The Eagles, Jets and the Seahawks all appear to have better days ahead of them on defense. Each team racked up more than 100 QB hits in 2018. But they also experienced bad fortune, converting their hits into sacks at a rate below what we’d expect. If these teams generate similar pressure next season, we shouldn’t be surprised to see their sack totals rise just based on reversion to the mean. Meanwhile, Chicago, New Orleans and Kansas City experienced good fortune in 2018, converting their QB hits at a rate higher than we’d expect. Assuming the defensive lines return largely intact, we probably shouldn’t be surprised to see their sack totals dip next season.Stats like QB hits are rare to find on defense. And because of the high variance in defensive performance, teams built with a defense-first mindset end up controlling their own destinies less than we might expect. When it comes to team-building, this suggests that investments on offense are better long-term bets for stability. The results this year are particularly encouraging. Lighting up scoreboards by focusing on scoring points instead of preventing them has proved to be both successful and incredibly entertaining to watch. For this season at least, defense isn’t winning anyone a championship.Check out our latest NFL predictions. Minnesota864937.4+11.6– Teamqb hitsSacksexpected sacksDifference Fumbles1.6 Tennessee803934.8+4.2– Yet despite their clear importance, the number of turnovers a team creates in one season has no bearing on how many turnovers the team will create in the next. Both interceptions and fumbles are completely unpredictable from season to season at the team level. And this pattern holds true for defense in general. If we measure the stability of defensive stats from one year to the next,3Stability measures tell us how well a stat predicts itself over a period of time. Year-over-year r-squared of a metric tells us what percentage future performance, or variance, can be explained by past performance. we find that compared with offensive performance, most defensive stats are highly variable from year to year. L.A. Chargers773833.5+4.5– Defensive passing DVOA10.0 Source: Football Outsiders Jacksonville903739.1-2.1– Oakland481320.9-7.9– Sacks3.6 metricShare predicted Pittsburgh1105247.9+4.1– San Francisco853737.0+0.0 Dallas923940.0-1.0– Kansas City1015243.9+8.1– New Orleans954941.3+7.7– Seattle1054345.7-2.7– Philadelphia1234453.5-9.5– Detroit744332.2+10.8– Philadelphia led the league in QB hits but not sacksTotal quarterback hits, sacks and expected sacks for teams’ defensive lines in the regular season, 2018 Offensive rushing DVOA9.7 Cincinnati803434.8-0.8– L.A. Rams994143.1-2.1– Tampa Bay883838.3-0.3– Arizona834936.1+12.9– Houston864337.4+5.6– Interceptions2.4 Denver864437.4+6.6– Washington914639.6+6.4– N.Y. Giants813035.2-5.2– Defensive performance is unpredictableShare of performance across various team-level metrics predicted by the previous season’s performance in the regular season, 2009-2018 High-impact plays on defense turn out to be the least predictable. And while we’re by no means great at identifying which teams will succeed on offense, offensive DVOA is about twice as good at forecasting future performance as defensive DVOA.4Based on data from 2009 to 2018.For teams like the Chicago Bears, who won 12 games despite fielding the 20th best offense in the NFL, this has major ramifications. The Bears were third in the league in turnover margin and third in sacks — feats we shouldn’t expect to repeat based solely on this season’s results. (Just ask the Jags.) Casting even more doubt on their ability to field an elite defense in back-to-back years, Chicago also lost its defensive coordinator, Vic Fangio, who left to become the head coach in Denver, further destabilizing the strength of the team.Still there is some hope for lovers of the three-and-out. While rare, there are plays a defense makes that do tend to carry over from year to year. One of the most stable defensive stats is hits on the quarterback, which has a relatively impressive year-to-year r-squared of 0.21 — better even than total offensive DVOA, which is the gold standard for stability in team metrics. Quarterback hits include sacks — 43.5 percent of QB hits end in a sack, and those by themselves tend to not be predictive — but also plays in which the passer is contacted after the pass is thrown, and that contact is incredibly disruptive to a passing offense. We shouldn’t be surprised that great offensive teams have made it this far. Teams are more reliably good — and bad — from game to game and year to year on offense than on defense. Individual defenders often have wild swings in performance from season to season, and defensive units forecast to be dominant often end up being merely average. The Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense took them as far as the AFC championship a year ago, but that same defense led them to five wins this season. Meanwhile, performance on offense is generally easier to forecast, making investments on that side of the ball more reliable.Even then, football is largely unpredictable. When an otherwise sure-handed Alshon Jeffery2According to Pro Football Focus, Jeffery had just five drops for the season on 70 catchable targets. lets a well-thrown Nick Foles pass sail through his fingers for an interception to end the Eagles season, or when Cody Parkey double-doinks a partially blocked field goal to end the Bears’ playoff hopes, we are essentially cheering, or bemoaning, randomness. Most vexing for forecasters and league observers trying to make sense of things is that the plays that matter the most in football are often the most unpredictable. But again, this is particularly true on the defensive side of the ball.Turnover margin is the canonical example. Teams that win the turnover battle go on to win their games at a very high rate. Home teams win about 73 percent of their games when they are plus-1 in turnover differential, according to data from ESPN’s Stats & Information Group, and the home team win rate climbs to more than 86 percent when it’s plus-2 or better. Buffalo833636.1-0.1– Offensive passing DVOA18.8 Total defensive DVOA9.7 Baltimore964341.8+1.2– Defensive rushing DVOA8.3 Total offensive DVOA18.9% When a quarterback is hit, his completion percentage is affected on a throw to any part of the field.5When the hit isn’t a sack, obviously. Teams that can generate pressure that ends with contact on the opposing QB greatly improve their chances of causing incompletions and getting off the field. And best of all, teams that are good at generating hits on the quarterback tend to stay good at it. Indianapolis743832.2+5.8– New England933040.5-10.5– N.Y. Jets1093947.4-8.4– Atlanta733731.8+5.2– Cleveland833736.1+0.9– In an NFL season marked by historic offensive production and a championship round that was conspicuously absent a top-10 defense,1According to Football Outsiders’ defensive Defense-adjusted Value Over Average. aficionados of low-scoring rock fights, filled with punts and field goals, have been left disappointed. The best defensive teams to make the playoffs were eliminated early in the tournament, with the Bears, Ravens and Texans all losing in the wild-card round. A week later, Joey Bosa and the emerging Chargers defense were dismantled by the Patriots, and the Cowboys — perhaps the best defensive team left in the divisional round based on their end-of-season play — lost to the Rams. Extracting the strong defensive teams with relatively weak offenses led to historically exciting playoff football, producing two overtime games in the championship round for the first time in NFL history. Now we have a Patriots and Rams Super Bowl pitting perhaps the greatest QB of all time in Tom Brady against the hottest young offensive mind in the league in Sean McVay. Green Bay714330.9+12.1– Carolina683529.6+5.4– Chicago954941.3+7.7– Show more rowsSources: NFL, Elias Sports Bureau Miami733131.8-0.8–
Even if we hedge on Taurasi, who currently plans to come back in the second half of the season after missing 10 to 12 weeks of action, the resulting 24.5-win tally would rank fifth-highest in WNBA history before accounting for any of the additional players who will inevitably join the ranks of the absent as the season goes on. (Diggins also plans to return from her pregnancy leave before season’s end.)The season structure of women’s pro basketball — including the year-round overseas grind that stars must engage in to make money — probably has contributed to the WNBA’s problems this spring. With so much mileage being put on top players’ bodies, a nightmare offseason like this was bound to happen sooner or later.But if there is a silver lining for the WNBA (and there isn’t much of one when considering the prospect of a season spent without players of Moore’s or Stewart’s caliber), it’s that the WNBA draws from an exceptionally deep pool of talent. With only 12 teams in the league and an entire world of basketball players to pull from, it might be the most competitive sports league on the planet — at least in terms of the likelihood that any given youth player actually makes the highest level of the sport.My colleague Ben Morris wrote a few years ago about this depth of talent in women’s basketball. He found that for every player who makes a Division I college roster, there are 87 high school players participating in girl’s basketball across the U.S. The only sport whose rosters were more competitive was men’s basketball, in which 101 high schoolers participate for every player who manages to make a Division I team.And, again, that was framed in terms of college basketball. Relative to the number of roster slots available in the WNBA, the amount of talent swimming in the pool becomes even more staggering. When it was announced this week that Seattle Storm point guard Sue Bird would miss the 2019 WNBA season with a knee injury, it was just the latest in a long line of maladies that have struck the league this year. In addition to Bird, the sport has seen absences take out her teammate Breanna Stewart (reigning WNBA MVP), 2014 MVP Maya Moore of Minnesota,1Who is taking a season-long sabbatical from the game for personal reasons. Atlanta’s Angel McCoughtry, Dallas’s Skylar Diggins-Smith,2Who gave birth to a son in April. Indiana’s Victoria Vivians, Las Vegas’s Lindsay Allen and Phoenix’s Diana Taurasi for either all or most of the 2019 season.It’s a shocking and unprecedented spate of missing stars that figures to drastically change the championship picture for multiple teams, including — probably first and foremost — the Storm, who won the 2018 WNBA title based on huge contributions from Stewart and Bird. Together, the players listed above generated 30.5 wins last season according to Wins Created — a combination of Basketball-Reference.com’s Win Shares and the Player Efficiency Rating-based Estimated Wins Added metric.3Specifically, I converted EWA to the same scale as Win Shares across each league season. Then I averaged the two wins metrics together, with WS (a superior metric) getting triple the weight. If all of them do miss the whole year, it would represent the most wins from any single season that were then completely removed from the WNBA ecosystem in the next: In the 2018 season, 157 players suited up for one of the WNBA’s 12 teams. According to an updated version of the same data set Morris used, there were 412,407 girls basketball players in U.S. high schools during the 2017-18 season — meaning there were about 2,627 high school girls playing basketball for every roster slot available in the (American) pros. By comparison, over the same span, there were 540 NBA players and 551,373 participating boys basketball players — or 1,021 for every top-level pro roster slot.By this accounting, it’s more than two and a half times easier (!) for the typical U.S. boys basketball player to make the NBA than it is for his counterpart in girls basketball to make the WNBA. Even if you grant the presence of extra roster slots available overseas,4While virtually none of the top American men’s players play in overseas leagues, many of the top women do, complicating the comparison some. However, the seasons are offset from each other, allowing stars to play in both America and abroad, and the WNBA is still widely considered the top women’s league in the world, so the competition for WNBA roster slots is still drawing from the player pool in roughly the same manner as on the men’s side. the amount of untapped talent in women’s basketball is mind-boggling.That depth of talent won’t necessarily be able to easily replace all of the stars who’ll be missing this season’s WNBA action. But it does mean there are more opportunities than ever for players in the next tier to showcase their skills. And that could be a good thing — because as the numbers show, the WNBA (perhaps more so than any other sport) has a group of unheralded players waiting in the wings, ready to take advantage of the chance.
The top two men’s tennis players in the world are competing this weekend in India for the first time. What they’ll find there is one of their sport’s biggest fan bases.Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are playing in the International Premier Tennis League, a team-based competition outside the main pro tours that debuted last week. Most players are treating the IPTL as an offseason exhibition, though the winning team splits a $1 million prize. The league spends three days in each of its four host cities. Next up, starting Saturday: New Delhi, the capital of the world’s second most populous country, which is a surprising tennis hotbed.India’s tennis love is surprising because the country has no player ranked in the Top 100 in men’s or women’s singles. It also has no event on the main women’s tour and just one on the men’s, at its lowest rung, in Chennai. But India does have a strong tennis tradition, including reaching three Davis Cup finals. Also, several highly ranked doubles players in the men’s and women’s game are Indian. “For Indians, Wimbledon is one of the biggest sporting events — not just tennis events — of the year,” IPTL founder Mahesh Bhupathi, a retired 12-time Grand Slam champ from Bangalore, told CNN.To measure tennis fandom in India, I checked with Socialbakers, a company that analyzes social media followings. The company supplied the percentage of players’ Facebook fans who are from India. (It doesn’t yet do the same for Twitter followers, such as those who gleefully answered Federer’s call for India-themed Photoshop jobs of his image.) Of Federer’s nearly 14.8 million Facebook fans as of Sunday, 13.9 percent are from India. That’s nearly double the Swiss star’s second biggest fanbase, in the U.S. Djokovic’s biggest stronghold is his native Serbia, but India ranks second, with 7.7 percent of his fan base.India has a natural advantage in its population, the second largest in the world behind China; and in its share of Facebook users, the second largest in the world behind the U.S. Yet other sports’ stars don’t rely nearly as heavily on India to make up their Facebook fan base. Socialbakers counts 19 soccer players with more Facebook fans than Federer. None has as many as 7 percent of their fans in India, and just five of the 19 have more Facebook fans in India than Federer.Socialbakers compiled the number and share of Facebook fans for a list I provided of 66 athletes from 17 sports (if WWE counts as a sport) — the 30 with the most Facebook fans, and a selected group of the highest-ranking athletes from various other sports. Two Indian stars of cricket, the national sport, rank in the top 20, with most of their fans from India. Otherwise, tennis is near the top. Only the WWE, with two Top 30 representatives, and track’s Usain Bolt top the 16 non-Indian tennis players we checked for share of Facebook fans from India. On average, 7.6 percent of the tennis players’ fans are from India — well ahead of soccer (3.7 percent), golf (3 percent), boxing (1.7 percent), the NBA (1.2 percent), the NFL, MLB, the NHL and NASCAR (all less than 1 percent).Non-Indian tennis stars’ share of Indian Facebook fans is nearly as high as the percentage of Facebook users who are in India — impressive for a country that, before this weekend, rarely hosted the game’s very best.
… 121Roger Clemens9/21/98TORBAL817153080.5 4Pedro Martinez9/10/99BOSNYY9111701103.2 39Max Scherzer5/11/16WSNDET92024.78.2+11.8 On Wednesday night, Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals mowed down the Detroit Tigers’ lineup for 20 strikeouts. It was just the sixth time any pitcher had struck out that many batters in a game since 1913. (Or the fifth time if you only count 9-inning games — sorry, Tom Cheney.) Scherzer’s accomplishment was historic — and historically weird, too.Scherzer also gave up two home runs in the game. That means that his performance would be considered good, but not necessarily great, by single-game starting-pitcher metrics like Bill James’s game score, or the custom variant we use in our own Elo rating algorithm. Our ratings even adjust for the quality of competition a pitcher faces, and they still rank Scherzer’s gem 119th among the 212 9-inning games with 15 or more strikeouts since 1913. 15+ strikeout games ranked by FiveThirtyEight game score PLAYERDATETEAMOPPIPSOOPP. SO%EXP. SODIFF. However, for all the ways in which Scherzer’s 20-K game was strange and perhaps less impressive than it seemed at first glance, his command of the strike zone was impeccable. He didn’t walk a batter, and although he gave up six hits and two home runs, Deadspin’s Tom Ley makes the great point that those blemishes were a product of aggressive pitching. Scherzer threw a ton of strikes — only 23 of his 119 pitches failed to find the zone — and that’s the game plan of somebody who’s challenging batters to hit his stuff. Some of them did, but most were sent back to the dugout shaking their heads.It had been a long time since the last 20-K game, and the game has changed a lot since Randy Johnson struck out 20 Cincinnati Reds in 2001. Modern pitch-counting managers won’t let today’s versions of Roger Clemens stick around for 151 pitches, for instance. So maybe Scherzer’s combative plan is the new path to huge strikeout games — even if that means they aren’t as statistically impressive as similar outings from the past. 37Johan Santana8/19/07MINTEX81719.75.1+11.9 5Nolan Ryan8/12/74CALBOS91913.14.7+14.3 119Max Scherzer5/11/16WSNDET926200281.1 38Dazzy Vance5/2/23BRONYG10156.73.1+11.9 4Ron Guidry6/17/78NYYCAL91811.03.6+14.4 RKPITCHERDATETEAMOPPIPRHSOBBHRGAME SCORE 15+ strikeout games only, 1913-2016Source: Baseball-Reference, FanGraphs (As measured by game score, Scherzer’s no-hitter over the Mets last October — his second no-hitter of 2015 alone — was a far more impressive accomplishment.)Scherzer also threw his 20 Ks in an era when strikeouts are more common. So far this season, Tiger batters have struck out in nearly a quarter of their plate appearances, fourth-most in MLB. Based on that number and the fact that Scherzer faced 33 Tigers Wednesday, we’d have expected an average pitcher to sit down 8.2 Tigers on strikes, meaning Scherzer struck out 11.8 more batters than expected. Among historical 15+ K games, that number also ranks surprisingly low, checking in at No. 39 since 1913: 3Erik Bedard7/7/07BALTEX9021500104.6 5Max Scherzer10/3/15WSNNYM9001700103.0 Source: Baseball-Reference.com 3Roger Clemens4/29/86BOSSEA92018.65.6+14.4 1Kerry Wood5/6/98CHCHOU9012000110.4 2Pedro Martinez5/12/00BOSBAL9021500105.4 120Dwight Gooden9/17/84NYMPHI827160080.8 … 1Kerry Wood5/6/98CHCHOU92017.4%5.0+15.0 40Nolan Ryan8/18/76CALDET101712.15.2+11.8 2Randy Johnson5/8/01ARICIN92018.85.5+14.5 41Van Mungo9/29/35BROPHI91511.13.2+11.8 118Jason Schmidt6/6/06SFGFLA917161181.2 Strikeouts above expectation, ranked 117Nolan Ryan8/12/74CALBOS927192081.4
The San Antonio Spurs lost Game 1 of their Western Conference semifinals series to the Rockets by 27 points. Then they lost veteran point guard Tony Parker for the remainder of the playoffs. In overtime of Game 5, emerging superstar Kawhi Leonard was forced to the bench with an injury, one that would keep him out of Game 6. This sequence of events would be too much for almost any basketball team to overcome in the span of a seven-game series.Unless that team is the San Antonio Spurs, of course, who on Thursday earned a Western Conference finals showdown with Golden State with a 39-point romp over Houston — on the road no less.Game 6 highlighted something that has been clear for a while now: The Spurs are the great chameleon of pro sports and have shown themselves to be capable of navigating just about any scenario thrown their way.After being bludgeoned by a barrage of 3-pointers in Game 1, coach Gregg Popovich and the Spurs began defending James Harden’s pick-and-rolls far differently in Game 2, refusing to give the MVP candidate one-on-one looks around the basket even if it meant leaving certain shooters open. And while San Antonio deserves credit for largely staying faithful to its more traditional 2-big lineups involving LaMarcus Aldridge and Pau Gasol in this series, the team’s ability to go small — even without Parker or Leonard available — essentially delivered the knockout blow in Game 6.Guards Patty Mills, Dejounte Murray, Jonathon Simmons, Kyle Anderson and forward David Lee — who before the game had played together as a five-man unit for a grand total of zero seconds — went on a 13-0 run in less than three minutes during the second quarter. The Spurs, who used the streak to build an 18-point edge, shot 5-of-6 during that span. The Rockets went 0-of-4.And while Harden looked awful and not like himself Thursday, ample credit belongs to the Spurs for their defensive showing. At times, they smothered Houston with hard close-outs. According to SportVU, the Spurs moved at an average of 3.94 mph on defense in Game 6, 10 percent faster than they did in Game 5.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/incrediblehustle.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/spurshustle2.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Given Parker’s advanced age and declining play, some might downplay his injury and the impact it has on San Antonio. But consider this (putting aside that Parker had begun to play better just before the injury): The Spurs were at their best when Parker played well this season. San Antonio won 80 percent of Parker’s 25 best games of the year.1According to Basketball-Reference.com’s Game Score, which is calculated by taking into account a player’s box-score metrics.That San Antonio would be without him and Leonard in Game 6 understandably raised concerns about how the Spurs would get to the basket. After all, until Parker was injured, the duo had been combining for nearly 21 drives to the basket per game in the playoffs, according to SportVU. The other guards on the roster were combining for just under 11 drives a game.As it turns out, San Antonio may have been better equipped to rely on its bench than nearly any other elite team in NBA history. In all, 11 different Spurs logged at least 1,000 minutes this season, making the club the first 60-win team to play that many people for that amount of time, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Popovich, who used 27 different starting lineups this season, has long been known for his preference to rest his players when possible — even relatively young ones. The Spurs went 7-1 this past season when Leonard sat out.Playing without Leonard, who has grown increasingly reliant on isolation looks, allowed San Antonio to go back to the style of play it had become known for: dumping the ball down into the post, swinging it and finding the open man. Nearly 63 percent of the Spurs’ baskets on Thursday stemmed from an assist, a rate that would rank third among playoff teams. Before Game 6, the team’s 50 percent assist mark ranked 15th among the 16 clubs that reached the playoffs.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/machinelikebench.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Video Playerhttps://fivethirtyeight.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/spursmachine.mp400:0000:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.This is the franchise’s hallmark and the reason it’s reached the postseason for 20 consecutive years. San Antonio has always excelled at adapting over time. After the team found initial success with two Hall-of-Fame caliber big men, it didn’t hesitate to structure more of the team’s offense around a pair of penetrating perimeter players as the league’s rules changed2Aside from doing away with handchecking completely, the league more heavily emphasized defensive three-second violations, which is when a defensive player is whistled for standing in the paint for three seconds or more at a time without guarding anyone. The threat of being called for this opened up the paint for smaller guards. These changes took place in 2004. and David Robinson retired. When the NBA became enamored with hero ball, the Spurs eschewed that trend, opting to beat teams into the ground with beautiful, elite-level passing, which left defenses unable to keep up.3The Spurs passed the ball nearly 95 times more per game than LeBron James and the Miami Heat during the 2014 NBA Finals. Ironically, this version of the Spurs — a team that has a clear go-to guy and a couple of outside free-agent signings and is mortal in the sense that it’s finally dealing with key injuries — might be the most “normal” team we’ve seen in San Antonio in quite some time.It’s too soon to know whether any of this will ultimately matter against the Warriors, whose vastly superior roster figures to deliver an entirely different set of challenges than Houston’s did. But by now, one thing is clear: Don’t count out the Spurs. Because they seem to play best when they’re forced out of their comfort zone.Check out our latest NBA predictions.
PSU senior forward Brandon Taylor (10) tries to break past OSU freshman forward Mickey Mitchell (00) during a game in the Big Ten tournament on March 10 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Credit: Samantha Hollingshead | Photo Editor INDIANAPOLIS – It wasn’t pretty, but it didn’t need to be. In the month of March, synonymous with the adage of “survive and advance,” the Ohio State men’s basketball team did just that.The seventh-seeded Buckeyes (20-12, 11-7) found themselves in a dogfight heading into the final few minutes, but they did just enough to outlast the 10th-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions (16-16, 7-11) by a 79-75 score to move on to the Big Ten quarterfinals against second-seeded Michigan State.“We got this one out of the way, we got what we came for, but we didn’t play as well as we wanted to,” said OSU coach Thad Matta.OSU scored 54 of the final 94 points to withstand an early Penn State shooting barrage and grab the victory. Junior forward Marc Loving came up big for the Buckeyes with 24 points, while freshman guard JaQuan Lyle contributed 22 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.“Loving’s been playing great, we knew that coming in … Lyle, I thought one on one really hurt us,” said Penn State coach Pat Chambers. “Then we’re trying not to foul, and I thought we lost our aggressiveness because we were in foul trouble most of the day.”Trailing by as many as 10 points in the first half, the Buckeyes clamped down defensively in a big way, holding Penn State to just 37.5 percent shooting over the final 20 minutes.“We knew what the problem was (in the first half),” Matta said. “We weren’t playing hard enough defensively, we weren’t helping each other.”Only one of OSU’s first eight shot attempts were from 3-point range. The Buckeyes made it a point of emphasis to go inside early, with their starting center, redshirt sophomore Trevor Thompson, taking four shot attempts in the early minutes. He hit only one of them, as OSU went into the first timeout trailing 10-8.Still, OSU did not give up on its attempts to use its height advantage to take care of the Nittany Lions and eventually found some results, including a stretch of four straight successful field goals.While the Buckeyes climbed toward 50 percent shooting on the inside, however, Penn State could not miss from further away.A 10-0 run, accentuated by a 3-pointer from senior forward Brandon Taylor — his third of the half — pushed the Nittany Lions ahead 25-18. Penn State began the game 7-of-11 from 3-point territory, while OSU did not hit its first outside shot until the 1:31 mark in the first half on its fifth attempt.“Penn State, those guys were fighting for their lives, and (Chambers) did an incredible job,” Matta said.Things did not get any better for the Scarlet and Gray later in the first half when those inside shots, which for a brief time were dropping, ceased to do so. OSU went on a 2-of-9 stretch, during which time Penn State hit four more triples to help open up a 35-25 lead with four minutes left before the break.However, with the help of seven free throws — of which OSU hit four — and a transition layup over the next two minutes, the Buckeyes cut the deficit to four points. A 3-pointer by junior forward Marc Loving then cut it to one, but Penn State snapped OSU’s 9-0 run with a jumper.A few OSU jump shots fell by the wayside before the horn, sending the teams into the locker rooms with a 37-34 Penn State lead.Penn State shot 52 percent in the first half to OSU’s 35 percent, but the Buckeyes’ 17-5 lead in free-throw attempts was a major reason for the three-point margin. OSU also led 20-10 in points in the paint, though Loving, mostly an outside threat, led the first half with 13 points. Taylor and sophomore guard Shep Garner each had 12 for the Nittany Lions.The higher-seeded Buckeyes wasted no time showing they were not going down lightly despite the halftime deficit.“Penn State was hitting a lot of tough shots, especially in the first half … so in the second half, we were just trying to make them uncomfortable, and make them take as tough a shot as possible,” Loving said. “They still got some to go in, but I felt like we did a pretty good job.”A layup plus a foul by freshman guard JaQuan Lyle cut Penn State’s lead back to two points after a Taylor jumper, then a 3-pointer by Loving put the Buckeyes ahead. Two free throws followed, then Loving connected again from the outside, giving OSU a 45-39 lead just three minutes into the second half.Another 3-pointer, this time by sophomore forward Keita Bates-Diop, gave OSU its largest lead of the game of nine points. At that point, however, Chambers’ squad snapped back into form, rattling off six straight points to keep the game in reach.The offenses flipped around from their first-half trends, as the basket closest to Penn State’s bench remained the one where the bulk of the efficient scoring happened. OSU hit seven of its first 11 shots in the second half, while Penn State, which was 7-of-12 from deep in the first half, missed its first six attempts from outside. It finished the second half just 2-of-10 from downtown.Still, Garner was quick to dismiss OSU’s zone defense in the second half, instead chalking it up to his team simply not connecting on its looks.“I don’t think they did anything different,” he said. “I just think we had to attack them off the dribble more in the second half.”Regardless, the Nittany Lions kept the score close despite the offensive discrepancies, just as OSU did in the first half. At the halfway point of the second stanza, the scores were four points apart at 56-52 in favor of the Buckeyes.And so the teams kept matching each other over the next several minutes. When OSU scored, Penn State answered. When the Nittany Lions went cold, the Buckeyes were unable to take advantage.Little by little though, Penn State grinded the score tighter and tighter, until a pair of free throws by Garner gave the Nittany Lions their first lead since the 18:11 mark in the half.Loving split a pair of free throws to knot the game up at 67, giving the fans of both teams at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse a cue to buckle up for the final few minutes. However, that wild ride quickly turned into a pleasant cruise for the Scarlet and Gray faithful, as OSU scored nine of the next 12 points to snag the second-round win.“We got some stops down the stretch, then made our free throws,” Matta said.“Knocking down the majority of our free throws was the biggest thing.”Garner, Taylor and senior forward Donovon Jack did much of the heavy lifting for the Nittany Lions, scoring all but 18 of their points. Garner led the charge with 25.OSU’s reward for the victory is a quarterfinal matchup with Michigan State, which easily handled the Buckeyes twice in the last few weeks. Tipoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Friday.
Less than 24 hours after news broke that redshirt-senior running back Rod Smith had been dismissed from the Ohio State football team, coach Urban Meyer closed the door on a potential return to the team during the Big Ten teleconference.Meyer also addressed the College Football Playoff rankings — which are set to be released Tuesday at 7 p.m. — and talked about the status of redshirt-freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett, who he said suffered a sprained MCL against Penn State over the weekend.Rod Smith Updates:Just a matter of minutes before going on the teleconference, Meyer released a statement regarding Smith’s departure from the team: “Rod Smith has left the Ohio State football team in order to deal with some personal issues. We will continue to support Rod and we wish him the best.”When asked if Smith could potentially return to the Buckeyes, Meyer said “no.” He added Smith will stay on scholarship and said he is on track to graduate in the summer.Meyer said Smith has “had issues really since he’s been at Ohio State…It is disappointing, but we wish him well.”He said the rest of the running backs “just gotta stay healthy” without Smith in the lineup. Meyer added redshirt-sophomore running backs Bri’onte Dunn and Warren Ball are players who might have to make bigger contributions.College Football PlayoffsMeyer said he plans to look at the rankings tomorrow, but said he won’t watch the selection show tonight due to practice. “Tonight’s a heavy gameplan night, so I won’t watch it,” he said.He said he hasn’t kept a close eye on the process, added he doesn’t think there’s much difference from the BCS rankings, just “four teams instead of two teams.”Meyer said he has not spoken with the people involved with the process about how the College Football Playoff selection will work.J.T. Barrett UpdatesMeyer said he wrote a note to Barrett’s parents with some DVDs of their son playing. “I think those ought to go in a shoebox somewhere,” he said.He said Barrett is “just a very serious guy who handles his business on and off the field.”He said he knows Barrett now, but didn’t a year and a half ago.Meyer on Barrett’s play against Penn State on Saturday: “It was a tough gritty performance, it wasn’t a great performance.”Meyer said Barrett is “getting treatment, and he’s gonna play.”He added he’ll “know more today” and said the trainers told him Barrett will be “somewhat limited today and full go tomorrow, on Wednesday.”The Buckeyes are scheduled to return to the field on Saturday against Illinois at Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.
OSU junior defensive end Tyquan Lewis (59) takes his position during their game on Nov. 19, 2016 at Spartan Stadium. The Buckeyes won 17-16. Credit: Mason Swires | Former Assistant Photo EditorExpectations for this upcoming season are high for a trio of Ohio State linemen who were selected to preseason award watch lists.OSU will look for its second Rimington Trophy award-winner in a row as redshirt senior center Billy Price was named on the award’s watch list. He is one of 63 centers to be selected to the watch list, including seven who play for Big Ten schools.Price was named to a 2016 first-team All-American as a guard and will be transitioning to center in the fall. Former OSU center Pat Elflein was awarded the 2016 Rimington Trophy. The prior year, he also played guard.On the other side of the ball, junior defensive end Sam Hubbard and redshirt senior defensive end Tyquan Lewis were two of the 42 players named to the Lott IMPACT Trophy watch list.In 2016, Lewis picked up eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and was named the Big Ten defensive lineman of the year. Hubbard tallied 3.5 sacks, eight tackles for loss and was an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection last season.OSU is one of four schools – along with Penn State, USC and Virginia – to have two players nominated for the Lott IMPACT Trophy.In the previous two seasons, players from Big Ten schools – Michigan safety Jabrill Peppers in 2016 and Penn State defensive end Carl Nassib in 2015 – won the trophy. Former OSU linebacker James Laurinaitis won the award in 2008 and is the only former Buckeye to win the trophy.
A “killer clown” craze is sweeping Britain, with police warning people against dressing as clowns in order to intimidate or harm people.Now, the craze has taken a change for the strange in Cumbria, where a man is dressing as Batman and vowing to chase down the creepy clowns.A photograph has been shared on Facebook of “Batman” seemingly chasing off a “killer clown”.BBC Cumbria reported local company Cumbria Superheroes is behind the effort to rid the streets of clowns.They have reassured that the costumed man is not a vigilante, but just trying to reassure local children who are scared of the “killer clowns”. A Facebook message apparently from a local child to BatmanCredit:Facebook/BBC Cumbria BBC Cumbria also shared a screenshot of an image, apparently from a local child, who was reassured after hearing “Batman” caught the clown.It says: “Hi Batman, my name is xxx. I have been scared of this clown situation (school told us about it yesterday). I seen on my mammy fb [Facebook] that you caught the clown.”This means I can go to school and not be scared, thank you for your efforts”.One police force in Britain had to deal with 14 clown-related incidents in 24 hours, and police forces across the country have warned that incidents are accelerating.Nigel Adams, the Tory MP for Selby and Ainsty, told The Daily Telegraph: “Hollywood has taken a sinister turn with its interpretation of the clown in recent years and if this is in turn coming onto our streets, where people are dressing up to intimidate members of the public, then clearly this needs some thought.” Shaneice Price, 22, from Bloxwich, in Walsall, posted footage on Twitter of a red-haired clown who she claims tried to get into her car on Sunday.In another incident, George Birkbeck said he spotted a sinister figure holding a hammer in a Tesco car park in Plymouth on Friday. The clown was dressed as Batman’s Joker character and ran off after Mr Birkbeck brandished a beer bottle at him. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings.
Civil rights activist Darcus Howe has died aged 74, his biographer has said.The writer and presenter campaigned for black rights for more than 50 years, wrote for various publications and is praised for having brought a “radical voice”.His biographer Robin Bunce said Mr Howe died peacefully in his sleep on Saturday, adding that Mr Howe’s wife Leila Hassan confirmed the news. Darcus Howe was 74Credit: ITV/REX/Shutterstock So sad to learn of death of Darcus Howe, anti-racist campaigner never afraid to challenge police racism & corruption, publisher & writer RIP— Claudia Webbe (@ClaudiaWebbe) April 2, 2017 The activist, who was a member of the British Black Panthers, also worked in broadcasting, doing work for the BBC and Channel 4.The Voice newspaper tweeted: “We regret to inform you that respected journalist, activist & former @TheVoiceNews columnist £DarcusHowe has died. May he rest in peace.”MP Diane Abbott tweeted: “So sad to hear that Darcus Howe has passed away. One of the standout activists & public intellectuals of his generation.”MP Helen Hayes tweeted: “Sad to hear of the passing of Darcus Howe, great loss to Brixton & to the cause of equality and human rights RIP.” Sad to hear Darcus Howe has died. He was a courageous campaigner against injustice and for equality and civil liberties over decades.— John McDonnell MP (@johnmcdonnellMP) April 2, 2017 Dr Bunce, a historian at Homerton College at the University of Cambridge, told the Press Association: “On a personal level, Darcus was enormously warm and generous and he loved life.”It was a real privilege to get to know him.”Dr Bunce, who co-wrote the biography – Renegade: The Life and Times of Darcus Howe – with Paul Field, hailed Mr Howe’s “grass roots activism” in the 1970s and 80s.He added: “I think he’s also important in the 80s, 90s and 00s, because he brought a radical voice, a voice for egalitarianism and justice, to the mainstream media.” Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. Mr Howe also wrote a regular column for the New Statesman, as well as having a column in the Evening Standard in the 1990s. Mr Howe wrote about his 2007 prostate cancer diagnosis and the treatment that followed in an article for The Guardian in 2009.He said: “Long live the NHS. The campaign to persuade black men to get tested for prostate cancer starts here.”Mr Howe was born on February 26 1943 in Trinidad, and came to the UK in 1961.He started his journalism career in and around 1968 at The Hustler, a magazine produced in Notting Hill, according to Dr Bunce.He was editor for more than a decade at Race Today magazine, and more recently was a columnist for The Voice newspaper. RIP #DarcusHowe – A great black intellectual & anti-racist activist. He also supported the wider cause of social justice for all. Inspiring! pic.twitter.com/kgqoqv30M7— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) April 2, 2017 Darcus Howe’s work had a big impact on British cultural history & race relations. His work must never be forgotten… he’ll be missed. RIP— Charlene White (@CharleneWhite) April 2, 2017 Formidable #darcushowe may he rest in peace. He was a warrior may we continue his fight for peace and justice.— (((Dawn Butler MP))) (@DawnButlerBrent) April 2, 2017