The Wildcats were more than just Anthony Davis


The Wildcats were more than just Anthony Davis

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- There's so much more to Kentucky than Anthony Davis. These were the collaborative Cats, and that's what made them so tough to beat. Davis' supporting cast made the most of their turns in the spotlight Monday night, picking up the scoring slack for their freshman star and overwhelming Kansas for a 67-59 victory in the NCAA title game that gave the Wildcats their eighth national title. "No one cared who got the accolades," forward Terrence Jones said. "The main goal was getting to this point and winning. That's what we focused on." Michael Kidd-Gilchrist set the tone a minute in, staying in the game after a hard foul that looked as if it might have dislocated his shoulder, and Marquis Teague and Doron Lamb hit clutch shots that held back a late rally by the Jayhawks. "That's why we came here, to finally get it done," forward Kyle Wiltjer said. "We are all just super excited." Jones and Darius Miller also made their marks in the type of team effort coach John Calipari has gotten out of the Wildcats (38-2), who had averaged six players in double figures for most of the season. The Wildcats' other NBA prospects handled things on the offensive end while Davis went 1 for 10 from the field. The AP player of the year remained his dominant self in every other phase of the game with 16 rebounds, six blocks and five assists. Lamb, who finished with 22 points, said his only goal when he returned for a second year at Kentucky was to win a national championship. The sophomore has been a steady force all year for the Wildcats and he was the only Kentucky player who shot well in last year's national semifinal loss in Houston. He brought his shot to the Superdome this weekend, too. "He really carried us," Wiltjer said. "He made some big shots down the stretch and our depth really helped us tonight because no one really knows who's going to step up and he stepped up tonight." After Kansas (32-7) cut it to 10 midway through the second half, Lamb squared up and hit a pair of 3-pointers in a 23-second span to snap the Cats back after they'd been 3 of 14 from the field with six turnovers to start the second half. He finished 7 of 12 from the field. Then it was Teague's turn. The point guard was considered the key to keeping the Wildcats playing together and followed in the shoes of past Calipari prodigies such as John Wall, Brandon Knight, Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans. He finished with 14 points, three assists and two turnovers, making his biggest impact late. With Kansas closing, Teague buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key with 2:50 left that pushed the lead back to double digits, then hit two free throws inside a minute that helped seal the victory and finish Kentucky's eighth title run. "Marquis Teague's 3 and those two free throws were huge," Calipari said. Kentucky also set the tone early. Kidd-Gilchrist, who had 11 points and six rebounds, went down hard after being fouled by Elijah Johnson just over a minute into the game. He stayed down for a few tense moments, then got up, got to the line and made his first free throw even though his right shoulder was clearly bothering him. "We don't stop here," Kidd-Gilchrist said. "I want to be great." Jones, who had nine points and seven rebounds, also had an injury scare when he crumpled to the court in the first half, appearing to badly roll his right ankle. He got up with a limp but stared at the bench with a look that said there was no way he was coming out of this game. He was still hobbling at the half, but never asked out because this was the game he wanted to play in when he surprised many by returning for his sophomore year. "Having that meeting with coach," Jones said, "trying to come back and win, getting myself better, rewarding myself and my whole team with having a successful season is just a great way to finish." The Wildcats never had a more serious injury this season than when Jones missed two games in December with a dislocated left pinkie. Miller, the senior leader, set a school record with his 152nd appearance early in the first half, and then quietly provided five points and six rebounds in 25 productive minutes. "I can't really explain it or put it into words. All the hard work that we put in this year, the sacrifices that people have made on this team means a lot," Miller said. "We've grown as brothers. We've had a lot of fun with this."

How Cubs offense plans to approach Indians pitching in World Series

How Cubs offense plans to approach Indians pitching in World Series

CLEVELAND - The Cubs obviously aren't going to share specifics on their gameplan against the Cleveland Indians pitching staff, but the overall approach remains the same.

The Indians are blowing away the competition with a 1.77 ERA in the postseason, striking out 81 batters in 71 innings and tossing three shutouts in eight games.

The Cubs offense sent a new franchise record for postseason futility by going 21 straight innings without scoring a run during the middle of a tense National League Championship Series only to break out and plate 23 runs in three games since to send the Dodgers back to Los Angeles and an early winter.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell were struggling in particular, combining for only three hits in the first seven postseason games before exploding for 13 hits in the final three games.

"It really wasn't physical at all," Cubs hitting coach John Mallee said. "When you struggle a little bit, usually it's because the pitcher's making pitches that are just executing very well and then you try to change things or try to do too much and then you start chasing out of the strike zone and those types of things.

"Like anybody, they want to do well for their team and then they start to press and that's what slumps are - just pressing. And then with them getting a couple hits and squaring some balls up, all of a sudden the confidence comes back and they feel better again."

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

Mallee believes Rizzo and Russell getting hot created a trickle-down effect on the rest of the lineup and the Cubs suddenly got back to their "pass the baton" ways that helped net 103 wins and the No. 3-ranked offense in the majors.

As veteran catcher Miguel Montero said after the Cubs' second straight shutout loss in Game 3 of the NLCS, everybody needs to just focus on doing one good thing and then passing it on to the next guy.

"It's nine on one," Mallee said. "As an individual, you feel like you're letting your team down if you don't get a hit. Pass the baton. You can have a good at-bat even if you make an out if you saw seven pitches on the guy. 

"It's the nine-on-one mentality. Just pass the baton to the next guy. Not trying to think you have to do it all yourself."

Mallee also pointed out how much different everything is in the postseason. There are no fifth starters and in some cases, there aren't even any fourth starters.

Teams are throwing their top starters and relievers as much as possible, bringing typical late-inning guys like Indians star Andrew Miller in during the fifth inning and utilizing them for more than three outs.

"You're facing their best guys all the time," Mallee said. "You're facing better pitching: These are the better teams and you're facing the best of the better pitching."

The Cubs also aim to come out firing against the Indians with an eye on getting on the board first.

The team that scored first won eight of the Cubs' 10 postseason games, including all six in the NLCS.

"Overall, it's just to win this series - like every other - score first and win innings," manager Joe Maddon said. "You need to get on top and not have to face their better [relievers] at the end of the ballgame, otherwise you're going to be in trouble."

Cubs see Kyle Schwarber looming as potential World Series hero

Cubs see Kyle Schwarber looming as potential World Series hero

CLEVELAND — Even as the Cubs went through their World Series workout and media-day responsibilities here, team officials kept their eyes on Kyle Schwarber in the Arizona Fall League, watching his at-bats on a live video feed from their spring-training complex.

The Cubs clearly didn’t use Schwarber as a distraction for their anxious fan base or a misdirection play against the Cleveland Indians. This is all about maximizing the chance to win the franchise’s first world championship since 1908 — and the Cubs believe Schwarber’s thunderous left-handed swing could be the X-factor.

Schwarber planned to fly to Cleveland on Monday after going 1-for-3 with a double, a walk and a run scored for the Mesa Solar Sox, another giant step in his recovery from what was supposed to be season-ending surgery on his left knee.

“He looked really good,” said team president Theo Epstein, mentioning that Schwarber did the necessary running/sliding/diving drills pregame — and then hit a ball with 110-mph exit velocity.

The rotating images on the big video board at Progressive Field even showed a dummy Game 1 lineup with Schwarber batting ninth as the designated hitter against Corey Kluber. It’s a long way from the Arizona Fall League to facing a Cy Young Award winner, especially after going more than six months without seeing live pitching. But if anyone can do it, well, the Cubs would never bet against Schwarber.

“He’s a pretty special person and a special hitter,” Epstein said.

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

One week ago, Dr. Daniel Cooper, the head team physician for the Dallas Cowboys who reconstructed Schwarber’s ACL and repaired his LCL, surprisingly green-lighted a return to baseball activities. The Cubs had been focused on getting Schwarber ready for winter ball and Opening Day 2017, a more realistic timeline after that brutal outfield collision with Dexter Fowler on April 7.

The Cubs still won 103 games — even with Schwarber making only five plate appearances during the regular season and spending his time working on scouting reports, analyzing video and observing in the draft room.

“We’ve seen first-hand the work that he’s putting in and how hard he’s been going,” MVP candidate Kris Bryant said. “Honestly, I saw him out — maybe a couple weeks after his surgery — and he’s moving around, walking. And I’m like: ‘Dang, this guy’s not human. How? I saw your leg bend in half, and you’re walking around. This is unbelievable.’

“(It’s) watching him dripping with sweat every single day. Every single day, this guy is drenched. I feel like he’s in the best shape of his life (now). There was no doubt in my mind that he could do it. It was just a matter of if they let him.”

Schwarber is such a presence that Cubs executives left their seats and moved to the back of their Wrigley Field suite on Saturday night to watch his at-bats on the Sloan Park SpyCam — even as the best team in baseball eliminated the Los Angeles Dodgers from the National League Championship Series and won the franchise’s first pennant in 71 years.

Everyone around the Cubs remembers how Schwarber starred during that wild-card showdown against the Pittsburgh Pirates and the ball he smashed off the St. Louis Cardinals onto the top of a Wrigley Field video board, putting up five homers and a 1.308 OPS during last year’s playoffs, which happened to be the end of his first full season in professional baseball.

“You see when he gets introduced how much everybody loves him,” Game 2 starter Jake Arrieta said. “He’s a legend already at such a young age. That’s awesome. It just speaks to the importance of what he was able to do last year for us.

“I think he’s going to be here. He wouldn’t have been playing in the Fall League if they weren’t seriously considering him being here. And not having to put him in the field is huge. If he hits a ball over the fence, he can trot around the bases. If he happens to line out or ground out, then he can just kind of jog to first.

“That just speaks to how special of a bat he is — and how hard he worked these past six months to put himself in the position to be ready to play in the World Series.”

At the age of 23, Schwarber is positioned to become yet another young Cub who wants to own this October. Jason McLeod — the senior vice president of scouting and player development heavily involved in the decision to draft Schwarber with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft — joked about how Fowler’s one-year, $13 million deal came together during this unreal year.

“We have to one-up Dexter’s entrance into spring training,” McLeod said.