Flyers bury their Boston nightmares, push win streak to 6 games

BOSTON — That’s one way to wash out the bad taste of Boston.

Coming into Thursday night’s game, the Flyers had managed just one win in their last 10 games at TD Garden. 

The Bruins, who had dropped four of their last five on home ice, appeared hungry to right some recent wrongs, so nobody would have blamed the Flyers if they were content to pack up their one point and take it back to Philadelphia for the start of a five-game homestead.

It hasn’t been how many the Flyers have lost here recently, but how they’ve lost them.

Two years ago, Drew Stafford flipped in a fluke shot off Brandon Manning’s stick that beat Steve Mason with six seconds remaining in regulation.

But wait, it gets worse.

The season opener in 2014, Mason used his blocker to stop a shot that went straight up in the air before Chris Kelly bat home the rebound in the final two minutes for a 2-1 Boston victory.

And then there was the disappointment of all disappointments on March 7, 2015. With the Bruins down a score, Brad Marchand scored the game-tying goal with 15 seconds remaining in the third period and then punctuated the pain with the game-winner in overtime. It killed the Flyers’ psyche as they never recovered and missed the playoffs that season. 

To this day, it still lingers.

“Yeah, it’s funny you say that. There was about five minutes left in this game and I kind of had a flashback when they scored twice with a minute left,” Claude Giroux said. “Those were games that we needed, but guys battled [tonight].”  

Of course, none of that history really matters to a coach or a goaltender who have never experienced losing in this building. Give up a power-play goal in the opening three minutes and get over it, which is precisely what the Flyers did on this night en route to a 3-2 overtime victory (see observations).

“That has to be the best game we’ve played,” Flyers interim head coach Scott Gordon said. “A little bit of a slow start but nothing we can’t recover from.”

Like a pot full of chili on a cold winter night, the Flyers’ six-game winning streak has had just about everything in it. The first two games featured comebacks from 2-0 deficits. Huge performances from a pair of goalies who weren’t with this team when the season started. And in Boston, the league’s worst power play got the job done in overtime, when the Flyers had dropped their previous five in OT.

“That’s huge for us,” Carter Hart, who won his fifth straight game, said. “I think that was the best, full complete game I’ve seen us play.” 

Now, we can say this Flyers winning streak has some real teeth to it. It’s coming together at a time when things appeared to be falling apart. 

“I think it’s confidence,” Giroux said. “I think when you get a couple of wins, you start feeling better about yourself.”

That’s two wins against a quality Boston team in the past 16 days. Afterward, Jakub Voracek held off showering while he patiently waited for David Pastrnak, his fellow countryman, to meet him outside the locker room. 

Except Pastrnak never showed. He took his two goals and went home for the night.

Right now, it seems even the big, bad Bruins want no part of this Flyers team.

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‘It’s time for Africa’ in video games

A man playing the Mzito mobile game

Video gaming is now a rapidly growing market in Africa, and start-ups are springing up across the continent to produce games with African themes.

In Kenya, the video games market was worth over $50m (£38m) in 2016. It’s expected to double by 2021.

Weza Interactive, based in Nairobi, is one such developer that is trying to make interactive content for and about Africa.

It has released a free platformer mobile game called Mzito.

In the adventure game, which is available on both iOS and Android, users play as a lion, who with the help of ancient spirits must save Africa from “ancient corruption”.

“We wanted to focus on the African theme because we think it’s time for Africa,” Weza Interactive’s chief executive George Ohere told the BBC.

“It’s just really about empowering the people, showing them they can be the heroes of Africa.”

Part-time developers

Ludique is a game developer and publisher in Nairobi that is working with more than 2,000 video game contributors from across the continent.

Image caption Ludique chief executive Lilian Nduati is passionate about developing a thriving video game industry in Africa

“The African video gaming industry is a nascent industry and we’ve got a lot of developers who are doing this as a part-time thing,” Ludique’s chief executive Lilian Nduati told the BBC.

The company’s dream is to see video game development reach a point where firms are able to break even and offer people full-time employment.

It is also important to improve representation of the continent on the world stage, according to Ms Nduati.

“We’ve got young Africans who have travelled, they’re widely exposed, they’re thinking, ‘Hey, how come I’m not seeing someone who looks like me or speaks like me in some of the games that I’m playing?’ So what we’re trying to then do is fill the gap,” she said.

“We envision a future where we’ve produced a game from here, so from Africa to the world.”

Realising dreams

Mr Ohere studied software engineering in China and came back to Kenya in 2016 with the dream of being a game developer.

At the time, there were no video game companies in Kenya, so he decided to start one with his brother James and friend Joshua Ayugi.

Image copyright Mzito
Image caption In Mzito, players are guided by spirits to help save Africa from ancient corruption

Despite receiving funding from incubators and competitions, the founders continue to moonlight in app development, accounting, law, IT support and cybersecurity to pay the bills.

The developer said that the game has so far been well-received in Kenya, and it is now in talks with game publishers and mobile operators to distribute the game worldwide.

In total, the app has been downloaded 20,000 times on all platforms so far.

Kevin Abwao, the owner of a video game arcarde in Nairobi, said: “There are no African-made video games here, but if I knew of more, I would actually stock this place up with that because I’m all about African-made.”

LeBron returns after missing 17 games

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NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Los Angeles Clippers

Jan 31, 2019; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) shoots over Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) in the first half at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James returned to the court Thursday night against the Los Angeles Clippers after missing 17 games due to a groin injury he sustained on Christmas Day.

The Lakers went 6-11 without James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player who entered the night averaging 27.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 7.1 assists in 34 games in his first season with the team.

While James will be closely watched for signs effects of the injury, Lakers coach Luke Walton said James would not have any minutes restrictions. James was in the starting lineup.

James, who was hurt in the Lakers’ win over Golden State on Dec. 25, was initially listed as out for the Thursday night game on Wednesday, and then upgraded to doubtful on Thursday morning.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers called James’ return “the worst-kept secret of maybe ever. Maybe I’m not just a trusting soul. I just thought it was too obvious when yesterday out of nowhere he’s out. Usually you don’t hear it that early. I told our coaches then, he’s in.”

The Lakers began play Thursday in ninth place in the Western Conference, two games behind the Clippers for the eighth and final playoff spot.

–Field Level Media

Tom Brady: These games bring back memories of being underdogs every game

Tom Brady: These games bring back memories of being underdogs every game originally appeared on nbcsportsboston.com

A season full of ups and downs has reminded Tom Brady of how things used to be for the Patriots 17 years ago when they were real underdogs.

In an exclusive 1-on-1 interview with NBC Sports Boston’s own Tom E. Curran, Brady explained that it hadn’t been the most joyful season up until the last month, when the Patriots started embracing the underdog mentality en route to the Super Bowl.

“I don’t think it’s been that way all year,” Brady told Curran regarding whether there’s been a sense of “unbridled joy” this season. “At different points we were kind of figuring out our way. I feel like the last month of the season, including the playoffs — the last month, really — we’ve been at our best. And, we played really good against Buffalo, really good against the Jets, played great at home against the Chargers, and then had to go on the road and beat a great football team. So, no one thought we were going to do that. You know, I would say we were probably the only ones who thought we could do that. And um, you know, when you win those games, it brings back a lot of emotions from when we were underdogs every game.

17 years ago we were underdogs [in the Super Bowl], and you play with different emotions when that’s the case. So I think everyone’s excited for this week.”

Brady also discussed feeling like he’s been the same guy throughout his career, as well as his balance between work and life at home.

Listen to Curran’s full interview with Brady on the Quick Slants Podcast below:

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Pacers’ losing streak stretches to four games with 107-100 loss to Magic

ORLANDO, Fla. — Terrence Ross scored 13 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter and the Orlando Magic beat Indiana 107-100, handing the Pacers their fourth straight loss Thursday night.

Nikola Vucevic added 17 points and 10 rebounds for Orlando after being selected to the All-Star team for the first time. D.J. Augustin‘s 20 points for the Magic included nine free throws in the final 1:26.

Orlando broke a four-game losing streak and snapped an eight-game skid against Indiana.

Myles Turner had 27 points and seven rebounds for the Pacers, who have not won since losing All-Star guard Victor Oladipo to a knee injury. Bojan Bogdanovic added 21 points for Indiana.

Ross came off the bench and shot 11 of 18, including five 3-pointers. He made three steals in the fourth quarter.

Vucevic scored six points while the Magic were taking an 11-0 lead. The Pacers erased that deficit quickly, but never went ahead until Darren Collison drove for a layup and three-point play with 9:56 left in the third quarter. That came during a 17-4 run in which Turner scored 10 points, lifting Indiana to a 65-57 lead, its largest of the game.

Ross converted two straight steals into points to pull Orlando back in front early in the fourth, and Vucevic’s basket put the Magic ahead for good at 91-89.

HONORED

Vucevic was chosen as an Eastern Conference reserve, becoming the Magic’s first All-Star since Dwight Howard in 2012. Vucevic entered averaging 20.7 points and 12 rebounds per game.

TIP-INS

Pacers: G Tyreke Evans missed his third game with a sore back. He will join the team in Miami and hopes to play Saturday. … G Corey Joseph started his first game of the season. … After posting the NBA’s best record in December, the Pacers went 7-7 in January.

Magic: F Jonathan Isaac had a career-high 13 rebounds. … Ross has made at least three 3-pointers in 24 games.

UP NEXT

Pacers: At the Miami Heat on Saturday night.

Magic: Home against the Brooklyn Nets on Saturday night.

The DII men’s basketball games with the most at stake in February

There is one month left in the DII men’s basketball season. That gives teams a little more time to build that NCAA DII tournament resume.

Let’s take a look at the February games that matter most as we head to the 2019 DII men’s basketball championship tournament.

2019 BRACKET: Everything you need to know about the DII tournament

Missouri Southern at Northwest Missouri State, Feb. 2: The Lions have had a roller-coaster season, finding themselves in and out of the top 25. They also handed the Bearcats two of their four losses last season, including one time when Northwest Missouri State was the No. 1 team in the land. The Bearcats are playing like the best team in the country. If the Lions can repeat that 2018 magic, they make their tournament case a whole lot stronger.

Queens (NC) at Lincoln Memorial, Feb. 2: Another huge game to kick off the month has huge implications for the Railsplitters. Despite going through a bit of change in 2018-19, Lincoln Memorial is still in the hunt sitting at 14-4. It lost 90-62 last time out against Queens and needs to show it can handle the SAC leaders in Tennessee. 

Nova Southeastern vs. Florida Southern, Feb. 2: This is a huge game for the Mocs who also have to contend with a road trip to Boca Raton, Florida for a matchup against Lynn 14 days later. The Mocs have been up and down the rankings and the top of the SSC standings this season. They now sit in fourth place in the conference, but two signature wins against these nationally-ranked teams will go a long way come tournament time. They’ll certainly have eyes on the Feb. 20 matchup between Nova Southeastern and Lynn which could decide the SSC regular season. 

NCAA DII TOURNAMENT WATCH: SleepersStandout freshman | Stat leaders | Undefeated teams 

Slippery Rock at Indiana (Pa.), Feb. 6: The Crimson Hawks have one loss this season and it is at the hands of The Rock. That win has fueled Slippery Rock, and after starting the season at 2-5, it has won 12 in a row. If The Rock can sweep IUP, they can make a strong claim at the PSAC.

Francis Marion at USC Aiken, Feb. 6: It’s Round 2 between these PBC heavyweights. The Patriots handed the Pacers their lone loss of the season on Jan. 9, and USC Aiken hopes to even the score on its home court. The Pacers can’t afford to lose this one, with another tremendous game against No. 21 UNC Pembroke on Feb. 20.

Ashland at Ferris State, Feb. 7: The old guard of the GLIAC against the new guard. The Bulldogs won the 2018 national championship and took a little while to mesh to start their title defense. Ashland has been on fire since day one, currently 18-1. This is a big game as it is between the North and South Division leaders, but a win by Ferris State splits the season series and puts its name right back in the tournament conversation.

Bellarmine, Indianapolis, Feb.  9 and 21: The leaders of the GLVC still face off twice this season, marking two big tests for undefeated, No. 1 Bellarmine. The Knights go on the road on Feb. 9 and then host the Greyhounds on Feb. 21, where they hope their record-setting home winning streak (currently at 67) is still going strong.

Chaminade at Point Loma, Feb. 16: If you had this game penciled in as a top 20 matchup in October, congratulations, you are a DII basketball genius. Lo and behold, here we are, in a huge PacWest matchup. Point Loma is undefeated in PacWest play, but the Silverswords have already dropped four games. This is as much a must-win as any remaining on Chaminade’s schedule.

Daemen at St. Thomas Aquinas, Feb. 22: Another big-time rematch, the Wildcats took down the Spartans in a thrilling overtime game on Jan. 25 to jump into the top 25. This game will likely decide the regular season and could make for one of the best stories of the DII basketball season if Daemen can keep this momentum rolling. 

Other games to watch: Fairmont State at West Liberty, Feb. 2; West Texas A&M at Texas A&M-Commerce, Feb. 23; St. Martin’s at Northwest Nazarene, Feb. 28.

DII BASKETBALL NEWS: History | Top stories

Despite doping scandals, Russia bids to host European Games

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Despite doping scandals, Russia bids to host European Games

FILE In this file photo taken on Thursday, July 5, 2018, Tourists enjoy the view during the 2018 soccer World Cup in Kazan, Russia . Russia has launched a bid to host the 2023 edition of the European Games in Kazan it was reported on Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia is bidding to host the 2023 European Games in Kazan despite a backdrop of years of doping scandals.

Russian Olympic Committee president Stanislav Pozdnyakov is working with regional officials on the Kazan bid and said late Tuesday the city has ”unique sports infrastructure at both the Russian and international level.”

Kazan hosted the University Games in 2013, the world swimming championships two years later, and World Cup soccer games last year. World Anti-Doping Agency investigator Richard McLaren later said the University Games were used as a ”trial run” for the vast doping cover-up when Russia hosted the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

McLaren accused the host nation of leading the medals table for the University Games in part because of ”a defense for the Russian athletes” – cover-up orders from the sports ministry which led to eight Russian gold medalists with failed doping tests being reported as clean.

WADA lifted a suspension on Russia’s anti-doping agency in September on condition authorities handed over data and samples from the Moscow laboratory at the center of the cover-up. Russia handed over the data this month after missing an earlier deadline, and has until June 30 to provide the samples for reanalysis. If it breaks those conditions, WADA could seek to stop Russia from hosting major international sports events.

Russian President Vladimir Putin listed Kazan alongside Sochi and St. Petersburg as a potential future host of the Olympics in a 2017 interview with Olympic historian David Miller. Russia last hosted the Summer Games in Moscow in 1980.

If Kazan is successful, it would be the third European Games in a post-Soviet country after the inaugural event in Azerbaijan in 2015 and this year’s edition in Belarus. The 2019 games were originally meant to be held in the Netherlands but the hosts dropped out in 2015, saying the event cost too much.

Despite launching in 2015 with 20 sports and a lavish opening ceremony, the European Games have struggled to attract big-name athletes. Federations in sports such as track and field, swimming and cycling have guarded their own long-running European championships and joined together to stage them simultaneously in Glasgow and Berlin last year, creating a rival to the European Games format.

The European Olympic Committees, which runs the European Games, said this month that the Polish city of Katowice had expressed interest in the 2023 event.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

North Carolina governor gets involved in Virginia Tech-ECU fight over cancelled games

The ongoing war of words between Virginia Tech and East Carolina that have come about following the pair not playing their 2018 game as scheduled is apparently being taken to the next level: politicians are now getting involved.

In a statement released on Thursday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called out the Hokies for their tactics in dealing with the Pirates after the latter was forced to cancel their trip to Blacksburg last year following Hurricane Florence.

“As North Carolina prepared for Hurricane Florence, I urged residents across our state to stay off the roads and prepare for this devastating storm. Canceling a major college football game means lost revenue, but the safety of players and fans should come first. ECU made the responsible decision and this dispute should be resolved without making Pirate Nation bear additional costs from Hurricane Florence,” said Gov. Cooper in his statement.

The North Carolina leader is also calling upon his counterpart in Virginia, Gov. Ralph Northam to get involved and pressure Virginia Tech to resolve the issue another way.

The Hokies did go out of their way to force the issue by backing out of three games against the Pirates in Greenville in 2019, 2023 and 2025. While there was the possibility of the two playing at a neutral site during the upcoming season, such talk was quickly dismissed on the ECU side and both programs wound up filling the hole in their schedule with FCS teams.

We’ll see if time will eventually heal old wounds between the two schools or if politicians in both states will be the ones to bring each back to the table but things have certainly taken a life of their own after mother nature intervened to break the two up last year.

The DII women’s basketball games with the most NCAA tournament impact in February

It’s crunch time in Division II women’s basketball. Let’s take a look at the February games that could impact the NCAA DII tournament come March.

BRACKET SEASON: Everything you need to know about the NCAA DII women’s tournament

Truman State at Drury, Feb. 2: The Bulldogs are 17-3 and an impressive 8-2 in the top-heavy GLVC. They do have losses against Lewis and Lindenwood, two of the toughest teams they have played. With undefeated, No. 1 Drury looking well on its way to an automatic bid, the Bulldogs could really improve their tournament resume with a signature win, especially at Drury where the Panthers haven’t lost since November of 2016.

Grand Valley State at Ashland, Feb. 2: Both of these teams have impressive records, combining for 35 wins and just three losses on the season. Both of these teams both look like they are postseason-bound no matter the outcome of this game. So, what’s the impact? Ashland’s lone loss this season is at the hands of the Lakers. If Grand Valley State can sweep, we may see a changing of the guard in the GLIAC.

DII WOMEN’S BASKETBALL WATCH: First half lessons | Stat leaders | Freshmen to watch

Thomas Jefferson at USciences, Feb. 5: Another big rematch, this one with CACC title implications. The Devils lost 67-61 on the road at Thomas Jefferson to open January. That ended their undefeated season. Now, one month later, USciences hopes to repay the favor with the Rams heading into this game 20-0 and No. 4 in the country.

Washburn at Central Missouri, Feb. 6: The reigning champion Jennies have their work cut out for them. The MIAA has been extremely competitive and Central Missouri is sitting in fifth place. The top six teams are separated by just a few games, and the road back to the tournament for UCM starts Feb. 6 against a Washburn team that is 8-1 in the conference. This would be the first big win, but another showdown with Lindenwood on Feb. 27 could prove to be a must-win game for both teams.

Fort Hays State at Lindenwood, Feb. 14: See above. The MIAA right now has five or six tournament contenders, and Lindenwood is right there at the top. The Lions have a tough February slate and can’t be expected to come out undefeated. That’s why taking down No. 6 Fort Hays State would be the biggest win of them all. With two against Washburn and one against Central Missouri, a win against Fort Hays State would go a long way come selection time.

MORE: SWOSU may be the hottest team in DII women’s basketball. Here’s why

Angelo State at West Texas A&M, Feb. 14: West Texas A&M is ranked higher, but Angelo State sits atop the LSC. There will be no love lost in this Valentine’s Day showdown that could very well decide the regular season. The Lady Buffs eked one out on Jan. 12 at home against the Belles by two points. A win by Angelo State gives them the upper hand, but a sweep by West Texas A&M can turn the tide.

Indiana (Pa.) at California (Pa.), Feb. 23: The Vulcans ended IUP’s time atop the rankings and undefeated season in one 61-56 victory on Jan. 23. The Crimson Hawks now have to seek their revenge on the Vulcans’ home court in a game that will have major PSAC implications.

Northwest Nazarene at Alaska Anchorage, Feb. 28: The Seawolves find themselves in their normal perch atop the GNAC, but Northwest Nazarene is right there. The Nighthawks won earlier this season on their home court in Idaho in convincing fashion 84-68 to give Alaska Anchorage its only loss on the season. The regular season will certainly be at stake to close February.
 

DII WOMEN’S BASKETBALL: Programs with the most titles | Top news