Utah rues late missed FTs after 'hard' loss to LSU

Utah rues late missed FTs after 'hard' loss to LSU

GREENVILLE, S.C. — The NCAA tournament puts players into the most pressure-packed situations of their careers. It happened to two players in the final 10 seconds of No. 3 seed LSU’s 66-63 win over No. 2 seed Utah in the Greenville 2 regional semifinal Friday night.

LSU fifth-year senior Alexis Morris made all four of her free throws. Utah sophomore Jenna Johnson missed both of hers, and the Tigers move on to face No. 9 seed Miami in an unexpected women’s basketball regional final Sunday.

The dramatic win puts second-year coach Kim Mulkey in position to make the women’s Final Four with a third program. She made it that far as a player and an assistant coach at Louisiana Tech, winning two NCAA titles, and as a head coach at Baylor, winning three titles.

The Utes had their sights set on reaching the Elite Eight for the second time in program history; they made it that far in 2006 before losing to eventual champion Maryland. After an 11-2 run in the final 3½ minutes of Friday’s game, Utah looked poised to win when LSU forward Angel Reese missed a shot with 13 seconds left and the Tigers trailing 63-62.

But Morris scrambled for the ball and was fouled going to the basket. She said she took a moment to gather herself before stepping up to the line.

“You’ve got to breathe, breathe, breathe,” Morris said. “I’m looking at Coach Mulkey, I’m looking at my teammates, my little niece. It wasn’t just about me in that moment. It was about everybody, the program and the fans. That calmed me down, because I knew that they believed in me.”

Morris made both free throws to put LSU up 64-63. Then Utah’s Gianna Kneepkens missed a shot, but Johnson got the offensive rebound and was fouled with 4 seconds left. The 6-foot-2 forward was shooting 72.8% from the foul line entering the game.

Johnson airballed the first free throw.

“It was straight on, really short,” she said.

The second free throw rattled out, and instead of potentially having a one-point lead in the closing seconds, the Utes still trailed by one.

“I don’t think the noise so much affected me,” Johnson said of the LSU crowd’s cheers. “I don’t know, maybe [I was] in my head a little bit from the first one.”

Johnson went to the bench and couldn’t hold back tears. She was consoled by her teammates and Utah coach Lynne Roberts.

Morris then was fouled again and hit two more free throws to put LSU up 66-63. The 5-foot-6 guard started her college career playing for Mulkey at Baylor, was dismissed from the program and transferred twice — to Rutgers and Texas A&M — before rejoining Mulkey at LSU.

“When I got to the line — it was just pure concentration,” Morris said. “You have to think of it as a shot you practice every day. It’s muscle memory, repetition.”

Utah had a 3-point look to tie the game, but it missed and LSU prevailed. Morris finished with 15 points and seven assists to back up LaDazhia Williams‘ 24 points and 17 from Reese. Johnson finished with five points for the Utes.

“Obviously right now I’m thinking about the last two free throws, but I have to understand it was a 40-minute game,” Johnson said. “I did some good stuff down the stretch, so try to focus more on that and just going back to Salt Lake, maybe take some time away from basketball and get back after it.”

Roberts praised Johnson as a competitor and said she will learn from a tough experience for a Utah team that was co-Pac-12 regular-season champion this year despite having no seniors.

“She played her tail off today. She left it all out there. I just told her I was proud of her,” Roberts said of what she told Johnson. “A game never comes down to the last shot. I mean, that’s what we remember, that’s what we talk about, but there’s so much that goes on before that.

“I love that kid. She’s a fighter. It’s hard. Those are pressure moments, and it’s a growing experience for her. She’s just a sophomore. But I don’t think that’ll happen again if she gets that opportunity again. If you said Jenna Johnson on the line in this game to win it, would you take it? Heck, yeah. And I’d take it tomorrow.”

ESPN’s Andrea Adelson contributed to this story.

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PrizePicks NBA Top Plays for Today 3/25/23 – Prop Style DFS

PrizePicks NBA Top Plays for Today 3/25/23 – Prop Style DFS

DFS Army’s Sniper takes a look at the best NBA prop bets on PrizePicks for DFS NBA today, 3/25/2023.

PrizePicks Winning Prop Plays From March 20…

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Feb 24, 2023; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA; Miami Heat guard Tyler Herro (14) walks the ball up court during the third quarter against the Milwaukee Bucks at Fiserv Forum. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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Mecole Hardman explains why he chose the Jets, his plans to make an impact on their offense

Mecole Hardman explains why he chose the Jets, his plans to make an impact on their offense

Wide receiver Mecole Hardman is one of the latest additions to the New York Jets busy offseason. Hardman will likely be catching passes from quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who says he intends to play for the Jets in 2023.

The wide receiver group includes Garrett Wilson, coming off an Offensive Rookie of the Year season and Allen Lazard, who is also a new addition to the team.

At his introductory press conference, Hardman explained why he chose New York, saying the players they have were appealing to play with. 

“I think the Jets was a good situation,” Hardman said (via NFL.com). “I think they got a great foundation here and they got some nice pieces. Allen Lazard, him signing, I think playing aside him, and they got a great second-year player now in Garrett Wilson, who had an absolutely unbelievable year. Guys with those names, to play alongside them is attractive.”

He mentioned the biggest Jets news of the offseason, the likelihood of playing with No. 12. 

“Obviously, the news with A-Rod and everything like that, we still don’t know what’s going on there, but that’s something you can think about. Besides that, the Jets itself was like the right fit for me,” he said.

Hardman goes from one Super Bowl winning quarterback to another, heading to New York from the Kansas City Chiefs, with Patrick Mahomes leading the offense. Hardman is coming off a Super Bowl win against the Philadelphia Eagles, his second ring with the Chiefs.

The 25-year-old was drafted in 2019 in the second round and since then has recorded 151 receptions for 2,088 yards and 16 touchdowns. Last season he had 25 receptions for 297 yards and four touchdowns in eight games, missing time due to injury.

He hopes to make an even bigger impact in New York, but is willing to do whatever they need him for.

“Definitely, the return game is something that I love to do and probably will continue to do here if that’s the plan and if they want me to do that,” Hardman said. “As far as receiver-wise, I just want to do what I can do to help the team win the game. Whether that’s jet sweeps, quick screens or stretching the field. Whenever my number is called, I just want to go out there and do it and just do it the best way I can.”

Hardman discussed his future goals and how he plans to improve his game in 2023. 

“I think being in this offense and going forward, I probably can show people a little bit more than just the quick game or the jet sweep and actually showing a little bit more of the route tree, catching the ball in the middle of the field or some out-breaking routes or stuff like that just to show a little bit more of my game,” he said.

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Jets-Packers talks for Aaron Rodgers could hinge on first-round pick

Jets-Packers talks for Aaron Rodgers could hinge on first-round pick

Trading the prime years in the careers of NFL greats Tony Gonzalez or Aaron Donald to rent Aaron Rodgers for a season or two sounds like a mistake. 

Trading the entire careers of underachievers Nick Fairley or Adam Carriker for Rodgers’ final seasons sounds like a steal. 

With negotiations between the Jets and Packers seemingly stalled over whether or not a trade for Rodgers should include the Jets’ first-round pick in the upcoming draft, measuring a 39-year-old four-time MVP’s value against that No. 13-overall pick is an inexact science. 

It won’t be clear until years from now whether the other half of the trade includes a Hall of Famer such as Gonzalez and Donald, another Fairley or Carriker, or a middle ground between those four former No. 13 picks. 

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers’ future remains uncertain.

“That, I think, could be the sticking point: The No. 13 pick this year as opposed to [the first-round pick] next year when the Jets figure to be in the playoffs and some are thinking maybe Super Bowl,” ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. said. “If you are Green Bay, you are thinking, next year’s [Jets’ first-rounder] is at No. 25-32. For Green Bay, also picking at No. 15, they want to be at No. 13 and No. 15. The Jets don’t want to give up No. 13. To me, that’s an offensive lineman.” 

Center is the biggest hole on the Jets’ offensive line, but no center has been drafted higher than No. 18 since 2002.

The Jets have offensive tackles Duane Brown, Mekhi Becton and Max Mitchell under contract, but all of them come with major questions. 

How much of the five-time Pro Bowler Brown’s decline is due to age (37) and how much was because he played through a torn rotator cuff last season?

Will the once-promising Becton stay healthy at his slimmed-down weight after he played just one game over the last two injury-plagued seasons?

Both Brown and Becton primarily are left tackles.

Is Mitchell ready for a bigger workload after he started five games in 2022 as a rookie? 

“If you get Aaron Rodgers without the offensive line improving, then [it’s counterproductive],” Kiper said. “You would prefer to have Aaron Rodgers with a young elite offensive lineman coming in. That’s why they are trying to work that all out.” 

Eight of the last 10 players who were drafted lucky No. 13 have made a Pro Bowl.

So, let’s clear up some trade ambiguity by linking names to the No. 13 pick: 

OT Paris Johnson Jr., Ohio State (6-foot-6, 313 pounds)

He started at right guard in 2021 and left tackle in 2022, allowing one quarterback hit on 925 career pass-blocking snaps, according to Pro Football Focus.

Paris Johnson Jr. works out at the NFL Combine.
Paris Johnson Jr. works out at the NFL Combine.

Pure power makes him “more of the prototypical left tackle/right tackle in the NFL” than Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski, who is seen as more of a short-armed guard, Kiper said. 

OT Broderick Jones, Georgia (6-5, 311)

The former basketball star moved his feet with athleticism unexpected at his size during 19 career starts at left tackle, including 15 without a sack allowed last season.

“He is kind of an offensive line coach’s dream,” Kiper said. 

DL Adetomiwa Adebawore, Northwestern (6-2, 282)

If the Jets pivot to replacing Sheldon Rankins and Nathan Shepherd and bolstering their eight-man defensive line rotation, “the guy that is red hot right now — I almost put him at No. 10 to Philadelphia is — is Adebawore,” Kiper said.

With edge and three-technique interior versatility, he had 12.5 sacks and six forced fumbles in 36 career games and ran the NFL Combine’s fastest 40-yard dash (4.49 seconds) by a 280-pounder since 2006. 

Adetomiwa Adebawore
Adetomiwa Adebawore could be in play at pick No. 13.

The Jets likely must evaluate if one of those talents is worth taking a hard line with the Packers on Rodgers.

If the Jets can’t convince the Packers to settle for a second-round pick, would they be able to fix their offensive line need with picks No. 42 (just acquired in the Elijah Moore trade) and No. 43 instead of No. 13?

Even if Syracuse’s fast-rising Matthew Bergeron, Tennessee’s Darnell Wright Jr. (who neutralized blue-chip prospect Will Anderson one-on-one) and Oklahoma’s slipping Anton Harrison are picked before No. 42, the answer is promising. 

Kiper listed Alabama’s Tyler Steen, BYU’s Blake Freeland, Oklahoma’s Wayna Morris as enticing mid-round options. 

“You can even go a little deeper than that in terms of offensive tackles who can play in this league for a long time,” he said. “You can find an offensive lineman down the road.” 

Rodgers is only looking for a ride just this once.

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Can the Defenders get to 6-0?

Can the Defenders get to 6-0?

We’re halfway through the regular season of the XFL, and the D.C. Defenders remain the only undefeated team heading into the only Monday night matchup this season.

The Defenders, who will take on the Houston Roughnecks to conclude Week 6’s slate of games, improved to 5-0 on Saturday after cornerback Michael Joseph intercepted St. Louis Battlehawks quarterback A.J McCarron with less than a minute remaining.

The Roughnecks will look to bounce back after their first loss last Thursday, falling 21-14 to the Seattle Sea Dragons. Their high-powered offense was stifled, as quarterback Brandon Silvers was sacked three times and intercepted once.

Week 6 will kick off Saturday with the lone winless team, the Orlando Guardians, looking to get off the snide against the Sea Dragons.

Here’s what to expect in Week 6, along with picks from ESPN sports betting insider Doug Kezirian. Betting lines are provided by Caesars Sportsbook.

Saturday 1 p.m., ET | ABC
Spread: SEA -8.5 (42)

The Sea Dragons secured their biggest win of the season last week over the previously undefeated Roughnecks despite quarterback Ben DiNucci throwing three interceptions by holding the Roughnecks to a season-low 14 points. DiNucci leads the XFL in passing yards (1,328), but has also thrown the most interceptions (seven). He’ll attempt to bounce back against the Guardians, who’s defense has struggled, allowing league-highs in passing touchdowns (12) and points per game (30), and whose offense has been outscored by 71 points.

Players to watch: The Sea Dragons’ receiver tandem of Jahcour Pearson (430 receiving yards) and Josh Gordon (297) continue to thrive, as both rank in the top five in receiving. Beyond the aerial attack, the Sea Dragons also have running back Morgan Ellison, who is third in rushing (254 yards). Even though the Guardians’ offense averages 16 points per game, third lowest in the league, quarterback Quinten Dormady threw for 256 yards and two touchdown passes while completing 88% of his passes in a 35-32 loss to the Vegas Vipers this past Saturday.

Kezirian’s pick: The market is not respecting Orlando’s presumed quarterback change and I believe that’s a mistake. Dormandy makes the winless Guardians much more competent offensively and I believe they can put up some points and keep this competitive. Guardians +9.5 and over 42.5

Saturday, 7 p.m., ET | FX, ESPN+
STL -3.0 (44)

Despite the 28-20 loss to the Defenders, the Battlehawks’ offense continues to roll – averaging 22 points per game, the third-most in the league. It’s all led by McCarron, who’s first in touchdown passes (11) and third in passing yards (1,086). But this week they look to stay above .500 against the Vipers, who earned their first win of the season last week against the Guardians. Quarterback Luis Perez led the way by throwing three touchdown passes. This could be a high-scoring matchup between teams whose defenses allow more than 21 points per game.

Players to watch: Perez is fourth in the XFL in passing yards (802) and touchdown passes (eight) and third in yards per attempt (7.9). The main recipient of Perez’s passing is wide receiver Jeff Badet, who is first in the league in touchdown receptions (five) and second in yards (341). The Battlehawks will need defensive back Nate Meadors, who is tied for third in interceptions (two), to step up to contain the Vipers’ passing attack.

Kezirian’s pick: Vegas is tied for the second-most touchdowns and has no issues on offense. The concern is defense and I believe McCarron and the Battlehawks should light up the Vipers. Over 44.5

Sunday, 3 p.m., ET | ABC, ESPN+
ARL -3.0 (33)

If the Renegades win this matchup it will give them a three-game separation from the Brahmas for the second playoff spot in the South Division. In their previous matchup just last week, the Renegades won 12-10, a low-scoring game that highlights both teams’ struggles to produce points. The Renegades average 13.8 points a game, fewest in the league, and the Brahmas average 14.8, the second fewest. And for the Renegades, they are the only team who haven’t scored more than 23 points in a game this season.

Players to watch: With both teams having low-scoring offenses, expect to see defensive players lead the way starting with Brahmas linebacker Jordan Williams, who leads the league in tackles (40). Renegades linebacker Donald Payne is second in tackles (38) and defensive back Joe Powell is tied for third in interceptions (two).

Kezirian’s pick: These two teams have scored the fewest touchdowns by a mile. Arlington is really limited offensively but Bob Stoops manages to keep the Renegades in close games. I expect a rock fight. Under 33

Monday, 7 p.m. ET | ESPN 2
Spread: DC -3.0 (42)

This matchup features both division leaders, as the Roughnecks lead the South and the Defenders top the North. Both are ranked in the top two in points, point differential, sacks and interceptions, but differ in their offensive approaches. The Roughnecks prefer scoring through the air, as Silvers is second in passing yards (1,189) and is tied for the most passing touchdowns (11). Meanwhile, the Defenders rely on their ground attack, as they’ve totaled 870 rushing yards, 404 more than the next-best team.

Players to watch: Defenders running back Abram Smith, the first pick in the XFL draft, has lived up to that status, leading the league with 432 rushing yards. Their offense often turns to quarterback D’Eriq King in goal-line situations, as he has five rushing touchdowns. In order to slow down the Defenders rushing offense, the Roughnecks are leaning on linebacker Trent Harris, who leads the league with six sacks and eight tackles for a loss. Harris’ running mate is defensive lineman Tim Ward, who’s tied for second in sacks (five). On the other side of the ball for Houston, Silver’s passing attack lost one of its best players, as receiver Jontre Kirklin suffered a season-ending injury in last Thursday’s loss. Fellow receivers Deontay Burnett and Travell Harris will be counted on to step up in Kirklin’s absence.

Kezirian’s pick: DC is the lone remaining undefeated team and has also covered every game. I expect that to continue against a Houston team that has shown some leaky defense lately. It’s a big game but I believe the Defenders are the top team. Defenders -2.5

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NFL Rumors: Tom Brady holds an Ace in Vegas, Stetson’s draft projection, and ex-Steelers defensive star comes home

NFL Rumors: Tom Brady holds an Ace in Vegas, Stetson’s draft projection, and ex-Steelers defensive star comes home

Stetson Bennett, Georgia, NFL rumors

Quarterback Stetson Bennett of Georgia. (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Another batch of NFL rumors surround Tom Brady’s very real interest in Las Vegas, Stetson Bennett’s draft projection, and a former Steelers defender finally coming home.

No rumors about Aaron Rodgers today! Hooray! Unfortunately, there are plenty about another of the NFL’s most popular speculation-mongering men, and he doesn’t even play football anymore: the incomparable Tom Brady.

You’ve heard about his thirst traps. You’ve heard him discuss his future at length and even announce the very public adoption of a kitten. You’ve also probably heard the rumors that continue to connect him to the Miami Dolphins, New England Patriots, and Las Vegas Raiders. Out of all those teams, it seems like Brady’s interest in one of them was serious, and he could even be headed there in the far, far future.

As Brady continues to enjoy the retired life, a young prospect could be getting his start in the league soon and gets a 2023 NFL Draft projection from the Brady of mocks, Mel Kiper. And finally, could this Steelers free agent be on his way home this offseason?

Here are the three biggest NFL rumors from today.

NFL Rumors: Stetson Bennett projected to go “4th to 6th round” in NFL Draft

Georgia Bulldogs quarterback Stetson Bennett has one of the most uncertain futures of any quarterback in the 2023 NFL Draft, and top draft authority Mel Kiper is here to give his thoughts on the matter.

In a recent interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kiper said he believes Bennett ranks anywhere between “the sixth and eighth quarterbacks.” Per most pundits, Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker ranks as the fifth-highest rated quarterback after the big four (Young, Stroud, Richardson, Levis), yet one could make an argument for Bennett being fifth, too.

After the first tier of quarterback prospects, Hooker and Bennett belong in a group alongside Stanford’s Tanner McKee and BYU’s Jalen Hall as not-immediate-starters and Day 3 picks.

Bennett’s stock dropped earlier this month when he was arrested for public intoxication, but the Bulldog got in a solid showing at the NFL Combine and reassured prospective teams about his moral character.

Kiper’s projection of Bennett as a fourth to sixth-round pick lines up with recent history: in last year’s draft, the top prospect was Kenny Pickett, who got taken off the board in the first round.

The next three, Desmond Ridder, Malik Ridder, and Matt Corral, were selected in the third round. By the time the fifth and sixth quarterbacks were taken, it was late in the fourth round and in the fifth round.

Which team will make a surprising move for Bennett in 2023? It can’t be any more shocking than Bill Belichick picking Bailey Zappe last draft.

Bennett ran an efficient offense for Georgia last season, has the physical measurables to succeed (big hand size, above average 40-yard time), and could develop into a NFL starter in a few years’ time. As it stands, he’s firmly Day 3 material.

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