Season winds to close

first_imgWith BCS leader Ohio State (10-0, 6-0) at the top of theconference, the college football world’s eyes will be on the Big Ten and theBuckeyes as they attempt to remain perfect in the final two weeks. After theirwell documented struggles early on, the resurgent No.12 Michigan Wolverines(8-2, 6-0) will look to make a run at OSU and the Conference championship.Michigan would appreciate the help this weekend from conference rival Illinoisagainst the No. 1 team in the land before it takes on the Buckeyes next weekendin Ann Arbor.Illinois, too, would like to play spoiler this weekend asthey travel to Columbus to take on the Buckeyes. The Illini are familiar withplaying highly touted teams as they defeated then No. 5 Wisconsin in October.Illinois head coach Ron Zook does not necessarily see thisweek’s preparation as tantamount to any other circumstance.“Once again, we’ve got to take care of us,” said Zookduring the Big Ten teleconference Tuesday. “We told our team last night that theonly different thing is that you are preparing for the No. 1 team in thenation. The only thing that means is that you are preparing for an awfully goodfootball team. We’ve still got to do the things that we’ve done to get to thispoint.”Sitting in third place in the conference, Illinois islooking to continue its winning streak after two consecutive victories,including last week’s 44-17 stomping of Minnesota.”We know that we’re not what we are supposed to be, but weknow we are improving,” Zook said. “The one thing that that gives us is anopportunity as a program to see that we have made progress from the first gamethis year to now.”Now, we have to go see where we are, and this will be agreat measuring stick for us.” While OSU will look to stay unbeaten and play for a NationalChampionship, three Big Ten teams — Michigan State, Iowa and Northwestern — arestill searching for their highly coveted sixth win and Bowl eligibility.Northwestern hosts Indiana, Iowa faces Minnesota, but MichiganState faces the toughest challenge at Purdue. Even though the multitude ofthese Bowl games are often considered trite, all three schools would enjoy theopportunity to reach them in order to improve as football programs.”I think it’s very important we get to a bowl game,”Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio said. At the same time, Dantonio emphasized the importance oftaking the football season one step at a time.”We’ve been sort of stuck on No. 5 for quite some time here,so we’ve been talking about it just as a reality,” Dantonio said. “We’re goingto continue to play it through. It’s got to go one play at a time.”Other teams in the Big Ten — Purdue, Wisconsin and PennState — are just trying to remain focused and jockey for a position that wouldplace them in a more prestigious bowl game like a trip to Tampa Bay for theOutback Bowl. Penn State plays out of conference at in-state rival Templethis week. These games have become common late in the season. Because of these quirks in the schedule, cellar-dwellerMinnesota (1-9, 0-6) has more to look forward to than Penn State, as they playin two straight “trophy” games against Iowa and Wisconsin. “I know since I’ve been on the job that I’ve learned a greatdeal about the trophy games and how important they are to all Minnesotans andhow important they are to the University of Minnesota to go play well againstIowa and win,” Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. “We have the Floyd ofRosedale here in our presence today, and we’d like very much to keep that pigright here in the Twin Cities.”These next two weeks will be amazing weeks for us allbecause we’ll be playing big rivalry games against Iowa and Wisconsin. It’swhat college football is all about.”With Minnesota still playing for pride, a pig and axe,three teams fighting for bowl eligibility, and the No. 1 team in the nationlooking to stay atop college football, the coming weeks promise to be excitingfor football in the Big Ten.last_img read more

USC women’s cross country team finally healthy heading into Pac-10 Championships

first_imgThe USC women’s cross country team has spent much of the season trying to recover from the flu and injury.The week when all of the Women of Troy’s top runners are finally healthy could not have come at a better time.“From the beginning of August until the end of last week, we had someone sick or hurt every single week,” said USC coach Tom Walsh. “I’m glad it’s behind us now.”Finally armed with what Walsh believes are its strongest nine runners, USC will host the Pac-10 Conference Championships for the first time since 1999 on Friday at Skylinks Golf Course in Long Beach, Calif. And although USC will face daunting competition, Walsh believes the home-course advantage will benefit the team.“Since we’re hosting it, we got to put the course together,” he said. “It will be a very flat, very fast course. I think we’ll do really well on it.”The Pac-10 features four nationally ranked women’s squads: No. 17 Arizona, No. 12 Stanford, No. 8 Oregon and No. 1 Washington. With the incredible quality of competition at the meet, Walsh’s expectations are realistic.“I want to be really competitive,” he said. “It’s a stretch for us to be in the top five. But if we can be as competitive as possible and beat our rival UCLA and finish somewhere in the middle of the pack, then that would be an outstanding performance by these girls.”The Women of Troy include a few standouts, like junior Zsofia Erdelyi, as well as a few surprise runners, like junior Dina Kitayama, who used strong October surges to vault into contention for USC’s Pac-10 squad. Walsh said choosing the runners who would fill out the last few roster spots proved to be a difficult decision.“There were five people competing for the last two spots who I could have realistically chosen,” Walsh said. “I went with my gut and who I think will respond to pressure and run the best on that day.”Rounding out USC’s team are senior captain Bridget Helgerson, junior Christine Cortez, senior Katherine Ellis, junior Zara Lukens, sophomore Leah Gaeta, and freshmen Kathleen Moloney and Kelly Owen. Walsh said all nine girls have had strong practices in the weeks leading up to Friday’s meet.“It reminds me of last year,” Walsh said. “This time last year is when we really started to practice well and ended up having a breakout race [at Bakersfield]. We’ve had those types of practices leading up to this meet, so I’m hoping it carries over.”The Pac-10 men’s and women’s Cross Country Championships will be Friday, with the men running at 3 p.m., and the women at 4 p.m.last_img read more

Elijah Thomas boosts Clemson with versatility in third season

first_imgElijah Thomas positioned himself atop the 3-point arc with his feet pointed toward the rim. Standing at 6-foot-9, ESPN ranked him as the eighth best center in his recruiting class. Back at Lancaster (Texas) High School, Thomas’ head coach Ferrin Douglas said no one could guard Thomas down low. But, in Lancaster’s state title game, Thomas stood behind the 3-point line and swished the jumper. “When you’re a basketball player and you don’t allow yourself under a position,” Thomas said, ”You’re able to put so many player’s aspects into your game, and that’s what makes me versatile.”Pacing Clemson (10-4, 0-1 Atlantic Coast) in rebounds per game (7.4), blocks per game (1.6) and tied for second in points per game (13.6), Thomas doesn’t like to think of himself in one position. The senior has established himself as a potent, multi-tooled force in the paint. His effective field goal percentage of 67.3 ranks 36th in the nation, and it will lead the Tigers into the Carrier Dome on Wednesday night to play Syracuse (10-4, 1-0).Thomas began his career at Texas A&M in 2015. Thomas had struggled with health in the preseason with a foot injury and concussion, according to a CBS Sports report. That December, after playing just eight games, Thomas knew he needed a change. Before the transfer, he averaged 3.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in just 9.9 minutes per game. AdvertisementThis is placeholder textWhen Thomas looked at Clemson, he saw a rising program that could utilize his multifaceted talent. He joined the team for the 2016-17 season when he made nine starts. But by the next season, Thomas blossomed. On Nov. 16 against Ohio last season, he recorded 17 points and 15 rebounds — the first Clemson player to hit 15 and 15 in nine years. About a week later, on Nov. 24, he posted 26 points and 16 rebounds against Texas Southern. In that game Thomas made 10 field goals, showing his prowess for shooting. The once-recruited center is listed now as a forward.“It was a chance I took, and I love it here,” Thomas said.In January of last year, Thomas was thrust into a larger role when senior big man Donte Grantham suffered a season-ending knee injury. Grantham was a premier source of points (14.2), rebounds (6.9) and blocks (0.9). Thomas’ minutes per game increased two minutes to 26 per game to help cover all those areas.Thomas adapted and finished the season averaging 25 minutes per game with 10.7 points and 8.1 rebounds per game. His 2.3 blocks per game earned him ACC All-Defensive Team honors. The Tigers made a run to the Sweet 16 with Thomas in the middle.When Thomas faced off against Syracuse last March, he found success, tallying 18 points and six rebounds. He went 5-for-5 from the field. Despite being smaller than 7-foot-2 Paschal Chukwu and 6-foot-10 Bourama Sidibe, Thomas dominated the matchup. Chukwu tallied just two points (both on free throws) and Sidibe didn’t score.“He gives us a really good inside and outside balance,” Tim Bourret, Clemson’s 40-year radio broadcaster said. “He’s a guy every night that’s capable of getting a double-double if he can stay out of foul trouble.”Foul trouble has often been a problem with Thomas’ post play. In Clemson’s 14 games, the undersized big totaled four or more fouls in half of them. But Bourret said Thomas has the chance to become a top-10 Clemson big man, placed among Tree Rollins, Elden Campbell, Larry Nance Sr., and Horace Grant. Thomas has distinguished himself through his play style, the same versatility that has brought him to the ACC. Douglas, who also coached former NBA all-star Chris Bosh in high school, knew Thomas was different as a freshman in high school. Something that allows Thomas to play the way he does is his ability to shoot with both hands. Douglas remembers his surprise when he found out Thomas was a natural righty, having seen him take the majority of his shots left-handed. He could shoot just as well with the right.“Eli can play all five positions,” Douglas said. “He’s special, man.” Comments Published on January 8, 2019 at 5:07 pm Contact Eric: Facebook Twitter Google+last_img read more