Sergio Garcia making up ground after rough start

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Sergio Garcia making up ground after rough start

ARDMORE, Pa. -- He said he was unsure how he would play after everything that's happened in the last month.

But there's no way he saw a double and a quad coming. Especially back to back.

Fresh off his feud with Tiger Woods and multiple apologies for his fried chicken remarks (see story), Sergio Garcia got off to a horrid start Thursday at the U.S. Open, making a double bogey on 14 and a quadruple bogey on 15, his third and fourth holes of the day.

There are entirely average amateurs who don't do that. What happened?

"Well, 14, [my foot] slipped. I hit a 3‑wood off the tee, slipped, obviously hit it duck hook -- like a pull hook -- and went out of bounds," Garcia said. "Hit another, good 3‑wood, 7‑iron to about 16 feet and managed to 2‑putt for par -- or, well, sorry, par with the second ball.

"Then on [15], I hit just a terrible tee shot with 3‑wood, pulled it left and hit it out of bounds. And then I hit a good, decent second one to the fairway feeling down a little bit, I guess. Didn't hit the best of irons. Then, I thinned it on the green from the bunker. Hit a great chip, actually a very, very good chip from the lie I had. And unfortunately I couldn't make my [putt] for seven."

At 6-over through just five holes, and then 7-over through eighth holes, it looked as if Garcia had already played his way out of the tournament.

But he steadied himself, playing the remainder of his round at minus-4, to close with a 3-over-par 73. He sits seven shots behind Luke Donald, who is the overnight leader in the clubhouse after Round 1 was suspended because of darkness (see story).

The turnaround started with a birdie at one that led to an eagle at two. He'd make two more birdies and only one more bogey the rest of the way in.

"The eagle on two helped a lot," Garcia said. "I hit a really good drive, and I hit a 3‑wood, the wind was a little bit into the left, from 272, and probably hit it about, I want to say, about 16 feet or so. And then a little right‑to‑left putt."

The crowd let out a roar for the eagle, which Garcia said he appreciated. Coming into the week, he was unsure how he would be greeted by the galleries after his dust up with Woods and ensuing comments.

Garcia was asked if he heard any wisecracks from the fans during his round, a question which prompted the Spaniard to cock his head and repeat "wisecracks?"

Yeah, like heckling.

"No," he responded, now sort of aware of what a 'wisecrack' is. "I think there were a couple here and there. But there was ‑‑ I felt the people were very nice for the whole day. I think that they almost all of them were behind me and that was nice to see."

Whether fans will be seeing Garcia on Saturday and Sunday depends how he fares in Round 2. Garcia is currently in a tie for 78th at plus-3. The top 60 and ties make the cut. The 10-shot rule, that used to keep everyone within at least 10 shots of the lead around for the weekend, is no longer in practice.

That could prove a tough break since Garcia actually played pretty well Thursday -- other than those two bad holes.

"Yeah, unfortunately two really bad holes. But it's the way it is. The U.S. Open doesn't give you much room," he said.

"I guess I was just making my week a little bit tougher, but I tried to battle as much as I could coming in. I was able to shoot a decent score after being 7‑over through eight [holes]. I guess."

Temple's Brown returns to form, but defensive lapse costly in loss

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Temple's Brown returns to form, but defensive lapse costly in loss

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Josh Brown began looking like his old self on Wednesday night.

Temple’s senior guard missed the Owls' first six games while recovering from surgery he had on his Achilles tendon in May. He returned to the court one week ago in the Owls’ win at St. Joe’s. 

Brown showed some signs of rust in his first two games. He had four points and an assist against the Hawks in 14 minutes of action. On Saturday against Penn, Brown played 11 minutes and scored five points.

In Wednesday’s 66-63 loss to George Washington at the Liacouras Center, Brown played a season-high 24 minutes. He scored 10 points on 4 of 5 shooting and added one assist and made some key plays for the Owls down the stretch in the close loss (see Instant Replay).

“He played great,” coach Fran Dunphy said. “He didn’t play great against Penn. Tonight, he was ready to go. He did some really good things for us. It’s nice to have. It’s a nice comfort.”

Brown helped Temple close a large deficit late in the game. He hit a three-point shot from the corner on the fast break with 5:28 left to bring the Owls within three. He hit another three-point shot at the top of the key with 2:44 left to bring Temple within six. 

Less than a minute later, he assisted on a Daniel Dingle three, which made the score 61-58. On Temple’s next defensive possession, Brown grabbed a rebound before Dingle hit another three on the other end of the court to tie the game at 61 with 1:31 left.

With the Owls trailing by three on the game’s final possession, Brown almost drew a foul behind the three-point line before finding Dingle for another open look that hit the back of the rim.

“When I was out there, I was just trying to be in the moment, be in the now,” Brown said. “That’s what I was doing. I wasn’t thinking about anything else. When you do that, you’re focused, and when the shot comes, your preparation takes over.”

Despite his clutch play on the offensive end, Brown was critical of a mental lapse on defense during the game’s most crucial moment. After playing tight defense for almost all of the shot clock, Brown let George Washington forward Tyler Cavanaugh slip to the corner and put up a three-point shot with one second on the shot clock.

Cavanaugh’s three-point attempt with 8.2 seconds left in the game proved to be the game-winner on Wednesday night.

“I lost focus for a little bit,” Brown said. “I helped off for a slight second and that’s all he needed. I give props to that guy for hitting a tough shot, but I could’ve just stayed and not even helped.”

Wednesday’s loss ended a five-game winning streak for Temple, now 6-3 on the season. With defenses focusing on junior forward Obi Enechionyia, who scored 12 points against the Colonials, Brown will be looked at to steady the Owls' offense.

Brown was the only Temple player besides Enechionyia to score more than one basket in the first half as the Owls went into the break trailing 31-25.

“Him being out there, he adds intensity to the game,” Dingle said. “When he goes in the game, the energy goes up. Defensively and offensively he’s a general out there.”

Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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Penn State blasted at home by red-hot George Mason

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The cheers reverberating from George Mason's locker room came from players experiencing their hottest streak in years. The quiet from Penn State's mirrored the whimper of the Nittany Lions in the second half as their run was snapped.

Marquise Moore scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, Otis Livingston added 18 points and the Patriots beat Penn State 85-66 for their sixth straight win and best stretch since 2011-12 on Wednesday.

"It was a great win for our team, really proud of our guys," George Mason coach Dave Paulsen said. "We really, really competed with toughness in the second half, especially I think our second-half defense was really good."

Jalen Jenkins added 15 points for the Patriots (7-3) who snapped Penn State's four-game winning streak.

Penn State led 38-37 after a wild first half that featured 12 lead changes. But the Raiders took control starting with Livingston's 3-pointer that made it 42-40 early in the second. They dominated from there, leading for the remaining 18:58 and outrebounded the Nittany Lions 44-29, outscored them 44-16 in the paint and held a speedy Penn State team to just two fastbreak points.

"We looked young tonight for whatever reason," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We have to figure that out. We have to play much harder."

Payton Banks led Penn State (6-4) with 21 points. Shep Garner and Lamar Stevens chipped in 13 apiece for the Nittany Lions.

The big picture
George Mason: The Patriots are on a roll and keeping pace in a competitive Atlantic 10 conference that had five teams with six wins entering the night. They seem to have flipped a switch following a 93-65 loss to Houston on Nov. 21 and haven't lost since.

Penn State: The Nittany Lions had been winning despite deficiencies in a few areas while making up for them in others over the last four games. They weren't able to make up for their lack of production in the paint, however.

Guards on the glass
Paulsen was wary of the size advantage Penn State's forwards had heading in. The Patriots didn't start anyone over 6-foot-7 while Penn State boasted a trio of forwards at or taller than that. Paulsen was particularly concerned about 6-foot-9 Mike Watkins who was fresh off his best game where he blocked 12 shots against Wright State.

But the George Mason coach had faith in his guards' ability to attack the net and win those rebounds. Moore entered the game as the country's top rebounding guard with 10 per game and posted his sixth double-double of the season.

"We have some pretty good rebounding guards," Paulsen said. "So you can't do it unless you have really active, rebounding guards."

Veteran responsibility
Penn State's gotten big time contributions from a handful of freshmen and started three as usual. But it was one of the veterans who shouldered blame afterward.

Banks was dejected after the game and pointed the finger at himself. Despite leading the team in points, he wasn't able to help on the glass.

"A lot of it just starts with me right here," Banks said. "I had zero rebounds. We can't rely on Lamar (Miller) and Mike for the scoring load and Julian (Moore). Our guards have to rebound and that's what we lacked this game and it definitely showed on the scoreboard."

Up next
George Mason plays at Penn on Saturday and has three of their final five games in 2016 at home.

Penn State plays Pittsburgh in Newark, New Jersey, on Saturday and has another on the road before closing out 2016 with a pair of games at home, including the Big Ten opener on Dec. 27.