How can Jaguars beat Patriots? It’s elementary

Jaguars coach Doug Marrone received a folder Thursday filled with notes from first-graders at The Bolles School in Jacksonville on how to beat the Patriots.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars coach Doug Marrone has some tips on how to beat the New England Patriots.

And not all of them are from Tom Coughlin.

More Jacksonville Jaguars news

Marrone received a folder Thursday filled with notes from first-graders at The Bolles School in Jacksonville.

The folder read, “Dear Jags, Want to beat the Patriots? Here’s how: Advice from your #1 fans in Bolles First Grade.”

Marrone held it up during his news conference and said, “I’ve got to get through this. This is from the Bolles first grade and this has the answers that maybe I’m looking for, maybe how we can stop the Patriots.”

He later added, “We’re just taking as much advice as we can because we need it.”

The five-time Super Bowl champion Patriots (14-3) will host the Jaguars (12-6) in the AFC championship game Sunday.

Marrone jokes that it’s “hard to believe how so many people have an opinion on how to beat the New England Patriots and no one’s really done that.”

Jason Driskel won’t be back as FAU quarterback in 2018

Florida Atlantic quarterback Jason Driskel announced Thursday that he’s ending his football career.

BOCA RATON, Fla. (AP) — Jason Driskel is ready for the real world.

The Florida Atlantic quarterback announced Thursday that he’s ending his football career, even though he would have been eligible to return to the Owls next season. Driskel is about to graduate with a civil engineering degree.

“It was always a dream of mine to play quarterback at the FBS level and I’m proud of accomplishing that goal,” Driskel wrote in a social media post . “It has never been a dream of mine, however, to play football beyond college.”

Driskel helped lead the Owls to an 11-3 season in 2017, along with a Conference USA championship and a win in the Boca Raton Bowl. He completed 67 percent of his passes this past season for 2,247 yards and 15 touchdowns, while throwing only four interceptions.

Driskel was the offensive MVP of FAU’s 50-3 win over Akron in the Boca Raton Bowl, throwing for 270 yards and two touchdowns and running for another two scores.

“I undoubtedly will miss my teammates and the game with all of its trials and tribulations, but I will not regret the decision to move into the next chapter of my life,” Driskel wrote.

He thanked several coaches for their help at FAU, including current Owls head coach Lane Kiffin and former coaches Charlie Partridge and Brian Wright.

Driskel said Partridge honored his commitment to FAU “when he didn’t have to,” and Wright “saw in me what a lot of others did not.”

He also told FAU fans that even brighter days are ahead with Kiffin, who is entering his second season with the Owls.

“It was not always easy, I am sure, but you stuck with us through the hard times,” Driskel told fans. “You have now been rewarded with a great season and a great team that will continue to improve under Coach Kiffin.”

Ducks beat Penguins with 4-goal 2nd period

The Ducks erupted in the second period to start a critical five-game homestand off with an important win.

ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Though the Anaheim Ducks found themselves trailing at the end of the first period despite controlling play, head coach Randy Carlyle had a simple message: Stick with it.

The Ducks did that and erupted in the second period to start a critical five-game homestand off with an important win.

Rickard Rakell and Adam Henrique scored 1:35 apart to give Anaheim the lead during its four-goal second period, and the Ducks went on to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 Wednesday night.

“Time for us to get a couple bounces I think,” Wagner said, as Anaheim scored four goals in a period for first time since doing it in the third period at Buffalo last Feb. 9.

Chris Wagner and Ondrej Kase also scored for Anaheim in the middle period, and Hampus Lindholm added an empty-netter in the final second of the game. John Gibson stopped 30 shots to help the Ducks improve to 7-3-1 in their last 11 games.

Jake Guentzel, Phil Kessel and Evgeni Malkin scored for the Penguins, who had a four-game win streak snapped. Tristan Jarry made 28 saves.

With the Ducks trailing 1-0, Rakell tied it on a second redirect of a shot by Francois Beauchemin at 4:17 of the second.

A scoring change after the game determined Ryan Getzlaf tipped Beauchemin’s shot before Rakell, giving the Ducks captain his 600th career assist in somewhat anticlimactic fashion. Getzlaf is the first player in franchise history with 600 assists.

Henrique then put them ahead at 5:42, beating Jarry with a wraparound while the rookie was caught flatfooted at the opposite post trying to get his stick back.

Wagner scored on a short-handed breakaway to make it 3-1 at 9:24, notching the third special-teams goal of his career, all of which have come this season.

Kase’s smooth breakaway backhand with 1:32 left in the period capped off the scoring deluge. Kase, who also had an assist, has five points in his last three games.

“I think they take chances and they play run-and-gun, so you’re going to get your chances. Tonight we buried a good amount of them and that’s what got us the W,” Wagner said.

Kessel had a power-play goal to make it 4-2 with 10:25 remaining in the third, and Guentzel added a power-play goal with 5:54 remaining to pull the Penguins within one. Sidney Crosby had assists on both goals, giving him 13 points and 10 assists during a five-game point streak.

“We just made big mistakes in the second period, and give up that many goals and that many breakaways in a short period of time you’re putting yourself in a tough spot,” Crosby said. “We didn’t help ourselves.”

Lindholm capped the scoring with 0.1 seconds left to finally seal the win, but Carlyle was disappointed the Ducks let the Penguins back in the game with undisciplined penalties knowing Pittsburgh has the best power play in the NHL. The Penguins have 22 power-play goals on the road, four ahead of Vancouver, Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Winnipeg, which are tied for second-most.

“It was disappointing, obviously, that we took two penalties and they scored two goals to make it exciting, but I guess the entertainment of tonight’s game was up there,” Carlyle said.

Malkin’s 20th goal of the season gave the Penguins a 1-0 lead late in the first period. A sustained forecheck eventually resulted in a takeaway by Carl Hagelin, leading to Malkin scoring from the right circle. It was Malkin’s sixth goal in the last five games and gave him 20 for the fifth straight season and 10th time in his career. He joined Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr and Crosby as the only Penguins with at least 10 seasons of 20 goals.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray left the team for its three-game California road trip following the death of his father on Tuesday.

NOTES:Ducks LW Andrew Cogliano served the final game of his two-game suspension for an illegal check to Kings F Adrian Kempe. . Hagelin extended his point streak to four games, with one goal and four assists in that span. … Ducks D Cam Fowler had two assists.

UP NEXT

Penguins: Visit the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday.

Ducks: Host the Kings on Friday seeking their second win in the Freeway Faceoff rivalry in six days.

— —

More AP NHL coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Clippers win 6th in a row with victory over Nuggets

The Clippers’ bench narrowed a 10-point deficit to one heading into the fourth quarter, and Los Angeles hung on for a 109-104 victory over the Nuggets.

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Credit the Goon Squad with a big assist.

The Clippers’ bench narrowed a 10-point deficit to one heading into the fourth quarter, and Los Angeles hung on for a 109-104 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday night.

Blake Griffin had 20 points and 12 rebounds, Montrezl Harrell added 18 points and Lou Williams had 17 for the Clippers in their season-high sixth straight win. Los Angeles is 12-3 in its last 15 games, tied with Golden State for the NBA’s best record over that span.

“They were huge,” Griffin said of the reserves. “We rely on them heavily. This team trusts each other. That’s what happens when everybody gets a touch, gets a shot.”

The Clippers were just 7 of 14 from the free-throw line over the final 3:09, but escaped with the help of last-second turnovers by Will Barton and Wilson Chandler. The Nuggets had 21 turnovers.

“That’s back-to-back nights where defenses have turned up the pressure, turned up the heat and we have not handled it well,” Nuggets coach Michael Malone said.

Gary Harris scored 19 points in the Nuggets’ fifth straight road loss. Nikola Jokic added 18 points, Barton had 17 points and Mason Plumlee had 16 points and 14 rebounds.

The Nuggets led by five early in the fourth, but the Clippers scored eight straight points, including five by Wesley Johnson, to go up 90-87.

“This team is a physical, tough team,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said. “We have a bunch of young guys who are hungry. They’re trying to create a career.”

Neither team led by more than seven points the rest of the game.

Clinging to a 99-98 lead, Harrell missed a pair of free throws, shaking his head as he backed away from the line. He got fouled twice more in succession and made 3 of 4, extending the lead to 102-98.

Harrell came up with a block on Plumlee at the other end, and Johnson hit a 3-pointer, making it 105-98.

“It was big for us. I made him drive it and go wide,” Harrell said. “We just kept fighting.”

Denver got to 106-104 on four straight points by Harris and two free throws from Barton.

“We’re getting to a spot of being a little more consistent in those moments, but ultimately guys are still learning,” Nuggets forward Richard Jefferson said. “Most of the guys who are in these positions are in these positions for the first time.”

The Nuggets ran off 11 straight points for a 79-69 lead in the third only to blow all of it. The Clippers answered with their own 11-0 spurt, including consecutive 3-pointers by Tyrone Wallace and Harrell, to lead 80-79. Emmanuel Mudiay’s basket sent Denver into the fourth leading 81-80.

HE SAID IT

“If teams are watching us, they’re just going to ratchet up the pressure and watch us turn the ball over and self-implode.” — Malone.

BACK TO BACK

The Nuggets fell to 2-7 in the second game of a back-to-back. They were coming off a win over Dallas on Tuesday. They’ve won just one back-to-back this season. Jefferson, a 17-year veteran, said his younger teammates need to realize intensity is going to increase in the second half and they can’t play with the same focus they do in the first half. “Instead of a nine-point lead, it goes to a tie game,” he said, “and now you’re playing off a back-to-back, you lost your cushion and you’ve energized them for no reason.”

TIP-INS

Nuggets: They are 8-14 against the Clippers at Staples Center over the last 11 seasons. … Denver fell to 7-17 on the road overall and 3-13 against the West away from home.

Clippers: C DeAndre Jordan (sprained left ankle) missed his third straight game and the swelling hasn’t gone down. Jordan had initially been expected back Saturday in Utah, but Rivers said he’s not ready and won’t be rushed. … G Austin Rivers (right ankle) has missed eight straight games. He is wearing a boot and will be re-evaluated in the next week.

UP NEXT

Nuggets: Host Phoenix on Friday, having beaten the Suns by 23 on Jan. 3.

Clippers: At Utah on Saturday. The teams split their first two meetings, both in Los Angeles.

— —

More AP basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Preview: Coyotes at Predators, 5:30 p.m., FOX Sports Arizona

Coyotes have won 3 of last 4 over Nashville; Predators dealing with injuries to Forsberg, Arvidsson and Johansen

Streaming live on FOX Sports GO

Injuries are a part of any season. They have hit the Nashville Predators at the midway point of 2017-18, potentially leaving them without their entire first line for Thursday night’s visit from the Arizona Coyotes.

Fortunately for Nashville (26-11-6), it got plenty of practice at dealing with key injuries during last spring’s run to the Stanley Cup Finals. So if it has to play Arizona without Filip Forsberg (upper-body), Viktor Arvidsson (lower-body) and Ryan Johansen (upper-body), it wouldn’t be ideal by any means, but so be it.

“It’s what you have to do. It’s kind of what we talked about all last year during the playoffs,” Predators coach Peter Laviolette said. “Whoever’s playing, whoever gets the minutes, we’re confident in everybody in this room and we’re going to get the job done.

“Obviously, when you’re missing those guys, they’re spectacular and they create a lot of offense for us. But we’ve got a lot of good hockey players in here to step up and take those minutes. It might end up like a one-to-nothing game with those guys filling in those minutes and just working hard.”

Which is exactly how Tuesday night’s win over the Vegas Golden Knights played out. Despite getting outshot 43-27 by the Western Conference’s top team, Nashville got a sterling performance from goalie Juuse Saros and a third-period goal from Kevin Fiala to leave the rink with two points.

Laviolette’s move to send Saros down to Milwaukee of the AHL during the Predators’ week off paid dividends. He stayed sharp by playing three games in four days and was the best player on the ice on a night when Nashville was in defend mode most of the game.

“I always try to improve every day and help the team as much as I can when I get in,” Saros said. “Right now, I’m feeling good, but obviously you can’t get too comfortable.”

That could also apply to the Predators when it comes to playing the Coyotes (10-28-8). While Arizona is the NHL’s worst team, it has three wins in four games over Nashville the last year and a half, including a 3-2 overtime decision on Jan. 4 in Glendale.

The Predators led that game late in the third period, but an Austin Watson penalty led to a tying goal that forced extra hockey. Christian Fischer scored the winner for a rare Coyotes victory.

Arizona nearly pulled off a comeback win Tuesday night, erasing a 2-0 deficit and forcing overtime before falling 3-2 to San Jose in a shootout. It was its 14th loss in 17 games, four of them in overtime or a shootout.

“There’s not a ton of games where we’ve been blown out or embarrassed,” Coyotes center Brad Richardson said. “It’s just games where we slip here or there and end up losing the game. It’s a fine line, and we just seem to be on the wrong side of it a lot.”

Arizona is expected to start Antti Raanta (6-12-4, 2.68 goal-against average, .915 save percentage) in net against Pekka Rinne (21-8-3, 2.43 GAA, .925 save percentage). Rinne hasn’t played since a 2-1 win on Jan. 9 over Edmonton.

Pacers seek fourth straight win while showing ‘toughness’ without Turner

Indiana Pacers-Portland Trail Blazers preview

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Indiana Pacers invade Moda Center on Thursday night to face the Portland Trail Blazers with a positive mindset and a chance to continue to climb in the NBA’s Eastern Conference standings.

Indiana (24-20) carries a three-game winning streak into Portland, including victories over Phoenix 120-97 and Utah 109-94 to start a five-game road trip.

The Pacers are doing it without center Myles Turner, who will miss his fifth straight game Thursday with an elbow injury.

“The NBA is about adapting,”Pacers coach Nate McMillan told the Indianapolis Star. “Injuries are part of it. We have, for the most part, been able to have guys fill in and be ready to play and continue to win some games with Myles being down.”

Indiana shot superbly against Utah — 53.2 percent from the field, including 14 of 26 from 3-point range.

“Our guys showed toughness,” McMillan said. “This is all part of learning how to win games and play the game together while playing without Myles. Our bench did another solid job.”

Leading the way is 6-4 shooting guard Victor Oladipo, in his first season with Indiana aftera trade that sent Paul George to Oklahoma City. Oladipo, averaging 24.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists, is a leading candidate for the league’s Most Improved Player Award. He has also become the spiritual leader of the Pacers.

“I guess Victor has bad days, but I never see them,” McMillan said. “We’ve been down in a lot of games this season, but you look at Victor in the huddle and he’s always the same. That calmness has helped us, along with his play. And he has that infectious personality.”

Oladipo had 28 points, six rebounds and six assists against Utah, sinking 9 of 16 from the field, 5 of 8 from 3-point range and 5 of 6 from the foul line. Indiana also got 15 points and eight rebounds from center Domas Sabonis, the other piece in the George trade.

Portland (23-21) is coming off a 118-111 home victory over Phoenix. Point guard Damian Lillard scored 31 points on 11-for-19 shooting, including 4 for 8 from the 3-point line, and 5 for 5 from the foul line. It’s the best he has looked in the four games since he returned from missing seven of nine games with hamstring and calf issues, and the most points he has scored since pouring in 39 against Golden State on Dec. 11.

“When I came back, I knew it would take some time to be able to move comfortably,” said Lillard, who also had seven assists, five rebounds and only one turnover in 36 minutes. “The last three games, it’s gotten better each game. In Minnesota (on Sunday), I felt really good moving around. Tonight, I felt almost normal at times.”

Portland is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating and 17th in offensive rating. But the defensive rating has gonedown while the offensive rating has goneup in recent weeks.

The Blazers have scored 110 points or more in eight of their last nine games, averaging 113.1. Over that span, opponents have averaged 113.8. Before that span, Portland had yielded 100.3 points per contest.

“I think our defense has slipped a little bit as the offense has gotten better,” Lillard said. “We’re at the point where we’re trying to sustain the level of offense we’re at now, but also get our defense back to where we want it.”

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2017-18 NBA Cheerleaders

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Blues face Senators team trying to avoid shakeup before trade deadline

St. Louis Blues-Ottawa Senators preview

OTTAWA — A week off helped the Ottawa Senators get back to health, but their playoff hopes remain on life support with the St. Louis Blues coming to town.

The Senators need to go on a run unlike any they’ve had to avoid a shakeup before the trade deadline, and they need to start with Thursday’s game against the Blues at Canadian Tire Centre.

Even that might not get them into the playoffs, but it would at least show general manager Pierre Dorion there’s reason to keep the band together.

The Senators (15-18-9) showed some fighting spirit before the break, winning three of five games and claiming seven of a possible 10 points. They also started getting some offense from Matt Duchene, who scored three goals and three assists in the past four games to match his production in the first 24 games after being acquired from Colorado.

But they’re still 15 points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for the third spot in the Atlantic Division, with a slightly smaller gap — but more teams to pass — to get to the final wild-card spot.

“Guys are generally really, really excited to get back this time,” winger Mark Stone said after Wednesday night’s practice. “We were playing some good hockey going into the break, so compared to the Christmas break, guys are a lot more excited about how we’re playing.

“We can’t give up now. We still have half the year to make up for it, so we have to keep things simple game by game and day by day. And we got better (Wednesday) at practice.”

While the Senators will likely still be without center Jean-Gabriel Pageau, they are expected to have winger Bobby Ryan, center Nate Thompson and defenseman Mark Borowiecki back for Thursday’s game.

Borowiecki, the team’s most physical blue liner, hasn’t played since suffering a concussion Nov. 19.

“I would love to (get a hit early), try to set a bit of energy in this building, but when you chase it, that’s when things don’t go your way,” he said. “You have to find your spot. It’s just a matter of making sure you’re in the right places and being able to make those hits if they do come.”

Each game is big for the Blues (27-17-3) these days. They are two points out of the top spot in the Central Division, but also two up on the Dallas Stars in the race for third.

It appears Vince Dunn has kept hold of a spot on the blue line after playing a strong game and scoring the winning goal in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday.

The Blues could also stick with goalie Carter Hutton, who made 30 saves to snap the team out of a three-game losing streak. Hutton has spent most of the season as the Blues’ backup but has been the team’s starter for most of the new year with Jake Allen struggling.

“I thought(Hutton) did a heck of a job,” coach Mike Yeo told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Wednesday. “I don’t know that he was tested a lot early. Obviously, the big moment for me was when they scored (a short-handed goal), I thought he made two, three really good saves. It could’ve been 2-0, 3-0 there right off the hop. And that was when he played his best and that gave us a chance to tie the game.”

The Senators need some strong goaltending of their own as starter Craig Anderson has struggled through the first half of the season with a 12-13-5 record to go along with a 3.22 goals-against average and a .899 save percentage.

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2017-18 NHL ice girls

Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports | Denny Medley

Preview: NHL’s top two teams square off as Lightning host Golden Knights

Two of the NHL’s best teams meet in Tampa as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Vegas Golden Knights.

TV: FOX Sports Sun

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at6:30p.m.

WATCH LIVE ON FOX SPORTS GO

TAMPA, Fla. — The top two teams in the league come together for a midseason matchup on Thursday night when Vegas visits Tampa Bay.

This is the second meeting this season between Tampa Bay, which has the best record in the league, and Vegas, which surprisingly sits atop the Western Conference standings.

And if the second matchup is anything like the first, the game will be played at a high and entertaining pace.

Tampa Bay Lightning on FOX Sports Sun

When the teams met in Vegas in December, they pushed play with an aggressive defensive group that likes to join the rush, get in on the forecheck and be part of the offensive attack.

The Golden Knights won the game with less than three seconds left on a power-play goal by Shea Theodore.

“They play fast, they play the way we want to play,” said Vegas leading scorer Jonathan Marchessault, who started his NHL career with the Lightning. “It’s a tough building to come into, it’s loud and they have great fans.

“They have a really good team and I think we have to be ready, for sure.”

Vegas enters the game having lost consecutive games of any kind for the first time since Nov. 28-30. The Golden Knights have also scored just four goals in the past three games and are coming off a shutout loss in Nashville on Tuesday.

Head coach Gerard Gallant is not overly concerned about the lack of scoring, especially after getting 43 shots on goal against the Predators.

“I was happy. We played a great game (Tuesday). We just couldn’t score on a great goaltender at the other end,” Gallant said. “I hope we play like that on most nights because we played a helluva game. We just didn’t win.”

The Lightning are going to have to find a way to win without their leading defenseman, Victor Hedman, who was injured in Tampa Bay’s final game before the bye week. The team diagnosed Hedman with an undisclosed lower body injury that will keep him out three to six weeks.

“He’s tough to replace. … I guess you could say he’s really irreplaceable,” Lightning center Tyler Johnson said. “He’s that anchor on the blue line.”

While Tampa Bay figures to give an expanded role to former first-round pick Slater Koekkoek, who has been in and out of the lineup on a regular basis this season. But the Lightning know there is no way to fill the void in Hedman’s absence.

“Nobody in that room is Victor Hedman,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said. “So you can sit here and say everybody needs to chip in, and I guess they do, but it’s not just the defenseman. It’s everybody because he’s a big part of our offense. We’ve just got to manage how we play the game.”

Preview: Magic try to win in Cleveland for second time this season

The Orlando Magic seek back-to-back wins for the first time since early November as they visit the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers.

TV: FOX Sports Florida

TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.

WATCH IT LIVE ON FOX SPORTS GO

CLEVELAND — The Orlando Magic are the last team the Cleveland Cavaliers beat.

No, neither franchise is having much fun now.

The Magic have lost 27 of its last 32 games and snapped a seven-game losing streak Tuesday by beating the Minnesota Timberwolves.

More Orlando Magic news

But even in a rare moment of glory for the Magic, reserve guard Arron Afflalo threw a punch at Minnesota’s Nemanja Bjelica and is facing likely discipline from the NBA.

The Cavs, meanwhile, are a mess, considering their DNA and string of three consecutive Finals trips. Cleveland has lost four straight since beating the Magic 131-127 on Jan. 6.

The Cavs have lost eight of their last 10 games and nine of 12, and are seven games behind the Boston Celtics for first place in the Eastern Conference. They host the Magic on Thursday.

“This is a difficult year for our team,” said LeBron James, who scored 33 points with 10 rebounds and nine assists in the last game against the Magic. “Seems like I say that every year, but this one has been even more challenging. But with everybody who has been out and coming back in and the rotations and things of that nature, it’s been very challenging on our team. But we have to figure it out.”

After the Cavs lost to their archrivals, the Golden State Warriors, 118-108 on Monday, numerous media reports cited several unnamed prominent Cleveland players as having doubts their team can solve its problems.

The Cavs are 29th in the NBA on defense and have struggled to find a rhythm since Isaiah Thomas joined the lineup. Thomas, who scored 19 points against the Magic in his first start this season, is shooting a career-worst 36.1 percent from the field.

“I know how good we can be,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Once we get healthy, minutes restrictions are off, guys are back, we’re gonna be fine. And, you know, with the point guard, the head of the snake, I.T., right now just trying to find his rhythm, get his legs and we’re going to be fine.”

The Cavs could get back former NBA MVP Derrick Rose, who hasn’t played since Nov. 7 because of left ankle injuries. Iman Shumpert, who’s been out following minor knee surgery, is also close to a return. Both practiced Wednesday.

The Magic, who have been hampered by injuries all season, have lost 18 of the last 19 to the Cavs. The one win was this season, when Orlando came to Cleveland and rolled to a 114-93 triumph Oct. 21.

The Magic’s Marreese Speights, who missed Tuesday’s win for a personal matter, is listed as questionable for this game.

“The goal for the rest of the season is honestly playing better basketball so we can feel better about ourselves and about the future,” said Evan Fournier, according to the Orlando Sentinel. Fournier scored a career-high 32 against the Timberwolves.

“You can lose a game and you’re still going to be disappointed,” Fournier said. “But if you feel like you gave it (your) all and you played the right way, then it was just the opponent that was better than you. Most of the times, we don’t feel like this.”

Arizona overcomes slow start, cruises past California

Deandre Ayton leads Wildcats with 20 points and 11 rebounds

BERKELEY, Calif. — Some games, Sean Miller notices an anxiety with his Arizona team immediately after tipoff.

He sure saw that at California on Wednesday night, when the Wildcats needed a firm talk about taking care of the ball.

Deandre Ayton had 20 points and 11 rebounds, and No. 14 Arizona overcame a slow, sloppy start by warming up from long range against a high zone to beat Cal 79-58.

Parker Jackson-Cartwright scored 14 points with three 3-pointers during a decisive stretch spanning halftime as the Wildcats won their third straight since losing at Colorado on Jan. 6.

“I don’t think offense is our issue,” Jackson-Cartwright said. “If we turn the ball over and give teams possessions the game feels funny. We talked about it.”

Dylan Smith made all four of his 3s and added 14 points in a fill-in start, and Allonzo Trier scored 15 as Arizona (15-4, 5-1 Pac-12) played without sophomore guard Rawle Alkins, held out as a precaution with what the school said was mild right foot soreness.

“Parker, he can really shoot it. I thought him and Dylan both in the first half were a big reason we had the 10-point lead,” Miller said. “Cal’s zone is very extended. You watch it on film, I think it’s one of those defenses sometimes your players have to get into a rhythm and understand and get a sense of how to move the ball against it. … Once we got through that stretch, no doubt turnovers plagued us throughout, but we also had some good moments. Deandre Ayton was the difference.”

Justice Sueing scored 19 points to lead Cal (7-12, 1-5) but missed all six of his 3-point attempts for the cold-shooting Golden Bears, who were held to 35.3 percent and outrebounded 36-22. Don Coleman had 11 points but shot just 3 of 13.

Ayton made 9 of 11 shots and Arizona shot 62 percent, going 11 for 19 from deep.

Arizona connected on six straight 3-pointers from the 9:20 mark until 2:32 left before halftime to take control, three by Jackson-Cartwright. Cal got within single digits, down by nine, for all of 17 seconds in the second half.

The Wildcats went four possessions until getting their first shot off while committing three quick turnovers and falling behind 6-0. They had turnovers on six of their initial nine possessions and 21 overall but wound up shooting 70 percent in the opening half.

Arizona won its fourth straight in the series, outscoring Cal 33-3 on 3-pointers.

“Part of it is guys forcing the issue, but part of it is also using more clock to get a good shot,” Cal coach Wyking Jones said. “In conference, everybody knows what everybody wants to run. In order to get a good shot, you have to work a little harder, you have to execute more, you have to do a better job of setting the screen.”

ALKINS UPDATE

X-rays on Alkins’ injured foot were negative, though Miller wasn’t counting on him being ready for Saturday at Stanford. Arizona won’t take any risks with him. Alkins’ foot began bothering him in practice Monday then more so Tuesday, but he was making progress by Wednesday.

Miller called it a “possibility” Alkins would play against the Cardinal, but “if he’s still in pain, he won’t.”

BIG PICTURE

Arizona: Arizona’s starters committed 13 turnovers. The Pac-12’s top team from the free throw line, the Wildcats followed up a 34-of-37 showing at the line against Oregon last Saturday by shooting just 13 free throws and making six. Arizona came in shooting 85.3 percent at the line. … The Wildcats are 18-11 in Pac-12 road games played in the state of California under Miller since 2009. Miller is 12-4 vs. Cal.

Cal: The Bears starters were 12 for 43 with 12 of the team’s 14 turnovers. … Kingsley Okoroh, a 7-foot-1 center, scored 10 points to post his first game in double figures scoring since Nov. 16 against Wofford. … Cal has beaten ranked Arizona teams 11 times, including No. 1 four years ago at Haas Pavilion. While the Bears averaged 54.5 points over their recent road trip to Washington and Washington State last weekend, they hurt their chances with a 1-for-13 shooting performance from 3-point range but made 21 of 30 free throws.

UP NEXT

Arizona: At Stanford on Saturday afternoon.

Cal: Hosts Arizona State on Saturday night.