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Five things we still need to learn about the 2023 Ravens

With the best record and scoring margin in the AFC and a 1 1/2-game lead in their division, the Ravens have aced their season to this point. And that’s with three maddening collapses built into their resume.But general manager Eric DeCosta and coach John Harbaugh did not assemble and hone this roster with the goal of looking good on the first weekend of December. The next two months will define them and especially quarterback Lamar Jackson, who has yet to come close to a Super Bowl in six otherwise dazzling seasons.Advertisement[ Mike Preston’s Ravens mailbag: Answering questions about Ronnie Stanley, offseason priorities and more ]With that in mind, what do we still need to know about the 2023 Ravens, who have already answered many of the questions we posed heading into the season? What flaws could be exploited, what traps set, to keep them from reaching their lofty goals? Here are five pressing questions as they look ahead to a difficult five-game stretch run and the playoffs beyond.Stanley injured his right knee in the season opener and reinjured it in the Ravens’ Nov. 12 loss to the Cleveland Browns. He missed just one game before starting at left tackle Sunday night in the Ravens’ 20-10 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers. His performance against the great Khalil Mack and other Chargers pass rushers was alarming; he surrendered a team-high six pressures and earned the lowest grade of any Ravens offensive player, according to Pro Football Focus.AdvertisementFor the season, Stanley leads the team’s offensive linemen in pressures allowed and penalties. Though 15 of those 28 pressures were packed into the two games he played immediately after returning from injury, Harbaugh did not mince words Monday in assessing Stanley’s knee-related struggles.“It’s not been great,” he said. “I think he’d probably be the first person to tell you it’s not been great. He needs to get stronger and get his technique right. He needs to get out at practice and keep growing back into … He’s a great player. We want to get him back into playing at that high level.”The Ravens invested $98.75 million to lock in Stanley as Jackson’s chief protector, a move that made all the sense in the world coming off his All-Pro performance in 2019. Almost since the day he signed, however, injuries have robbed him of the mobility and sturdy base that made him a star at one of the league’s premium positions.Stanley showed he could still play at a near-elite level last season and hoped to build on that this year after a healthy offseason. His knee injury has clouded that hopeful narrative.To be fair, Stanley bounced back from his initial injury to deliver solid performances in the Ravens’ wins over Tennessee, Detroit and Arizona. Perhaps the bye week, as Harbaugh suggested, will do him a world of good. If he continues to be the player we saw against the Chargers, however, would the Ravens consider turning to Patrick Mekari?It would be a surprise given that Stanley’s PFF pass blocking grade is still higher than Mekari’s. The Ravens feel, correctly, that they‘re strongest when they hold Mekari in reserve as a utility lineman. But the Chargers’ pressure pushed Jackson to a subpar performance, and they can’t let that become a regular occurrence as the playoffs draw near.The Ravens also seem unlikely to eat $17.8 million in dead money to move on from Stanley before June 1 of next year, but they need to draft a future starting tackle in April given his injuries and the fact right tackle Morgan Moses will turn 33 before next season.Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson, right, celebrates with wide receiver Zay Flowers after running for a touchdown against the Browns on Oct. 1. Flowers leads the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and missed tackles forced. (Sue Ogrocki/AP)The Pro Bowl tight end’s ankle injury, which will probably sideline him the rest of the season, was a sharp blow to the Ravens’ Super Bowl ambitions. As Jackson has said many times, he does not have the same instinctive connection with any other receiver. When chaos ensued, he knew he could look for No. 89 in a free patch of ground.Advertisement“There are times when they do things, and they do it so fast that you think that that was the play,” quarterbacks coach Tee Martin said. “Mark may break a route off, Lamar may throw it back-shoulder or throw it on an angle that it wasn’t meant for it to be thrown on, but he saw Mark’s body language going that way, [and] he threw it toward that angle. And you just can’t make that up; you can’t practice that; you can’t re-create that.”There are plenty of appealing options remaining. As Harbaugh said recently, the Ravens are probably better equipped to play without Andrews than they would have been in any year going back to 2019.[ The Ravens’ unusual approach that’s helped them lead the NFL in sacks: ‘Being in the same room helps’ ]Isaiah Likely, Andrews’ understudy, is a genuine threat to defenses. Offensive coordinator Todd Monken said he has more “twitch” getting to the outside than Andrews, a quality we saw when Likely turned a check down pass into an 18-yard gain against the Chargers. Is he consistent enough to be Jackson’s go-to? He still needs to earn that trust.Jackson has flashed lovely timing connecting with Odell Beckham Jr. on slants in recent weeks. The veteran superstar still has plenty of vigor in his legs after he catches the ball on the move. But will Beckham, who’s nursing a shoulder injury, be on the field consistently enough?Rashod Bateman’s surgically repaired foot has held up, and he’s made a few terrific catches in traffic, but Jackson still seems inclined to look elsewhere for long stretches.Which brings us to Zay Flowers, who leads the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards, and missed tackles forced (per PFF). We’ve seen Jackson target Flowers on a lot of quick passes to the flat with mixed results (including a 68-yard touchdown erased by a sketchy holding call), but the rookie seems the best option to join Andrews in the go-to pantheon given his reliable hands, his gift for creating separation and his versatility to line up outside or in the slot. Will he and Jackson learn to operate on a unique wavelength? The answer to that question could determine the Ravens’ offensive ceiling come January.AdvertisementThe Ravens’ Justin Tucker kicks a field goal against the Browns on Nov. 12. With a 44-yard miss against the Chargers, Tucker is no longer the most accurate kicker in history. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)Tucker has spoiled us. That much was obvious from the minor panic that ensued after he missed a rushed 44-yard field goal attempt in the fourth quarter against the Chargers.Fans could shrug off Tucker’s previous four misses this season. The first two were from 59 and 61 yards, respectively. He hit the left upright on a 53-yard attempt in Arizona and had a 55-yard attempt blocked against Cleveland. Inside 50 yards, he was impeccable as ever.But Tucker acknowledged something was off when he hooked his attempt to extend the Ravens’ lead in Los Angeles. He did not feel his feet were fully under him. Perhaps it was because, as Harbaugh explained Monday, the Ravens were rushing to beat a play clock that had started sooner than they anticipated.With the miss, Tucker was no longer the most accurate kicker in history, falling behind the Atlanta Falcons’ Younghoe Koo. Fans fired off social media posts wondering if the greatest constant in recent Ravens history is suddenly diminished in his 12th season.A bit of perspective is warranted. Tucker, 34, has worked through relative dips in the past. For example, he made just eight of 19 attempts from 50 yards or beyond in 2014 and 2015. He rebounded with his greatest statistical season (38 of 39 overall, 10 of 10 from 50 yards or beyond) in 2016. His leg has appeared as strong as ever in warmups and on his wayward attempts. He’s still as devoted a technician as you’ll find in any sport.Harbaugh, who takes special teams as seriously as anyone in the NFL, did not sound concerned. “It’s just a miss,” he said. “He’s human, and I’m sure glad we have him. [I] always will be.”AdvertisementThe Ravens’ special teams lapses have not been limited to Tucker’s misses. Spotty punt coverage is the chief culprit for their unfamiliar No. 19 ranking in special teams DVOA. Nagging injuries have periodically robbed Pro Bowl returner Devin Duvernay of his explosiveness.When they matched up with the league’s best teams in years past, the Ravens counted on a marginal advantage in special teams. Their emphasis on the sport’s third phase is a signature of Harbaugh’s tenure. Right now, that edge is missing.When a story seems too good to be true, we look for the lie. It’s human nature.That’s not to suggest there’s anything misleading about the Ravens’ exceptional defensive performance through 12 games. It’s simply remarkable that they’re leading the league in sacks and holding opponents to 4.2 yards per pass attempt when our greatest concerns coming into the season centered on their pass rush and their secondary.Injuries have bitten them. Pro Bowl cornerback Marlon Humphrey missed the first four games with a foot injury and has missed the last two because of a calf strain. Their last line of defense, safety Marcus Williams, has also missed six games and essentially played with one arm in a few others because of the pectoral injury he suffered in the season opener. A bad ankle sprain kept their top young pass rusher, Odafe Oweh, on the shelf for four games.None of these absences undid them.Advertisement[ NFL power rankings, Week 13: Ravens enter bye looking like the class of the AFC ]That’s a tribute to the quality veterans — outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy, cornerback Ronald Darby, nickel back Arthur Maulet — DeCosta added during training camp and the first month of the season. It’s a tribute to the absurd versatility of second-year safety Kyle Hamilton, to the unrelenting improvement of defensive tackle Justin Madubuike, to the unquenchable thirst for hits we see from linebackers Roquan Smith and Patrick Queen. It’s a tribute to coordinator Mike Macdonald’s ever-changing looks — 355-pound nose tackle Michael Pierce dropping into zone coverage while Maulet blitzes, why not? — that make it almost impossible for opposing play callers to pick on a specific Raven.The other top defenses in the AFC North feature singular game wreckers in Myles Garrett and T.J. Watt. The Ravens present a more confounding puzzle because they attack with so many different faces doing so many different things. Their codependent rush designs and zone coverage schemes, designed to limit chunk plays, are constant but don’t hinge on a single man.So where might they be vulnerable as they move into the most difficult part of their schedule, with road games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and San Francisco 49ers and a New Year’s Eve home date with the Miami Dolphins?Well, we have seen the front seven go temporarily soft against teams that run right at them. The Ravens have allowed 4.3 yards per carry, 21st in the league, and they gave up 178 rushing yards in their loss to the Browns. Some of this is a natural concession as they gear their attack toward stifling quarterbacks, but how will that look against the 49ers’ Christian McCaffrey or the Dolphins’ Raheem Mostert?We’ve also seen quarterbacks find success in the middle of the field, whether it was Cleveland’s Deshaun Watson identifying soft spots in the Ravens’ zone or Cincinnati’s Joe Burrow picking on their linebackers.No defense can stop everything in the modern NFL, and to the Ravens’ credit, they rarely show the same vulnerability two weeks in a row.AdvertisementRavens running back Keaton Mitchell gets past Chargers safety Alohi Gilman (32) and linebacker Eric Kendricks (6) on Nov. 26. Mitchell, an undrafted rookie, has given the running game a burst of speed since joining the lineup. (Ryan Sun/AP)Baltimore Ravens InsiderWeeklyWant the inside scoop on the Ravens? Become a Ravens Insider and you'll have access to news, notes and analysis from The Sun.The undrafted rookie from East Carolina has shocked the league’s top rushing attack to historic levels of efficiency since he joined the regular lineup in the Ravens’ Nov. 5 romp over the Seattle Seahawks. Mitchell is more than just a sprinter good for a few gimmicky plays to the outside. He runs through tackles, evidenced by his incredible average of 7.48 yards after contact per attempt, as charted by PFF. That’s an unsustainable pace but hints at the big-play element Mitchell has brought to Monken’s ground designs.The Ravens have generally lived up to the lofty expectations fans set when the team hired Monken to replace beleaguered Greg Roman, ranking sixth in points per game, fourth in offensive DVOA and third in red zone efficiency. But they have fallen out of rhythm at times and failed to build on leads in the second half, creating lingering doubts about how they’ll look against elite opponents in December and January.The surprise, perhaps, is that their efficiency still flows more from the run — with more spread and zone concepts built in under Monken — than the pass. Jackson remains a unique gravitational force, even when he’s handing the ball to someone else. Gus Edwards is the team’s best finisher near the goal line. But it’s Mitchell who has streaked onto the scene as an X factor.If the Ravens are to avoid the fourth-quarter meltdowns that led to three defeats, this ground game — equal parts power, elusiveness and deception — will be their chief weapon.Monken and his staff weren’t sure how much work to give Mitchell after he returned from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the start of the season. How would he handle the subtler arts of pass protection? How productive could he be between the tackles?Their faith in him, and the upside of an already-potent ground game, heightens weekly. Don’t be surprised if he touches the ball a dozen times a game going forward.Advertisement“As he gets more and more comfortable, we get more and more comfortable with him and certain personnel groupings when we get him in there,” Monken said Monday. “He’s certainly going to only continue to get better with reps, especially … in terms of the pass protections [and] some of the detail things. Handing the ball off to him is probably the least of that.”

November 30th, 2023|

Catonsville-Arbutus Times 2022-23 high school girls basketball preview: Area teams looking to overcome inexperience

The girls basketball season opens on Dec. 8 and while three of the area’s public school teams are lacking varsity experience on the court, the coaches at Catonsville and Western Tech have been to the top.Mike Mohler begins his 30th season at Catonsville, after one season at Seton Keough. He’s takentwo teams to the state championship game, winning in 2017 and losing the final in 2018.AdvertisementAt Western Tech, Ebonee Dixon takes over for Alan Lagon after one year as his assistant.Dixon had 13 points and six rebounds in the Wolverines’ 46-40 win over Dunbar in the 2013 Class 1A state championship game, one year after she played for the state runners-up.AdvertisementHere’s a preview of who will be on the court for Catonsville, Lansdowne and Western Tech:Catonsville's Emily Bartlett, left, is one of the veterans on the varsity and one of the top defenders. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)Coach: Mike Mohler, 30th seasonLast season: 15-8, lost in regional semifinals to DulaneyPlayers to watch: Only two players, seniors Emily Bartlett (5-feet-6) and Ellie Altmann (5-11), have extensive varsity experience, so the entire roster of 10 players will be ones to watch and Mohler is counting on the pair to lead the team’s development.“Ellie Altmann and Emily Bartlett are real good senior leaders doing a great job,” Mohler said. “Both of those girls are pretty versatile in the fact that they can play all five positions when needed.“[Altmann] is probably our best outside shooter. [Bartlett] is always diving on the floor trying to get loose balls. She gives you 110% every time she plays and that’s what you love to see.”Outlook: Altmann and Bartlett both played soccer in the fall and Mohler is also getting some new multisport athletes.“I’ve lived for 29 years with volleyball and lacrosse players,” Mohler said. “We need more of that three-sport athlete to play.”AdvertisementThe rest of the squad does include some athletes from other sports, including seniors Katie Dewitt (soccer, lacrosse), Jaynie Simpkins (volleyball, softball) and Maeve Miller (soccer, lacrosse).“Katie Dewitt is a senior surprise,” Mohler said. “She is a really big surprise. She really has been picking things up quickly, very athletic.”At 5-10, Simpkins will be counted on the help on the boards along with junior Aryanna Ebanks.“[Ebanks] is our big kid, not tall (5-10), but she is very strong,” Mohler said. “She is our inside presence and she has been a huge surprise in her development. She has improved 100% or more.”Sophomore Dana Wollner will also help in the paint.Junior Gianna Barracato, who has limited varsity experience along with Ebanks, is slated to be the point guard, while junior Anna Woody and sophomore Kaia Gross aid the backcourt.Advertisement“We are way behind where we need to be, but we are just drilling, drilling, drilling fundamentals,” Mohler said. “We’ve got to really refine a lot of things.”Opening game: Dec. 8 at Hereford, 5:30 p.m.Western Tech’s Peyten Cox defends Catonsville’s Asaani Offer in a game last season. Cox is one of the returning varsity players this season for the Wolverines. (John Gillis/for Baltimore Sun Media)Coach: Ronald Stewart, second seasonLast season: 5-11, lost to Owings Mills in first round of regional playoffsPlayers to watch: Sophomore Madison Wurm led the team in scoring (15 ppg), rebounding (4 rpg) and steals (3 spg), and freshman Amaya Williams has been a pleasant early surprise.“She is explosive and super fun to watch and will join the backcourt with Wurm leading our varsity team,” Stewart said.AdvertisementCoach’s outlook: ”We will take our lumps this year. We have zero seniors, also very thin in numbers and short on height. We will need to be scrappy and fast, but I believe we have the guards to push us past five wins.”Opening game: Dec. 8 vs. Eastern Tech, 5:30 p.m.Ebonee Dixon, shown making in a layup in a win over Southern-Garrett in the Class 1A state semifinals in 2013, is the new head coach for the Wolverines. (Staff photo by Brian Krista)Coach: Ebonee Dixon, first seasonLast season: 8-11, lost to Loch Raven in regional semifinalsPlayers to watch: The backcourt will be featured with senior guard Amya Pulley, junior guard Kyli Savage, sophomore Peyten Cox and freshman guard Makayla Jackson.“[Pulley] brings leadership and is expected to have a big senior year,” Dixon said.AdvertisementSavage missed last season with an ankle injury, but is expected to be an intricate part of the team. Cox is a returning varsity player expected to continue to show improvement and be intricate part of defense and offense and Jackson is a promising newcomer.Coach’s outlook: “Looking forward to first year as head varsity coach, as Western Tech alumna and state champion (2013). Focusing on rebuilding the program and bringing awareness to Western Tech girls basketball. Main goal this season is enhancing player knowledge of the game, improving skill sets and establishing a winning culture while having fun. Hopeful to have the program return to division, region, county and state championships in years to come.”Opening game: Dec. 8 at Randallstown, 4 p.m.Catonsville girls varsity basketball coach Mike Mohler is beginning his 30th season as head coach at Catonsville High. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

November 30th, 2023|

Memphis couple to remove references to former Ravens player Michael Oher being adopted as part of legal battle

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A lawyer for the Memphis couple who took in former Ravens player Michael Oher when he was in high school said Wednesday that references to Oher being their adopted son will be removed from the couple’s websites and public speaking materials as part of their legal battle over Oher’s finances.Lawyer Randy Fishman told a Memphis probate judge that mentions of Oher being adopted by Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy will be taken off advertising for public speaking engagements and the couple’s websites immediately.AdvertisementReferences to Oher being adopted had been a key argument by Oher in his efforts to force the Tuohys to account for money made from the film “The Blind Side,” which focuses on Oher’s story and his relationship with the Tuohys. The film earned Sandra Bullock an Oscar.Oher said in a court filing in August that the Tuohys misled him into thinking they adopted him when they entered into a conservatorship agreement with Oher in 2004, when he was 18.AdvertisementIn September, Shelby County Probate Judge Kathleen Gomes ended the conservatorship, which allowed the Tuohys to control Oher’s finances. Oher, who had a troubled childhood, signed the agreement when he was living with the couple as he was being recruited by colleges as a star high school football player.Despite the termination of the conservatorship, the legal fight over money made from the film and Oher’s story continues. Oher claims the Tuohys have used his name, image and likeness to enrich themselves and kept him in the dark about financial dealings related to him and his story. Oher had previously asked that the judge bar the Tuohys from using his name, image and likeness to make money.Oher attended the Wednesday probate court hearing where Fishman told the judge that the Tuohys were removing the adoption references. Oher did not speak during the hearing.[ Ravens alum and ‘Blind Side’ inspiration Michael Oher tells his own story in new book ]Gomes said removing the mentions to Oher being adopted by the couple is correct because he’s not adopted.Baltimore Ravens InsiderWeeklyWant the inside scoop on the Ravens? Become a Ravens Insider and you'll have access to news, notes and analysis from The Sun.In Tennessee, a conservatorship removes power from a person to make decisions for themselves, and it is often used in the case of a medical condition or disability. But Oher’s conservatorship was approved by another judge “despite the fact that he was over 18 years old and had no diagnosed physical or psychological disabilities,” his petition said.The Tuohys have called the claims they enriched themselves at his expense outlandish, hurtful and absurd and part of a “shakedown” by Oher.In a court filing, the affluent couple said they loved Oher like a son and provided him with food, shelter, clothing and cars while he lived with them, but denied saying they intended to legally adopt him.Former NFL football player Michael Oher, right, stands with his lawyers outside a courtroom, Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Memphis, Tenn. A lawyer for the Memphis couple who took in former NFL player Michael Oher when he was in high school said Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, that references to Oher being their adopted son will be removed from the couple’s websites and public speaking materials as part of their legal battle over Oher’s finances. (AP Photo/Adrian Sainz) (Adrian Sainz/AP)The Tuohys’ filing said Oher referred to them as “mom and dad,” and they occasionally referred to Oher as a son. They acknowledged that websites show them referring to Oher as an adopted son, but the term was only used “in the colloquial sense and they have never intended that reference to be viewed with legal implication.”Advertisement[ Michael Oher embraces support from fans at Baltimore book signing after lawsuit: ‘It’s a great feeling’ ]In a separate court filing, the Tuohys said they received payments from the film’s proceeds from 20th Century Fox and gave Oher one-third of the money, which came out to $138,311. Oher has challenged that filing, arguing that it does not account for millions generated by public speaking events and alleging Sean Tuohy kept $2.5 million given to him by Oher to invest for him.A trial date has not been set in the case,Oher was the 23rd overall pick in the 2009 draft out of Mississippi, and he spent his first five seasons with the Ravens, where he won a Super Bowl. He played 110 games over eight NFL seasons, including 2014 when he started 11 games for the Tennessee Titans. Oher finished his career with the Carolina Panthers.

November 30th, 2023|

Navy men’s basketball makes progress during long layoff, returns to action with rout of VMI, 67-47

Navy men’s basketball had nine days between games during the Thanksgiving break, giving coach Ed DeChellis and his staff time to develop a young squad and address the issues that led to four straight losses to start the season.Navy returned to action following the long layoff against Virginia Military Institute, an opponent it has dominated over the years, except for last season. Having plenty of preparation time and motivation to get payback from last year’s loss to the Keydets proved a winning combination for the Mids.AdvertisementSophomore point guard Austin Benigni had a strong all-around floor game with 15 points, eight rebounds and three assists and Navy used suffocating defense to defeat VMI, 67-47, before a sparse crowd at Alumni Hall on Wednesday night.Sophomore forward Donovan Draper had a breakout performance with 15 points, nine rebounds and five steals for the Mids, who led from start to finish. Junior forward Mitch Fischer chipped in 10 points for Navy (1-4), which now leads the all-time series with VMI 24-2.AdvertisementFreshman swingman Koree Cotton scored 18 points to lead VMI (2-6), which was harassed into 33% (17-for-51) field goal shooting and 26 turnovers by an aggressive Navy defense.DeChellis said the coaching staff went back to basics during the layoff. Defense and rebounding, the hallmarks of any DeChellis-coached team, were the primary focus. Through four games, opponents were shooting 62% on two-point attempts, which seriously displeased the veteran coach.“Teams were getting way too many shots in the paint and we were getting soft in the last eight minutes,” he said. “We really worked on guarding the ball, being in our gaps and trying to play five guys versus the ball and helping each other. We were leaving each other on islands I thought.”Navy showed improvement on the defensive end with Draper’s effort helping the team total 14 steals. The Mids pressured the ball, provided solid help defense and contested shots.“I thought defensively we had to be really, really good tonight and I thought we were for 30 to 35 minutes,” DeChellis said.Inactivity hasn’t helped the development process for the Midshipmen, who played only five games in November, their fewest in the opening month of the season since the 2005-06 season.Meanwhile, it was just the second home game for Navy, which was back in Alumni Hall for the first time since falling to Temple in the Veterans Classic.Navy’s Donovan Draper had 15 points, nine rebounds and five steals Wednesday against VMI. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)Junior guard Mac MacDonald chipped in nine points for Navy, which scored 34 points in the paint and another 22 points off turnovers. Draper and Kam Summers (seven points) did most of the damage as the Mids scored 27 bench points.AdvertisementDraper was recruited to play basketball and football at Navy and chose the gridiron over the hardwood. He was on the football roster as a plebe, but elected to play basketball instead as a sophomore.It has taken time to knock off the rust as Draper had not played in a competitive basketball game since his senior season in high school. The long and athletic 6-foot-5 forward came in averaging 5.8 points and 6.5 rebounds.“[Draper] rebounds the ball, plays hard and is an active guy. He’s still learning,” DeChellis said. “He’s a sophomore class-wise, but he’s a freshman because he hasn’t played in two years. It’s all the little nuances that Donovan doesn’t really understand yet.”While the Midshipmen made improvement defensively Wednesday night, they continue to struggle offensively. DeChellis just shook his head after looking at the final box score and seeing his squad shot 3-for-28 from 3-point range.“Offensively, we’re still not shooting the ball very well. We’ve got to start making some shots,” he said. “I thought we had open shots, we just couldn’t make them. We manufactured points off turnovers, but in the free-flowing offense we didn’t make shots we need to make.”Benigni heavily struggled shooting, finishing 5-for-18 from the field, including 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. DeChellis said the point guard needs to focus on distributing and be more judicious in terms of shot selection.Advertisement“You’ve got to pass the ball more. He’s open, but that was part of their plan — to go under ball screens and let him shoot,” DeChellis said.DeChellis shortened the bench on purpose against VMI with only four reserves (Draper, Summers, Jack Medale and Jinwoo Kim) seeing action for most of the game. The 13th-year coach said it may be a while before he settles on a regular rotation.“It’s still a work in progress because we haven’t had a whole lot of consistency,” DeChellis said. “I’m going to play the guys who play well in practice. I think we’ve got good young players, but they don’t know what they’re doing yet. When these freshmen and sophomores figure it out I think we have a chance.”Fisher and MacDonald combined for 15 points on 7-for-10 field goal shooting to help Navy take a 31-20 halftime lead. The Midshipmen, who led by as much as 16 points in the first half, were powered by a 16-4.Aggressive defense fueled the crucial stretch with VMI making just 1 of 14 field goals during a nearly eight-minute stretch. The Keydets shot just 8-for-24 (33%) and committed 14 turnovers in the first half.The Midshipmen took full advantage of the sloppy ball-handling by the visitors, scoring 15 points off turnovers.AdvertisementNavy maintained the defensive pressure to start the second half and quickly delivered the knockout blow. Draper started the second half and was very active on both ends of the floor as the Mids opened with a 16-5 run to take its largest lead of 22 points (47-25) at the 12:22 mark.Draper sparked the second half onslaught with a steal and layup and scored seven points during the decisive run.The Midshipmen continued to pull away with Draper delivering the exclamation point by driving the baseline and throwing down a vicious one-hand dunk to make it 62-37 with just under five minutes left.Coppin State at NavySunday, 1:30 p.m.Stream: ESPN+AdvertisementRadio: 1430 AMNavy’s Jinwoo Kim goes hard towards the basket in the first half Wednesday against VMI. (Paul W. Gillespie/Capital Gazette)

November 29th, 2023|

Brinae Alexander sets school record, scores 29 points to lead Maryland women’s basketball to 114-44 rout of Niagara

Brinae Alexander hit a school-record 11 consecutive field goals to start the game and scored a career-high 29 points to lead Maryland women’s basketball to a 114-44 victory over Niagara on Wednesday night in College Park.The 70-point win is the Terps’ largest in four years and extends their winning streak to three.AdvertisementAlexander caught fire early, as she hit all five of her field goal attempts for 12 first-quarter points. The senior had a small reprieve in the second quarter, contributing five points, before scoring nine on a trio of 3-pointers in the third. She added seven rebounds and five steals.Four other Terps (5-3) — Bri McDaniel (18), Riley Nelson (15), Faith Masonius (14) and Allie Kubek (12) — also scored in double figures. McDaniel added four rebounds, four assists and a career-high five steals in her first career start. Shyanne Sellers finished with a career-high 11 assists.AdvertisementIt’s the 80th 100-point game in program history and the most points scored by the Terps since dropping 115 against Arkansas on Nov. 29, 2020. After the Maryland men trounced Rider, 103-76, on Tuesday night, it is the first time that both programs scored 100 points on back-to-back nights.Maryland shot 67.2% from the field and locked down defensively, limiting the Purple Eagles to 27.1% shooting while recording 16 steals. Alyssa Rossignol scored 10 points off the bench to lead Niagara (2-5), which plays in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.The Terps have won 14 straight home games dating to a Dec. 11, 2022 win over UConn. They continue their five-game homestand Sunday afternoon against George Mason.George Mason at MarylandSunday, 1 p.m.Stream: BTN+

November 29th, 2023|

Orioles closer Félix Bautista named AL Reliever of the Year after dominant 2023

Both before and after Félix Bautista’s season-ending elbow injury, several Orioles players, coaches and executives referred to him as the best closer in baseball.Wednesday, he was recognized as the best in the American League as the recipient of the AL Reliever of the Year Award, named for Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. Bautista is the second Oriole to win the honor since its introduction in 2014, following Zack Britton in 2016. A panel of former relievers — including Rivera and Trevor Hoffman, for whom the National League award is named — unanimously voted Bautista the AL winner, while Milwaukee’s Devin Williams became the fifth Brewer in six years to win on the NL side.Advertisement[ Orioles unveil 2024 home first pitch times, including 6:35 p.m. games on weeknights ]Bautista is the Orioles’ latest major award winner, with infielder Gunnar Henderson being the AL Rookie of the Year, Brandon Hyde being the AL Manager of the Year and general manager Mike Elias being the MLB Executive of the Year.The 28-year-old right-hander was dominant before tearing the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow in late August, an injury that prompted Tommy John elbow reconstruction, which will force him to likely miss all of 2024. In 61 innings, the massive right-hander, aptly nicknamed “The Mountain,” posted a 1.48 ERA and recorded 33 saves. Despite missing the final month-plus of the season, his 110 strikeouts led all relievers, and his 46.4% strikeout rate was the sixth highest of any qualified reliever in major league history. He was the AL Reliever of the Month for April, June and July.AdvertisementBautista, a first-time All-Star in his second major league season, provided Hyde with a shutdown option at the end of games. Bautista recorded five multi-inning saves. Four times on the road, Hyde brought Bautista into a tied game in the bottom of the ninth, then sent him back out for the 10th inning after Baltimore scored in the frame’s top half; each time, Bautista stranded the automatic runner at second base to finish off an Orioles victory.Bautista struck out multiple batters in 38 of his 56 outings and allowed multiple earned runs in an appearance only once. That one game, a four-run blown save against the Houston Astros in early August that nearly doubled his ERA, spoiled what had been a dark horse campaign for the Cy Young Award, a possibility his injury further hampered. But Bautista was still the only reliever in either league to appear on multiple ballots for the award.Bautista’s path to this honor was not a simple one. He originally signed with the Miami Marlins out of the Dominican Republic as a 17-year-old, but after walking nearly a batter per inning across two seasons, he was released. The Orioles signed Bautista more than a year later, and in his first five years with the organization, he continued to struggle with his control and didn’t pitch above A-ball.Félix Bautista is the second Oriole to win the AL Reliever of the Year Award since its introduction in 2014, following Zack Britton in 2016. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun)He starred with three Baltimore affiliates in 2021, cracking the Orioles’ opening day roster the next year months before his 27th birthday. The pairing of his high-velocity fastball and diving splitter quickly proved capable of baffling major league hitters, and after the Orioles traded closer Jorge López that August, Bautista assumed the role. He carried it into 2023 and improved in almost every significant metric.Bautista will have to wait until 2025 to build on this year’s success. Among the Orioles’ top offseason priorities is adding a back-end reliever who might be able to handle the ninth inning in Bautista’s absence. The club also has internal options; four pitchers who earned a save after Bautista’s injury project to be back on Baltimore’s pitching staff next season.But as Wednesday’s honor shows, Baltimore has the challenge of replacing one of baseball’s best relievers.ExpandAutoplayImage 1 of 68Rangers Jonah Heim is late with the tag as Orioles Gunnar Henderson slides safely into home on a single by Aaron Hicks in the first inning. Game 2 of ALDS at Camden Yards. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)Originally Published: Nov 29, 2023 at 6:18 pm

November 29th, 2023|

Orioles hiring Braves bullpen coach Drew French as pitching coach

For the fourth time in his career, Drew French will succeed Chris Holt as a team’s pitching coach.The Orioles will hire French, the Atlanta Braves’ bullpen coach for the past three seasons, as their pitching coach, a source with direct knowledge of the team’s plans confirmed to The Baltimore Sun. Holt had been Baltimore’s pitching coach the previous three years in addition to serving as the organization’s director of pitching, but he will focus on the duties of the latter role going forward.AdvertisementAs the pair of coaches climbed the Houston Astros’ minor league system, French, 39, replaced Holt, 54, as an affiliate’s pitching coach three straight seasons from 2016 to 2018. Holt spent 2018 as Houston’s minor league assistant pitching coordinator before joining the Orioles as their minor league pitching coordinator the next year. He was one of the organization’s first hires under executive vice president and general manager Mike Elias, a former executive with Houston.[ The Orioles will soon reach at least $1.3 billion in public benefits since 1988. They’re expected to ask for more. ]French served as the pitching coach of the Astros’ Triple-A affiliate in 2019 and was set to repeat the role in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic caused the cancellation of the minor league season.AdvertisementBraves bullpen coach Drew French will be the Orioles' new pitching coach. (Steve Helber/AP)He joined Atlanta in 2021, the year the Braves won the World Series. Across French’s tenure, the Braves ranked seventh in the majors and second in the National League in bullpen ERA.In addition to no longer having Holt be both major league pitching coach and director of pitching, the Orioles also parted ways with assistant pitching coach Darren Holmes, who had been with the organization since 2020, earlier this offseason.MASNSports.com first reported French’s hiring.

November 29th, 2023|

Maryland QB Taulia Tagovailoa named second-team All-Big Ten by coaches, media

After becoming the Big Ten’s all-time leading passer, Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa was honored as one of the conference’s top players for the 2023 season.Tagovailoa was named second-team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media for the second straight season Wednesday as the conference unveiled its end-of-season awards.AdvertisementThe redshirt senior threw for 361 yards and three touchdowns in Maryland’s 42-24 victory over Rutgers in Saturday’s regular-season finale to pass Purdue’s Curtis Painter for the Big Ten’s all-time passing yards mark with 11,256. Tagovailoa’s father and mother, Galu and Diane, and older brother Tua, the starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins, congratulated him on video after Saturday’s win.“It’s a blessing. My family is everything,” Taulia Tagovailoa said. “It’s an awesome blessing that they support me. They have been there every step of the way.”AdvertisementIn his third season with the Terps after transferring from Alabama to reunite with his former offensive coordinator Mike Locksley, Tagovailoa threw for 3,377 yards with 25 touchdowns and 11 interceptions to lead Maryland to a 7-5 record and bowl eligibility for the third straight season. Bowl pairings will be announced Sunday after the conference championship games.[ Maryland football bowl projections: Where the Terps might play after 2023 season ]Michigan quarterback J.J. McCarthy was named first-team All-Big Ten by coaches and media, while Ohio State’s Kyle McCord was picked third team.Maryland wide receivers Tai Felton and Jeshaun Jones, tight end Corey Dyches, left tackle Delmar Glaze and cornerback Tarheeb Still received third-team honors from the media. Glaze was also named to the third team by the coaches along with linebacker Ruben Hyppolite II, while Still received second-team honors.Kick returner Braeden Wisloski (media), safety Beau Brade (media), offensive linemen Corey Bullock (coaches, media) and Gottlieb Ayedze (media), wide receiver Kaden Prather (coaches, media), cornerback Ja’Quan Sheppard (coaches), linebacker Jaishawn Barham (coaches), defensive end Quashon Fuller (coaches) and running back Roman Hemby (coaches) received honorable mention.David Braun, who led Northwestern to a 7-5 record after taking over for fired coach Pat Fitzgerald, was named Big Ten Coach of the Year by both the coaches and media. Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. is the Offensive Player of the Year, while Illinois defensive tackle Johnny Newton is the Defensive Player of the Year.

November 29th, 2023|

Angel Reese returning to LSU women’s basketball after 4-game absence

BATON ROUGE, La. — LSU star forward Angel Reese, who has missed four games for undisclosed reasons, is rejoining the No. 7 Tigers in advance of their matchup with ninth-ranked Virginia Tech on Thursday night.Reese had foreshadowed her return when she posted on social media a photo of herself inside LSU’s basketball stadium, the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.AdvertisementLSU coach Kim Milkey has declined to go into detail about why Reese was not with the team for much of the past two weeks beyond saying it stemmed from unspecified “locker room issues.”Milkey said Wednesday that Reese will play but wouldn’t say whether she would be starting or coming off the bench.AdvertisementReese, a Randallstown native and Maryland transfer who is one of the most popular and commercially successful players in her sport, missed games at Southeastern Louisiana and against Texas Southern in Baton Rouge before also not accompanying the team to the Cayman Islands for a holiday tournament. LSU defeated Niagara and Virginia in the Cayman Islands Classic last weekend.Reese also was benched for the second half of a victory over Kent State on Nov. 14.The Tigers (7-1) won all of the games Reese missed, most of them by wide margins, and have not lost since dropping their opener in Las Vegas to then-No. 20 Colorado, which has since risen to No. 3.Reese started LSU’s first four games, averaging 17 points and 10.3 rebounds as the Tigers went 3-1.Mulkey, a four-time national championship-winning and Hall of Fame coach, has defended her decision to hold back specifics about the nature of Reese’s absence, saying it was an internal team matter about which the public didn’t need to know.Reese was LSU’s on-court leader last season, when the Tigers won the program’s maiden national title. LSU defeated Virginia Tech in the Final Four before knocking off Iowa in the championship game.Since then, Reese has appeared in numerous national advertising campaigns and accumulated endorsement opportunities worth more than $1 million, including with Reebok.Her popularity stems in part from her combination of feminine style and ferocious play. She is known as the “Bayou Barbie,” in part because of her painted nails and eyelash extensions, and has expressed an interest in modeling.AdvertisementYet she is fiery on the court, staring down opponents after swatting away shots, diving on the floor for loose balls or celebrating with a short dance move after big baskets. She famously once blocked a shot with one hand while holding one of her shoes that had come loose in the other. She dominated a second-round NCAA Tournament game against Michigan last March with dried blood on her face and a fat lip with gauze under it after she’d been inadvertently struck in the mouth.Last season, she averaged 23 points and 15.4 rebounds — and set an NCAA record with 34 double-doubles in a season.But while her unfiltered public persona has made her a charismatic figure in women’s basketball, it also has brought controversy.Reese is known to say she is “unapologetically me,” can accept being portrayed as “the bad guy” and doesn’t back down from criticism that some of her actions rub fans and competitors the wrong way.That happened at the end of last season’s national championship game, when she gestured triumphantly at Hawkeyes star Caitlin Clark. And afterward, when she took issue on social media with first lady Jill Biden’s suggestion that both LSU and Iowa be invited to the White House because their matchup was so enthralling.Reese said she’d rather visit the family of former President Barack Obama but wound up attending LSU’s celebration with President Joe Biden and the first lady.

November 29th, 2023|