Rematch against Denver brings playoff implications

first_imgGoalie Shane Connely will play an important role against the Denver Pioneers this weekend as the Wisconsin men\’s hockey team looks to improve their WCHA playoff spot.[/media-credit]With this upcoming weekend’s two-game set against Denver looming, University of Wisconsin men’s hockey head coach Mike Eaves said he doesn’t focus on the Badgers’ performance against the Pioneers in October.The Badgers dropped two games in Denver, pushing their record to 0-4 to open the season in addition to the loss of senior captain Ben Street to an injury for the year. Eaves said it was the worst point of the year for the team and that it was a “dark weekend for us.” But Eaves and his squad are concentrating on the task at hand.“We don’t look at it at all, that was so long ago, and in terms of how they’re playing you always go back to the weekend they played before coming in to see us,” Eaves said.The Badgers have run off a 16-8-2 record since their last matchup with Denver. Eaves did not think his team would respond in the fashion they did.“Hopeful is a word that comes to mind, but at that time we weren’t a very good hockey team,” Eaves said. “We were struggling in many areas trying to find our identity and since that time we’ve been able to do that which has caused the turnaround and we find ourselves where we are now. But at that time if somebody would’ve said that, I’d have said they would’ve been hopeful in that thinking.”Badgers look for playoff spotAside from potentially getting retribution, the weekend series will have major implications on Wisconsin’s tournament chances. Currently, the Badgers sit at 15th in the PairWise Rankings, placing the Badgers out of the tournament despite recent success.“It does [feel unrewarding], I’m not going to lie to you,” Eaves said of the ranking. “In terms of what we can control, I know if we continue to win that that’ll probably take care of itself, so that’s our focus. It does seem unfair and I’m not sure if I understand the nuances, but I do know in talking to some folks that if we continue to win that it will take care of itself.”The weekend will also go a long way as to determining who winds up on top of the WCHA standings; second-place Denver holds a one-point lead over the Badgers.Although the Badgers are coming off impressive back-to-back wins over Minnesota, the coaching staff is facing a big challenge in trying to keep their players sharp over a two-week break.“It’s a roll of the dice,” Eaves said. “History tells us that our last bye week we came out and played pretty well against Colorado College. We’ve come out after a bye week and been flat; that first period is really what you wait to see. … You haven’t been playing at game speed for awhile, that’s the reality of it.”Eaves also expressed the importance of staying sharp during the last few weeks of practice.“It was more of a challenge and I think where they’re at, and where you are at, you kind of have to give them what they need … and to some degree I thought we were a little more detailed in the things that we wanted this past week,” Eaves said. “We only taught one day. We actually, I thought, demanded more from them just because I think they were after a big sweep at Minnesota feeling good about themselves and I think you have to balance that out with what you demand from them.”With the regular season winding down and the postseason coming up shortly, this week of practice and this weekend’s games hold a massive impact over the future of the hockey team. Eaves thought it was important to finish the season on a strong note.“We’ve got six games left in the regular season, so what becomes our focus?” Eaves said. “Well our focus doesn’t really change; it’s still the same one and all mentality on a Friday and a Saturday, but then you have to talk about the process, you focus on the process.”Dealing with injuriesEven while battling injuries the Badgers have managed to impress on a national level. Eaves attributed the success to this reserves coming in for starters and the success they have had.“We’re pretty healthy right now,” Eaves said. “We came off a big series, we’ve got lots to play for. It’s an exciting time of year. It’s going to go by quickly. … The energy is good, I think [the players] know what’s at stake. They’re on the Internet more than we are. We have to keep their focus on the process, and if we do that we are doing our job.”last_img read more

Devonte Graham’s 35 points too much for Syracuse to overcome in 76-60 loss to No. 2 Kansas

first_imgMIAMI — Kansas needed an answer. For much of the night, the Jayhawks defense stymied Syracuse. The Jayhawks raced out to a 14-point advantage at halftime.But now, to start the second half, the Orange was back. Tyus Battle and Frank Howard, as they’ve done all year, were leading the offense. Battle made his first 3-pointer of the game. Then he drove in and got the and-1.Next it was Howard’s turn. A steal and a layup, followed up by an and-1 for himself. Then he hit a 3-pointer. The clunky Syracuse offense of the first half was gone. The Kansas fans, who’d been the louder supporters before the tip, ceded way to a raucous Orange crowd. A 20-point lead was down to seven.The Jayhawks’ next possession was falling apart, too. The ball was handed off to Devonte’ Graham with the shot clock winding down. Graham stepped back from Tyus Battle and shot an NBA-range 3-pointer with Frank Howard charging at him. It hit nothing but net.“On a night where basically we didn’t have much going on, he needed to do that,” Kansas head coach Bill Self said. “He picked his spots well.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textSyracuse (6-1) was playing the toughest team it had all season on Saturday, and as a result, was seeing one of the best individual players in the country. Graham led the No. 2 Jayhawks (7-0) with a career-high 35 points, including seven 3-pointers. The performance was too much for the Orange to overcome in its 76-60 loss.The senior point guard missed his first three shots from deep in the game. It was part of a back-and-forth first 15 minutes, in which both teams struggled to hit anything from the field.Late in the first half, Graham knocked down a tough midrange jumper with Howard guarding him closely. On the next KU possession, Howard picked up his third foul trying to aggressively go over a screen and stay with Graham. Howard was sent to the bench and Graham hit two free throws.Then, in a blur, Graham knocked down three-straight 3-pointers. He smacked his chest and walked back with a swagger after the last one, culminating the stretch in which he scored the Jayhawks’ last 14 points of the half.Many of his 3-pointers, in both halves, came from the top of the key. Graham knew he’d find success there from his own experiences playing in a zone.“When we run our 2-3 zone, when the ball goes to the middle, we fan out,” Graham said. “You’ve got to leave somebody open, it’s usually the guy at the top.”Graham, who started the season in the conversation for the National Player of the Year award, struggled with his shot early this season. Through four games, he was shooting just 34 percent and averaging only 11.5 points.Then, in KU’s last matchup against Toledo, he exploded for 35 points. He matched that total again in Saturday’s contest.Graham, who came into the game averaging 8.5 per game, said that he balances his scoring and passing based on game flow. His shot wasn’t falling over the first four games. When it was tonight, he made sure to take advantage of it.Boeheim said that he felt the defense wasn’t the issue on Saturday, instead pinning the brunt of the loss on offensive ineffectiveness. Still, he wasn’t pleased with the defense played on Graham.He helped the Jayhawks pull away from the Orange late in the first half. When the Orange started creeping back in the second half, he made sure to keep it at bay for good.“Graham was really good today,” Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim said. “He kept making a shot every time we needed something.” Comments Published on December 2, 2017 at 10:59 pm Contact Tomer: | @tomer_langer Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more