CINCINNATI (AP) — Allan Cruz and Mathieu Deplagne scored two minutes apart in the second half and expansion FC Cincinnati won for the first time in MLS, topping the 10-man Portland Timbers 3-0 on Sunday in its home debut.
Kendall Waston scored FC Cincy’s first home goal in the MLS in the 15th minute by heading home Leonardo Bertone’s free kick in front of a sold-out crowd of 32,250 at Nippert Stadium, including MLS Commissioner Don Garber.
Cruz scored on a back-heel shot in the 61st, settling a deflected shot and rolling it inside the far post. Two minutes later, Deplagne finished off a busy sequence in the box with a redirection.
MLS expansion teams are 9-6-2 in their opening home matches.
FC Cincy goalkeeper Spencer Richey denied a point-blank shot by Dairon Asprilla at the back post on a corner kick. Portland defender Larrys Mabiala received yellow cards in first-half stoppage time and the 70th for the Timbers (0-2-1).
Cincinnati striker Fanendo Adi, who spent four-plus years in a star role with Portland before being traded in July, shared greetings with his old teammates in the lineup line before the game.
FC Cincy (1-1-1) got its first point last week, rallying for a 1-1 draw against defending MLS Cup champion Atlanta United.
By CLAY BAILEY Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — With conference player of the year Jarron Cumberland running the show, No. 24 Cincinnati pulled away to win its second American Athletic Conference Tournament.
Cumberland had 33 points and eight rebounds as No. 24 Cincinnati won its second straight AAC tournament title, defeating No. 11 Houston 69-57 on Sunday.
“Jarron was off the charts,” Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said, later adding: “Jarron is superhuman.”
Cane Broome finished with 15 points and Tre Scott added 12 for Cincinnati (28-6), who had lost to Houston twice during the regular season, including 85-69 March 10 at Cincinnati. This time was different as the Bearcats shut down Houston’s offense.
“We’ve had three terrific games with Cincinnati, at our place, at their place and (Sunday),” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “Obviously, that’s a difficult team to beat three times, especially over the course of five or six weeks.
“Watching how they played today, you can see how well we played the other two times when we beat them.”
In the second half, Houston shot a mere 27.8 percent, including making 3 of 18 from 3-point range. That provided Cincinnati, the tournament’s No. 2 seed, the opportunity to build a double-digit lead – a margin that reached 15 three times in the final seven minutes.
Sampson said he could tell Cronin had the Bearcats “really ready to play. You could tell they had a little bit of an ax to grind.”
Cronin had noted after Cincinnati’s semifinal win over Wichita State that the Bearcats rarely lose to a team three times in a season — another point of motivation for his team, along with holding the tournament trophy.
After Sunday’s victory, the Cincinnati coach said the championship win gives his team a hint of the things necessary if they are to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, and with an emphasis on the thin margin between winning and losing.
“You’ve got to be hard to beat,” Cronin said. “You can’t (miss) layups. You’ve got to block out. You can’t make dumb fouls and you try to maximize your potential on offense.”
Armoni Brooks led Houston (31-3) with 17 points and Corey Davis added 12 for the Cougars, who were the tournament’s top seed.
While the Bearcat defense stifled Houston shooting in the second half, Cincinnati put the ball in the hands of Cumberland, voted the tournament’s most valuable player, and he responded with 20 second-half points. Cumberland made 7 of 14 shots after halftime and also was 6 of 9 from the free throw line.
“Cumberland hit some tough shots,” Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said. “He hit some really, really tough shots.”
Houston got in trouble early in the second half when two quick fouls sent forward Breaon Brady to the bench with four fouls. About the same time, Fabian White went to the bench holding his right wrist.
At that point, the Bearcats were taking the lead to 15 points and really weren’t threatened the rest of the way.
“We would have liked to have won,” Sampson said, later adding: “I’m not going to spend two minutes thinking about this game. I’m just excited about what’s coming up.”
Cincinnati: Cumberland, who was limited to only 11 points in a semifinal win over Wichita State, had surpassed that at halftime with 13 but was still struggling from the field. After halftime, he took over the game as the Bearcats extended the lead.
Houston: The Cougars suffered through 35 percent shooting in the first half. Brooks made five of the nine Houston field goals in the half. But things got worse after halftime as Houston had trouble converting shots and could never really cut into the Cincinnati lead. Injuries and foul trouble only made things worse
Cincinnati: The Bearcats are a seventh seed in the South Region and play Iowa, the region’s No. 10 seed on Friday in Columbus, Ohio.
Houston: Earned a third seed in the Midwest Region and will play Friday against No. 14 seed Georgia State.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
By DAVE JACKSON Associated Press
DALLAS (AP) — As they watched Dirk Nowitzki’s shooting heat up yet again, fans at the American Airlines Center thought they might be watching history Saturday night.
Nowitzki will have to wait another game to reach his latest milestone, but his Dallas Mavericks got a much-needed win.
Tim Hardaway Jr. scored 22 points, Nowitzki closed within three points of Wilt Chamberlain on the NBA scoring list and the Mavericks ended a seven-game losing streak with a 121-116 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Entering the fourth quarter with just four points, Nowitzki scored 10 in the first five minutes of the period to bring himself to the cusp of Chamberlain for sixth place on the career scoring list.
Nowitzki hit a turnaround jumper, a 3-pointer, two free throws and then another from long range with 7:15 left in the game. With the crowd buzzing on every Mavericks possession in the final minutes, Nowitzki missed his final five shots before leaving to a standing ovation in the final seconds.
“I was going for it there,” Nowitzki said. “I just didn’t have another hot hand down the stretch.”
He has another home game on Monday before the team leaves on a three-game road trip.
“Breaking records is always fun,” Nowitzki said. “If it happens at home, it’s even more special for fans that have been riding with you for such a long time.”
Nowitzki was one of seven Mavericks in double figures, helping to offset leading scorer Luka Doncic’s absence due to a right knee contusion.
Maxi Kleber had 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds for Dallas, and Jalen Brunson and Dwight Powell had 16 points apiece.
Collin Sexton scored 28 for the Cavaliers. Kevin Love and Cedi Osman each had 22 for Cleveland, which has lost three in a row.
Cleveland’s last lead came at 10-9 midway through the first quarter, and the Mavericks led by as many as 21 in the second half before the Cavaliers made a run late to make the final score closer.
“I think we took a huge step back defensively,” Love said. “We’ve been looking at film, but when we’re not scoring that ball it’s almost like we’re giving up on the defensive end.”
Cavaliers: Though both attended shootaround Saturday, Larry Nance (rib contusion) and Tristan Thompson (left foot soreness) remained out for Cleveland. … With Phoenix winning Saturday at New Orleans, Cleveland’s six road wins are the fewest in the NBA.
Mavericks: Brunson and Powell’s numbers have spiked since the All-Star break, with Powell averaging 17 points (nine prior to the break) and Brunson averaging 16 (seven). Brunson is also shooting 92 percent from the free throw line compared to 67 percent before the break. … Dorian Finney-Smith scored 14 to reach 1,000 points for his career.
Sexton surpassed 20 points for the fifth game in a row and 19th time in his rookie season. He finished one short of his career high.
“The game is starting to slow down for him a little bit,” Cavs coach Larry Drew said. “He’s just really doing a good job of picking and choosing his spots.”
GOING FOR ASSISTS
Nowitzki’s teammate Devin Harris remained on the floor in the final quarter. It was Harris who delivered the assist on the basket that gave Nowitzki 30,000 points in 2017. Harris wanted another chance at history Saturday.
“I think everybody sacrificed and tried to get it over for him,” Harris said. “We wanted to get it for him. I’m hoping this next game we will be able to.”
Harris finished with a season-high nine assists.
Cavaliers: Host Detroit on Monday, starting a three-game homestand.
Mavericks: Host New Orleans on Monday.
More AP NBA: https://apnews.com/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports
By KEN POWTAK Associated Press
BOSTON (AP) — Conor McGregor fired up the Bruins with a pregame speech. Brad Marchand paid him tribute by doing a rendition of the MMA fighter’s walk after he scored his winner.
Marchand scored 3:30 into the overtime, lifting Boston to a 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday night.
“Yeah, I kind of wanted, was hoping to score just to do it before the game,” Marchand said of copying McGregor’s entrance into rings. “It’s not every day you have an icon here in the room. I just wanted to have a little fun with it.”
McGregor spoke to the team before the game and again after.
“He’s an incredible guy, very energetic,” Marchand said. “He was humble. He was happy to be here. He’s expressed that to everyone. It was an honor to meet him. It was great to have him here. It’s something we’ll remember.”
The win snapped Boston’s three-game losing streak that came after it earned at least a point in 19 straight games. Patrice Bergeron had a power-play goal for the Bruins and set up the winner.
Bergeron spun around and fed Marchand in the right circle, where Marchand one-timed a shot as he went to one knee for his 15th OT goal, most in team history. Then the winger did a little shimmy — with his arms moving back and forth — as he skated to toward the bench before he was mobbed by his teammates.
“It goes to that chemistry,” Bergeron said. “We know where each other are going to be on the ice mostly at all times.”
Backup goalie Jaroslav Halak made 24 saves for the Bruins. He kept it tied at 1 by making a glove stop on Zach Werenski’s wrist shot from the left circle with 5 ½ minutes to play in the third.
Matt Duchene scored for the Blue Jackets, and Joonas Korpisalo made 31 saves.
“I thought our whole team played well,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella said. “I’m not going to single anyone out. I thought it was a good team effort.”
In the OT, Marchand had two close chances for Boston after Halak robbed Duchene’s bid from the slot.
This matchup was much different than Tuesday, when the Blue Jackets jumped ahead 5-1 in Columbus before holding off the Bruins for a 7-4 victory.
With McGregor in the building and firing up the crowd before making the ceremonial puck drop, the Bruins and Blue Jackets came out hitting and going end-to-end early before settling into a tight checking game.
Bergeron gave Boston a 1-0 lead with his goal 5:51 into the game, firing a backhander over Korpisalo for his 800th career point.
The Blue Jackets tied it when Duchene broke down the right wing, shifted around defenseman John Moore and lifted a shot over Halak’s shoulder inside the near post at 16:52 of the first period.
Duchene said the TD Garden ice wasn’t good, with the game started just a few hours after the Boston Celtics beat the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday.
“It was awful ice,” he said. “It was probably the worst ice I’ve played on this league. I don’t know what was going on with it. That’s probably why it was a 1-1 game (at that time). Pucks were rolling on guys.”
Boston had a handful of good chances in a scoreless second. The best came when Marchand had the puck all alone just outside the crease midway into the period, paused and waited for Korpisalo to drop before shooting it over the net.
NOTES: Columbus’ top goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky not only had the night off, he wasn’t in uniform and watched from the press box. … Linesman Brian Murphy worked his 2,000 game and was honored with a pregame ceremony, receiving team-signed jerseys from both clubs. … Bruins F Jake DeBrusk was back after missing the previous five games with a lower-body injury. … Boston TV personality Jayme Parker did the PA as part of NHL and NHLPA’s Hockey is for Everyone initiative. … The clubs meet again April 2 in Columbus.
IRISH HERITAGE NIGHT
With pre-St. Patrick’s Day excitement filling bars and restaurants outside TD Garden following the Celtics’ victory and about two hours before faceoff, the Bruins added some things to the festive night.
They also wore green jerseys during their pregame warmup, brought in members of the Boston police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums to play at turnstiles and gave out green hats to the first 5,000 fans.
McGregor got a big cheer when he was interviewed on the Jumbotron and there was a buzz every time he was seen in different parts of the building.
Blue Jackets: At Calgary on Tuesday, their second of a four-game road trip.
Bruins: Open a four-game trip at the New York Islanders on Tuesday.
More AP NHL: www.apnews.com/NHL and www.twitter.com/AP_Sports
By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Not a coaching change. Not new players. Not any MAC team has been able to slow this historic run.
Buffalo is far and away the class of its conference, the standard bearer, the team raising the bar and maybe one capable of making more noise in the NCAA Tournament.
Jeremy Harris scored 31 points, C.J. Massinburg added 17 and No. 18 Buffalo won its fourth Mid-American Conference title in five years — and further stamped itself as a team capable of doing major damage in March — by beating Bowling Green 87-73 on Saturday night.
The top-seeded Bulls (31-3), who dominated the MAC during the regular season, withstood a strong effort by the Falcons (22-12), one of three schools to beat them during the regular season.
Buffalo’s five-year reign atop the league is unprecedented for the MAC, and the latest title only boosts a resume that should make the Bulls the highest ever seeded MAC team when the NCAA brackets are unveiled Sunday.
“It goes to show what a dynasty this program is,” said Massinburg, the MAC’s Player of the Year. “We’re going to be good for years to come. This team is not done yet. It’s going to be scary.”
Bowling Green gave Buffalo all it could handle and it was within 74-71 after Bulls center Nick Perkins fouled out with 4:26 left when he was called for a technical foul. But Buffalo scored 12 straight points and closed with a 14-3 run to complete a three-day sweep at Quicken Loans Arena, a friendly home away from home for the past few years.
Buffalo’s program has been on the rise for years, and has stayed strong despite coach Bobby Hurley’s departure and playing a league known for its competitiveness and balance.
The MAC, though, belongs to Buffalo right now. The Bulls shocked No. 4 seed Arizona in last year’s NCAA Tournament and are looking to go further in 2019.
“We want to make it to the second weekend,” said coach Nate Oats. “This team is pretty special.”
Harris, a silky smooth left-hander, went 13 of 20 and was named the tournament’s MVP. He opened the night with a thunderous dunk and had several jaw-dropping baskets.
“Jeremy was cooking. That man over there,” Massinburg said, looking at his teammate. “He’s something different.”
Justin Turner and Daeqwon Plowden led Bowling Green with 16 points apiece. The Falcons stayed close by winning the rebound battle 48-34, but didn’t have enough to earn their first NCAA bid since 1968.
Maybe next year. This one belongs to Buffalo — again.
“They get all the credit,” said Bowling Green coach Michael Huger. “They made the plays. Harris made the shots that he needed to make. Graves made the shots that he needed to make. We took away things that they wanted to do with mainly Perkins and containing Massinburg, and those other guys stepped up. That’s what really good teams do.”
Buffalo came in with an NCAA bid locked up, and while the Bulls’ dominance helps the MAC’s national reputation, it will prevent the league from getting two teams in the NCAA Tournament. The MAC hasn’t had two schools in the 64-team field since 1999.
Oates said the NCAA Committee needs to recognize Buffalo’s accomplishments.
“We won 31 games. I think we deserve a 4 (seed),” he said. “A minimum of a 5. I don’t know why not.”
The MAC has not had a team seeded eighth or higher since the Tournament expanded to 64 in 1985.
Bowling Green: Played in just its fourth MAC title game and first since 2002. Also made the final in 1983 and 1980. … Won at least 22 games for just the fourth time since 1950. … Huger likes what’s ahead for his program. Bowling Green was picked to finish last in the MAC East before the season. “The future’s bright for Bowling Green basketball,” he said. “We’ve got to work to get back to this point. The guys are hungry. They see what it’s like out there. Definitely a motivational thing of seeing it tonight and wanting more.”
Buffalo: Won its 12th straight game. The win completed a championship sweep by the school as the women’s team won the MAC title earlier in the day. … Racked up school records for wins, conference wins and went 14-0 at home, where they’ve won 26 straight. … Entered as one of three schools with 30 wins. Houston and Gonzaga are the others.
Bowling Green: In position for a postseason bid.
Buffalo: Waits for Sunday’s selection show and potentially as high as a No. 6 seed.
More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
By CARRIE MUSKAT Associated Press
PHOENIX (AP) — Baker Mayfield wasn’t going to pass up this opportunity.
Fully aware the Milwaukee Brewers wanted to protect him, Mayfield knew he wouldn’t get into a spring training game during his two-day stay with the NL Central champions. But they let the Cleveland Browns quarterback get real close — a surprise stint as the first base coach for three innings Saturday.
As the split-squad Brewers came to bat in the bottom of the fourth, that’s when third base coach Eddie Sedar suddenly handed Mayfield a batting helmet and stop watch and told him to take over.
Did his baseball pals give him any advice?
“Pay attention,” Mayfield related. “Watch out for guys ripping one down the line.”
Mayfield is friends with Christian Yelich and joined the NL MVP and the Brewers on Friday. The 2017 Heisman Trophy winner took batting practice and showed off his arm strength by throwing passes to some of the team’s staff.
“I thought he did great,” Yelich said of Mayfield’s BP session. “It was a lot of fun. He’s got a pretty good swing.”
As the first base coach, Mayfield deftly handled a foul ball by Milwaukee’s Travis Shaw that ricocheted off the Brewers dugout in the fourth. But Mayfield bobbled a foul carom off the bat of Yelich in the sixth.
Mayfield quickly learned not to get too comfortable in the coach’s box.
“I don’t know why they have it painted right there,” Mayfield said. “It’s not regulation size and it’s too close. I’m looking over at Eddie at third base and he’s in the outfield.”
Mike Moustakas, though, might want Mayfield to hang around some more. The Brewers star hit a ball into the gap in right-center field in the fourth and Mayfield waved him on, pumping his arm as Moustakas reached second safely on the double.
In the sixth, Mayfield missed a chance to give Moustakas a high-five after the infielder hit a two-run home run. Mayfield then went to the Brewers dugout and leaned over the railing to celebrate.
“I run everything out until I see it go out so it’s hard for me to hit the first base coach on a high-five,” Moustakas said. “I wish I would’ve now. I left him hanging.”
Said Mayfield, proudly: “All I know is Malibu Mike was 2 for 2 when I was coaching first base.”
That was about as close as Mayfield got to a hit.
“He’s a professional athlete,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “He looks like a ballplayer and he’s played plenty of baseball. We played a game (on Friday) in batting practice, a points game, and he was in it until the final round. He acquitted himself very well defensively, offensively for sure. And in the clubhouse. He did a nice job.”
The Brewers outfitted him perfectly with a No. 6 Brewers jersey. Someone updated it on Saturday with white tape saying “16 percent body fat.”
“I didn’t put that there,” Yelich said.
Mayfield and Yelich met at a gym in Westlake Village, California, when the quarterback was prepping for the NFL combine and 2018 draft. Mayfield did play third base at Oklahoma, but he’s better known for leading the Sooners to the College Football Playoff semifinals twice in three years.
“He’s a great athlete and has a little bit of a baseball background,” Yelich said. “I’ve seen him swing before — I wasn’t too surprised that he did well.”
Shaw, an Ohio native, likes Mayfield for what he’s done on the football field.
“I’m a big Browns fan,” Shaw said. “I’ve suffered long enough.”
Mayfield led the Browns to a 7-8-1 record last season after they went 0-16 the year before.
The Rockies’ starting pitcher, incidentally, was Jon Gray, who also attended Oklahoma. Mayfield imagined how it might’ve been to face him in the batter’s box.
“It would’ve been (fun) — OU on OU,” Mayfield said. “I’ve never met him. They have his picture all over campus.”
Said Gray: “I love the player he is. He’s a favorite player of all the members of my family.”
Shaw wanted to make sure they protected the NFL star.
“I think he wanted to (get in a game), but he’s the quarterback,” Shaw said. “He’s just a cool dude. That’s my team so I’m a big fan.”
Singer Garth Brooks and comedian Will Ferrell both have had token appearances in spring training games but they were doing so to help charities. Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who played two seasons in the minors with Colorado, hit an exhibition game for the New York Yankees.
“There’s a dangerous precedent if somebody brings their friend in and puts him in a game,” Counsell said. “I know he’s Baker Mayfield, but one of the players is basically bringing his friend in and he gets to play in the game. (Mayfield) is here to have fun.”
Mayfield did just that.
“I’ve always loved baseball, dreamed of playing it professionally and now I’m part of the Brewers,” Mayfield said. “I love it.”
Did he think he might get an at-bat?
“I don’t think the Browns would be very happy about that,” Mayfield said.
As long as Shaw got Mayfield’s autograph on his Browns helmet, he’s good.
“I’m going to get him to sign it before he leaves,” Shaw said.
NOTES: Opening day starter Jhoulys Chacin struck out four over 5 1/3 innings. Counsell said Chacin’s final tuneup before the regular season will likely be in a minor league game. … Jimmy Nelson, who missed all of 2018 following shoulder surgery, made his second spring appearance on Saturday. The right-hander gave up one unearned run on two hits over three innings, striking out four.
More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
By TOM WITHERS AP Sports Writer
CLEVELAND (AP) — Free agent outfielder Carlos Gonzalez intends to sign a minor league contract with the Cleveland Indians, a person familiar with the agreement told The Associated Press.
Gonzalez, who played the past 10 seasons with Colorado, will sign once he completes a physical, the person said Saturday, speaking on condition of anonymity because the deal has not been finalized. Gonzalez will then report to spring training in Arizona.
If he is added to the 40-man roster, Gonzalez would get a one-year contract with a $2 million salary while in the major leagues. He also could earn up to $1 million in performance bonuses.
A three-time All-Star, the 33-year-old Gonzalez has hit .287 over 11 seasons. A left-hander, he hit .276 with 16 homers and 64 RBIs with the Rockies last season, when he had a $5 million base salary and earned an additional $3 million in roster bonuses.
Gonzalez drove in 100 runs and hit 25 homers in 2016, his next to last season of an $80 million, seven-year contract.
The Indians have been in need of outfield help since Michael Brantley signed with Houston. Veteran outfielder Matt Joyce, who also signed a minor league contract after dealing with a back injury last season, has been told he will not make the opening-day roster.
Leonys Martin likely will be the starting center fielder when the Indians open the season in Minnesota on March 28. Several players are battling for the other two outfield spots, but no clear leaders have emerged.
AP Baseball Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.
More AP baseball: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
By CLAY BAILEY Associated Press
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — As Cincinnati expected, Wichita State had one last run down the stretch — enough to pull even, but not overtake the No. 24 Bearcats.
Nysier Brooks scored 13 points and Cane Broome hit the go-ahead layup with 23.5 seconds left to give No. 24 Cincinnati a 66-63 victory over Wichita State in Saturday’s semifinals of the American Athletic Conference tournament.
The victory was the second of Saturday’s semifinals where the underdog tried to overtake the better seed. Memphis rallied, but fell to Houston 61-58. That sets up the championship showdown between the conference’s top two teams – Cincinnati as the No. 2 seed and top-seeded Houston.
“This is the time of year that you are not into splitting atoms,” Bearcat coach Mick Cronin said. “You win and move on.”
Tre Scott had 12 points and eight rebounds, Jarron Cumberland, the conference player of the year, was limited to 11 points going 3 of 16 from the field.
Markis McDuffie, who had a career-high 34 points in the Shockers quarterfinal 80-74 win over third-seed Temple on Friday night, scored 18 for the Shockers (19-14), the tournament’s No. 6 seed. Samajae Haynes-Jones had 17, despite missing six of his seven 3-point attempts.
“We were one play short against a very, very good team, a very well-coached team, a team that’s going to go to the NCAA tournament and hopefully advance pretty deep,” Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall said.
Cincinnati appeared in control with a 62-55 lead with 4:44 left, when the Shockers made their run. They eventually would catch the Bearcats at 62-all, then again deadlocked at 63.
The 63-all tie came after Wichita State’s Jaime Echenique split a pair of free throws with 46.7 seconds left.
On the ensuing Cincinnati possession Broome got to the rim for a layup and a Bearcat lead of 65-63 with 23.5 second left.
“Big basket, obviously, for Cane Broome down the stretch,” Cronin said. “Jarron Cumberland set a great screen.”
Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall called timeout to set up a play. McDuffie drove on Cincinnati’s Keith Williams, but missed in close. The Bearcats grabbed the rebound and Cumberland split a pair of free throws for the final margin.
Win and advance; survive and advance,” Cronin said.
For Marshall, despite the loss, the season was rewarding. The Shockers were not expected to have their normal good team this season, and started out living up to those expectations. Wichita State started the conference 1-6 before closing the season winning 11 of 13 before Saturday’s semifinal loss.
“It’s been very rewarding to watch just the individuals as well as the team collectively improve to get to this point where we were one play shy of playing for a championship,” Marshall said.
Wichita State: The Shockers entered the game having won six straight, including beating No. 3 seed Temple on Friday night. Despite trailing by seven — 62-55 with 4:44 left — the Shockers made seven of their next eight shots and put together a 9-2 run to deadlock the game. But Broome’s layup kept the Shockers from extending their winning streak.
Cincinnati: Cumberland struggled throughout the game, and dealt with foul trouble in the second half. But while he was out, the Bearcats were able to extend their lead. That was significant in providing a buffer as Wichita State made its comeback.
ONE MORE CHANCE
Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said he wanted to reach the championship game, not only to play for the crown, but also because “my feeling is Houston is as good as anybody in the country.”
Then there is the fact that the Cougars have won both games between the two teams this season. “Obviously, you want to try and right the fact that they beat you twice,” Cronin said. “That doesn’t happen a lot around Cincinnati.”
Wichita State: Waits to see if they get a postseason invitation.
Cincinnati: Faces top-seed Houston in Sunday’s title game.
By STEVE HELWAGEN Associated Press
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Wisconsin coach Greg Gard wasn’t sure whether to be mad at his players for blowing a 23-point second-half lead at Ohio State or happy they found a way to win.
Ultimately, Gard settled on a positive outlook after his 21st-ranked Badgers rallied for a 73-67 overtime win on Sunday.
“We’ll be fine,” Gard said. “This is a great lesson for us. It’s a better lesson than doing that and losing it. We have to look at how well we played for 33 or 35 minutes. We did some really good things, and we did some good things in overtime, too.”
Wisconsin (22-9, 14-6) snagged the No. 4 seed and a bye in the first two rounds of the Big Ten tournament, which starts Wednesday in Chicago.
“For this group, to do what they’ve done this year, given the predictions and prognostications, to finish fourth and get the double-bye is a heck of an accomplishment for our guys,” Gard said.
Wisconsin was up by 23 and appeared to be cruising to an easy win in the second half. But Ohio State (18-13, 8-12) went on a 27-5 run over the last seven minutes of regulation to force overtime. Wisconsin’s defense held tough as the Badgers outscored the Buckeyes 10-4 in the extra period.
“We made it way more interesting than I ever wanted it to be,” Gard said.
SENIORS LEAD THE WAY
The Badgers were led by seniors Khalil Iverson and Ethan Happ. Iverson had career highs in points (22) and rebounds (14). Happ notched his 21st double-double of the season with 16 points, 14 boards and eight assists.
“The take-home message is we got what we came here to do done,” Happ said. “It is a little concerning that we kind of gave up that huge lead and we weren’t able to close.”
It was a big homecoming for Iverson, who’s from suburban Columbus. He has played in 132 games in his career for the Badgers, but his only double-doubles have come in the last two games.
SURVIVING WITHOUT KALEB
Ohio State played and lost its third consecutive game without top scorer and rebounder Kaleb Wesson, who is suspended for violating athletic department policy. Ohio State coach Chris Holtmann said the Wesson situation could be addressed prior to the Big Ten tournament.
C.J. Jackson, a senior playing his last scheduled game at Value City Arena, led the Buckeyes with 22 points.
After missing its first 13 attempts from the floor in a loss at Northwestern on Wednesday, Ohio State missed its first 11 shots in this game. Wisconsin led 26-16 at the half, holding the Buckeyes to their lowest first-half point total of the season.
The Badgers then roared out in the second half with an 18-5 run to go up 44-21 with 16 minutes left, but Ohio State surged to tie it, and Jackson missed a potential game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer.
“We didn’t really have an answer for Iverson or Happ,” Holtmann said.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes’ NCAA Tournament hopes were on life support coming into the game. But if they can get Wesson back for the Big Ten Tournament, they might be able to make some noise in Chicago and earn an at-large bid.
Wisconsin: The Badgers go into the conference tournament having won five of six to end the regular season. This was a good game for Wisconsin to find other scoring threats to complement Happ.
Ohio State: The Buckeyes will be the No. 8 seed in the Big Ten Tournament and play ninth-seeded Indiana on Thursday.
Wisconsin: After their double-bye, the Badgers will open tournament play Friday.
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By PAUL NEWBERRY AP Sports Writer
ATLANTA (AP) — Just five games into his tenure as Atlanta United’s coach, Frank de Boer is already feeling the heat.
The reigning MLS Cup winners unveiled a championship banner before their home opener Sunday, but it was merely the prelude to another disappointing performance. Roland Lamah scored in the 86th minute to give expansion FC Cincinnati its historic first point with a 1-1 draw.
At the final whistle, United actually heard boos from the announced crowd of 70,382 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium — a stunning development for a team that has been feted with record fan support during its first two seasons and captured the second major title in the city’s largely tortured pro sports history less than four months ago, earning a parade through the streets of downtown Atlanta.
“I don’t think it’s fair,” de Boer said, when asked about the fan reaction. “Everybody works very hard. It’s not that they didn’t give 100 percent.”
Josef Martinez scored an early goal but Atlanta’s lead didn’t stand up. Once again, United turned in a largely uninspiring performance out of de Boer’s 3-4-3 alignment, which seems ill-suited to aa team that had one of the MLS’ most dynamic offenses under previous coach Tata Martino.
Atlanta opened the MLS season last weekend with a 2-0 loss at D.C. United, which was followed by a 3-0 blowout at Monterrey in the opening leg of the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals. The return leg is Wednesday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but no one gives United much of a chance to turn around that daunting deficit.
At this point, Atlanta is merely looking for signs of hope.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for us,” goalkeeper Brad Guzan said. “Today feels like a loss. Last year, we weren’t using to losing. It wasn’t in our DNA.”
De Boer faced a daunting task when he took over in Atlanta, replacing a hugely popular coach who made all the right moves in the club’s first two years of existence and satisfying a fan base that has drawn worldwide attention for its rabid support.
The start of de Boer’s tenure couldn’t have gone much worse — especially considering he lasted mere months in his last two coaching jobs. He was fired after only 85 days by Inter Milan in Italy’s Serie A, followed by a dismal, 10-week stint at the Premier League’s Crystal Palace.
In its first five games with Atlanta United, de Boer is 1-3-1. The team has been shut out twice and held to one goal in two other games — hardly looking like the dynamic team that averaged more than two goals per match over its first two MLS seasons.
“We are now the hunted,” de Boer said. “That’s a different approach. Everyone has to learn from that.”
After hearing plenty of cheers during a pregame ceremony honoring the team’s championship season, Atlanta got off to a rousing start.
In the fifth minute, Julian Gressel sent a pass through two defenders to Martinez breaking into the clear. The reigning MLS MVP, who scored a record 31 league goals in 2018, sauntered in all alone on goalkeeper Spencer Richey, launching a shot over his left shoulder.
Turns out, that was one of the few good chances created by United.
Cincinnati, coming off a 4-1 loss at Seattle in its debut game, was much competitive in this one. In fact, it appeared to pick up the tying goal in the 56th when Fanendo Adi headed one past Guzan, only to have it nullified because Lamah was lingering offside away from the play.
Lamah made up for his mistake in the closing minutes. Taking a long pass from Kenny Saief, Lamah raced into the area uncontested and blasted a low shot beneath Guzan’s left leg to give Cincinnati its first MLS point.
“I thought the game was going to end about 5 or 6-0,” said Cincinnati’s Greg Garza, who played the last two seasons in Atlanta. “I’m glad we were able to change it around, I’m glad we were able to get more energy as the game went on. We started to grow some confidence and, to be honest, I think we could have really changed the game if we had more time.”
Garza received a big ovation when he came on in the 71st minute — one of the times the Atlanta crowd had reason to cheer.
“It is tough to see my old teammates going through a pretty tough time right now,” he said.
Lamah’s tally was the only shot on goal by Cincinnati, which was outshot 10-4 overall.
“Everybody is very disappointed with the result,” de Boer said. “Sometimes you don’t play your best, but you have to win those games to get the confidence.”
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry
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