Top-ranked Indiana is the real deal

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Top-ranked Indiana is the real deal

From Comcast SportsNetBLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) -- Cody Zeller and his teammates sent a message to the rest of college basketball Tuesday night.America's No. 1 team really is America's best team.Zeller finished with 20 points and eight rebounds, and Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey both added 19 points, leading the top-ranked Hoosiers to a stunning 83-59 rout of No. 14 North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge."I know people criticize us for our defense, and they say If they can't play defense, how good can they really be?'" Oladipo said.North Carolina (5-2) found out the Hoosiers can play defense and when they do, they're pretty darn good.The Tar Heels opened the second half going 1 of 20 from the field and got their only basket on a tip-in that may have been deflected off the hand of an Indiana player.And offensively, the Hoosiers were their usual balanced selves.Zeller was 8 of 13 from the field with four blocks, one steal and an assist. Oladipo and Sheehey were both 8 of 12 from the field. Senior guard Jordan Hulls was 5 of 8, including three 3-pointers, and finished with 13 points, eight assists and two steals.The dominant performance might even silence some of the murmurs No. 2 Duke was closing the gap with Indiana (7-0), murmurs the Hoosiers were aware of when they took the court Tuesday night."It was a huge statement," Sheehey said. "We prepared for this game for a couple of weeks now. You saw the score, we played hard, we played well, we played together and when we do that, we play well."The best thing about this game for North Carolina may be the end of its run against teams from the Hoosier State.A week ago, North Carolina trailed by 29 points in the second half before falling 82-71 to two-time national runner-up Butler.On Tuesday, it was almost an instant replay.Indiana closed the first half fast, started the second half fast and spent the rest of the game pulling away. The Hoosiers took biggest lead of the night, 83-51, with 4:22 to play.Dexter Strickland led the Tar Heels with 14 points, Marcus Paige had 11 and James Michael McAdoo had 10 points and nine rebounds for North Carolina, who was missing sophomore guard P.J. Hairston, who stayed home with a sprained left knee.There was a bigger problem, though. North Carolina couldn't figure out how to contain Zeller, one of this season's favorites to be the national player of the year."Boy, I would love to watch them play if it wasn't against my team," Tar Heels coach Roy Williams said. "You look down the lineup and Cody Zeller, he's family to begin with, he's really a load to handle, and two other guys that I didn't even hear of when they were in high school, they just kicked our rear ends."The game pitting two of the country's most storied programs -- which have combined for 10 national titles and 3,767 wins -- had been billed as one of this season's showcase events. For 16 minutes, it lived up to the hype.Zeller changed everything with two flurries.By setting high picks and drawing post players outside, it opened up the lanes for his cutting and slashing teammates who wasted no time exploiting the holes in the Carolina defense.Sheehey broke the tie with a layup. Oladipo drew a foul and made two free throws. Zeller beat the Tar Heels down the court on a fast break, and then Zeller closed the 15-6 run by grabbing Yogi Ferrell's errant layup and nimbly tossing it into the basket with less than 1 second on the clock. That gave Indiana a 46-37 halftime lead.The Hoosiers were only getting started."If you let them dictate and control the pace of the game, they're going to win," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "So we had to control and dictate the pace of the game, and to do that, we had to run."But in the second half, the Hoosiers were out to prove something else -- that they could defend.Over the first 8 minutes, North Carolina managed only three points, the tip-in and a free throw.Zeller and Oladipo, meanwhile, combined for seven points in the opening 13-0 blitz that put Indiana ahead 59-37, and North Carolina never challenged again as the Hoosiers won their 34th consecutive home game in November against a team that was supposed to give it all kinds of trouble."It's cool," Oladipo said when asked about the margin of victory over a program like North Carolina. "I mean, we've been working really hard and you guys know as well as I know that this program over the last couple of years was really struggling and we wanted to get it back on top. So to get a win like that, it's a humbling experience."

STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

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STANLEY CUP FINALS: Guentzel's goal lifts Penguins by Predators 5-3 in Game 1

PITTSBURGH - Pittsburgh rookie Jake Guentzel beat Nashville's Pekka Rinne with 3:17 left in regulation to put the Penguins ahead to stay in a 5-3 victory in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night.

Guentzel snapped an eight-game goalless drought to help the defending champions escape after blowing a three-goal lead.

Nick Bonino scored twice for the Penguins. Conor Sheary scored his first of the playoffs and Evgeni Malkin scored his eighth. The Penguins won despite putting just 12 shots on goal. Murray finished with 23 saves for the Penguins, who used the first coach's challenge in finals history to wipe out an early Nashville goal and held on despite going an astonishing 37:09 at one point without a shot.

Game 2 is Wednesday night in Pittsburgh.

Ryan Ellis, Colton Sissons and Frederick Gaudreau scored for the Predators. Rinne stopped just seven shots.

The Penguins had all of three days to get ready for the final following a draining slog through the Eastern Conference that included a pair of Game 7 victories, the second a double-overtime thriller against Ottawa last Thursday.

Pittsburgh downplayed the notion it was fatigued, figuring adrenaline and a shot at making history would make up for any lack of jump while playing their 108th game in the last calendar year.

Maybe, but the Penguins looked a step behind at the outset. The Predators, who crashed the NHL's biggest stage for the first time behind Rinne and a group of talented defenseman, were hardly intimidated by the stakes, the crowd or the defending champions.

All the guys from the place dubbed "Smashville" have to show for it is their first deficit of the playoffs on a night a fan threw a catfish onto the ice to try and give the Predators a taste of home.

The Penguins, who led the league in scoring, stressed before Game 1 that the best way to keep the Predators at bay was by taking the puck and spending copious amounts of time around Rinne. It didn't happen, mostly because Nashville's forecheck pinned the Penguins in their own end. Clearing attempts were knocked down or outright swiped, tilting the ice heavily in front of Murray.

Yet Pittsburgh managed to build a quick 3-0 lead anyway thanks to a fortunate bounce and some quick thinking by Penguins video coordinator Andy Saucier. Part of his job title is to alert coach Mike Sullivan when to challenge a call. The moment came 12:47 into the first when P.K. Subban sent a slap shot by Murray that appeared to give the Predators the lead.

Sullivan used his coach's challenge, arguing Nashville forward Filip Forsberg was offside. A lengthy review indicated Forsberg's right skate was in the air as he brought the puck into a zone, a no-no.

It temporarily deflated Nashville and gave the Penguins all the wiggle room they needed to take charge.

Malkin scored on a 5-on-3 15:32 into the first, Sheary made it 2-0 just 65 seconds later and when Nick Bonino's innocent centering pass smacked off Nashville defenseman Mattias Ekholm's left knee and by Rinne just 17 seconds before the end of the period, Pittsburgh was in full command.

It looked like a repeat of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against Ottawa, when the Penguins poured in four goals in the first period of a 7-0 rout.

Nashville, unlike the Senators, didn't bail. Instead they rallied.

Ellis scored the first goal by a Predator in a Stanley Cup Final 8:21 into the second. Though Nashville didn't get another one by Murray, they also kept Rinne downright bored at the other end. Pittsburgh didn't manage a shot on net in the second period, the first time it's happened in a playoff game in franchise history.

Nashville kept coming. Sissons beat Murray 10:06 into the third and Gaudreau tied it just after a fruitless Pittsburgh power play.

No matter. The Penguins have become chameleons under Sullivan. They can win with both firepower and precision.

Guentzel slipped one by Rinne with 3:17 to go in regulation and Bonino added an empty netter to give Pittsburgh early control of the series.

Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

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Harper, Strickland throw punches in Nationals-Giants brawl

SAN FRANCISCO - An enraged Bryce Harper charged the mound, fired his helmet and traded punches to the head with San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland after getting hit by a fastball, setting off a wild brawl Monday during the Washington Nationals' 3-0 win over the Giants.

Drilled in the right hip by a 98 mph heater on Strickland's first pitch in the eighth inning with two outs, none on and Washington ahead 2-0, Harper didn't hesitate. The slugger pointed his bat at Strickland, yelled at him and took off.

No one got in Harper's way as he rushed the mound. His eyes were wide as he flung his helmet - it sailed way wide of Strickland, it might've slipped - and they started swinging away. The 6-foot-4 Strickland hit Harper in the face, then they broke apart for a moment before squaring off again. Harper punched Strickland in the head as the benches and bullpen emptied.

Giants teammates Michael Morse and Jeff Samardzija collided hard as they tried to get between the two fighters. Three Giants players forcefully dragged Strickland from the middle of the pack all the way into the dugout, while a teammate held back Harper.

Harper and Strickland were both ejected. They have some history between them - in the 2014 NL Division Series, Harper hit two home runs off Strickland, and the All-Star outfielder glared at the reliever as he rounded the bases after the second shot in Game 4.