Nocioni's Revenge: Short-Handed Sixers Face Grizzlies in Memphis

Nocioni's Revenge: Short-Handed Sixers Face Grizzlies in Memphis

Yes, you heard right—Andres Nocioni, he of the 43 minutes played all
season, will be starting tonight at power forward for the Sixers in
Memphis. Why? Because regular starter Elton Brand is riding the pine
with a right thumb sprain. Why Noc in his stead? Tough one, though my
best guess is that Coach Collins doesn't anticipate Brand beating out
long, and doesn't want to mess with his rotations and a successful bench
in the meantime. Noble, though as Liberty Ballers writer Michael Levin
puts it, "I get the idea that the Night Shift is cool, but having them
on the bench only works if your starters are mildly competent." And
mildly competent is about as generous as you can be for a guy like
Nocioni, who has a 5.1 PER for the season in his limited burn thusfar.

So yeah, two of the starters for the 20-12 Sixers in Memphis tonight
will be Andres Nocioni and Lavoy Allen. Not exactly how Dougie drew it
up at the beginning of the season, but despite being nominal starters,
it seems unlikely that either player will get particularly hefty
minutes, as Thaddeus Young, Evan Turner and Nikola Vucevic will probably
soak up most of the actual frontcourt PT off the bench. None of it is
particularly ideal, though at the very least, the Grizz frontcourt is a
bit depleted itself, with top two power forwards Zach Randolph and
Darrell Arthur sidelined with long-term injuries.

Speaking of Grizzlies PFs, by the by—tonight will mark our first meeting
with Marreese Speights since he was jettisoned by Rod Thorn and company
for a couple late second-rounders earlier this year. Mo has put up
respectable, if unspectacular numbers as the 18-15 Grizz' starting four
since being traded, averaging about nine points and seven rebounds on
45% shooting. It's better than what they were getting from the likes of
Dante Cunningham and Quincy Pondexter, certainly, but not quite enough
to put us in My God What Have We Done mode—though I will say that I'd
rather have Speezy starting at the 4 for us tonight than Nocioni.

8:00 tip from the FedEx Forum. Students of recent Sixers history will no
doubt recall that the Grizz went 2-0 against the Sixers last year,
including rallying back from a 20+-point deficit in the 4th quarter to
upset Philly in Philly last January. Payback time? Hard to be too
optimistic with our roster losses and the way we've been playing late,
but it'd certainly add another level of triumph to the win if it was.

Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

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Penn State uses dominant second half to top No. 6 Wisconsin for Big Ten title

INDIANAPOLIS — Penn State’s offense rewrote the Big Ten Championship’s offensive record book Saturday night but its 38-31 victory over Wisconsin wasn’t secure until the final minute.

And Linebacker U. got the game-saving play from the secondary.

Wisconsin, armed with a pair of timeouts and lining up for a fourth-and-1 play from the Nittany Lions’ 24, called on Corey Clement. Clement, who’d already racked up 166 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, got the ball but never got close to the marker.

Grant Haley made sure of it.

The junior cornerback wrapped up Clement’s legs and safety Marcus Allen kept Clement from leaning forward and the game was over. Penn State (11-2) has the 2016 Big Ten title and, at worst, will play in the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2009.

“They ran [a counter] early in the game and split it for a touchdown,” Haley said of the final play. “I saw them set the edge, so I got triggered really well and Marcus finished off the play.”

Haley and company watched the Badgers run wild in the first half; 164 yards and three touchdowns, including Clement’s 67-yard scamper. Wisconsin, one of the conference’s best rushing teams this season, managed less than half that total (77) in the second half.

“They really weren’t running that many plays,” Haley added. “We just came out in the second half and had a jolt. 

“We just had the energy going into the second half.”

Wisconsin got the ball twice in the fourth quarter but managed only 65 yards - 51 of which came on its final drive.

“Give credit to Penn State for coming out in the second half and making those adjustments and allowing those big plays to happen,” Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst said. 

Give plenty of credit, too, to the Nittany Lions’ offense. 

Quarterback Trace McSorley was named the game’s most valuable player after completing 17 of his 25 passes for 319 yards and four touchdowns - both championship game records. He helped Penn State complete the biggest comeback in the game’s six year history after his team fell behind 28-7 in the first half and also finished the regular season with 3,360 yards and 25 touchdown passes, both school records.

Saeed Blacknall had six catches for a Big Ten Championship-record 155 yards and two touchdowns and DaeShean Hamilton finished with 118 yards on eight grabs.

Tailback Saquon Barkley, injured in last weekend’s victory over Michigan State, returned with 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground and caught an 18-yard scoring pass from McSorley early in the fourth quarter to put the Nittany Lions ahead for good.

Penn State, in its first-ever trip to this game, is coming home from it with just its second outright Big Ten title. It’s on a nine-game winning streak that has seen it average 40 points per contest.

It also could present the College Football Playoff selection committee with a bit of quandary. The Nittany Lions, who were ranked seventh by the committee last week, topped the No. 6 Badgers and claimed a conference championship, something likely playoff teams Alabama, Clemson and Washington all boast.

On the flip side, Penn State’s last defeat was a lopsided 49-10 loss at Michigan, which sits at No. 5 in the rankings and likely won’t move into the top four after losing last week to No. 2 Ohio State.

Penn State coach James Franklin stated his team’s case after Saturday night’s win, but also made it clear he and his team won’t be moping their way to Pasadena, Calif., where the conference champion is slotted if it is not chosen for the playoff.

“We’ve got great options in front of us,” he said. “I hear people on TV talking about they feel like maybe the playoff has taken away from the bowls. 

“Are you kidding me? The Rose Bowl? It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Report: Jordan Matthews (ankle) not expected to play vs. Bengals

Jordan Matthews will not play Sunday against the Bengals after missing practice all week with an ankle sprain, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Matthews is the Eagles' leading receiver with 57 catches for 686 yards and three touchdowns. The team has called him a game-time decision.

Second-year receiver Nelson Agholor will reportedly be inserted back into the lineup. If Matthews doesn't play the Eagles will have only four healthy receivers active on Sunday: Agholor, Dorial Green-Beckham and undrafted rookies Bryce Treggs and Paul Turner.