In the lead-up to Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night, NBC’s television coverage noted on several occasions that the Los Angeles Kings were “overwhelming favorites” to beat the New York Rangers in the series. And if you pay attention to informal straw polls such as this one, it seems like that’s the case. As FiveThirtyEight’s Eric Tulsky pointed out in this preview, the media have been near-unanimous in predicting the Kings will win the Cup. Indeed, the Kings prevailed in Game 1.But they didn’t dominate, and the percentage of respondents who predict a certain outcome is not equivalent to the predicted probability of that outcome — especially when there’s little to no accountability for failed predictions, and the real possibility that herd behavior will produce non-independent picks. The most accurate and unbiased predictor of a given sporting event is usually the Las Vegas betting line, not a pundit. And according to Vegas, the Kings did not enter the series a markedly dominant favorite relative to other pre-series Stanley Cup front-runners.Unfortunately, archived futures odds like these, which gave the Kings a 59.6 percent probability of winning the Cup, are not available for past seasons. But the useful site SportsDataBase.com does offer money lines for individual NHL playoff games going back eight postseasons. Using those for Game 1 of every final since 2007 (combined with the assumption that, in the NHL, a home team will beat an evenly matched road opponent about 55 percent of the time), we can infer the probability of each team winning a game at home and on the road — and thus the probability of winning the series.Prior to the Kings’ Game 1 victory, they had a -146 money line in Vegas, and the Rangers were listed at +135. Converting those numbers to probabilities and accounting for the “juice” that bookmakers add to each line to make a profit, Vegas thought that Los Angeles had a 58.2 percent chance of beating the Rangers on home ice. Armed with that number, we can rearrange Bill James’s log5 formula to extract the implied probability that the Kings would beat New York at a neutral site (53.3 percent), on the road (48.3 percent) and in the series (58.7 percent). (The difference from the 59.6 number listed earlier is due to using data from different sportsbooks.)Using SportsDataBase.com, we have data for eight Stanley Cup Finals played. If we apply the method above to them, the average expected win probability for the favorite in those eight series was 61.3 percent — higher than the Kings’ pre-series odds this year. Here’s the rundown of all eight series:Instead of being “overwhelming favorites,” the Kings were actually less favored than the typical Cup front-runner. I expected them to be favored before the series began, and their odds have certainly improved after winning Game 1. The idea that this is a notably one-sided matchup, though, just isn’t supported by the market.
A Massachusetts police officer is being investigated after he was accused of directing racial slurs at Boston Red Sox outfielder Carl Crawford last week while Crawford was on a rehab assignment.Crawford was on a rehab assignment in New Hampshire with the Portland Sea Dogs when he reported a heckling fan called him a “Monday,” which can be a derogatory term for blacks as it is associated with Mondays being one of the least-liked days of the week.According to thegrio.com, Leominster, Massachusetts Mayor Dean Mazzarella said the patrolman is on vacation and will be put on desk duty when he returns next week. The mayor expects the city’s inquiry to conclude by Tuesday, and officials hope to interview Crawford as part of their investigation.Mayor Mazzarella will hold the final say, and said the officer’s punishment could include anything from suspension to termination. The city’s police chief is conducting the investigation and will recommend a course of action to the Mayor.The officer, whose name has been disclosed until the investigation is complete, is a 5-year force veteran with no previous disciplinary issues. The officer was off-duty when the alleged slurs were aimed in Crawford’s direction.
The New York Knicks are on the verge of re-signing unrestricted free agent point guard Pablo Prigioni to a new contract, according to reports.Prigioni, a 36-year-old second-year player, will sign a three-year agreement for $6 million, which will include a buyout for the third year and a team option.The Argentina-born athlete is now the oldest player on the New York Knicks‘ roster since Jason Kidd, Rasheed Wallace, Marcus Camby and Kurt Thomas are no longer signed to the team. This distinction will help Prigioni lead the team with his experience and expertise.Prigioni averaged 3.5 points and 3 assists in his rookie season for the Knicks, elevating those numbers to 4.5 points and 3.2 assists during the team’s playoff run.This is a good deal for the Knicks, being that Kidd has retired, the team will keep an experienced point guard, who could step in to fill his shoes. The free-agent negotiating period starts Monday. Prigioni will officially sign his contract July 10.
Ricky WilliamsFormer Miami Dolphins linebacker Channing Crowder said that his ex-teammate, running back Ricky Williams, smoked marijuana the night before games.Crowder told Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk radio station about Williams’ marijuana use:“Remember that Buffalo game, the 200-yard game? Smoked the night before. Talk to Ricky. He was doing it, that’s what he did. Ricky has social anxiety and he smoked weed. Ricky’s marijuana didn’t affect the team until he got caught smoking . . . Him smoking weed, sitting at his house smoking weed, didn’t affect anybody but Ricky. He got high and then he sobered up and then he went to practice the next day.”Williams was known to use marijuana, as he tested positive for the drug three times.The game to which Crowder refers, is the one in which Williams set a Dolphins franchise record of 228 yards and two touchdowns in a 38-31 loss.Williams captured the 2003 Pro Bowl MVP award just a year after winning the 2002 league rushing title.
Matt Kemp will undergo surgery on his left shoulder, the Los Angeles Dodgers announced Tuesday.The outfielder isn’t able to play in the current playoffs because of an ankle injury, but he is expected to return for spring training.The procedure will be on the same shoulder on which he had major surgery performed last offseason. He hurt the arm while crashing into the outfield wall in Colorado.Kemp is currently wearing a boot because of swelling his left ankle. He was recently a spectator as his team beat the Atlanta Braves in the NL Division Series 3-1 Monday night.Dr. Neal ElAttrache, the Dodger’s team physician who will perform the surgery, said last week that Kemp has swelling in a major bone of his sprained ankle.The ankle injury has sidelined Kemp for 52 games in the past two months.
Chicago Bears341715252.91562 FRANCHISEGAMESWINSLOSSESTIESWIN %AVERAGE ELO Source: Pro-Football-Reference.com Green Bay Packers361420241.71555 Detroit Lions763638248.7%1485 RECORD Arizona Cardinals23615230.41516 Kansas City Chiefs1055050.01573 New York Giants1474360.71567 But the Lions are helping to hold Thanksgiving back. Although they’re having a decent year in 2016, they haven’t been consistently above average since the early 1970s, and their average Thanksgiving Day pregame Elo of 1485 pales in comparison with those of their fellow holiday mainstays. If the NFL cut down on appearances by Detroit and a few others (the Bills, Broncos, Eagles and Jets have played 33 Thanksgiving games combined, with an average Elo of 1476), it could elevate Thanksgiving much closer to the standard the league sets in its other showcase time slots.The NBA is a good point of comparison. Since Christmas Day basketball became a national-TV fixture in 1983, the typical NBA game on the holiday has featured an average Elo of 1569, about 50 Elo points higher than the NFL’s standard Thanksgiving fare.3This is especially notable because since 1983, the NBA has squeezed an average of 0.4 more games into Christmas than the NFL has into Thanksgiving. Some of that owes to basketball’s built-in advantage as a sport of superstars and more dominant great teams than can be built in the NFL. (The best teams are more reliably great in the NBA than in the NFL.) But even if we account for this by normalizing each sport’s Elo ratings to a common scale, the NBA’s average Christmas-game participants are still about a half-standard deviation better than their Thanksgiving NFL counterparts.The NBA simply does a better job of making sure that its best teams are scheduled for the holiday, often using the previous season’s NBA Finals matchup as a starting point and going from there. There’s also the advantage provided by scheduling additional games on the holiday (five Christmas Day NBA games versus three Thanksgiving NFL games) — although the league has to try to come up with more good games, a single bad matchup doesn’t spoil the day. And it helps that the NBA doesn’t link specific franchises to its Christmas games, except for occasionally the New York Knicks4Oh my god, that means the Knicks are the Detroit Lions of basketball. and Los Angeles Lakers.5Who are traditionally so good that they’ve boosted the overall quality of Christmas Day games, which I guess makes them the Cowboys for our purposes here. So, when you watch the NBA on Christmas, you can be pretty sure that you’re seeing the cream of the crop. For the NFL on Thanksgiving, it’s less certain.This isn’t to say that the NFL’s more tradition-based approach to holiday scheduling doesn’t have some advantages. There’s something reassuringly familiar about powering up the TV with relatives and seeing the teams you grew up watching on Thanksgiving year after year. But if the NFL wants to guarantee better holiday matchups — rather than having them be happy accidents, like this year — it might make sense to tweak the tradition a little and take a page from the NBA’s playbook.Check out our latest NFL predictions. In the United States, football is as much a Thanksgiving tradition as turkey, parades and arguing politics with family members. The NFL has been playing on Thanksgiving Day since the league was founded in 1920, back when the Columbus Panhandles and Elyria Athletics fought to a 0-0 tie (a game I’m sure was just as riveting as it sounds). In total, there have been 222 games played on the holiday,1According to Pro-Football-Reference.com’s database, which includes all games for the NFL, its precursor league (the American Professional Football Association) and the two leagues whose teams eventually merged into it (the American Football League and the All-America Football Conference). for an average of about two and a half turducken-worthy contests per year.But as much of a Thanksgiving fixture as the NFL is, are the games really all that good? This year’s slate is better than most, but it’s more the exception than the rule.The typical NFL game is staged between teams with an average Elo rating (FiveThirtyEight’s pet metric for estimating a team’s quality) of 1500. For Thanksgiving games, that number only goes up to 1518 — meaning the league’s big holiday showcases are really only a little bit better than any run-of-the-mill game. Compare that to the average for prime-time games:2Defined as games that started at 7 p.m. Eastern time or later (since 1970), according to Pro-Football-Reference.com. Although those also have their share of duds, the typical prime-time NFL contest has an average Elo of 1539, or 39 points better than an average game. That’s more than double the gap between the typical Thanksgiving game and an average game.One big reason for this is that most of the NFL’s Thanksgiving games are traditionally played by a few specific teams. At least one of the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys, Detroit Lions or Green Bay Packers have appeared in 68 percent of all Thanksgiving matchups, with Detroit participating in a league-high 34 percent of those games.Three of the four teams — the Bears, Lions and Packers — are classic franchises whose origins date back to 1930 or earlier; the Cowboys have probably earned/branded their way into that group, too. And for their part, the Cowboys, Bears and Packers usually put a good product on the field. Together, the three teams have had an average Elo of 1561 going into their Thanksgiving Day appearances — a very strong rating. Most appearances on Thanksgiving Day, 1920-2015 Dallas Cowboys482918161.51564 Denver Broncos1147036.41487
20Dallas41.845.236.1123.1 8Cincinnati63.651.336.8151.7 Draft value used on RBs, 2012-16 3Cowboys25.8 11Detroit41.253.048.4142.6 26Oakland14.948.152.1115.1 16Tampa Bay48.931.048.3128.2 The issue for the Rams offense is, well, everything. Fisher and general manager Les Snead arrived together in 2012, and have failed to scratch together anything resembling a functioning offense.QuarterbacksFisher and Snead inherited Sam Bradford, who had just finished his second year as a pro, and brought in offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti to groom him. Bradford never panned out in St. Louis, Schottenheimer and the Rams parted ways after three disappointing years; Fisher then promoted Cignetti to offensive coordinator before firing him after 12 games. The team’s current offensive coordinator, Rob Boras, is Fisher’s third with the franchise, but there have been no signs of improvement.The Rams moved on from Bradford by trading him for Nick Foles in 2015; in his lone season with the team, Foles posted the lowest QBR in the NFL.This year, Los Angeles handed the starting job to veteran Case Keenum despite paying a king’s ransom to obtain Goff. The results? Keenum has the lowest QBR in the league, and was finally benched for Goff three weeks ago. It’s premature to make any long-term predictions about Goff’s career, but he currently has a lower QBR than Keenum, and has worse statistics than the cellar-dwelling Keenum in nearly every major category (completion percentage, yards per attempt, sack rate, yards per completion, yards per game). Fisher and his staff have worked with two No. 1 overall picks at quarterback, and a number of veterans, and the Rams have yet to make any noticeable progress at the game’s most important position in his five-year tenure.Running backsUnder Fisher and Snead, the Rams have used first- (Todd Gurley), second- (Isaiah Pead), and third-round (Tre Mason) picks on running backs. In fact, since 2012 no team has spent more draft value 1Using the draft value chart I created at FootballPerspective.com. than the Rams on running backs: 30Atlanta20.633.355.6109.5 7Chargers17.4 The last time one of Jeff Fisher’s teams had a winning record was in 2008. If the Rams lose another game, he will become just the fifth coach in history with five consecutive losing seasons with the same team. The last was David Shula with the Bengals, who was fired midway through his fifth season in 1996. The one before him was Lou Saban, who resigned midway through his fifth-straight losing season in 1971. A third was Bill McPeak with Washington in the 1960s, who did not see a sixth season, either. The last was Tom Landry, who was the first coach for the expansion Cowboys, in a very different era of pro football.Yet despite the string of failures, the Rams appear content to have Fisher return in 2017. And while Fisher is respected in NFL circles, it’s fair to say that no modern coach has been given as long a leash, and delivered such short results, as Fisher has with the Rams.Check out our latest NFL predictions. This was supposed to be a big year for the Rams. It began with the relocation of the franchise from St. Louis back to Los Angeles. Then, the team spent an enormous amount of draft capital to move to the top of the draft to select quarterback Jared Goff. The team was featured on HBO’s “Hard Knocks” where head coach Jeff Fisher renounced the idea of going 7-9 (explicit). Now? The 4-8 Rams would be lucky to finish with that record.When Fisher arrived in 2012, the team was awful. It had won just one game in 2009 and two in 2011; in other words, Fisher inherited a team devoid of talent. But the 2012 RG3 trade allowed the Rams to restock the roster, and four years of drafting was supposed to set the Rams up for long-term success. And through the opening four weeks this season, it looked like the Rams’ investments were finally realizing a return. Los Angeles was 3-1, including wins over division heavies Seattle and Arizona. The Rams were to be taken seriously, we were told.Since then, L.A. has gone 1-7, with the lone victory coming in a 9-6 snoozer against a bad Jets team featuring quarterback Bryce Petty in his first NFL start. And if there’s a theme to the Rams’ unyielding mediocrity under Fisher, it’s a bad offense that seems to get worse the more resources it’s given.L.A. ranks last in scoring, yards and first downs, and in the case of the latter two categories, for the second year in a row. 27Washington53.826.034.6114.4 4Bengals20.7 1St. Louis69.857.173.0199.9 19Baltimore38.738.248.3125.2 TEAM201220132014TOTAL Sources: FootballPerspective.com / Pro-Football-Reference.com 10Philadelphia52.355.141.5148.9 Draft value per team, 2012-14 5Buccaneers20.3 23Carolina45.837.434.9118.1 6Buffalo54.854.851.1160.7 3Cleveland73.432.965.3171.6 25San Diego40.742.432.7115.8 2Browns34.5 6Titans19.6 4Minnesota64.050.452.3166.7 17Pittsburgh36.647.243.0126.8 13Kansas City46.560.228.9135.6 29Seattle49.728.834.1112.6 28Indianapolis67.529.017.3113.8 5Miami56.363.441.3161.0 9N.Y. Jets37.362.750.6150.6 18Green Bay40.540.845.2126.5 2Jacksonville47.962.363.6173.8 7Houston45.042.468.8156.2 21N.Y. Giants34.639.546.7120.8 22New England46.235.536.4118.1 24Chicago39.333.044.4116.7 31Denver43.134.930.3108.3 15Arizona35.55642.7134.2 1Rams36.7 10Giants12.5 9Broncos16.5 849ers17.3 TEAMDRAFT VALUE Sources: FootballPerspective.com / Pro-Football-Reference.com 14Tennessee40.453.641.4135.4 32New Orleans13.835.432.781.9 12San Francisco30.153.756.2140.0 The results have been mixed at best. Pead finished his Rams career with just 27 carries, while Mason rushed for 972 yards over two seasons with the team before his career was halted due, in part, to mental health issues. Gurley was a bright spot for the team last year but has been one of the bigger disappointments on one of the league’s most disappointing teams this season. In his last 16 full games — i.e., a full season’s worth of work — he has rushed 276 times for only 991 yards, a 3.59 yards per carry average. While Gurley remains a talented player that the Rams could presumably build around, it’s tough to determine just how good he is when he’s got nowhere to run.Wide receiversThe Rams hit the wide receiver position early and often in the early years of the Fisher/Snead regime, with four top-100 selections used in the first two years. Three were outright busts: Brian Quick (33rd overall in 2012), Stedman Bailey (3rd round, 2013), and Chris Givens (4th round, 2012) all failed to make significant impacts. The fourth, Tavon Austin, has been more productive, yet both his failures and successes come off as indictments of the Fisher Rams.St. Louis paid a significant price to trade up to select the diminutive Austin with the eighth pick in the 2013 draft; on a good team, Austin’s blend of rushing and receiving ability — he is the only wide receiver with at least 800 rushing and 800 receiving yards since 2013 — would make him like a Swiss army knife of offensive weapons, able to punish teams in multiple ways. Instead, the Rams have never quite figured out how to integrate Austin effectively and consistently into the offense: He has never hit 500 receiving yards, 500 rushing yards or 1,000 total yards from scrimmage in a single season.Offensive lineThe Rams spent the second overall pick on Greg Robinson in 2014; and while he has started 39 games in his career, he has never come close to living up to the hype. Two games ago, he was a healthy scratch before a game against New Orleans. Jamon Brown, a third-round pick last year, has had two injury-plagued seasons with the team. Rob Havenstein, a second-round selection at tackle last year, has been passable, which is more than we would say about the other linemen drafted by the Rams.Los Angeles ranks 31st in yards per carry and has the sixth-worst sack rate, two statistics primarily used to judge offensive lines. The team has the worst drive success rate in the NFL, which speaks to the entire offense’s inability to string together successful offensive plays. Much of the blame for that falls on the offensive line, which has struggled while playing with numerous quarterbacks, running backs and receivers.Fisher’s failuresUltimately, the team’s failures over the last five years fall on Fisher. The veteran head coach may have inherited a bad team, but the Rams rank 26th in winning percentage since he arrived. No team had more draft capital 2Based on the Football Perspective chart. Note that this excludes supplemental draft picks, although the only supplemental draft pick used was a second-round choice by Cleveland on Josh Gordon. from 2012 to 2014 than the Rams. Those drafts could have rebuilt the roster, and they formed the core for a 2016 team that could contend for a Super Bowl.
12Joe Flacco2012Ravens114.780.9✓ playerseasonteamRatingQBRWon SB? Goff’s yards per dropback, which factors in sacks and yards lost to sacks, has dropped a league-worst 2.32 yards. A good part of this decline can be explained by the inability to capitalize on what had been the bread and butter of the Rams’ passing game, the play-action pass. When passing after faking a handoff to the running back, Goff has averaged 7.39 yards per dropback since Week 10, which is a far cry from the 10.90 he gained in the first half of his season (on 112 and 107 dropbacks, respectively). Goff’s QBR on play action is down 20 points compared with the first half of his season.The big play that often came via play action is also lacking from the Rams’ offense. The team has managed 3.2 passing plays of 20 or more yards per game since Week 10, just under the NFL average. In the first half of their season, however, the Rams averaged 5.1 big passing plays per game, tied with the Chiefs for the league lead. In the playoffs, the Rams have been even less explosive, with just six big passing plays in two games, four fewer than the Patriots have.To be fair, Goff has not been operating with the same supporting cast. His best player, star running back Todd Gurley, has been hurt, limited or rusty since just before Christmas. And Goff has clearly missed his most efficient receiver this year in yards per target, Cooper Kupp, who tore his ACL in Week 10.On the sport’s biggest stage, Goff has a chance to silence critics who have been hounding him since his draft class. He has been called a system quarterback, to the great annoyance of the creator of that system, Rams head coach Sean McVay. (His argument wasn’t helped, however, when people started noticing that the Rams often rush to the line of scrimmage so that McVay can call audibles before the play clock cuts off his radio communication into Goff’s helmet.)Goff, just 24, has the opportunity to take Brady’s spot as the second-youngest quarterback in history to win a Super Bowl. But doing so will likely require Goff to again be the quarterback he was in the first half of his season. 1Colin Kaepernick201249ers105.994.7 17Tom Brady2016Patriots99.575.9✓ 11Kurt Warner2008Cardinals112.182.3 23Russell Wilson2014Seahawks81.953.0 20Jared Goff2018Rams79.562.8? 4Drew Brees2009Saints116.189.0✓ 25Russell Wilson2013Seahawks89.135.6✓ Goff’s performance isn’t quite as uninspiring as Rex Grossman’s in the playoffs following the 2006 season (30.6 QBR) or even Peyton Manning’s in the playoffs for the 2015 season (40.0 QBR). So the Rams clearly did not advance to the Super Bowl despite Goff. But they aren’t in Atlanta because of him, either. And for the Rams to claim the sport’s ultimate prize against the Patriots on Sunday, Goff will almost certainly need to raise his game to a much higher level, considering that nine of the last 12 Super Bowl MVPs have been quarterbacks.2Since the 2006 season, the only Super Bowl MVPs who have not been quarterbacks were on teams whose quarterbacks advanced to the big game despite playoff performances that were worse than Goff’s — Manning in the 2015 season, Russell Wilson in the 2013 season and Ben Roethlisberger in the 2008 season.It’s easy to write off Goff’s lackluster postseason to the small sample size of two games, but the problem for the Rams is that this is a continuation of a larger trend: Goff’s performance has been in a free fall during the second half of his season.Over the nine games that Goff played from Week 10 through the conference championship (a span that covers 358 dropbacks), his Total QBR was 54.6, which ranks 21st out of 31 qualifying quarterbacks.3The NFL requires quarterbacks to throw 14 passes per team game to qualify. Beyond that, the number of games played may vary by QB. Brady’s number over the same time period (76.9) ranks second, behind only Sam Darnold of the Jets.4Across just four games. Goff was barely better than Denver’s Case Keenum (53.3).Compare Goff’s second-half-of-the-season performance to his Total QBR in the nine games he played between Week 1 and Week 9 — 77.0 (323 dropbacks). That’s a decline of 22.4 points, which ties him with Cam Newton, who was playing with a throwing shoulder that has required surgery, as the biggest falloff since Week 10 among quarterbacks who qualified in both the first half and second half of the season: 21Ben Roethlisberger2010Steelers75.562.1 2Matt Ryan2016Falcons132.692.5 13Eli Manning2007Giants99.180.6✓ 7Peyton Manning2013Broncos107.083.8 26Rex Grossman2006Bears75.430.6 22Ben Roethlisberger2008Steelers90.856.5✓ 19Peyton Manning2006Colts66.872.9✓ 15Tom Brady2011Patriots105.878.7 6Tom Brady2018Patriots91.585.6? 18Eli Manning2011Giants103.174.8✓ 3Peyton Manning2009Colts104.691.9 16Nick Foles2017Eagles122.177.5✓ 5Aaron Rodgers2010Packers109.286.1✓ 9Cam Newton2015Panthers113.483.0 14Tom Brady2014Patriots99.880.0✓ Most quarterbacks drive the bus to the Super Bowl. Their play is so sharp that it’s a major factor in their team’s advance through the postseason. A few, however, are merely passengers on the bus.Based on his performance so far in the playoffs, Los Angeles Rams quarterback Jared Goff, who will face off against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl on Sunday, may be a part of this second group. This is strange considering all that Goff accomplished in the regular season: He was top five in the league in yards per attempt and top 10 in passer rating, threw 32 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, was named to the Pro Bowl for a second straight year and was even a leading MVP candidate. But that Goff was absent from the divisional and championship rounds of the playoffs.Through the first three rounds of the playoffs, Goff’s overall performance as measured by Total Quarterback Rating is 62.8, according to ESPN’s Stats & Information Group.1Total QBR is a metric on a 0-to-100 scale that incorporates all of the quarterback’s contributions to winning on all of his plays, adjusting for opponent quality. Among the 26 postseason performances by quarterbacks who have played in the Super Bowl since February 2007 (including Brady’s 2018 postseason to date), Goff’s ranks 20th. That’s more than 10 points worse than the average Super Bowl quarterback over the same span (73.7). And it’s nearly 23 points short of Brady’s current postseason performance, the best of his six seasons in the sample. 10Tom Brady2007Patriots105.782.5 Goff’s been off in the playoffsSuper Bowl quarterbacks by passer rating and Total QBR for playoff performance through the championship round, 2006 through 2018 Source: ESPN Stats & Information Group 24Peyton Manning2015Broncos81.740.0✓ 8Tom Brady2017Patriots105.083.3 Check out our latest NFL predictions.
Talk about a tale of two halves.No. 11 West Virginia (15-3) outscored No. 21 Ohio State (14-6) by 18 points in the second session to eliminate a 12-point halftime deficit and beat the Buckeyes 71-65 Saturday in Morgantown, W.V.Behind efficient scoring and a stifling defense, the Buckeyes opened up a 14-point first-half advantage. That lead slimmed, however, when the Mountaineers posted the first 10 points of the second half.After West Virginia closed within one, OSU sophomore guard William Buford caught fire, nailing three consecutive jump shots to vault the Bucks to a 49-43 edge.But Bob Huggins’ squad wouldn’t go away quietly. The Mountaineers put the squeeze on defensively, forcing Buckeye turnovers, and dominated the boards as the game went on. Forward Kevin Jones, who scored nine points, finished with 11 rebounds- seven offensive- and four blocks.Da’Sean Butler led West Virginia with 21 points- 16 in the second half- to go with eight rebounds and five assists. His 3-pointer with 6:28 remaining gave the Mountaineers a 62-58 advantage, a lead they would not relinquish.As usual, junior guard Evan Turner fueled Ohio State, finishing with 18 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. But he shot just 6 of 17 from the floor and missed several critical free throws down the stretch. The Bucks converted just one field goal in the contest’s final eight minutes.OSU climbed within 64-61 after a trio of Turner free throws, but West Virginia scored the game’s next five points, as the Bucks went scoreless for nearly three minutes. Turner missed a pair of free throws, committed a pair of turnovers and forward David Lighty was called for an offensive foul as the game slipped away for Ohio State.Buford finished with a season-high 22 points and center Dallas Lauderdale collected eight rebounds to go with eight points and four blocks.For a while, the game appeared to be a role reversal from last year’s meeting between the two schools, when West Virginia obliterated the Buckeyes in Columbus, 76-48. It takes two halves, however, to win a game, and the Mountaineers’ second-half effort proved too much for OSU to handle.
Then-freshman guard Ameryst Alston (14) dribbles the ball during a game against Penn State Jan. 27 at St. John Arena. OSU lost, 71-56.Credit: Daniel Chi / For The LanternDespite the loss of a coach and an all-conference guard, the Ohio State women’s basketball team is still determined to win.OSU has welcomed new coach Kevin McGuff to the sidelines after two seasons at the University of Washington and nine seasons at Xavier.McGuff replaces former coach Jim Foster, who was terminated by OSU March 19. Foster spent 11 seasons in Columbus and garnered a 279-82 record.Coach Foster was “terminated without cause,” an OSU athletic department spokeswoman told The Lantern in March.McGuff must lead a team that has to fill an offensive hole left by former All-Big Ten guard Tayler Hill. Last season, Hill averaged 21.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists and was selected fourth overall by the Washington Mystics in the WNBA Draft.McGuff said a team effort is needed to fill that void.“I don’t mind having a team that has to share the ball,” McGuff said. “We have to pass the ball, play aggressively and create shots for our teammates to score. I’m fine with that.”Sophomore guard Ameryst Alston said the whole team needs to step up in place of Hill.“Not so much just myself, but the whole team needs to bring something to the table,” Alston said.The Buckeyes return three starters in Alston, junior guard Raven Ferguson, and senior center Ashley Adams. There are no true freshmen on the roster.“We do have kids that have been through the grind of a season,” McGuff said. “I’m hopeful that’ll carry us through the year. So we don’t have to worry about anyone hitting the proverbial freshmen wall.”OSU went 18-13 overall and 7-10 in conference play a year ago. This season’s schedule sees the team matched up against eight preseason ranked teams. Of those eight, four are conference opponents (Penn State, Nebraska, Purdue, Michigan State) and four are non-conference opponents that include preseason No. 1 Connecticut.Adams said the tough schedule will help OSU prepare for difficult conference play.“We’re excited about playing teams that show us we can play in the Big Ten,” Adams said at OSU Media Day Oct. 18. “People may think we’re going to be a nobody, but if we measure up to these teams, it will make it easier in the Big Ten.”OSU is set for its season to start Friday in Morgantown, W.Va., against West Virginia. The home opener is scheduled for Sunday at 2 p.m. against Florida Atlantic at the Schottenstein Center.