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Thinking out loud: Kris Dunn a rising star for Providence

12.26.14 at 1:27 pm ET
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RookeThinking out loud … while wondering how and why PC ’71’s Jim Larranaga ended up as head coach at the University of Miami.

— Top-10 lists … big five moments … three best stories of the year? You’ll see some of these things over the next few days as we flip the calendar to 2015. Undoubtedly, you’ve got your own top moments from the year. I’ll share three of 2014’s significant local sports moments with you, as I saw them.

— A season is full of several small challenges, and another of those was passed somewhat successfully last week when the Friars knocked off UMass and Miami in a three-day period. Now the next challenge is here — nine days off between games, and the next one with Creighton in the Big East opener Wednesday night.

— Players play. So having multiple games over a short period of time has never been a big deal with me, especially when it comes to 19-, 20- and 21-year-old basketball players. They’d much rather play a game than practice, don’cha know? The hard part is getting back into a groove, getting back into sync with each other after time away. The challenge will be to pick back up where you left off before the Christmas holiday.

— Kris Dunn has been, in a word, spectacular. Last two games against UMass and Miami: 15.5 points, 12 assists, five rebounds, four steals per game. Miami’s highly-touted Angel Rodriguez, a transfer from Kansas State, had no clue how to slow down Dunn down, and I suspect other guards soon to face the New London, Connecticut, product will face the same problems. He’s big, quick, wiry and strong. He’s developing his mid-range jumper, too — which will make him almost impossible to defend consistently well.

— What Kris still needs, however, is a little help from a teammate not named LaDontae. Henton is as consistent as they come, and Fox Sports 1’s Bill Raftery mentioned it — he is a legit candidate for Big East Player of the Year. But for the Friars to make noise in the conference race, Dunn has to see to it that Jalen Lindsey becomes a consistent threat to score, that Ben Bentil learns to let the game come to him and not rush his shots, and that Tyler Harris continues to play aggressively in his role coming off of the bench.

— Now you can start following the college hoop RPI, once the completion of non-league play has pretty much settled itself across the country. As of Christmas Day, Providence was 29, URI 52, Bryant 158 and Brown 238 out of 351 Division 1 teams. And the Bears very well could be Rhode Island’s state champ this year? Go figure.

— Not for nuthin’, here are other familiar teams and names for RPI comparison: Yale 57, UMass 65, UConn (defending national champion) 71, Miami 79, Syracuse 83, Northeastern 100, Notre Dame 102, Holy Cross 126, Creighton 128, Boston College 165, Florida State 183, NJIT 199. Forget the AP and USA Today polls — although they’re still fun to look at — but the RPI can and will tell you who’s dancing in March.

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Thinking out loud: Break comes at right time for Providence basketball

12.19.14 at 10:50 am ET
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RookeThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Thurl Ravenscroft.

— The week off for semester exams came at a great time for the Providence College Friars, after working their way through a second tough stretch of games in a short timespan last week (three games in six days). Without the real ability to teach, instruct and correct during that time, young teams and players have a harder time grasping what the coaches need them to do to be successful. That has shown itself to be true lately for some talented but still painfully young athletes.

— One of the youngsters beginning to “get it” is guard Kyron Cartwright. The freshman from Compton, California, is playing with great confidence, and as a result his shots are beginning to fall. Coming off of the bench may suit him, in order to provide speed — and a spark — to PC’s offense. His first career double-double of 10 points and 10 assists against Stony Brook was a veteran-savvy performance.

— At the other end of the spectrum, with the height and length on this team it should be WAY better at rebounding the ball. Carson Desrosiers is great at tipping it out, but I’d like to see him actually snatch a few for himself. And where is LaDontae Henton? Tyler Harris? Fellas, you should own the boards. Make it happen. And while you’re at it, put a little arc on those free throws, they’ll start popping in with regularity like they did a year ago.

— You’re a mean one, Mister Grinch: Former Friars assistant coach Mike Malone had a rough week. After toiling in the ranks of NBA assistants from 2001-13, Malone broke through the barrier and was hired by the Sacramento Kings as their head coach in June of 2013 — just after being named the top assistant in the league by NBA general managers. And after exceeding expectations in getting out to a 5-1 start this year, the Kings promptly lost 12 of their next 18. Now Malone is out, and former Utah coach Tyrone Corbin (one of Malone’s assistants) is in. Such is the life, huh?

— Malone assisted under Pete Gillen on the Providence staff from 1995-98, including the Sweet 16 season in ’97, and moved to the University of Virginia with Gillen as director of basketball operations in ’98. His father, Brendan Malone, was an assistant at URI and later an NBA head coach in Toronto and Cleveland. Mike actually hired his dad to be an assistant on his staff in Sacramento, but father apparently knew best and left his son’s staff without ever coaching a game with him. Brendan Malone is currently on Stan Van Gundy‘s staff in Detroit.

— Don’t be surprised if URI decides to keep a scholarship available for a “big” potential transfer — someone who might be able to come in and play as early as next December. The Rams need to increase their size, especially with Gil Biruta’s graduation, and clearly are missing a true post presence. Additionally, a name to watch for is Christion Thompson out of Louisiana, at Madison Prep. He’s a 6-foot-4 guard/forward with qualities not dissimilar to those of recent Rhody grad Xavier Munford.

— Well-deserved plaudits for Brown’s Cedric Kuakumensah, who was named Ivy League Player of the Week for his performance against Providence. Kuakumensah had 15 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, and he hit two huge 3-pointers that helped his Bears pull off a win over the Friars for the second time in three years. He’s a game-changer, and the Ivy has some outstanding talent this season with Harvard’s Wesley Saunders and Yale’s Justin Sears also grabbing headlines.

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Boston College extends Steve Addazio through 2020

12.18.14 at 3:52 pm ET
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Steve Addazio

Steve Addazio

Boston College has extended the contract of head football coach Steve Addazio through 2020, the school announced Thursday. The Eagles have gone 14-11 in Addazio’s first two seasons at the helm after going 2-10 the season before he arrived.

Addazio’s name recently surfaced in connection with both the Florida and Michigan coaching searches.

“In just two years, Steve Addazio has done an amazing job with our football program,” said BC athletic director Brad Bates. “To lead a team to 14 wins and two consecutive bowl games during what was supposed to be a rebuilding process is a great accomplishment.

“Beyond winning, he has worked tirelessly to recruit top-notch student-athletes and develop lasting relationships with former players and the entire University community. He is one of the best motivators I’ve ever been around, and his enthusiasm is infectious. We are very fortunate to have him as our coach.”

Addazio and the Eagles take on Penn State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27.

“I appreciate Fr. Leahy’s and Brad Bates’ support for our program and their confidence in me,” Addazio said. “I am also grateful to our student-athletes and our staff for their dedication and hard work. Boston College is a great, Jesuit Catholic education in a world-class city that competes in big-time college football and I am honored and humbled to be in this position. We have a lot more work to do, but I believe we are building the foundation for a great football program.”

Thinking out loud: NJIT stunning Michigan biggest upset in season of upsets

12.12.14 at 1:31 pm ET
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RookeThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Tim Higgins.

— Lost in the headlines over the past week was this nugget: NJIT beats Michigan. That’s the New Jersey Institute of Technology, the only independent team in all of Division 1 college basketball, out of 350 schools fielding teams. NJIT went into the Dunk a little more than two years ago and almost stunned Providence College, and managed to pull off one of the more shocking results in recent memory by beating a nationally ranked Wolverine team in Ann Arbor in the school’s first-ever game against a ranked team.

Did Michigan take the Highlanders seriously? No way, especially with a six-figure guarantee paycheck accompanying NJIT back to Newark. Not with a team playing for the national title two years ago facing a team whose home court doubles as the campus fitness center and jogging track. But it does show you can never, ever, count anyone or any team out — and therein lies the true beauty and fun of college basketball. Yale beats UConn. Butler beats North Carolina. DePaul beats Stanford. URI beats Nebraska. Brown beats Providence. And Eastern Michigan beat Michigan again, after NJIT’s upset. But it’s not so much fun for the coaches.

— Jim Engles, the NJIT coach, told the media after his team had won the game that going into the season he had ‘sort of penciled this in as an L.’ Whoa. At least he’s honest.

— Strike a big blow for the Old/New Big East against the traitorous defectors for the ACC, as St. John’s broke a 15-year drought at the Carrier Dome by beating Syracuse last weekend. That came after PC, however, lost to the first Old Big East team to take a hike, Boston College.

— The Providence Journal’s Kevin McNamara had a great piece on the Rhode Island D1 teams and the possibility of facing off against each other in a one- or two-day event at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center. Three words: Not. Gonna. Happen. The coaches don’t see it happening, either. Like any fan, I’d love to see this come to fruition. But the true reason the teams will never get together in this fashion has to do with the world and reality in which each team presently exists. Providence and URI need out-of-conference games against teams with strong RPI ratings and strength of schedule for postseason at-large consideration — something Brown and Bryant, by virtue of where they play in D1’s netherworld of low- to mid-majors, can’t possibly provide on an annual basis. And when the Bears and Bulldogs are competitive, you’ll see things like what happened to Michigan (see above) and to PC two years ago at Brown.

— Philadelphia long has had the tradition of the Big Five, since 1955, where the city schools annually play each other. Developing that kind of tradition has to start somewhere, doesn’t it? That said, while the Friars and Bulldogs aren’t playing this year, both sides expect to face each other next season. Providence also will continue to play Brown (a city rivalry) and Rhode Island (a natural, often-heated rivalry). Brown plays Bryant, Rhody and PC, but URI has never faced Bryant in a regular-season game. Time to step up, State U., for the good of the game in the state.  Tough to play the “disrespect” card — which you do — when the other teams are all playing each other, don’t you think?

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Hockey East first half power rankings: 3 clear tiers

12.08.14 at 8:38 pm ET
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There are no more Hockey East conference games before winter break (several teams still have a non-conference game or two to go), so now seems like a good time to do some power rankings and see where everyone stands as the first half of the season comes to a close. As things stand right now, there are three pretty clear tiers in the conference, with three teams gaining some separation at the top, four teams in the middle trying to fight their way into that group, and five teams making a mess of things at the bottom.

1. Boston University (10-3-2, 7-1-2 HEA)
After losing two of three non-conference games during Thanksgiving week, the Terriers bounced back by taking three of four points from Merrimack. BU’€™s top line, which had been held off the scoresheet in the previous two games, went off in Saturday’€™s 4-2 win, as Danny O’€™Regan had three goals and an assist and Jack Eichel had four assists. The Terriers are a very good team — probably even better than expected so far thanks to Eichel being the best player in the country and their four freshman defensemen being impact players from the start — and they can go pretty far without changing much, but they could be even better if they start to get some more depth scoring to help with those rare games when the Eichel line doesn’€™t score. The returns of Robbie Baillargeon and Nikolas Olsson over the next month or so should help, but until then, the Eichel line will be enough to win a lot of games. BU leads Hockey East with 33.93 shots on goal per game and Matt O’€™Connor is second in the league with a .938 save percentage.

2. UMass-Lowell (10-3-3, 7-0-2 HEA)
The River Hawks’€™ recent non-conference results haven’€™t been great (split with Penn State, loss to Harvard), but they continue to roll in Hockey East play, most recently beating UConn 6-4 on Wednesday and Maine 3-2 in overtime on Saturday. The River Hawks don’€™t have anyone averaging a point per game, but they still lead the league in scoring thanks to 13 players averaging half a point per game or more, more than anyone else in the conference. Their team shooting percentage has come down to 13.5 percent, but that still leads the country and is still probably unsustainable. The good news is that they’€™re getting more shots on goal — 33 or more in four of their last five games — which should help limit the effects of regression. Lowell continues to get just average goaltending (Kevin Boyle has a .914 save percentage, while Jeff Smith is at .901), which isn’€™t ideal for a team that expects to compete for titles.

3. Vermont (11-3-1, 7-3-1 HEA)
The Catamounts continue to be a really solid all-around team. They’€™re second in Hockey East in scoring, first in team defense, tied for first in power play, first in penalty kill, third in shots on goal and first in shots on goal against. They’€™re getting good goaltending from Brody Hoffman (.924 save percentage in 10 appearances) and Mike Santaguida (.953 in six). Like Lowell, Vermont is scoring with depth. Mario Puskarich and Mike Paliotta are averaging a point per game, with Paliotta leading all Hockey East defensemen in the category, and nine others are averaging half a point per game. The Catamounts have won four in a row and they haven’€™t allowed more than three goals in a game all season. All that said, they’€™re looking up at Lowell and BU in the standings. They’€™re just one point behind those two, but they’€™ve played one more conference game than BU and two more than Lowell. Read the rest of this entry »

BC coach Steve Addazio: ‘I couldn’t be more happy’ about playing Penn State in Pinstripe Bowl

12.08.14 at 8:31 am ET
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Boston College is headed to New York for one final game.

The Eagles (7-5) will face Penn State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 27 to close out the season. This will be the second consecutive bowl game for BC under coach Steve Addazio.

The coach said his team is more than revved up for the New York city atmosphere that the Yankee Stadium location will provide.

“Ninety percent of our team is New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Ohio. They all understand the Penn State-BC thing,” Addazio said after of the game. “Where’€™s better to be at Christmas than New York City? It’€™s got it all. Our alums, our fans will be there to support the game, it’€™ll be a sold-out crowd. I’€™m just excited. I couldn’t be more happy about this matchup, this bowl game, and we’€™re honored.”

The rivalry between the two teams has been dormant in recent years, as the schools have not played since 2004. The Nittany Lions have dominated the all-time series with a 19-4 record, but the Eagles have won the last three matchups.

“Everyone was really excited,” said senior linebacker Sean Duggan. “The team room kind of went nuts when Coach Addazio came in and told us. We are just really excited to play a team with such a storied history. It’€™s a team that growing up, you know all about.”

This game will feature the return of Penn State to postseason competition after a two-year absence. The NCAA banned the school from bowl games for four years in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal, but lifted that sanction earlier this season.

Senior graduate quarterback Tyler Murphy, who led the Eagles with 1,079 rushing yards this season, said playing against such a storied program puts more meaning on this bowl game.

“You have two teams that have had a lot of success in the Northeast,” Murphy said. “It’€™s two programs that are really trying to turn the tide. A bowl victory would be big, so there is a lot at stake.”

Read More: Sean Duggan, Steve Addazio, Tyler Murphy,

Thinking out loud: Productive fall at Providence continues

12.05.14 at 1:51 pm ET
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RookeThinking out loud … while wondering whatever happened to Rod Serling and the Twilight Zone. ‘Cuz I feel as if I’ve been in it.

— The good times in Friartown keep rolling. Men’s basketball, hockey and cross-country are (or have been) nationally ranked this year, and the soccer team is in the NCAA tournament quarterfinal round this weekend, playing at Michigan State — the team’s best run ever in the NCAAs. And PC alum, board of trustees member and former soccer player Karl Anderson (Class of ’88, along with his wife, Kerry) has announced a commitment of $1.5 million to begin construction of a new soccer and lacrosse stadium on campus. The Friars are learning, “If you build it, success will come.”

— Getting the chance to call Providence and No. 1 Kentucky from inside the hallowed halls of Rupp Arena in Lexington, Kentucky, last weekend was a bit, well, anticlimactic. In the 20 years since I had the opportunity to be there previously (during PC’s 1994 NCAA tourney appearance), the building hasn’t changed much at all. But there are those banners hanging in the rafters, signifying the Wildcats’ place in the history of the sport. And the crowd of 24K sang “Happy Birthday” to legendary coach Joe B. Hall, as much beloved by the Wildcats faithful as Adolph Rupp himself. He sat right behind our broadcast position at courtside. Wonder what he thought of Joe Hassett’s referee rants?

— Had the chance to visit with former Friars assistant coach Fran Fraschilla, who of course has gone on to a great TV career with ESPN. He’s on the Ed Cooley love boat and loves the defensive intensity the Friars are bringing to the floor. And intensity is something, you might recall, Fraschilla brought to his own teams while at Manhattan and St. John’s — and something else, you might recall, that ended up costing him his job at SJU.

— Willie Cauley-Stein is a freak. I mean that in a good way, of course. But Kentucky’s 7-foot junior big man can run equally with and defend smartly against much smaller players, and he bottled up LaDontae Henton like no one else has before — or may ever again. If I’m in Philly, I’m thinking he might look good in a Sixers uniform — alongside of, or in place of, another former Cat in Nerlens Noel.

— And 6-11 freshman center Karl Anthony Towns? Two words: “Go pro.”

— My buddy Statbeast sez he’s getting into archaeology. It’s the best possible husband a woman can have — the older she gets, the more interested he is in her.

— The early returns on the Big East against out-of-conference opponents have been impressive. Other than Kentucky’s obvious glut of two-platoon talent and ability, the Big East has been THE story in college basketball to this point in the season. But don’t think for a minute the league can rest on whatever pre-conference laurels it can gather.  This is all about the postseason, which is something associate commissioner for men’s basketball Stu Jackson told us in September. Scheduling the tougher teams is one thing — you’ve also got to win your fair share, and then win in March. So far, the formula is working according to plan.

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Takeaways from a great, weird week of college hockey: Harvard is the real deal

11.30.14 at 9:27 pm ET
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If you like college hockey, hopefully you were able to get out to one of the many appealing games in the area over the last week. From Tuesday through Saturday, there were five games within an hour of Boston between teams currently ranked in the top 20 in the national polls. Boston University hosted Harvard and Colgate, UMass-Lowell also hosted Harvard, Boston College hosted Minnesota, and then Providence hosted BC.

I was fortunate enough to get to four of those five games, with BC-Providence being the only one I missed. Here are some takeaways from the week:

Harvard is the real deal

The Crimson beat BU 3-2 in overtime on Tuesday and then beat Lowell 4-2 on Saturday. They’€™re now 7-1-2 on the season, and they have road wins over BC, BU and Lowell. This start isn’€™t a fluke. The Crimson have a lot of talent, and for once that talent is actually translating to a successful on-ice product, something that hasn’€™t always happened in the past at Harvard.

The Crimson’€™s top line of Predators draft pick Jimmy Vesey, Devils pick Alex Kerfoot and junior co-captain Kyle Criscuolo has to be considered the second-best line in the country right now, and they’€™re not all that far behind BU’€™s Ahti Oksanen-Jack Eichel-Danny O’€™Regan line. Harvard’€™s top trio is averaging 1.70 goals, 4.20 points and 9.30 shots on goal per game, compared to 1.91 goals, 3.93 points and 12.69 shots for the Eichel line. Vesey, Kerfoot and Criscuolo all rank in the top 10 nationally in points per game.

There’€™s more to Harvard than just the top line, though. Senior Patrick McNally (Canucks draft pick) is first nationally among defensemen with 1.30 points per game. Senior goalie Steve Michalek (Wild draft pick) is third in the country with a .947 save percentage. Brian Hart (Lightning draft pick) and Luke Esposito have chipped in four and three goals, respectively, from the second line, and third-line center Tyler Moy has four goals as well. Read the rest of this entry »

Tyler Murphy, Tyler Rouse finish on winning note in home finale win over Syracuse

11.29.14 at 4:50 pm ET
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CHESTNUT HILL — Tyler Murphy made his final home game at Boston College a memorable one.

The grad transfer quarterback set the Atlantic Coast Conference single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback and threw a TD pass to lead Boston College to a 28-7 win over Syracuse in the Eagles‘ 2014 home finale at Alumni Stadium.

Sophomore Tyler Rouse, who was snubbed by Syracuse as a high school recruit, scored on a 42-yard run while Jon Hilliman added a 7-yard score for the Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC), who are bowl-eligible for the second straight season under second-year coach Steve Addazio. Next up is a bowl bid for the Eagles. Syracuse (3-9, 1-7), meanwhile, finished the season with five straight losses.

“We have a great attitude on our team,” Addazio said. “A great [scene] in our locker room and we are excited for whatever bowl game we get.”

Murphy carried 11 times for only 20 yards, but still enough for 1,079 in his only season at Boston College, breaking the previous mark of Clemson’s Woodrow Dantzler in 2001. Dantzler rushed for 1,061 yards that season. Murphy was very accurate in the passing game, completing 13 of 17 passes for 160 yards with no interceptions.

Syracuse quarterback AJ Long had 4-yard TD run for the Orange, but completed just 7 of 18 passes for 59 yards and an interception.

With the game tied, 7-7, the Eagles marched in for a go-ahead score late in the first half when Murphy hit Sherman Alston on a perfect 26-yard fade pass with 1:10 left before half. Murphy faked a handoff, took a step toward the line before dropping back and finding Alston wide open, giving BC a 14-7 halftime lead.

Mike Strizak’s interception of Long at Syracuse’s 30 on the Orange’s first possession of the second half led to BC’s third touchdown of the day. Just three plays after the pick, Hillman powered in from seven yards for a 21-7 lead. Murphy set up the score with a run to the Syracuse 10, a run that gave him the single-season ACC QB rushing record.
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Read More: Boston College, Doug Flutie, Steve Addazio, Syracuse Orange

Florida State’s last-second field goal ruins Boston College upset bid

11.22.14 at 6:36 pm ET
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Roberto Aguayo converts the game-winning field goal Saturday against Boston College. (Getty Images)

Roberto Aguayo converts the game-winning field goal Saturday against Boston College. (Getty Images)

The Boston College football team came up just short from notching the upset of the college football season, allowing the third-ranked Florida State Seminoles to kick a 27-yard Roberto Aguayo field goal with three seconds left for a 20-17 victory.

A BC win would have marked the first time since 1993 that the Eagles beat a 10-0 team, having topped Notre Dame on its own field that year.

“We didn’t come down here to be a bridesmaid,” BC head coach Steve Addazio said after losing its third game by less than seven points this season. “We came down here to win.”

The final Florida State drive started at its own 26 yard-line, with 4:37 left. The Seminoles got the ball back for the decisive march after Boston College kicker Alex Howell missed a potential go-ahead, 42-yard field goal wide right.

“I missed it, it was nobody else’s fault. That’s just what it is,” Howell told reporters.

Tyler Murphy threw just 10 times in the pouring rain, completing six passes, including a 49-yarder to Shakim Phillips that tied the game, 10-10 in the second quarter. Jameis Winston connected for 30 yards to Nick O’Leary for a go-ahead touchdown putting Florida State up, 17-10, at the half.

Winston finished with 281 yards passing, completing 22 of 32 passes for a touchdown and an interception.

The only score of the third quarter belonged to BC as Murphy ran it in from 21 yards to force another tie, 17-17.

“I just saw guys playing their hearts out,” Addazio said. “They made a few more plays than we did. That’s the moral of the story.”

BC lost its second straight and falls to (6-5, 3-4 ACC Atlantic) while Florida State remains firmly in the BCS four-team playoff pool with a perfect 11-0 record, finishing a perfect 8-0 in the ACC Atlantic. They finish the regular season with a game against cross-state rival Florida on Saturday before taking on Georgia Tech in the ACC championship in Charlotte.

BC finishes its regular season next Saturday with a game against Syracuse at Alumni Stadium.

For a complete box score, click here.

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