Relive the wildest finish in Duke-UNC history

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Relive the wildest finish in Duke-UNC history

From Comcast SportsNet
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -- Austin Rivers and his Duke teammates kept hanging around, doing just enough to keep North Carolina from blowing the game open until the Tar Heels finally gave them an opening. The freshman took advantage, burying a shot that will live on in the lore of this fierce rivalry. Rivers hit a 3-pointer at the horn to give the No. 10 Blue Devils an 85-84 win over the fifth-ranked Tar Heels on Wednesday night, snapping the UNC's school-record 31-game home winning streak. Rivers scored a season-high 29 points and hit six 3s, the last over 7-footer Tyler Zeller with the Blue Devils (20-4, 7-2) trailing by two in the final seconds. The ball swished through the net, sending Rivers running down the court in celebration while the rest of his teammates gave chase before mobbing him in front of a stunned UNC crowd. Rivers' 3 also sent his father, Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers, into jubilant celebration from the stands. And it capped a wild rally for the Blue Devils from 10 down in the final 2 minutes. "Obviously this is my favorite win I've ever had in my entire life," Rivers said. "And it's because we were down the whole game. The whole game, we were down. They just kept it on us -- 10-point lead, 10-point lead. And then there was 3 minutes left and probably everybody thought we were going to lose, and we just kept fighting. To get a W, it's amazing." Harrison Barnes scored 25 points for the Tar Heels (20-4, 7-2), while Zeller finished with 23 points and 11 rebounds. But Zeller had just four points in the second half and missed two free throws in the final minute, including one with 13.9 seconds left that set up Rivers' winner. It was a finish befitting the rivalry, from Rivers' shot to Barnes' second-half surge to a strange play in which Zeller accidentally batted the ball into the Duke basket on a rebound attempt to bring the Blue Devils within a point with 14.2 seconds left after trailing all second half. "They're really good and they can knock you out," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "And we didn't get knocked out. And as a result, we hung in there and we won the last round. I'm not sure we won the whole fight, but the last round, we did, and we won the game. But we fought the entire time. We fought a really good fight." North Carolina charged out of halftime to build a 13-point lead and seemed in control. But the Tar Heels never could land the finishing blow to a Duke team that had looked a bit lost in recent weeks, including its own crushing loss to Florida State on a last-second 3-pointer that snapped a 45-game winning streak at Cameron Indoor Stadium on Jan. 21. Duke was coming off an overtime home loss to Miami over the weekend, but the Blue Devils -- and Rivers, in particular -- played with plenty of confidence all night against the Tar Heels. They shot 44 percent and matched a season high with 14 3-pointers. And with Florida State's loss at Boston College earlier Wednesday, the Blue Devils, Tar Heels and Seminoles are all tied again atop the ACC standings. "We believe in our players, we believe in our coaching staff and they believe in us," said Ryan Kelly, who had 15 points for Duke. "Not everything went perfectly, but when it came down to it, we made the biggest play." From the start, the Blue Devils seemed determined to rely on the 3-point shot to offset the Tar Heels' dominance inside. They hit plenty early and led by eight in the first half, then cooled off as the Tar Heels charged out of halftime. In the end, however, the Blue Devils' shooters warmed up just in time to stop North Carolina's long home winning streak. "It really hurts just because of how we played the whole game," said UNC's John Henson, who had 12 points and 17 rebounds. "For us in the last three minutes just to give it up like that is really depressing." Rivers finished with a Duke freshman scoring record against UNC. Seth Curry added 15 points, including a 3 that made it 82-78 with 1:48 left. Then Kelly followed with a jumper off his own missed 3 that closed the gap to 82-80. Then, after Zeller hit a free throw, Kelly launched a long shot that appeared to be a 3 over Henson. As the ball was falling short of the rim, Zeller tried for the rebound but accidentally deflected the ball up and into the basket to cut the deficit to 83-82. Zeller got caught on a switch defending Rivers on the final possession and said he should've played him closer. "I knew he was going to shoot a 3," Barnes said. "I thought everyone in the gym knew. Z did a good job of contesting, but he made the shot." Then again, North Carolina probably never should've let it come to that. After trailing most of the first half, the Tar Heels ran off a 14-4 run to start the second half. Barnes didn't have a field goal in the first half while playing on his sore left ankle, but he finally got going with a pair of baskets followed by a 3-pointer off a crosscourt pass from Kendall Marshall for a 57-44 lead with 15:08 left. North Carolina maintained at least a seven-point lead until those final minutes, with Barnes' last jumper giving the Tar Heels an 82-72 lead with 2:38 left. North Carolina shot 59 percent in the second half, but went just 8 for 15 from the foul line after halftime to let this one slip painfully away. "This one hurts," UNC coach Roy Williams said. "The kids really played and competed and did some very good things."

Spartans land UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter

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Spartans land UNLV grad transfer Ben Carter

Tom Izzo got some help for his diminished front court Wednesday.

UNLV graduate transfer Ben Carter announced on Twitter that he will be using his final season of NCAA eligibility at Michigan State.

Carter, a 6-foot-9 forward who will be immediately eligible, played his first two seasons of college basketball at Oregon before transferring to UNLV. He sat out the 2014-15 season before averaging 8.6 points and 6.0 rebounds in 22 games for the Runnin' Rebels last season. He made seven starts and averaged 24 minutes a game before a January ACL tear ended his season.

Carter wrote an open letter published on RunRebs.com explaining his decision to transfer away from UNLV, citing the program's recent coaching change, replacing former head coach Dave Rice with Marvin Menzies.

From Carter's letter:

"I’ve dedicated my whole life to being a basketball player, and I only get one more season of college basketball to get it right. I needed a program that could give me an opportunity to achieve my dreams."

...

"When I really thought about it, I realized how I want my college career to end. I want it to end on a ladder. I want to stand on a ladder, cut down a piece of a net and look into the stands and see my father. I want to share that moment with him."

...

"This is not an easy decision, but I truly believe Michigan State is the right decision for me. During this process, I’ve gotten to know and respect Tom Izzo, and playing for one of the most legendary coaches in college basketball history will be one of the greatest experiences of my life. And with everything I’ve been through in my career, I couldn’t pass up the chance to play for a team with real national championship hopes."

Izzo and the Spartans could certainly use some help in the front court after the graduation of Matt Costello, who was an All-Big Ten selection last season, and Deyonta Davis, who is off to the NBA. While Izzo is welcoming in an eye-popping recruiting class, only one of the highly ranked foursome — 6-foot-9 Nick Ward — is a big man.

Cubs vs. Nationals: Joe Maddon digs Bryce Harper’s style

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Cubs vs. Nationals: Joe Maddon digs Bryce Harper’s style

PITTSBURGH – Joe Maddon and Bryce Harper are on the same side of baseball’s culture war, even as the Cubs and Washington Nationals appear to be on a collision course toward October.   

The National League’s two best teams so far will face off on Thursday night at Wrigley Field, where Harper will be a focus throughout a four-game series overflowing with storylines.

That’s how Harper wants it, and that’s what Major League Baseball needs now, larger-than-life personalities who aren’t afraid to show some emotions and say what they actually think and try to wake up such a “tired sport.”

Harper’s line to ESPN The Magazine went viral in spring training, and it echoes when Maddon brainstorms another wacky themed road trip, trolls the St. Louis Cardinals and invites zoo animals to Wrigleyville.

So if Harper blasts a home run onto Sheffield Avenue and flips his bat in celebration, Maddon won’t have an issue with the league’s reigning MVP. The smirking Cubs manager knows it when he sees it. 

“It depends on who’s doing the bat-flipping,” Maddon said. “If you’ve played for like two weeks and you’re flipping bats, that’s how you’re going to get yourself hurt.”

Maddon rarely criticizes his own players in front of the media, but he called it a “punk move” last year when Junior Lake almost started a bench-clearing brawl at Marlins Park, flipping his bat, admiring his shot from home plate and shushing Miami’s dugout while rounding third base.   

“I just think when you’re brand new – just understand your place a little bit,” Maddon said. “That’s why I got on Junior that time. There are a lot of things that don’t bother me, (but) that was so obvious to me. He did it right in front of our dugout and he had not been playing that much. That’s why it bummed me out.

“But for the most part, I have no problem with most anything. As long as the guy plays hard, works hard, is sincere about his effort, I’m OK.”

By all accounts, that’s Harper, who’s still only 23 years old and gets similarity scores comparable to these players on his Baseball-Reference page: Frank Robinson; Mickey Mantle; Miguel Cabrera; Mike Trout; Hank Aaron; and Ken Griffey Jr.

“When he first came up, I remember watching him and he stole home on a double steal,” Maddon said. “He just ran the bases really well and hard – that was my first impression of him. I know he can hit. I know he’s got power. I know he’s got all that stuff. But I just liked the way he played.

“I have no problem with a guy enjoying playing the game. He’s got a lot of respect for the game and his place in the game. But any time a guy plays it hard, you always appreciate that. And that’s what I see with him.”

Maddon flashed back to the way Dennis Eckersley used to pump his fist after getting a big out – and his own personal history as a baby boomer raised in the 1960s and 1970s and listening to loud music and partying at his old Lafayette College fraternity house.

That’s what makes Maddon able to relate to Harper’s individual expressions, even though “Baseball’s Chosen One” was born in 1992.

“That’s the thing that we forget,” Maddon said. “That’s what’s so disappointing sometimes, growing up in the era that I did, and then you see people that are quote-unquote ‘in charge,’ and they forgot what it was like when we were a bunch of…goofballs, for lack of a better term.

“You’d like to believe that there’s a certain evolution of thinking as it moves forward. The long hair back in the day, the high stirrups, the tight uniforms, everybody has their own little shtick. So what? So what? It’s just a tendency to forget what it was like when we were growing up sometimes. I promise you I’ve not forgotten.”

Report: Blackhawks sign Gustav Forsling to entry-level contract

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Report: Blackhawks sign Gustav Forsling to entry-level contract

The Blackhawks have reportedly signed defenseman Gustav Forsling to a three-year entry-level contract, according to Johan Svensson of Kvällsposten.

According to the report, Forsling's deal will include a loan clause that allows him to return to Europe for the 2016-17 season if he doesn't crack the Blackhawks' roster out of training camp.

The 19-year-old Swedish defenseman spent the last two seasons with Linkopings HC of the Swedish Hockey League, where he accumulated nine goals and 18 assists in 86 combined games.

He also played a significant role with Sweden in the 2015 IIHF World Junior Championship, registering three goals and five assists in seven games. His eight points led all defensemen in the tournament, and was tied for fourth-most among all skaters.

Forsling was acquired by the Blackhawks in Jan. 2015 from the Vancouver Canucks in exchange for defenseman Adam Clendening.

He was a fifth-round pick (No. 126 overall) by the Canucks in the 2014 NHL Draft.