Boston Red Sox

UConn women rally to beat G'town, 68-63

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UConn women rally to beat G'town, 68-63

PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Georgetown knows all about Maya Moore and Connecticut's rich postseason history, and the Hoyas were determined to rock the bracket with one of the NCAA tournament's biggest upsets ever.

Backed into a corner, Moore got some help from fellow senior Lorin Dixon and the Huskies responded.

Moore had 23 points and 14 rebounds, leading Connecticut to a 68-63 victory after the Hoyas led by seven in the second half of their regional semifinal Sunday.

"Me and Maya decided we didn't want our careers to end here today," Dixon said. "That's just a great feeling. I think everyone wanted to continue the tournament."

While Moore put up the numbers, Dixon was the catalyst for the game-changing run.

Connecticut trailed 53-46 with 9:36 left, but responded with a 16-2 run sparked by the 5-foot-4 guard.

"Today was a great reflection of what she's been doing for the last month for every single day," UConn coach Geno Auriemma said of Dixon, who finished with four points, four assists and four steals.

Bria Hartley got the spurt started with a 3-pointer and Dixon followed with a layup off a steal. She then had another steal and fed Hartley for an easy lay-in that tied it at 53 with 7:12 left.

Moore then scored four straight and, after Alexa Roche's basket, Hartley capped the run with a 3-pointer that made it 62-55 with 4:03 left.

Monica McNutt's 3-pointer got Georgetown within four with 1:41 remaining, but Moore answered with a long jumper from the corner to seal the win.

"My players aren't in these situations very often and it's good to be tested," Auriemma said. "It's easy to be a winner when you're winning. You find out a lot about yourself when you have to go and win. We found out a lot about us today."

Hartley added 17 points for UConn (35-1), which is now three victories away from a third straight national championship that would match the school's own run from 2002-04 and Tennessee's from 1996-98.

This was the third meeting between the two Big East teams in the past 30 days. UConn won the first two games by double digits, but Georgetown was able to remain close in those games by forcing the Huskies into a combined 47 turnovers with its relentless pressure.

The Hoyas (24-11) showed no fear from the start on Sunday, giving the top-seeded Huskies all they could handle. McNutt led the way with 17 points.

"Our program is on the rise," McNutt said. "We're past moral victories - we should be in the Elite Eight."

It was Auriemma's 80th victory in the NCAA tournament, moving him into second on the career wins list for men or women. Tennessee coach Pat Summitt is tops with 109, and Duke men's coach Mike Krzyzewski is third with 79 victories.

Auriemma has had a lot of success in Philadelphia, making his first Final Four in 1991 after playing at the regional at the Palestra. In 2000, Auriemma's team won its second national championship here.

While UConn is a regular in the round of 16, Georgetown is a relative newcomer. The Hoyas have been this far only once before in 1992-93. That team lost to Virginia in the regional semifinals.

Coach Terri Williams-Flournoy, who was an assistant on that 1993 team, doesn't think it will be another 18-year wait for the Hoyas to return to this level.

"I think we're only a few notches away," she said. "Really one more player."

Sensing the buzz around the women's program, the school sent up two bus loads of boisterous students to the game and the Hoyas gave their fans plenty to cheer about.

Sugar Rodgers had said on Saturday that the coaching staff put together a highlight film showing the team the two good halves they had played against UConn in the previous two meetings. They added one more Sunday, but couldn't close it out after leading 35-32 at halftime.

The Hoyas continued to press UConn in the second half, building their lead with the 3-pointer. McNutt and Rodgers hit back-to-back 3s to make it 47-42 with 15:41 left.

Tia Magee then added four straight points to give the Hoyas a seven-point lead before UConn took over.

"We didn't hit shots," Williams-Flournoy said. "Sugar missed a layup, we turned the ball over twice. Against a team like Connecticut you can't make those kinds of mistakes. That's the only way you're going to give yourself any kind of cushion to beat Connecticut. They have Maya Moore, she hit those big shots."

The Huskies haven't lost in the round of 16 since Stanford beat them in 2005. It has been 12 years since they lost as a one seed in the regional semifinals, falling to Iowa State in 1999.

Even Auriemma kidded in the press conference Saturday that his family and friends weren't going to show up until the championship game Tuesday night when the Huskies will play the winner of the Duke-DePaul game.

They would have missed a great game.

The Huskies have won 23 straight overall and 70 in a row against Big East schools.

-- The Associated Press

Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

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Eduardo Rodriguez's delivery wasn't the same after knee injury, until recently

BALTIMORE — If you suspected Eduardo Rodriguez’s knee created a residual effect with his mechanics as he struggled in the second half, you were correct. 

It was here in Baltimore on June 1 that Eduardo Rodriguez hurt his right knee, suffering another subluxation, which he’s prone to. Once he came back — a month and a half later, after the All-Star Break — his performances didn’t match the competency he’d shown pre-injury.

Through the first nine starts back, Rodriguez had a 5.47 ERA. He appeared clearly outside of the playoff rotation picture.

The last three outings have left a different impression, and are a product of improved mechanics. The Red Sox feel Rodriguez is lifting  right leg, his lead leg, higher now.

“I think Eddy’s regained more confidence physically over his last three starts,” pitching coach Carl Willis said. “We’ve seen a better delivery. Really since he had come back the injury here, a little bit of abbreviated leg lift. He finally got a little more confidence in picking that knee up and getting a little more drive from his lower half. I think that’s made a huge difference. He’s using his changeup more which is also a huge difference, but I think that lower half has allowed him to do that.”

Rodriguez has a 2.55 September ERA. He has strikeout ability that could be appealing in a postseason setting, but he’s young and inexperienced compared to Rick Porcello and Doug Fister. The fact he’s had confidence issues with his delivery could factor into how the Sox decide their playoff rotation, but his upside and strikeout potential are undeniable.

Rodriguez had a knee subluxation in 2016 that affected his mechanics for a time as well.

Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

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Branch on reduced role vs. Saints: "Ask Bill"

FOXBORO - If Alan Branch is worried about his spot with the Patriots, he isn’t acting that way. A notorious slow starter, Branch played just six snaps in Sunday’s win at New Orleans. And to hear him talk, it’s business as usual.

“It’s not like you can practice 3 technique on a store clerk,” said Branch late Wednesday afternoon. When informed that he probably could if he wanted, Branch smiled and noted “you’d probably get arrested for that.”

All kidding aside, it was stark to see Branch’s ample behind stapled to the bench. He earned a two-year contract this offseason, and his presence on the interior has been critical to the defense’s success. But after getting pushed around a bit too often in that opening night loss to the Chiefs, Branch spent a lot more time watching then playing. Did he know that he wasn’t a big part of the plan?

“That’s another question you gotta ask Bill, man” said Branch. “That’s not something I can talk about.”

Branch has - at times - come off as nonchalant about the game. Wins, losses, big plays, no plays, none of it seems to change his demeanor. Knowing that, I asked him if he was frustrated by his lack of playing time.

“I mean every player wants to be on the field so it is what it is,” he responded. 

Does he think that he’ll be more involved Sunday against the Texans?

“I don’t know what they plan to do with me,” he said. “i just need to go in there and keep my head to the grindstone and work.”

That may be Bill Belichick’s plan: sitting the player to motivate him. It would also seem to be potentially the last resort, and with someone who clearly marches to the beat of his own drum, it’s unclear how he’ll respond.