Whittington, Georgetown top Liberty

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Whittington, Georgetown top Liberty

One challenge presenting the Hoyas this season involved replacing their top three scorers from the previous campaign. No one said anything about getting by without All-American candidate Otto Porter. Through two games, that's been the task. Against Liberty, the burden was hardly a chore, though any sense of urgency disappeared early in the second half.

With the All-American candidate sidelined over concussion concerns, fellow sophomore Greg Whittington carried the scoring load as Georgetown moved past the visiting Big South program 68-59 on Wednesday night at the Verizon Center in the regional round of the Legends Classic.

Whittington scored 12 of his career-high 18 points in the first half and grabbed nine rebounds for the Hoyas, who led by 16 points at halftime and double digits throughout until the final minute.

Before tipoff, the school released a statement from Coach John Thompson III that Porter, the Hoyas (2-0) leading returning scorer and rebounder, would not play as he "exhibited symptoms indicative of a mild concussion," following Sunday's 61-55 win over Duquesne.

Porter played a scoreless six minutes against Duquesne, holding his head and wincing in pain as he left the game for good midway through the first half. The 6-foot-8 forward and Preseason All Big East first-team selection did not return to the bench, though he watched from the sideline against Liberty after playing in the first 34 games of his Georgetown career.

"I think he's coming along fine," Thompson said following the Hoyas final tune-up before facing No. 13 UCLA on Monday in Brooklyn. After the semifinal of the Legends Classic, Georgetown will meet either top-ranked Indiana or Georgia on Tuesday.

"I think he'll be available but that's up to our medical staff," Thompson said. "He's progressing. It's mild, it's not moderate, or it's not serious."

Against the undersized Flames (0-3), the black suit sporting Porter watched his gray-jersey wearing teammates handle their business, but also play down to their overmatched opponent in stretches. The Hoyas extended their lead to 55-32 with 13 minutes remaining, but took their foot of the gas and ultimately outscored 34-27 in the second half.

"With all due respect to Liberty, we've got some games coming up, we're preparing for some teams a little bit better than them," said junior Nate Lubick, who also set a career-high with 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds. "We use these games to find ourselves, to find what this team's identity is going to be...I think we've kind of struggled to do that the past two games. I don't think our sense of urgency has been there."

Liberty made its first two shots for a quick four-point lead only to see the Hoyas unleash an effective full court press that caused 11 first half turnovers and spark a 17-0 run.

Playing without three frontcourt options and with only one starter taller than 6-foot-5, the Flames found success from beyond the arc. Five first-half 3-pointers helped cut into the lead at 23-18, but the Hoyas closed the first half on 18-6 run.

Markel Starks' perfectly executed bounce pass to a streaking Whittington for a layup capped the first half scoring and gave Georgetown its largest lead of the half at 41-25. Whittington made 6 of 8 shots in the first half and the Hoyas finished 16 of 26 (61.5 percent).

"[Greg] has that responsibility slash burden to do a lot of different things," Thompson said of his other talented sophomore forward and the one who dominated the boards in Georgetown's season opener. "I don't think it's any surprise to see he scored points today no more than it was a surprise that he got 15 rebounds the last game."

Whittington's 3-point touch was not readily apparent, however, missing all five of his attempts. He was hardly an outlier from distance as Georgetown shot 2 of 15 overall from beyond the arc, missing eight of nine 3-pointers after halftime.

Defensively the Hoyas allowed Liberty to shoot 52.6 percent (10 of 19) from 3-point range. The Flames entered the contest making 27 percent of their 3-point attempts.

"They got Sunday, out at the park shots and they went in," Thompson said of the Flames from distance looks. "Our attention to detail at the defensive end, I don’t think was good all night. Our communication was not good all night, so regardless of the combinations coach has out there, we have to be better."

Casey Roberts led Liberty with 13 points.

"We probably caught Georgetown on a night that they weren't quite as inspired as they will be later in the year. It's understandable," Liberty coach Dale Layer said. "I thought we played our best that we've played, and it took every bit of our best just to kind of hang in there and not be a 30-point blowout."

Mikael Hopkins also tallied 13 points and freshman guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera had 11. On the boards, the taller Hoyas only finished with a 29-27 rebounding margin.

"[Liberty] fought and scrapped and that’s a credit to their coach," Thompson said. "From our perspective, we’re trying to get ready for the future. So sometimes, you have in different lineups that you want to see how they work and different combinations and people in different positions. It’s hard to go through that and say let’s not look at the scoreboard, let’s remember what we’re trying to accomplish right here."

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Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

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USA Today Sports

Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Max Kepler homered and drove in four runs, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco each had a career-high four hits and the Minnesota Twins roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-7 Monday night.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning and 6-2 entering the fifth before cranking up the offense against Ubaldo Jimenez and an ineffective Baltimore bullpen.

A two-run double by Kepler helped the Twins knot the score in the fifth, Minnesota sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run sixth and Sano added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Joe Mauer had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice for the Twins, who reached season highs in runs and hits (21).

Adam Jones hit a three-run drive in the second inning off Kyle Gibson (1-4) for Baltimore.

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It was his 125th home run at Camden Yards, moving him out of a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for the most in the history of the 26-year-old ballpark.

That proved to be the highlight of an otherwise ugly night for the Orioles.

Jimenez frittered away a five-run lead and missed a chance to earn his first win since April 19. The right-hander allowed six runs and nine hits in four-plus innings, a performance that lifted his ERA to an unsightly 7.17.

Jimenez was replaced by Tyler Wilson (2-2), who gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Down 5-0, the Twins got an RBI groundout from Mauer in third before Kepler led off the fourth with a home run.

It was 6-2 before Minnesota bunched together five hits in the fifth. After Kepler chased Jimenez with a two-run double, Eduardo Escobar hit a sacrifice fly and Polanco tied it with an RBI single.

Highlights of the Twins' sixth inning included a tiebreaking double by Mauer, a two-run double by Escobar, an error by second baseman Jonathan Schoop and a run-inducing balk when Stefan Crichton dropped the ball in the midst of his windup.

Recalled from Triple-A Rochester before the game, Gibson gave up six runs in five innings, but nevertheless earned his first victory in seven starts this season.

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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

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He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

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