The College World Series was won by...

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The College World Series was won by...

From Comcast SportsNet
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- Arizona coach Andy Lopez celebrated the 20th anniversary of his first national championship by winning his second. It was 1992 when Lopez brought unheralded Pepperdine to the College World Series and beat Cal State Fullerton in the championship game. Arizona's sweep of South Carolina in the CWS finals -- completed with Monday night's 4-1 victory -- was not nearly as stunning as what Pepperdine accomplished two decades ago. The Wildcats (48-17) were the hottest thing going in college baseball the last six weeks. But believe Lopez when he says he's soaked up the journey to this title more than he did in winning the first one. The two decades between titles showed him how elusive championships can be. "When I was 38 years old and I showed up in Omaha and we won the national championship, I had no clue," he said. "I was a young guy, my kids were all little guys and I was trying to see if I could figure out if I could survive in this profession. More than ever I do have an appreciation." The Wildcats ended South Carolina's two-year run of dominance at the College World Series and rewarded Lopez for persevering through the hard times that came with rebuilding the downtrodden program he took over 11 years ago. Lopez thought he had a title-caliber team in 2008, but the Wildcats lost a crushing three-game super regional at Miami that he laments to this day. He was devastated again in 2009 when his team failed to make the national tournament. A strong recruiting class two years ago formed the core of the team that won Arizona's first national championship since 1986, and fourth overall. "They've just been a joy," said Lopez, flanked by his key players. "I mean, how many times have I told you I love suiting up with you guys? Said it today before the game. And I really do, I like suiting up with young guys that go to class, go to study hall, hustle on the field, clean up the clubhouse on their own. "I'm extremely, extremely fortunate to be in this profession and work with young people like this." Arizona used strong pitching on consecutive nights to sweep the Gamecocks. James Farris, who hadn't pitched since June 3, and Mathew Troupe combined to limit the Gamecocks to three hits a night after Konner Wade threw his third straight complete game in a 5-1 win. Brandon Dixon's tie-breaking double started a three-run ninth inning for Arizona on Monday. Dixon, who entered the game as a defensive replacement in the sixth inning, sent a grounder down the third-base line past LB Dantzler's outstretched glove for his first hit of the CWS. Tyler Webb relieved Matt Price (5-5), and Trent Gilbert drove in his second and third runs of the game with a two-out single that broke open the game. "Coach Lopez means the world to us, and we're so happy we brought joy back to his life in coaching," CWS Most Outstanding Player Robert Refsnyder said. Refsnyder, one of four juniors who earned All-Pac 12 honors this season, said he knew the disappointment in 2008 and 2009 took a toll on Lopez. "You could tell that he was fed up with baseball and trying to teach young people to go to class and study hall and take care of your business off the field," Refsnyder said. "You could see his frustration. But Lopez gave us, gave myself and the junior class this year, the tools to be successful." South Carolina (49-20) had been trying to become the first team since the Southern California dynasty of the early 1970s to win three national titles in a row. "We battled as hard as we could, but they did a little bit better than we did," Gamecocks coach Ray Tanner said. "Though we're disappointed tonight, I'm not disappointed in my players. We battled awful hard. We made a run, got to the postseason and got back out here. We got in the losers' bracket and got back to the finals." Right fielder Adam Matthews said he never envisioned the run the Gamecocks made. "Obviously, that's the goal of every college baseball team," he said. "When you're recruited to a big program like the University of South Carolina, it's an honor. And you get there and your goal is to get to Omaha -- and further, to win the national championship. "To do that twice and be in a position this year to do it again, it's been unbelievable. It's been a lot of fun. We had a great run." Lopez became the second coach to win a Division I baseball title at two schools. Augie Garrido was the first, winning three at Cal State Fullerton and two at Texas. Lopez took over a program that had gone to the NCAA regionals just once in the previous eight years. He came within that one win of getting to the CWS in 2008, then took a step backward in 2009 when the Wildcats didn't make the national tournament. "On paper the 08 team is probably as good, if not better, because of their bullpen," Lopez said. "But it's not the first team that wins. I came here in 98 as the No. 1 seed with Florida, and the seventh seed in 92, and won in 92 but didn't win in 98. "It's not the best team that wins, it's the hottest team, and these guys got hot at the right time." The Wildcats won 18 of their last 20 games, including their final 11. Down three runs in the bottom of the ninth, South Carolina loaded the bases against Troupe (6-1) on two walks and a single. With one out, Tanner English sent a line drive up the middle that second baseman Gilbert gloved. Gilbert rushed to the bag to double off Dantzler, but Dantzler got back just in time. Grayson Greiner then flied out to right fielder Refsnyder on a 2-1 pitch, sparking a rush of Arizona players to the middle of the field for the celebratory pile-on. "We were extremely fortunate to get away with this victory," Lopez said. Dixon, batting .242 for the season, had been 0 for 7 with three strikeouts in his previous CWS at-bats. As usual, he replaced first baseman Joseph Maggi in the middle innings and got his opportunity after Refsnyder singled leading off the ninth. Farris and Michael Roth engaged in a pitcher's duel through the first seven innings. Farris left with two out in the eighth after allowing one run on two hits. "Farris had a great start for Arizona," South Carolina's Adam Matthews said. "He was working away most of the night. Of course we wanted to hit better, but you have got to give credit where credit's due."

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott's return boosts Bulls' bench

Doug McDermott wasn’t exactly hunting for his first shot, but the first time he touched the ball in an NBA game in nearly a month wasn’t the optimal situation for him to let one fly.

It wasn’t in transition where he runs to an opening behind the 3-point line, nor was it a drive-and-kick situation where the help defense collapsed and left him open. It was a regular, simple, pass to the perimeter and McDermott’s defender was in reasonable proximity with 3:23 left in the first quarter.

He launched and the crowd soon roared its approval as his sweet jumper was sorely missed by the Bulls bench brigade—and moments later when he ran the floor for a fearless layup that caused Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to call a timeout, McDermott showed he missed the United Center crowd too, calling for more noise on his way to the bench.

“Anytime you have a guy like Doug, he comes back and makes his first 3, that’s hard to do,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He stepped up with confidence on that first shot. I’m sure he had a lot of nerves getting back out there.”

Missing 12 games and suffering two concussions, McDermott looked right at home in 25 minutes of run Thursday as the Bulls were able to rely on their reserves in some form in their 95-91 win over the previously perfect road warriors known as the Spurs.

“We defended and kept them off the foul line,” McDermott said. “Coach (Jim) Boylen was with them, so we feel we know them and I think all this time they were missing my defense.”

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The last statement was certainly tongue-in-cheek, but the Bulls’ bench production was certainly missing in action while he was out with the concussion protocol. So much so that his return prompted the Bulls’ coaching staff to call out the reserves in the morning shootaround, demanding more.

“It’s definitely Dwyane (Wade) and Jimmy (Butler) and (Rajon) Rondo (but) the coaching staff kinda called out our bench like, we gotta have you tonight, bench,” McDermott said. “We took that to heart, we were really locked in.”

Seemingly his presence aided the Bulls’ spirits and production, as the Bulls’ bench had the least effective scoring bench in the NBA since Nov. 13, the day after McDermott hit the unforgiving floor against the Wizards for his second concussion this season.

Their net rating ranks ahead of only the Wizards, Mavericks and Nets, who are a combined 17-45 this season. Their effective field goal percentage, which takes into account 3-pointers, is worst in the league in that span (42.3 percent).

When McDermott was healthy for that smaller sample size, the Bulls’ bench ranked fifth in offensive efficiency, seventh in net rating, and fifth in efficient field goal percentage. Whether McDermott – and his absence – was directly related to those numbers, it’s clear the Bulls are better when they have their best reserve – and only true floor spacers on the second unit – on the court.

“We’re all professionals and we want to help the guys who are busting their butts in the first unit to get us the leads,” McDermott said. “Tonight we did a great job of sustaining it. We take it personal when teams come back on us.”

[MORE: Pau Gasol relishes consistency with Spurs he couldn't find with Bulls]

Nikola Mirotic was four of eight from the field, and Cristiano Felicio seems to be back in Fred Hoiberg’s good graces as he’s carved out a rotation spot for himself with nine points and seven rebounds in 18 minutes.

It seems as if Hoiberg will stick with this rotation of players, at least for a little while until Michael Carter-Williams returns from his injuries. If McDermott is the mark of the Bulls’ bench going from bottom feeder to adequate, it should show this month.

“When he’s out there on the floor and we get him coming off screens, it forces the defense to shift as another person they need to be aware of,” Hoiberg said. “It opens up driving lanes for our guys. It was great to have Doug back with us.”

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

Morning Update: Bulls beat Spurs in Pau Gasol's return to Chicago

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