Positives balance out negatives in Bulls' win

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Positives balance out negatives in Bulls' win

CLEVELAND The Bulls 10th consecutive victory over the Central Division rival Cavaliers wasnt flawless. But after an emotional loss to Indiana at home Tuesday, its exactly what they needed.

I thought the first quarter was huge, getting off to a quick start, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau said afterwards. The part of the game that I thought we probably could have done a lot better in was the end of the second quarter, but other than that, we had a really good rhythm going, I thought we had a good pace going, I thought the defense was very good and were still striving to be a 48-minute team. We know that theres a lot of things we have to improve upon.

Luol Deng added: Weve been trying to do that all year. It takes time. I think were getting there. The game last night, I thought we played great not towards the end, we could have made better plays but it takes a while. But hopefully, well get there. Well just keep striving for it and when you lose, its hard to see the good stuff youre doing. Now, when you win, its easier to recognize it.

All these new guys are going to get better. Theyre new to the system and weve still got a lot of games. As long as guys keep getting better, thats what its really about.

Joakim Noah explained it even more succinctly: Our coach is Tom Thibodeau, so youve got to stay focused.

Overall, I think we came with good energy tonight. It was a good win for us, he continued. They played very hard, theyre a hard-playing team, they rebound the ball real well and every game we play, every game we win is hard-fought. Marco played great for us tonight and we need that. We needed everybody to step up.

With the way Marco Belinelli played, as well as Noah and Deng both having excellent outings, it was easy to overlook Kirk Hinrichs night. But the point guard was quietly solid, playing great defense, he forcing Cavaliers counterpart Jeremy Pargo, starting in place of injured Cleveland star Kyrie Irving, into 3-of-12 shooting. Pargo, a Chicago native and the younger brother of former Bull Jannero got a technical foul late in the game for getting into verbally with Deng and Noah after throwing a ball, whether intentionally or not, into the face of Belinelli.

Hinrich also had a nice evening offensively, who scored 11 points on 4-of-7 shooting, including a big individual spurt to close out the third quarter as the Cavaliers were rallying, and added eight assists and two steals.

I thought Hinrich running the team was outstanding, Thibodeau said of the veteran. Terrific. Every night, his defense sets the tone for our team and he kept us organized. Thats huge. Thats what a point guard does.

On the downside, however, was Noah getting a technical foul his fifth on the season, tied for the league lead early in the fourth quarter, much to Thibodeaus displeasure.

Not only Jo, our team. We cant afford fourth-quarter technicals, just cant, Thibodeau said. Its too hard to make up, so weve got to clean that up and I know its an emotional game, hes an emotional player, but weve got to control the emotions, particularly late and theres an appropriate way to make your point to an official. Thats something, as a team, we have to learn.

Purdue reportedly interviewed Penn State's Joe Moorhead in case Jeff Brohm said no

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USA TODAY

Purdue reportedly interviewed Penn State's Joe Moorhead in case Jeff Brohm said no

You've got to have a contingency plan, right?

Well Purdue's contingency plan in case Jeff Brohm didn't accept the head-coaching job he officially received Monday will interest Big Ten fans.

According to Pete DiPrimio of the News-Sentinel in Fort Wayne, Purdue interviewed Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead while the Nittany Lions were in Indianapolis for their win in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Moorhead's work in State College this season has been outstanding, transforming an offense that was stuck in the mud with quarterback Christian Hackenberg into a high-powered point-producing machine that can do things like erase three-touchdown deficits and beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game by a 38-31 score. Quarterback Trace McSorley starred in that game with four touchdown passes. Running back Saquon Barkley has been starring all season and won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors last week.

A bunch of guys get interviewed for openings, and it's no real surprise that Purdue would interview one of the top assistant coaches in the country for the gig. But it's of interest not only because Moorhead coaches in the conference but also because it shows the clear direction the Boilermakers wanted to go: offense and lots of it.

Brohm turned in some spectacular offensive success at Western Kentucky, and his Hilltoppers ranked in the top 10 in the country this season in numerous major offensive stat categories. His arrival in West Lafayette figures to be accompanied by a similar type of offensive firepower.

Moorhead has gained plenty of attention inside the league this season for what he's done with the Lions' offense, and he would've brought a similar reputation to Purdue had Brohm passed on the job.

But Brohm is the hire, one that earned rave reviews across social media Monday, and there are high hopes for what he can do at Purdue.

Malik McDowell announces he's leaving Spartans for NFL Draft

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USA TODAY

Malik McDowell announces he's leaving Spartans for NFL Draft

Back in August, Malik McDowell said he wouldn't depart Michigan State for the NFL Draft unless he was going to be a top-three pick.

Well, either the junior defensive lineman has some really good information or he's taking a less absolutist stance because he announced Tuesday on Twitter that he's leaving the Spartans for the pros.

"I'm excited to announce that after careful consideration and numerous discussions with my family and coaches, I have decided to forego my remaining college eligibility at Michigan State University and enter the 2017 NFL Draft," McDowell posted in a Twitter message. "This was a very difficult decision, and I will always cherish my time in East Lansing. I want to thank my family, coaches, teachers, administrators and teammates. I'm ready to fulfill my childhood dream of playing in the NFL. I promised my parents that I would come back to Michigan State University to finish my college education and get my degree."

McDowell played in only nine games during the Spartans' disastrous 3-9 campaign, recording 34 total tackles, leading the team with seven tackles for loss and posting 1.5 sacks.

McDowell was a high-profile recruit out of Detroit and played in all 13 games as a freshman for Michigan State during the 2013 season. As a sophomore, McDowell had 41 tackles, including 13 tackles for loss and four sacks, plus two forced fumbles and an interception. He earned All-Big Ten Second Team honors as the Spartans won a Big Ten championship.

A quick sampling of mock drafts across the Internet indicates McDowell is generally expected to be a first-round pick. Those NFL Draft sites vary, placing him anywhere from the top 10 to the end of the first round.

Remember what McDowell said in August:

"Top 10 ain't good enough for me," McDowell said, his comments published by the Detroit Free Press. "I ain't leaving if I'm (only) top 10. If I'm not top three, I don't leave. Really. I'm just trying to live day by day. It's one through three, that's the only way I'm going. I'm happy, I like it here, I ain't really in a rush to leave.

"The teammates I have the on-field stuff we do, the off-field stuff we do. Just good people around me. I can't complain."

Well, as we saw with the results for the Spartans this season — they started off 2-0 then lost eight straight games, plummeting from a College Football Playoff participant a year ago to failing to reach a bowl — things can change in a hurry.