NCAA Hoops: Notre Dame, Northwestern pick up wins


NCAA Hoops: Notre Dame, Northwestern pick up wins

Connaughton leads ND over IPFW

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Pat Connaughton has been a steady performer for No. 22 Notre Dame so far this season. He took his game to another level Monday night in a 74-62 victory over IPFW.

Connaughton more than doubled his 7.9 points-per-game average and had six rebounds and five assists.

"I think it was just a matter of playing the whole game," Connaughton said, referring to the quality rather than quantity of his minutes. "It's something I've been waiting to do. Attacking the basketball. It's something people have been harping on me to do, and it's something that's going to help the team."

Connaughton was 7 of 9 from the field, repeatedly driving strong to the hoop and taking his defenders off the dribble with apparent ease.

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Northwestern tops Texas State behind strong finish

EVANSTON, Ill. (AP) Dave Sobolewski scored 18 points, including a 3-pointer with 1:45 left to give Northwestern a lead, and the Wildcats closed the game on a 12-0 run to defeat Texas State 74-68 on Monday night.

The Bobcats led 68-62 with less than 4 minutes left, but five straight free throws, two each by Sobolewski and Reggie Hearn and one by Jared Swopshire, cut it to 68-67. After Sobolewski connected on his jump shot to put Northwestern (8-3) ahead 70-68, free throws by Alex Marcotullio, Sobolewski and Swopshire completed the scoring.

Hearn finished with 15 points and Tre Demps added 12.

Texas State's Joel Wright and Wesley Davis each had 19 points. The Bobcats (4-7) used an 8-0 run midway through the second half to take a 64-60 lead, capped by Matt Staff's layup with 5:56 left.

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Bradley rolls over Georgia Southern

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) Tyshon Pickett scored 17 points and pulled down a career-high 11 rebounds, and Bradley rode a pair of scoring runs to a 62-43 victory over Georgia Southern on Monday night in the opening round of the Continental Tire Las Vegas Classic.

Will Egolf added 12 points and eight rebounds for the Braves (7-2), who matched their win total from the entire 2011-12 season, when they were 7-25. Georgia Southern's 43 points were the fewest Bradley has allowed since a 52-42 win over Indiana State in 2004.

C.J. Reed led the Eagles (4-6) with 10 points and Cleon Roberts scored nine. Georgia Southern shot 35 percent from the field and made just three of its 11 free throws.

Bradley went on an 11-0 run midway through the first half en route to a 29-18 halftime lead. Later, the Braves scored 14 unanswered points to lead 59-40 and clinch the win.

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Daniels, SIU overtake New Orleans

CARBONDALE, Ill. (AP) Dantiel Daniels scored 20 points and Southern Illinois defeated New Orleans 74-61 Monday night.

Anthony Beane Jr. had 17 points, Jalen Pendleton scored 14 and Jeff Early had 12 points for the Salukis (6-2).

Lovell Cook led the Privateers (3-6) with 22 points. Corey Blake had 13 points and seven steals, and Rarlensee Nelson had 11 points and six assists.

SIU scored the game's first eight points, but New Orleans roared back to take a 26-13 lead with 6 12 minutes to play in the half. The Salukis followed that with a 17-2 run of their own with Beane's layup just before halftime giving them a 30-28 lead.

Both teams shot 59 percent from the field in the second half, but Southern Illinois never trailed after the break and its 13-point margin at the end matched its biggest lead of the game.

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Why the Bears can't afford a complete collapse just for a better draft pick

Why the Bears can't afford a complete collapse just for a better draft pick

As the 2016 Bears season spiraled down to its 1-6 point, one segment of the fan base looks at that problem and sees opportunity in the form of a total collapse that would position the Bears in 2017 to draft a true franchise quarterback.

Nothing could be worse.

Because if the crumbling continues and the Bears wind up, say, 2-14, the Bears might wind up with the No. 1 or No. 2 pick overall. But the lurching downwards will have revealed so many grievous need craters that the organization will be forced to shop the pick in order to fill more gaping holes than they appear to have even now. “Best available” is where teams like that go, because almost any pick at any position will be an upgrade, and a 2-14 team will need a lot of “best availables.”

Put another way: If the Bears bumble in at 2-14, one broader conclusion could be that two years of franchise-reforming by general manager Ryan Pace have been utter failures. If that comes to pass (unlikely), his ability to successfully direct a third draft would be highly suspect.

Instead, consider: The Bears held the No. 7 pick in the 2015 draft. They took their due-diligence look at Marcus Mariota in that draft class. But Tennessee wanted a ransom, and the Bears concluded that the price for moving up would have gutted Ryan Pace’s first draft class. Instead, the Bears landed what was five starters (Kevin White, Eddie Goldman, Hroniss Grasu, Jeremy Langford, Adrian Amos) before the injury tsunami rolled through.

The Titans used the pick for Mariota and improved — from 2-14 to 3-13, leaving them at No. 2 again. This time they traded out of the pick and built a book of 10 selections, but only one (Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin, No. 8) is starting on a 3-4 team. Quantity does not assure quality.

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Now consider: The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles finished 7-9 in 2015. Meaning, they had solid pieces in place: for the Rams, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Robert Quinn; for the Eagles, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters.

The Rams climbed the draft from No. 15 to the No. 1 pick that belonged to the Titans. They took Jared Goff, who’s still waiting for Jeff Fischer to conclude that the rookie could do a whole lot worse than Case Keenum’s 8-10 touchdown-interception ratio and 77.5 rating. Even with that, the Rams are still 3-4.

The Eagles (4-2) went all in for Carson Wentz (swapping 2016 No. 1s and giving up a No. 2, a No. 3, and No. 4 this year, and their 2017 No. 1) and thought enough of him to deal away Sam Bradford to the Vikings, whom Wentz and Eagles just bested last weekend.

Better in the Bears’ current situation and have a demonstrably good enough core that dealing up for a top-ranked quarterback — Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Ole Miss' Chad Kelly or North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky? — makes sense rather than to be a complete shambles at the end of the 2016 season and wondering if any draft pick, quarterback or other, could be trusted.

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."

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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."