Month: February 2017

Durant’s All-Star alley-oop to Westbrook is proof that we can all get along

Durant’s All-Star alley-oop to Westbrook is proof that we can all get along

By: Ashley Conley

Why can’t we be friends? by WAR has been Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook’s theme song for the last six months.

During the 2017 NBA All-Star game on Sunday, the two former Oklahoma City teammates shared a heartening moment on the court as Durant tossed an alley-oop to Westbrook, signaling that their ongoing drama may be on the mend – or at least left in the past.

A lot of fans tuned into the All-Star game strictly to see if the climactic saga would continue, especially since the two were on the same team again. But when the first Durant/Westbrook action that took place was reminiscent of better days, the Twitterverse went wild.

After finishing the dunk, Westbrook ran down the court to find Durant and the two shared a high-five. *Cue the feels*

The other Western Conference players on the bench had the best reaction.

The pair’s very public bad blood began in July when Durant, then a free agent, made the decision to leave the Thunder to join the 2015 NBA champion Golden State Warriors. The move – perceived as a “you can’t beat ’em, so join ’em” type of ordeal – left a bad taste in most everyone’s mouth.

According to ESPN, Durant didn’t even tell Westbrook that he was leaving. The tandem spent eight seasons together in Oklahoma City building a successful franchise that finished within the top three in the Western Conference standings four times but failed to ever win a championship.

After the All-Star game, Westbrook made it clear that “It’s basketball. That’s it.” in his postgame interview. However, there’s a valuable lesson we can take away from this: despite our differences, conflicts and struggling friendships/relationships, we can all get along and be civil. And in today’s society, that’s exactly what we needed.

Thanks, Durant and Westbrook, for restoring a little faith!

Cover Image: thesource.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

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7 reasons to watch the Daytona 500

7 reasons to watch the Daytona 500

By: Ashley Conley

The Super Bowl of NASCAR is only 10 days away! Here are seven reasons why you should tune in or head to the track for some high-speed action:

1. There’s a new sponsor and logo – In December, NASCAR announced a new primary sponsor for its premier series. What was previously known as the Winston Cup Series, then the Sprint Cup Series, will now be the Monster Energy Cup Series. In addition, NASCAR’s signature multicolored logo has been upgraded to a more simplistic yellow, red and blue scheme.

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2. There’s a new format – This year’s Daytona 500 will be the first race to run under a newly implemented format in place for the entirety of the 2017 schedule.

The Great American Race will feature three stages – two of 60 laps and one of 80 laps – totaling the usual 200 laps and 500 miles. A new points format will also be put into effect. You can check out the details here.

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3. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is back – The man who’s claimed the Most Popular Driver Award a whopping 14 years in-a-row is back to full health after missing most of the last season with major concussion symptoms.

Since the tragic death of his father, Dale Earnhardt, Sr., during the 2001 Daytona 500, this race has been especially significant for Dale Jr. and his fans. The 18-year veteran has two Daytona 500 championships under his belt and is a favorite to win another.

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4. Jimmie Johnson is racing for a record-breaking eighth championship – After winning the 2016 title, Jimmie Johnson tied Dale Earnhardt, Sr. and “The King” Richard Petty for the most titles in NASCAR history with seven. This year, he’s racing to break that record. Winning a third-career Daytona 500 could be the perfect start to accomplishing that goal.

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5. The Young Guns – Ryan Blaney, Ty Dillon, Chase Elliott, Kyle Larson, Daniel Suarez; the list goes on and on. NASCAR isn’t just an old fashioned sport full of older men nowadays. The younger talents bring a whole different element of excitement and although some of them are only in their early twenties, they know how to give the veterans a run for their money.

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6. A female will compete for the sixth-straight season – Danica Patrick will pilot the No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion for this year’s Daytona 500. The Illinois native has 154 career NASCAR starts, the most of any female driver in the sport’s history (you go, girl!). Statistically, Daytona has been one of her best tracks with two top-ten finishes and one Pole (2013).

Will this be the year she gets her first win?

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7. The Big One – Although it’s never pleasant to see anyone wreck while traveling 200 mph, The Big One is almost always inevitable at a track like Daytona. The exciting part about The Big One is that it can single-handily determine who’s still in it to win it on the very last lap when the checkered flag waves. The ultimate crash can knock out 10, 12 or even more cars in a matter of seconds. Luck has to be on your side to win the Daytona 500!

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The 59th running of the Daytona 500 is slated for Sunday, February 26 at 2 p.m. and will air on FOX (television) and the MRN (radio). Tickets can still be purchased online.

Cover Image: nascar.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

 

Fans in agony after WVU suffers meltdown at Phog Allen Fieldhouse

Fans in agony after WVU suffers meltdown at Phog Allen Fieldhouse

By: Ashley Conley

It’s Valentine’s Day and WVU fans across the country may need a few extra chocolates and/or flowers to ease the heartache that stems from a complete meltdown last night against the Kansas Jayhawks on national television.

Members of Mountaineer Nation watching the game from home probably had questions like these on their mind during WVU’s epic calamity:

  • When was the last time WVU consistently made free throws in crunch time?
  • Does anyone remember how to rebound?
  • Is Nathan Adrian’s hair in his eyes? Can he even see?
  • Why does life have to be so tough?

WVU held a 64-50 lead with less than three minutes to play. Thinking the game was out of reach, The Rock Chalk faithful began filing out the doors. Seeing as the Kansas audience had just broken a Guinness World Record for loudest indoor sports crowd ever, TV announcer Dickie V went on one of his famous “I-Can’t-Believe-It!” rants.

I bet those fans wish they would’ve stayed. They would’ve loved what came next.

Like we’ve seen from a Bill Self-coached team so many times before, the Jayhawks did the impossible by storming back from a 14-point deficit. Kansas outscored WVU 21-7 in the final two minutes of regulation. As for the overtime period, well, it basically went like this:

  • Kansas three-pointer
  • WVU missed free throws
  • Kansas three-pointer
  • WVU missed shot
  • Kansas made free throws

And so on.

What made this loss so lousy is that the Mountaineers defeated themselves. WVU outplayed Kansas for a majority of the game, outlasted some terrible officiating, and had the game won. They just couldn’t hold onto it. And Kansas is just that good.

Heartbreaking losses have become the norm for WVU lately (i.e. Oklahoma vs. West Virginia), but Mountaineer fans still have a lot to cheer about.

WVU defeated Kansas earlier this year and they have a handful of other marquee wins on their resume including one against Baylor (then ranked No. 1) and a road win over then-No. 6 Virginia. Although the chances of winning the Big 12 are slim to none (Kansas is on course to win a 13th consecutive conference title), the Mountaineers will make the NCAA Tournament and they still control their own destiny.

Death, taxes and Kansas basketball at the Phog – things that are inevitable and brutally disappointing.

Cover Image: Denny Medley – USA TODAY Sports via wvmetronews.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Did Super Bowl LI restore excitement to the No Fun League?

Did Super Bowl LI restore excitement to the No Fun League?

By: Ashley Conley

The NFL has quickly become the ‘No Fun League’ thanks to rule changes and ridiculous fines and penalties for things like dress code violations and touchdown celebrations.

According to FierceCable, NFL viewership has decreased seven percent over the last two seasons and the numbers continue to drop. TV ratings declined by nine percent during the 2016-17 regular season and six percent during the recent playoffs.

Although the statistics are grim, things may be looking up following a memorable Super Bowl LI – the first in NFL history to reach overtime.

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si.com

What made Super Bowl LI so exciting?

An insane amount of records were broken. 

  • Asher Fair of SportsPress.co reported that 18 records were broken by the New England Patriots including Most Super Bowl Appearances by a Single Team (NE, 9) and Most Super Bowl Appearances by a Quarterback (Tom Brady, 7). New England definitely had the experience advantage, as this was only Atlanta’s second trip to the Super Bowl in franchise history (both ended in defeat).
  • Fair also noted that the Falcons broke the record for Largest Super Bowl Lead Blown by Losing Team (Atlanta, 25 points).

What a great way to go down in the history books, Atlanta!

Game-changing plays by wide receivers in the fourth quarter. 

  • J. Good of JGoodWithSports.com wrote prior to the Super Bowl that Falcons wideout Julio Jones is arguably the best wide receiver in the NFL. He also noted that even though the Patriots have been without powerhouse tight end Rob Gronkowski for most of the season, their receiving core has not missed a step thanks to the talent of Julian Edelman, among others.
  • J. Good was right about Jones and Edelman – both made incredible catches to keep their teams alive late in the fourth quarter. Jones’ near-sideline grab came first, and although it was unbelievable and allowed Atlanta to run some time off the clock with an eight-point lead, it wasn’t even the best catch of the night. Two minutes later, Edelman made arguably the greatest snag in Super Bowl history to extend the Patriots’ drive that eventually led to a touchdown and 2-point conversion that tied the game and sent it into overtime.

I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen as these catches were happening.

The emotions were high, especially for Tom Brady. 

  • Whether you’re a Tom Brady fan or not (and let’s be honest, most people aren’t after the whole DeflateGate thing), you have to admit there was some satisfaction in seeing him win this one. Prior to the game, Brady said he was playing Super Bowl LI for his mother who has been battling an undisclosed illness and has not been able to attend any games so far this season. But, miraculously, she made it to the Super Bowl to watch her son play.
  • Kate Johnson of 4amwriter.com described Brady as a roller coaster of emotions throughout the game. The first three quarters, while the Patriots were down big, “He looked worried, a bit disbelieving. His feet got a little happy and he wasn’t always his calm, cool Bradyliciousness.” Johnson then observed pure focus from the future Hall of Famer. “He knew what he had to do – even if the job seemed impossible.”
  • He did it. Brady orchestrated a 19-point fourth quarter comeback and drove his team all the way down the field in overtime to score a touchdown on the opening drive. With New England’s victory, Brady claimed his fifth Super Bowl title which ties a player-best record.

The greatest part was that his mother was there, in person, to see the whole thing. This is what it’s all about, and this is the kind of thing sports fans love to watch.

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Super Bowl LI gave us a little bit of everything. Domination for the first half of the game (which can be considered boring by viewers who were not Falcons fans), an intriguing and powerful halftime show, sheer excitement in the fourth quarter, and a plethora of emotional moments.

Games like this make me wish the next football season started tomorrow.

Cover Image: insider.ticketmaster.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Extraordinary fourth-quarter catches highlight Super Bowl LI

Extraordinary fourth-quarter catches highlight Super Bowl LI

By: Ashley Conley

We’ve been here before: A Super Bowl altered by the game of inches.

Both the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots put on a show during the fourth quarter of Super Bowl LI, particularly in the receiving department.

Atlanta’s top receiver Julio Jones made a remarkable sideline catch with just shy of five minutes remaining on the clock. At this point in the game, the Patriots had cut the Falcons 28-9 end-of-third-quarter lead to only eight points after scoring 19 unanswered so far in the fourth.

NFL: Super Bowl LI-New England Patriots vs Atlanta Falcons
ftw.usatoday.com

Jones’ somehow got his toes down literally inches before hitting the sideline paint and those watching and tweeting couldn’t believe their eyes.

Unfortunately for Atlanta, Jones’ unbelievable catch didn’t go to good use. A sack on 2017 MVP quarterback Matt Ryan, a penalty and an incomplete pass proceeded and forced the Falcons to punt the ball back over to the Patriots.

Having an eight point lead with three minutes remaining in a game sounds pretty comfortable against any other team in the NFL, but not when you’re facing a quarterback who already has four Super Bowl titles to his name and is hungry for another.

Tom Brady and his offense came out firing on all cylinders. It was now or never, and New England’s trusty 5-foot-10 wideout Julian Edelman knew it. With 2:33 remaining, Edelman made quite possibly the greatest catch in Super Bowl history to keep his team alive.

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Charlie Riedel/AP

The ball bounced off an Atlanta defender’s hands, then off his foot once he hit the ground and then somehow miraculously into Edelman’s hands just inches away from the turf.

The catch ultimately set the Patriots up for a touchdown and a do-or-die 2-point conversion opportunity to send the game to overtime. The conversion was successful, New England tied the game, went into overtime and scored a touchdown on the opening drive.

Game over.

While the New England Patriots ended the night with their fifth Super Bowl title in franchise history, football fans all over the world ended their night in awe after one heck of a catch fest.

Cover Image: Getty Images via sportingnews.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy

Online consensus confirms this year’s Pro Bowl uniforms were hideous

Online consensus confirms this year’s Pro Bowl uniforms were hideous

By: Ashley Conley

Another NFL Pro Bowl has come and gone and fans have flocked to social media with a wide array of opinions on the uniforms.

The popular opinion? This year’s garbs were pretty unpleasant.

Both teams donned traditional colors, NFC squad in blue and the AFC in red. While the main colors were pretty basic, the neon yellowish-green accents made these jerseys stick out like a sore thumb.

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Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

It isn’t necessarily breaking news that the Pro Bowl uniforms have been treacherous for the last few years. ESPN contributor Paul Lukas is convinced that the NFL must have some sort of unwritten rule “requiring the game to be played in something akin to clown costumes.”

For decades, the uniforms looked relatively similar with plain base colors (blue, red and/or white) and equally basic outline and accent colors. We’ve even seen USA-themed jerseys with stars (my personal favorite). In 2014, however, the NFL turned the Pro Bowl uni’s upside down and inside out with random neons…

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bleacherreport.com

and it’s been downhill ever since.

Regardless of the uniforms, at least this year’s game was more competitive than usual. The AFC squeaked by the NFC 20-13 in a matchup that ultimately came down to the last drive.

Awesome uniforms are an added incentive but the Pro Bowl is only watchable when the players actually try.

Cover Image: giantswire.usatoday.com

Ashley Conley is a senior journalism student at WVU. She aspires to become a writer or reporter in the sports industry upon graduation. You can follow her on Twitter @ashleyconleyyy