Maryland basketball has four regular season games left. The first of those comes Wednesday at home against Minnesota. The Terps will host the Gophers in a relatively late matchup at 8:30 on BTN. Maryland won the teams first matchup this season, 85-78, in Minnesota. The Gophers are in the midst of a five-game winning streak, having just topped Michigan in double overtime. Maryland just finished its hardest week of the season. The Terps beat Northwestern on the road on Wednesday, then fell at Wisconsin on Sunday. They re still holding on strong to the No. 3 spot in the Big Ten, while Minnesota is two spots behind.
This won t be Maryland s first game without Michal Cekvosky, but it ll be the first where Mark Turgeon knows he won t have his Slovakian center for the rest of the season. Just as the Terps appeared to have him back at full strength for the first time this season, Cekovksy fractured his left ankle against Wisconsin. He s out for the rest of this season, meaning Damonte Dodd and Ivan Bender will stay as Maryland s primary centers.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (20-7, 8-6 Big Ten)
2015-16 record: 8-23
Head coach: Richard Pitino. He s 71-58 as Minnesota s head coach, and could lead the Gophers to their first NCAA Tournament bid in his time at the helm.
KenPom ranking: 39 (Maryland is 32)
Players to know
Nate Mason, guard, junior, 6 2/190, No. 2. Mason is a high-volume shooter, scoring 15 points per game on 37 percent shooting from the field, but Minnesota needs him. He s got the team s best offensive rating on KenPom at 109. Mason also adds a team-high 5.3 assists per game with only 1.7 turnovers.
Amir Coffey, guard/forward, freshman, 6 8/195, No. 5. Coffey was a heralded local recruit (the No. 7 shooting guard in the country), and he s paying dividends for Pitino. He averages 12 points per game on 36 percent shooting, along with 3.9 rebounds and 3.1 assists.
Jordan Murphy, guard, sophomore, 6 6/240, No. 3. He s just as powerful a scorer as Coffey. Murphy is shooting 20 percent better than he was last season, chipping in 11 points per game.
Defense. The Gophers have the 15th-best defense in the land, by KenPom s adjusted efficiency metrics. Their opponents have an effective shooting percentage of 45, the 12th-best mark of any defense in the country. With the fifth-best block percentage, they also make things tough inside.
Ball security. Minnesota only turns the ball over on 16 percent of its possessions, the 37th-best mark in the country. The team s offense isn t explosive, but doesn t give its opponents too many extra possessions.
Shooting. This is the one clear area in which the Gophers fail. Their effective shooting mark is 48 percent, 266th in the country. They re especially bad at two-pointers. Their mark of 47 percent from inside the stripe ranks 280th, an especially putrid number.
KenPom s prediction: Maryland 73, Minnesota 68. Terps have a 66 percent chance of victory.
Ryan s prediction: Maryland 76, Minnesota 66.
- ^ Cekovksy fractured his left ankle against Wisconsin (www.testudotimes.com)
Alabama women s basketball is back in the win column. UA broke its five-game losing streak by piecing together one of its best all-around performances of the season against Tennessee, defeating the Lady Vols for the second-straight time, and the fourth time in program history. Ball security was a huge reason Alabama was successful. Crimson Tide coach Kristy Curry has stressed that limiting turnovers to under 13 per game is crucial in conference play. On Thursday, she was spot-on. Alabama turned the ball over just 10 times against Tennessee, and no player had more than two turnovers for the game. Shelton State transfer Coco Knight had her best game at Alabama, while leading the way to the upset win. The junior guard used 25 minutes to score 16 points, grab eight rebounds and dish three assists. Knight s standout performance set career-highs in minutes, points, assists and rebounds.
The 5-foot-7 Knight trailed only juniors Hannah Cook and Ashley Williams in rebounds against the Lady Vols, and despite her small stature she was able to generate second-chance points by grabbing four rebounds on the offensive end.
The coaches kept telling us to go to the (glass), and that s what I did, Alabama guard Knight said. As a team we had 22 (offensive rebounds), and I think that s the highest we ve had in a while. Teams that finish in the top 10 of the Southeastern Conference standings will get a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament that begins March, 1. Alabama starts the final week of the regular season ranked eleventh in the conference with three games left to play.
New season marks new careers
The start of the Greg Goff era for the University of Alabama baseball team (2-1) was also the start of several new players careers. Nine players made their UA debut over the weekend, including three of the five relievers used in Alabama s series win over Presbyterian. Freshman Sonny Potter pitched a scoreless ninth inning on Saturday and redshirt freshman Davis Vainer needed just seven pitches to work through the ninth inning on Sunday. Junior college transfer Garrett Suchey pitched three innings on Sunday, giving up two runs.
There will likely be more newcomers on against Southern Miss. The game, which was originally scheduled for Tuesday, has been moved to 6 p.m. on Wednesday due to threat of rain.
I definitely think you ll see some guys throw that haven t thrown yet, head coach Greg Goff said. We re still trying to decide who we re going to lock in and throw and our bullpen. When you have a bunch of new guys, in a first year, I ve never seen these guys play a game. For me, we ll kind of get our feet wet as we go. Sophomore righty Brock Love is expected to pitch at some point Wednesday, but some freshmen are still awaiting their turn. Freshman lefthander Garret Rukes hasn t pitched yet, nor has righty Deacon Medders.
Transfer sees more playing time
In late January, there was reason to wonder if Ar’Mond Davis was going to have a role for the University of Alabama men’s basketball this season. Davis, a junior college transfer from Tacoma, Washington about as far as one can get from Tuscaloosa and still remain on the continental United States was far down the Alabama bench. He played just two two minutes against Georgia and didn’t play at all in a home win against Mississippi State. Then improvement met opportunity. Davis started to see a slight increase in playing time. Then, with the Crimson Tide in foul trouble and fighting to hang on in a four-overtime win at South Carolina, Davis came off the bench to play 38 minutes and score a career-high 19 points. Last Saturday, he added a 16-point performance against LSU.
Crimson Tide coach Avery Johnson said it was part of a season-long maturation for Davis that was not unusual for a junior college transfer.
“I think sometimes when a junior college kid enrolls at a Division I school, especially in a Power Five conference, the immediate thinking is that he really is a junior,” Johnson said after the Crimson Tide victory over LSU. “I disagree with that.
“With some juco kids, it takes a while to understand the entire process — school life at a Power Five (college), the way we travel, the way we practice. Especially when you’re playing for me, that’s not an easy thing to do.
“So there were a lot of growing pains for a long time. But I would say that about three weeks ago, we started to see some progress in the way he practiced, in the maturity level, and we started to get a little more confidence to play him a little more in games.”
Johnson said he was still advising Davis on various matters, on the court and on social media as well.
“In the last game (at Missouri), he didn’t feel well. So he tweeted about it. I told him that probably wasn’t a good thing to tweet about because you don’t to send people thinking that you’re making excuses about going 0-for-4 from the 3-point line.
“He’s a a kid I get after every day (at practice.) He and A.J. (Avery Johnson, Jr.) have some tough skin, because they get it a lot. But he’s responded.”
Gymnastics improves score before postseason
It s time to shake things up in the college gymnastics world. Since most teams have now completed in at least six meets, rankings are determined by regional qualifying score (RQS). This takes a team s top six scores (three of which have to be from away meets), drops the highest and then averages out the remaining five. The University of Alabama is No. 4 with a 197.085 RQS. Oklahoma (197.89), LSU (197.655) and Florida (197.435) go down in order for the top three. Those are the only four programs in the nation with a 197-plus RQS.
Without the RQS, the Crimson Tide would have remained No. 6 with an overall average of 196.803. Scores dropped this week for Alabama included the Arkansas meet (195.325), the Elevate the Stage meet (195.85) and the Florida meet (197.825). All of this is meant to give a more consistent representation of each team s abilities before postseason.
On Monday, Alabama coach Dana Duckworth said Aja Sims is fine after being pulled from the lineup last Friday. While warming up, Sims fell off the uneven bars, took a hit to the head and underwent concussion protocol. The senior is tied for 10th on the floor exercise with a 9.895 RQS. She also has a season-high 9.975 and is the Crimson Tide s anchor performer.
Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin will be at Coleman Coliseum on Friday for Alabama s meet against No. 12 Boise State. She was a member of the 2008 U.S. women s gymnastics team that took home the team silver from Bejing, China.
Alabama’s Coco Knight (13) moves toward the goal during the first half of a game against Tennessee at Coleman Coliseum in Tuscaloosa on Thursday. [Staff Photo/Erin Nelson]
Alabama Air National Guard F-16 Fighting Falcons descend into Campia Turzii, Romania, Oct. 13, 2015, after flying from Montgomery, Alabama. Four F-16 Fighting Falcons and approximately 150 Airmen from the 187th Fighter Wing, Alabama Air National Guard participated in Dacian Viper, a training deployment to Romania designed to increase readiness to conduct combined air operations and to meet future security challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Bruch/Released)
Airmen assigned to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing take great pride in the heritage created for them by the Tuskegee Airmen. Today a key piece of the wing s history has once again returned to its flightline. The legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen was born in Montgomery, Alabama, when the Tuskegee Institute s application to conduct civilian pilot training was approved by the Civil Aeronautics Administration in autumn of 1939. About one year later President Franklin D. Roosevelt s administration announced the Army Air Corps would begin training black military pilots, and the place to do it was Tuskegee, Alabama. So began the storied history of the Tuskegee Airmen. Flying their P-51 Mustangs, with tails painted bright red, the Airmen fought valiantly through World War II under the crest of the 332nd Fighter Group.
Now more than 75 years later, a red-tailed fighter jet from Montgomery again flies with the 332nd. The lineage of the Tuskegee Airmen has been passed to Alabama Air National Guard s 187th Fighter Wing. An F-16 Fighting Falcon from the unit is currently flying with the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, which is one of the squadrons assigned to the 332nd AEW. It is well documented that our WWII bomber pilots would look out their windows and gain confidence from Red Tail fighters flying beside them. It has been stated they took comfort in knowing their chances for survival were higher with a Red Tail escort than from any other outfit in 12th and 15th Air Force, said Col. David C. Lyons, 407th Air Expeditionary Group commander. Now we have one of those Red Tails on our flight line, once again flying with the 332nd and creating the next chapter of Red Tail history.
An F-16 from the Alabama Air National Guard arrives at the 407th Air Expeditionary Group where it is assigned to the 134th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron in support of Operation Inherent Resolve Dec. 10, 2016. The red tail flash of the jet brings the Tuskegee Airmen s legacy back the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing, to which the 134th EFS is currently assigned. (U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)(Released)
The mission of the unit is to support Operation Inherent Resolve in the fight against ISIS by providing air-to-ground combat airpower at the request of the Combined Joint Task Force commander. The 134th EFS has been heavily involved in the fight, flying more than 500 missions, delivering more than 800 weapons, and making significant contributions to the fight in Mosul, Iraq, and Raqqa, Syria. We are talking about liberating cities, Lyons said. That is something we haven t talked about in this way since World War II.
The Airmen of the 134th EFS flying the missions to liberate cities in Iraq and Syria are deployed from the Vermont Air National Guard. The red tail was provided to the Vermont ANG along with F-16s from the New Jersey and Wisconsin Air National Guards to ensure the squadron had enough capable aircraft to meet the short-notice deployment to support OIR. At least one Airman from the Vermont ANG takes a special amount of pride in seeing the red tail on the flightline with his unit. During a formal dinner hosted by the Vermont ANG, Chief Master Sgt. Brian Senecal, 407th Expeditionary Maintenance Squadron, had the opportunity to host Col. Charles McGee. McGee is one of the Tuskegee Airmen and also holds a U.S. Air Force record for flying 409 combat missions in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
Honestly it was the highlight of my whole military career to spend time with the guy to meet someone who gave some much, Senecal said. Most Soldiers and Sailors were welcomed back from World War II with open arms and the Tuskegee Airmen had to come back to a still-segregated America. Despite the discrimination the Tuskegee Airmen faced at the time, their trailblazing efforts have left a legacy of which all Airmen can be proud. It is an honor to continue the tradition started by the original Tuskegee Airmen and to be carrying on their good name 75 years later, Senecal said.