March 11 — the one-year anniversary of last season shutting down because of the pandemic — through May 16.
The NBA said earlier this week that 16 players tested positive in recent days, which was more than the NBA had seen in the last five weeks combined. Given the developments since, next week’s report has the potential to be even worse.
Even coaches know they have to increase their own efforts. The NBA gave Orlando coach Steve Clifford a call recently, telling him he had to do a better job of keeping his mask on during games.
Clifford didn’t argue.
His response to the call? “Yes, sir,” he said.
Nobody would argue the need for utmost of caution in the NBA right now.
The league and the National Basketball Players Association earlier this week stiffened the protocols that players must live by during these delicate times, and coaches aren’t exempt from saying they need to be more diligent on the safety front as well — particularly when it comes to properly wearing their masks.
They’re now required on sidelines, for both coaches and players. But when coaches feel the need to yell, many still succumb to the urge to tug the mask down and make sure their voice is heard without whatever muffling can be caused by a thin piece of fabric.
“It isn’t always easy,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “Sometimes I’m in the huddle or on the floor, and I’m doing all kinds of things to try to keep my mask on (and) let guys hear me, and after the third time they say ‘Coach, I can’t hear what you’re saying,’ you try to pull it down quick.”
Clifford is a big-time mask proponent, and has been since even before the league restarted last season in the Walt Disney World bubble near Orlando. He has been preaching the values of mask-wearing for months.
“I think there were seven of us who got a call from the league about ‘Keep your mask on,'” Clifford said. “So, I’m going to do better, no matter what. I have some masks that are easier for the guys to hear than others. I’m just going to wear the right mask. I’ve got to do better.”
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AP freelance writer Brian Hall in Minneapolis contributed to this report.
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Minnesota Sports

Garza scores 33, No. 5 Iowa beats No. 16 Minnesota 86-71

By JOHN BOHNENKAMP Associated Press
IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — Jordan Bohannon knew what was his favorite number was on his final box score.
The Iowa senior guard had 19 points and a career-high 14 assists, Luka Garza had 33 points and the No. 5 Hawkeyes beat No. 16 Minnesota 86-71 on Sunday.
Bohannon also had seven rebounds and zero turnovers in almost 36 minutes.
“You know me, it’s the zero turnovers,” Bohannon said when asked what was his best statistic of the day. “That’s something I always pride myself in, to not turn the ball over. Be steady with the ball and find guys.”
It was Bohannon’s overall line that impressed Iowa coach Fran McCaffery.
“He has always really been tremendous in our fast break and in our ability to push it,” McCaffery said. “From the opening tip today, he was pushing the ball and finding people. I thought his decisions — when to shoot, when to drive, when to move it, when to get it in the post — were tremendous. Practically perfect.”
Joe Wieskamp added 20 points for the Hawkeyes (11-2, 5-1 Big Ten), who avenged a 102-95 overtime loss to the Gophers on Christmas Day.
“If it wasn’t for Luka making his layups, I wouldn’t have 14 assists,” Bohannon said. “I think that more than 95% of my passes were assists to him.”
Iowa had 27 assists on 31 field goals.
“Our guards are really unselfish,” Garza said. “When we get out on transition, that’s when we’re at our best. J-Bo was finding me tonight.”
Bohannon missed most of last season because of surgeries on both of his hips. He has scored 74 points in his last four games after totaling 27 in the previous five.
“I’ve been through hell for the last year and a half, two years,” Bohannon said. “It was a lot for me, mentally and physically. It took a lot of internal motivation for myself to get back to the player I know I can be.”
The Hawkeyes led 39-37 at halftime and opened the second half with a 22-6 run. Garza had 10 points in that stretch.
Garza, who came into the game leading the nation in scoring at 27.2 points per game, was 13 of 20 from the field.
Minnesota (10-4, 3-4) rallied from a 63-45 deficit to get within five twice late in the second half. It started to look like the Gophers’ earlier win against the Hawkeyes, when they rallied from seven points down with 44 seconds left in the second half to send it to overtime.
“We fought hard to get back within five, which is great,” Minnesota coach Richard Pitino said. “But then we took ill-advised shots. We just took some bad shots down the stretch and couldn’t get stops.”
Minnesota made just 10 3-pointers against the Hawkeyes after having 17 in the first matchup.
“Our loss up there on Christmas night was in the back of our minds,” Wieskamp said. “This one was kind of personal for us. They shot it well at their place, but they were getting open looks. So that was a key emphasis in this game, to get up in their space.”
Both Gach and Marcus Carr each had 13 points for the Gophers. Brandon Johnson had 12. Liam Robbins added 10. Carr had 30 points and Johnson had 26 against the Hawkeyes earlier this season.
MILESTONE
Wieskamp, a junior, became the 50th player in Iowa’s history to score 1,000 career points. The 1,000th point came on a free throw with 17:48 left in the second half. “It’s a special accomplishment for me,” said Wieskamp, who has 1,009 career points.
BIG PICTURE
Iowa won its fourth consecutive game and stayed within a half-game of the Big Ten lead. Minnesota, which went undefeated in nonconference play, lost for the third time in four games.
UP NEXT
Iowa: At home against No. 23 Michigan State on Thursday
Minnesota: At home against No. 10 Michigan on Saturday.
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Minnesota Sports

Cousins throws 3 TDs, Vikings end with 37-35 win over Lions

DETROIT (AP) — Kirk Cousins danced in the end zone after running for a go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter and the Minnesota Vikings went on to celebrate the end of a disappointing season with a 37-35 win over the lowly Detroit Lions on Sunday.
“We were really close to being in the playoffs,” Cousins said after throwing three touchdowns in the first half and finishing with a season-high 405 yards passing.
The Vikings (7-9) failed for the fourth time in a decade to make two straight trips to the playoffs. They won five of six midway through the season to be in the postseason race, but dashed those hopes by losing three straight before closing with a win at Detroit.
The Lions (5-11) lost their last four games and eight of 10 after going into November with a .500 record under former coach Matt Patricia.
Detroit’s defense broke franchise records by allowing 519 points and 6,716 yards, breaking marks set by its winless team in 2008 and ranking among the worst in NFL history.
“The defense, somebody else is probably going to be looking at it,” said Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell, who had one victory in five games and missed a game because of COVID-19 protocols in place of Patricia.
The unit’s woes were on full display when Chad Beebe scored on a 40-yard touchdown with 4 seconds left in the first half. The receiver bounced off two defenders and ran past veteran safety Duron Harmon as he stood and watched.
“Can’t go for those kill shots or think someone else is going to make the play,” Bevell said.
In a matchup without postseason implications, the Vikings and Lions combined to play a closely contested game with a lot of highlights and lowlights.
Alexander Mattison ran for 16 yards to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Lions 25 with 2:28 left, allowing the Vikings to run out the clock to seal the win. The second-year running back ran for 95 yards and a third-quarter touchdown. He also turned a short pass on fourth down into a 28-yard score in the first quarter.
Mattison filled in for running back Dalvin Cook, who missed the game following the death of his father.
Cousins was 28 of 40 and didn’t throw an interception, finishing with his highest total of yards passing since Sept. 27, 2018.
Justin Jefferson had nine receptions for 133 yards to finish with 1,379 yards receiving, breaking the NFL rookie record for yards receiving set by Anquan Boldin in 2003.
“He’s a great weapon to have and should be for many years,” coach Mike Zimmer said.
Detroit’s Matthew Stafford — playing with ankle, rib and thumb injuries — was 20 of 31 for 293 yards with three touchdowns. In possibly his last game with the Lions, he threw an interception that led to Dan Bailey’s field goal that put the Vikings ahead 31-23 in the third quarter.
“I got two years left on my deal here,” said Stafford, declining to speculate about the possibility of playing elsewhere next season.
Marvin Jones had eight receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns for the the Lions.
TOUGH CALL
Cousins’ 1-yard run early in the fourth quarter came two plays after a questionable call was made against defensive back Tracy Walker. He was flagged for roughing the passer on his sack, giving Minnesota a first down at the Detroit 1 instead of turning it over on downs.
“It’s one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen in the game of football,” said Detroit running back Adrian Peterson, who had a season-high 38-yard run and finished with 63 yards and a touchdown on seven carries against the team that drafted him in 2007. “That’s such a critical situation and it changed the entire game.”
Referee Adrian Hill said Walker was flagged because he landed on Cousins with all of his weight.
Cousins, though, acknowledged the Vikings probably got a break.
“I said to the player who tackled me, `I don’t necessarily agree with that call, but I’ll take it,” he said.
INJURY REPORT
Vikings: Four injured starters on defense were inactive, including linebacker Eric Kendricks.
Lions: OT Halapoulivaati Vaitai and OG Jonah Jackson left the game with concussions.
UP NEXT
The Vikings will pick in the top half of the first round for the first time since 2015, when they picked cornerback Trae Waynes at 11th overall. They have significant needs on the defensive line and to a lesser extent the offensive line.
The Lions have been looking for a new general manager and evaluating potential coaching candidates since firing Bob Quinn and Patricia in November. The searches should kick up a notch now that the regular season is over.
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Follow Larry Lage at https://twitter.com/larrylage
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Minnesota Sports

Murray, Jokic lead Nuggets past Timberwolves, 124-109

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Jamal Murray scored a season-high 36 points, Nikola Jokic had 19 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists for his fourth triple-double of the season and the Denver Nuggets beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 124-109 on Sunday night.
Murray kept Denver afloat while Jokic dealt with early foul trouble for the second straight game. Murray scored 26 points in the first half, including 16 in the second quarter. Jokic then helped the Nuggets overcome a Minnesota lead at the start of the fourth to pull away and snap a two-game losing skid.
The teams will complete home-and home set Tuesday night in Denver.
“We weren’t great tonight, but we got a win and we needed a win,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said. “We play them in a couple days. We’ll have to be even better than we were tonight.”
Malik Beasley, the former Denver draft pick traded to the Timberwolves last season, scored a season-high 25 for Minnesota. It lost its fourth straight game without Karl-Anthony Towns, who is out with a left wrist dislocation.
D’Angelo Russell finished with 18 points and seven assists for the Wolves.
“I’m not happy now because a loss is a loss,” Minnesota coach Ryan Saunders said. “But I’m happy with in those moments where you see that growth and you see things that you work constantly with these guys at, they’re getting better.”
Russell keyed a third-quarter comeback for the Wolves, who led 84-83 before the start of the fourth. Russell had 10 points and six assists in the third, while Beasley had 11 and Jarrett Culver added 10 in the quarter as Minnesota’s offense finally found some rhythm without Towns.
With Jokic on the court, Denver took control with a 20-2 run in the fourth and didn’t look back. The Nuggets outscored the Wolves 41-25 in the quarter, while Jokic had seven points and three assists.
“Someone needed to kind of pick it up a little bit, just the energy,” Jokic said about starting the fourth with Murray on the bench. “I think I had a couple of defensive rebounds and pushing the pace. I didn’t think of the score, but we were pushing. We were playing a little bit harder and a little bit faster. That helped us a lot.”
Minnesota allowed at least 120 points for the fourth straight game, and surrendered at least 40 points in a quarter for the second straight game.
“Not thinking that we need any type of home run play or home run defensive stand to stop the bleeding, but us to just focus on winning one possession,” Saunders said.
TIP-INS
Nuggets: Michael Porter Jr. missed his second straight game as part of the league’s health and safety protocols for COVID-19. … Murray had his fourth straight game with at least 20 points. … Facundo Campazzo was 5 of 7 from 3 for his season high. Paul Millsap had four 3s and JaMychal Green added three in his second game with the Nuggets.
Timberwolves: With Saunders moving Davis and Juancho Hernangomez into the starting lineup, Minnesota had its fifth different starting group in six games this season. … Josh Okogie missed his third straight game with a left hamstring strain. … Culver finished with a season-high 20 points.
FROM DOWNTOWN
Campazzo, a rookie free agent from Argentina, was a spark off the bench and a hit three of his 3s in the fourth to help Denver pull away.
“Facu, you knew he was going to break out,” Malone said. “The guy has played at a high level in the Olympics, the world championships and the biggest games over in the Euro league. It was great to see that.”
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Minnesota Sports

Lions, Vikings both stumbling to the finish

By Noah Trister

AP Sports Writer

DETROIT (AP) — This season will end like so many others for Matthew Stafford: His Detroit Lions have a losing record and won’t be in the postseason.
What’s different now is that there are real questions about Stafford’s future with the Lions.
“I’m not thinking about it,” Stafford said earlier this week. “All I’m thinking about is the Vikings and trying to get myself healthy. I know that’s probably hard for people to believe, but that’s the way this business is.”
Detroit hosts Minnesota on Sunday in a matchup of two teams that are out of the NFC playoff picture. The Lions are heading into an important offseason after firing their coach and general manager. Stafford has been a mainstay in Detroit for 12 years, but given the uncertainty about the team’s plan going forward, it’s easy to imagine him being elsewhere next season.
And if this is Stafford’s last game with the Lions, it could be anticlimactic. The coronavirus pandemic means there won’t be a packed stadium of fans in Detroit — and Stafford’s own status has been unclear because of thumb, rib and ankle injuries. The Lions (5-10) are coming off a 47-7 loss to Tampa Bay in which Stafford didn’t play much.
So Detroit will finish with double-digit losses for a third straight season and the sixth time in Stafford’s tenure. That’s despite the efforts of a quarterback who is closing in on 45,000 yards passing for his career.
“You play this game to go out there and play in big-time moments, and we didn’t do a good enough job this year as a team to make sure we have those opportunities this late in the season,” Stafford said. “That’s obviously disappointing and something that you want to rectify as a player, as a teammate, as a part of an organization.”
The Vikings (6-9) are also left to play for pride after three straight defeats. They lost 52-33 last week to New Orleans, allowing six touchdown runs by Alvin Kamara.
“Any time you go out there and play — you hear from athletes all the time, it doesn’t matter what you’re playing, what you’re competing at — go out there to win. Go out there and compete,” Minnesota safety Harrison Smith said. “So that’s the message. You don’t want to put undisciplined play, uninspired play on film. Put who you see yourself as on film.”
ABSENT LIST
Pro Bowl running back Dalvin Cook won’t play for the Vikings following the death of his father. Left tackle Riley Reiff was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list Wednesday, giving the Vikings the opportunity to give rookie Ezra Cleveland — who has started eight games at right guard — a look there if they want. Tight end Kyle Rudolph’s 10th season is over early. He’ll miss his fourth straight game with a foot injury.
Detroit receiver Kenny Golladay is expected to miss another game with a hip injury. He’s played only five games this season.
NUMBERS GAME
Vikings wide receiver Justin Jefferson has some obvious goals to play for, needing 111 yards to break the NFL rookie record for yards receiving set by Anquan Boldin (1,377 in 2003) and just 47 yards to top the franchise rookie record held by Randy Moss (1,313 in 1998). Jefferson has already bested Moss in receptions.
“To actually reach my goals and reach beyond my goals, I mean, that’s something special,” said Jefferson, who set his aim before the season for 60 catches, 1,000 yards and six touchdowns. “I’ve just got to keep going and keep building on my game and get better and better each season.”
Stafford needs 209 yards passing to reach 4,000 for the season. He hasn’t achieved that since 2017. He is 184 yards shy of 45,000 for his career.
DISMAL DEFENSE
After ranking sixth, ninth, first, sixth, fifth and 11th in fewest points allowed over their first six seasons under coach Mike Zimmer, the Vikings have plummeted this year to 28th with an average of 29.3 points surrendered per game. They hit bottom in the loss at New Orleans last week, with 264 yards rushing allowed.
STILL UPBEAT
Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell was a close contact of someone who tested positive for COVID-19, so last weekend he became the first head coach to miss a game because of the league’s protocols during the pandemic.
He said this has still been a great experience.
“I’ve learned a lot,” he said. “There’s been a lot that’s been thrown at me in a short period of time, but like I’ve told you many, many times, I love this game, I love being around these players and I love, really, everything that goes on with it.”
EARLIER MEETING
Minnesota beat Detroit 34-20 on Nov. 8. Kirk Cousins threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns for the Vikings. Stafford left that game for concussion evaluation and backup Chase Daniel threw a touchdown and an interception.

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Minnesota Sports

No. 6 Wisconsin routs No. 21 Minnesota on Thursday

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — For Wisconsin, the difference between losing to Maryland and routing Minnesota all came down to energy.
“That was lacking in the Maryland game,” the Badgers’ Micah Potter said. “I’m sure it was visible from where you guys are, where you watch the game. That was the biggest thing, just keeping the same energy that we had in the first half.”
Bouncing back from the loss to the unranked Terrapins, Potter had 18 points and 11 rebounds Thursday to lead No. 6 Wisconsin to a 71-59 victory over No. 21 Minnesota that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
The Gophers (9-2, 2-2 Big Ten) scored a season-low 22 points in the first half with a brutal shooting performance before the Badgers (9-2, 3-1) opened the second half on a 16-5 run. Potter added the exclamation point with a dunk off a pick-and-roll from D’Mitrik Trice that put Wisconsin up 45-27.
Wisconsin pushed the lead to 26 and Minnesota didn’t get the deficit under 15 points until the final minute.
Trice and Aleem Ford added 14 points apiece for the Badgers.
The Gophers missed their first nine 3-point attempts and started the game 3 for 20 from the field. Minnesota, which shoots 31% from 3 on the season, finished just 7 of 31 from behind the arc (23%).
Minnesota coach Richard Pitino credited Wisconsin’s physical style of defense and ball pressure, along with the Gophers settling too often for 3-pointers. The Gophers shot 31% from the field overall.
“We didn’t respond well by moving the ball. We were not where we were versus Iowa,” Pitino said, referencing a 102-95 win on Christmas Day. “We’ve got to get that thing flowing and moving side to side. Plus we got some good looks. We just didn’t knock them down.”
Gabe Kalscheur led Minnesota with 15 points. Brandon Johnson and Liam Robbins each had 12 points and nine rebounds.
CARR OFF
Point guard Marcus Carr makes the Minnesota offense go, averaging 21 points and six assists while shooting 48% from the field. But Wisconsin held him to 10 points as he shot 3 of 13, though he still dished out seven assists. Potter credited the defense that Trice and others played against Carr as the key.
“With an offensive player like Carr, you can get into rhythm really easily, and if you get into rhythm you’re dead,” Potter said.
FEED ME
After Monday’s loss to Maryland, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard lamented the Badgers’ failure to establish the post and settling for 3-pointers rather than working their offense inside out. He promised it would be addressed, and the Badgers got the message. Wisconsin didn’t attempt a 3-pointer until Potter knocked one down with more than six minutes gone in the game. The Badgers promptly missed their next four 3-point attempts, though they finished a solid 6 of 15 from the arc. They also had a 40-18 edge in the paint.
“That film session the next day was pretty harsh on a lot of guys,” Trice said. “But we took it, we learned from it and the next two days of practice were intense.”
BIG PICTURE
Minnesota: Minnesota made a statement with its wins against Michigan State and Iowa in the past week. The Gophers have to hope Thursday’s game was an aberration.
Wisconsin: The Badgers bounced back after Monday’s loss to Maryland, returning to their roots of working the offense inside-out and playing solid defense, even if the latter got a significant assist from Minnesota’s poor shooting.
UP NEXT
Minnesota: The Gophers host Ohio State on Sunday.
Wisconsin: The Badgers travel to Penn State on Sunday.

Categories
Minnesota Sports

AP sources: Star Vikings RB Cook absent after father’s death

By Dave Campbell
AP Pro Football Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Running back Dalvin Cook is not practicing with the Minnesota Vikings this week, due to the death of his father.
Two people with knowledge of the situation, speaking Wednesday on condition of anonymity because the team did not announce a reason for his absence, confirmed that Cook went home to Miami to be with his family after the unexpected passing. Cook has a younger brother, James Cook, who is a running back for Georgia.
The Vikings play Sunday at Detroit, with both teams eliminated from contention for the playoffs, so the best season of Cook’s four-year career is all but over. He was picked for a second straight Pro Bowl, with 1,557 rushing yards, 361 receiving yards and 17 total touchdowns in 14 games.
Even if there were postseason implications, Cook would not have enough time to clear COVID-19 protocols in order to be allowed to play. The NFL has a six-day testing window for newly arriving players, a waiting period that applies to any interruption to the daily testing process.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer did not mention Cook’s absence during his video conference with reporters. Quarterback Kirk Cousins and wide receiver Justin Jefferson expressed condolences to Cook, who was selected by vote of the Minnesota chapter of the Pro Football Writers Association as the 2020 recipient of the Korey Stringer Good Guy Award for media cooperation and professionalism.
Cook’s absence will clinch a second consecutive rushing title for Tennessee’s Derrick Henry, who has a 220-yard lead on Cook. The next closest players on the league leaderboard are more than 700 yards behind Henry, entering the final week. Henry will be the first repeat winner since LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 and 2007.
Cook has a slim lead on Henry atop the NFL with 1,918 total yards. He’ll finish second in team history on the single-season list, behind Adrian Peterson’s 2,314 total yards in 2012 when he won the league MVP award. Peterson, with 18 scores in 2009, is the only Vikings player who has ever tallied more rushing touchdowns in one season.
The Vikings placed tight end Kyle Rudolph (foot) on injured reserve, ending the 10-year veteran’s season. He will miss his fourth straight game. Linebacker Eric Kendricks (calf) has missed four consecutive games and would be unlikely to risk further injury Sunday. Beside them and Cook, there was no indication of other notable absences against the Lions. Asked if he was planning to sit any starters Sunday, Zimmer said no.

Categories
Minnesota Sports

Twins sign reliever Robles to $2 million, 1-year deal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The Minnesota Twins have signed right-handed reliever Hansel Robles to a $2 million, one-year deal.
The Twins announced the signing Tuesday, bringing in a former closer who struggled through the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
The 30-year-old Robles had 23 saves and a 2.48 ERA for the Los Angeles Angels in 2019 but couldn’t replicate that success last season. He lost some zip on his fastball and posted a 10.26 ERA in 18 games in 2020, and the Angels declined to offer him a contract for the 2021 season, granting him free agency instead.
Robles’ deal includes up to $500,000 in performance bonuses for games finished: $75,000 each for 20 and 25, $100,000 for 30 and $125,000 apiece for 35 and 40.
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