Britney Griner hits another milestone

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Britney Griner hits another milestone

From Comcast SportsNetHARTFORD, Conn. (AP) -- It had been a while since Brittney Griner and Baylor faced a true test on the court.The top-ranked Lady Bears and their 6-foot-8 star passed a tough one Monday night, rallying to beat No. 3 Connecticut 76-70 in a women's basketball showdown that certainly lived up to its billing.Griner scored 21 of her 25 points in the second half, including the 3,000th of her career, to extend Baylor's winning streak to 23 games. The reigning AP player of the year became the eighth women's player in Division I history to reach the milestone, doing it on two free throws with 1:05 left."Just got more aggressive," Griner said. "Coach told me I need to be more aggressive in the paint, go to the goal, so that's what I did."Baylor (25-1) went 40-0 last season en route to the school's second national championship, and its only loss this season came in Hawaii against Stanford back in November. Griner and her talented teammates hadn't really been challenged since, with no opponent coming within single digits.But when UConn built a seven-point lead in the second half, the Lady Bears were ready."It's always good to give yourself a gauge of what you need to work on," Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. "I told them at halftime, it's been a long time since we've had to execute on offense. We're so athletic and so good and so talented, we just go play basketball. But against good teams who play great defensively, you must execute. And we needed to do some things better in the second half."Griner and fellow preseason All-America Odyssey Sims had a tough first half, combining to go 3 for 19 from the field. They responded after halftime, though.Baylor, which has already clinched the Big 12 regular-season title, led 54-53 midway through the second half before Griner took over. She scored seven points during a quick burst, and her putback made it 67-61 with 5 minutes left.UConn (24-2) rallied behind Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis to cut it to 67-65, but Griner answered with a putback. Then she hit the two milestone free throws 1:30 later to make it 73-67, all but sealing the win.Griner had missed key free throws down the stretch when she was a sophomore and her team lost at Connecticut by one point. She wasn't going to let that happen again, beating the only team in the country that she didn't have a winning record against."It meant a lot to me to get it on the free throw line," Griner said, smiling. "Last time I was here I was horrible, my free throws were horrible."The game, hyped up all season, lived up to the buzz -- even though neither coach wanted to put too much emphasis on this one, knowing there will be a lot more at stake if the schools meet again in the NCAA tournament."This was a great game for women's basketball," Mulkey said. "But this game is not going to knock Geno (Auriemma) out of a No. 1 seed, not going to make us a guaranteed overall No. 1 seed. It's not going to be a game that we get on the plane and celebrate we just beat UConn. It gave us a gauge of what to expect. It will help improve his team and help improve my team."UConn led by three at halftime and expanded the advantage to 41-34 after Griner was called for a flagrant foul for grabbing Stefanie Dolson in the backcourt after the 6-foot-8 center had turned the ball over.That just seemed to fuel Griner and the Lady Bears, who scored the next eight points to take a 42-41 lead with 14:03 left."Coach told me to play through it, so that's what I did," Griner said.The teams went shot for shot over the next 5 minutes, with neither able to gain more than a four-point lead.Griner answered a 3-pointer by Dolson with a three-point play of her own that started the key run. She then hit a hook shot to give Baylor a 59-56 lead with 8 minutes left.Griner, who came into the game averaging 19 points, 7.7 blocks and 7.3 rebounds against UConn, passed LaToya Thomas of Mississippi State to move into eighth on the women's career scoring list. The last player to reach 3,000 points was Connecticut forward Maya Moore, who was in attendance Monday night.Mosqueda-Lewis finished with 26 points to lead the Huskies."We're just not good enough yet to beat these guys tonight," Auriemma said.UConn jumped out to a quick 12-2 lead much to the delight of the sellout crowd of 16,294 that was whipped into a frenzy on every Huskies basket. The Lady Bears rallied behind Griner, who was more of a passer than a scorer over the first 20 minutes. She'd catch the ball and quickly draw three UConn defenders before dishing it down low for an easy layup for a teammate."We're a team that has seen it all," Mulkey said. "We're a team that has seen every defense imaginable."The Huskies opened a 27-18 advantage with 3:30 left in the first half before Baylor scored the next eight points. Mosqueda-Lewis was fouled just before the half to make it 29-26 at the break."As well as we played defensively in the first half, it should have been a 15-point game instead of a three-point game. That changes everything," Auriemma said. "We knew in the locker room they weren't going to get 26 in the second half."Griner scored four points in the first half and Sims had only two as she missed nine of her 10 shots -- including her first seven."Brittney and Odyssey are two of the finest to ever play the game. But they don't win it by themselves," Mulkey said. "We went on a run with Niya Johnson on the floor. We went on a run with Alexis Prince on the floor. Those kids are freshmen that can play."The game capped a weeklong celebration of games in honor of former N.C. State coach Kay Yow, who died in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. Baylor wore pink sneakers while UConn had the same color adorning its uniforms. Mulkey wore a pink jacket and leather pants.

Pare 'brings energy' as big-bodied, sixth-round Bruins pick

Pare 'brings energy' as big-bodied, sixth-round Bruins pick

CHICAGO – The Bruins aren’t ever going to shy away from big, strong centers with a willingness to play on the physical side, so it was no surprise they selected big French-Canadian center Cedric Pare in the sixth round of the NHL Draft Saturday at the United Center.

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The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Pare was described as “a project” by Bruins assistant general manager Scott Bradley, who said that he’s looking forward to the big-bodied forward playing a top-six role in the QMJHL next season. Pare had five goals and 16 points in 64 games for the Saint John Sea Dogs before posting three points in 18 playoff games. Bradley said the Bruins hope to see more offense as he gets more exposure as a player.

“Pare is a developed kid that we got in the sixth round. He went to the Memorial Cup and we’ve seen good things from him. We think we got good value there,” said Bradley. “He plays with a lot of energy and I think his skating is undervalued. Over the course of the year he really picked it up with his skating, and his stride has lengthened a little bit. We just like that he plays with energy and he scored in the Memorial Cup despite playing a limited role.

“He was playing on the fourth line last year. I think this year he’ll be playing on one of their top lines as a top-six forward and he’ll get a lot of ice time...hopefully get some good development there.”

Pare indicated that the Bruins had shown interest in him throughout the season and he had an idea the Black and Gold might call his name in the later rounds. While there’s always room in the B’s prospect cupboard for a big-bodied center that plays with plenty of energy, it remains to be seen if Pare was worth using a sixth-round pick on when there are plenty of big-bodied hockey players out there willing to play with energy and aggressiveness. 

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

Bruins tap Maine-bound goalie Swayman in fourth round

CHICAGO – It was thought the Bruins might swing for the fences with Boston University goalie Jake Oettinger, particularly if they traded down in the first round, but they ended up filling their goalie quota on Saturday in the fourth round of the NHL Draft at the United Center. The B’s selected University of Maine-bound Jeremy Swayman with the 111th pick in the draft after an impressive run for the Alaska native at Sioux Falls as a junior hockey player.

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The 6-foot-2, 183-pound Swayman posted a 2.90 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage in 32 games for a poor Sioux City junior team, but distinguished himself with his size, athleticism and competitiveness as the rare goalie prospect to come out of the great state of Alaska. Swayman was eating breakfast in his Alaskan home while watching himself get drafted by the Bruins. Needless to say, he was pumped as he readies for his first season in Hockey East.

“I’ve been working my whole life for this and just to kind of have the notion of, your work has paid off in a small area of time or a small trinket, it’s very worth all of the hard times and tough times, and kind of working at everything for it. It’s kind of a token back and just an incredible opportunity for sure,” said Swayman, who said he models his game after Braden Holtby while also envying Tuukka Rask’s flexibility. “I would describe myself as a challenge goalie. So, a competitive goalie just kind of fighting through traffic at all times. Being able to see the puck from anywhere on the ice, whether there is a screen in front or a point shot and, of course, a point blank shot. Again, I trust my ability on my skates. I have good feet. I can stay up longer than most goalies in situations where they would have to slide. So, I can stay up and cover more net on a backdoor pass, per say. I also like to cut down the angle a lot.”

Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley admitted that Swayman wasn’t the first choice of everybody at the B’s draft table, but said the scouts were confident making him the pick after another goalie was taken off the board before him. There were three goalies taken in the fourth round, including Prince Albert netminder Ian Scott taken one pick before the B’s selection, so it’s difficult to tell which other goalie Boston had their eyes on.

Clearly, the hope now is that Swayman follows in a proud tradition of stud Black Bears goalies that include Ben Bishop, Jimmy Howard, Scott Darling, Mike Dunham and Garth Snow, and that the B’s have drafted a new goalie of the future with Malcolm Subban and Zane McIntyre in the AHL.

“He’s a goalie that [Bruins goalie coach] Bob Essensa had really liked, and had scouted him. Most of our staff was on board with the goalie. We targeted another goalie, but he just went before our pick,” said Bruins assistant GM Scott Bradley. “We heard good things from [the University of Maine] staff there, and we did our due diligence on him. We’re happy with him.”

It remains to be seen how Swayman develops in college, but the B’s hope it’s a steady, ascending development like that of McIntyre after they drafted him prior to his starring run at North Dakota.