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News, Scores, Teams, Stories & More on Northeast OH Sports on cleveland.com
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    On a snowboard and skis, Ester Ledecka is a history-making Olympic gold medalist.

    PYEONGCHANG, South Korea (AP) -- On a snowboard and skis, Ester Ledecka is a history-making Olympic gold medalist.

    One of the surprising breakout stars of the Winter Games, the Czech pulled double-duty on the slopes in Pyeongchang and became the first to win snowboarding's parallel giant slalom and skiing's Alpine super-G.

    She outraced Selina Joerg of Germany to the line in the final of the snowboarding event Saturday and won by .46 seconds. That came seven days after she won the super-G by .01 seconds -- and shocked everyone, including herself.

    "It was a great day," Ledecka said Saturday. "I enjoyed every run and I'm very happy to be here and stand on the highest place."

    That's also where the United States' curling team is after winning the men's final, beating Sweden 10-7.

    The upset was only the second curling medal in U.S. history, with the first coming in a bronze-medal game at the 2006 Turin Games.

    "It feels almost unbelievable," Team USA's Matt Hamilton said, "but we came out here with great intensity and just had to believe we could do it, and make our shots."

    Switzerland won the debut of the Alpine team event, but Norway's third-place finish gave it a record 38 medals at a single Winter Olympics.

    "Even underneath the suit, I get goosebumps talking about it," Norway's Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen said.

    Iivo Niskanen of Finland took gold in cross-country's 50-kilometer mass start, Sebastien Toutant of Canada won the men's Big Air snowboarding event and Nevin Galmarini of Switzerland was the winner of the men's parallel giant slalom.

    The debut of the speedskating mass start races worked out well for the hosts, with South Korea's Lee Seung-hoon unleashing a final sprint to beat Belgian inline skater Bart Swings and Koen Verweij of the Netherlands in the men's event.

    Japan's Nana Takagi blasted past opposition in the final straightaway to win the women's gold from Kim Bo-reum of South Korea and Irene Schouten of the Netherlands.

    Japan and Britain were playing for the bronze in women's curling later Saturday, and the Czech Republic was taking on Canada for bronze in men's hockey.

    At Yongpyong Alpine Center, Ledecka had the fastest qualifying time in the women's parallel giant slalom. Her fourth race was decided when her opponent slid off the course.

    She had been considered a favorite for gold in snowboarding after being the top-ranked woman on the circuit, but she hadn't come even close to that success in skiing.

    Until last week.

    "(People) were reminding me, 'Yeah, you're a skier, you did a great success,' which was very nice," she said, "but I was thinking, 'OK, but you have to change and be a snowboarder already.'"

    No problems there.

    "What happened here," said Ledecka's snowboard coach, Justin Reiter, "was once-in-a-lifetime."

    MIRACURL ON ICE

    John Shuster has been part of both of the United States' men's curling medals, this time skipping the squad to the upset of Sweden.

    He converted a double-takeout for a five-ender in the eighth, a very rare score that made it 10-5 and basically sealed the win.

    The U.S. needed three straight victories to advance to the playoffs and then a semifinal victory over three-time defending gold medalist Canada to get here.

    "We knew we were close," Hamilton said, "and to make the breakthrough here at the Olympics is just amazing."

    MEDAL HEADS

    Norway leads the medals table with 13 gold, 14 silver and 11 bronze, breaking the record of 37 overall set at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics by the Americans.

    "It's just a really cool feeling to feel that the whole team succeeded today," Nina Haver-Loeseth said after Norway edged France for the bronze. "I think that Norwegian Alpine skiers had a very successful Olympics. We've been at the medal plaza, cheering our teammates on and I was like, 'We are not leaving here without a medal.' So it means a lot."

    Switzerland knocked off top-seeded Austria in the gold-medal race. Leading 2-1, Swiss ski racer Daniel Yule wrapped up the win when Austrian rival Marco Schwarz skied out along the side-by-side parallel slalom course.

    "For us skiers who usually are always doing an individual sport, to just do this all together like this for Team Switzerland, that was just amazing," Yule said. "It's just that much more fun."

    FINLAND'S FINEST

    Niskanen beat out Russian rival Alexander Bolshunov with a strong sprint in the 50-kilometer mass start to give Finland its first gold of the Pyeongchang Games.

    "The first, but not the last," Niskanen said. "Tomorrow is a new day. I (was) wanting to win my gold medal (over) this distance and it had been long years."

    Niskanen won the marathon event in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 22.1 seconds -- more than 18 seconds ahead of Bolshunov.

    Another Russian, Andrey Larkov, won the bronze.

    SOARING TO GOLD

    Toutant won in the Olympic debut of men's Big Air by scoring 174.25 points in the final.

    Kyle Mack of the United States took second with a score of 168.75, and Billy Morgan of Britain earned bronze.

    Red Gerard, who won the first gold medal for the United States in Pyeongchang in the slopestyle event two weeks ago, finished fifth.

    - Story by Dennis Waszak Jr. for The Associated Press

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    The Buckeyes wrapped up the regular season on Friday, and won't play again until next Friday's Big Ten quarterfinals.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Wonder what's more appealing to the Ohio State basketball team right now. The potential championship? Or the nap?

    After wrapping up the regular season on Friday night with a thrilling double-overtime win at Indiana, the Buckeyes now have a week off before beginning their part of the Big Ten Tournament next Friday in New York.

    Yes, they can still win a share of the regular-season conference title if Michigan State loses at Wisconsin on Sunday, and that would be great. But that rest? That week off is sorely needed for a team that's been playing on tired legs this month.

    "I think we need it," coach Chris Holtmann said. "I don't know that I've always felt like that at the end of the year. I feel like that more this year."

    This isn't solely an Ohio State issue. It's a Big Ten issue. The Buckeyes to some extent did get a bit of a boost thanks to a new TV deal with Fox this year that had games played on Monday and Friday nights.

    OSU and Indiana ended their season on Friday. Michigan and Maryland wrapped up on Saturday. The rest of the league finishes regular season play on Sunday, and then four of those teams will play in New York on Wednesday. Ohio State will take the extra days off.

    Thanks to that new TV deal, but mostly the absurdity of playing the conference tournament at Madison Square Garden, this year's Big Ten schedule has been a mess. Commissioner Jim Delany, who apparently couldn't see it coming, admitted to The Chicago Tribune on Friday that the schedule this year "wasn't healthy."

    You think?

    Here's how it broke down for Ohio State:

    * Starting on Jan. 4, the Buckeyes played 16 Big Ten games in 51 days. Last year they played 18 Big Ten games in 63 days.

    * From Jan. 14-22, Ohio State played four games in nine days, three on the road. OSU played at Rutgers, at Northwestern and against Minnesota in New York in succession during that span. 

    * From Feb. 15-20, the Buckeyes played three games in six days, the first two on the road at Penn State and Michigan -- both losses.

    Look around the league, and you'll find similar situations for every team. During stretches, the Big Ten schedule felt more like an NBA schedule. No back-to-backs, but plenty of one-day preps.

    "If you look at our schedules (through the years), we've been able to give everybody two-day prep (before games) in 99 percent of the cases," Delany told The Chicago Tribune.

    Ohio State played six games this year (three Big Ten games) with one day (or less) of preparation.

    It was a mistake made in the name of playing the tournament at Madison Square Garden, which required playing the event a week earlier than normal. Teams played two conference games in December (with one day of prep in between), then forced the remaining 16 games into a shorter window than necessary. Delany said it won't happen again. The league is still interested in periodically playing the conference tournament out east, but not at the expense of changing the structure of the regular season like this.

    So it was a mistake, and Ohio State -- by virtue of finishing no worse than second in the league and clinching the double-bye for the tournament -- finally gets a break.

    Want a marker of tired legs? Look at Ohio State's recent free-throw shooting. The Buckeyes are 72.6 percent at the line this year, the program's best mark since the 1988-89 season. In the last three games, they're shooting 21-for-38 (55 percent). Keita Bates-Diop, the front-runner for Big Ten Player of the Year and a 78 percent free-throw shooter, is at 52.9 percent in the last four games (9-for-17).

    Free throws were part of the difference in a loss at Michigan last week. Win that, and we're not wondering if Michigan State can beat Wisconsin and allow the Buckeyes to back-door a shared Big Ten title.

    You can look at slower defensive rotations, Ohio State's last eight opponents have shot 40 percent or better, or inconsistent offense. OSU's turnover number was in double digits the last three games. Plenty of markers of a tired team -- to their credit, the Buckeyes didn't fold down the stretch -- but tired nonetheless.

    "Maybe it's because Keita's logging almost 34 minutes per game in Big Ten play, but I do think that we need that time to practice, and for them to not practice and get their bodies recovered," Holtmann said. "We need some time to practice, look at and tweak some things. That will be good for us."

    Holtmann said he could tweak practice procedures this week.

    He does want to do some things to put his players in a better position to play through some of the physical defenses they saw over the latter part of the season. Holtmann, who said he has a tendency to grind his team down in practice, finally has some room to do that.

    "This time of year it's hard because you want them to feel that in practice to get better in that area, yet at the same time you want to be aware of the fatigue and wear and tear on your guys," Holtmann said. "That may be something we get into as we prepare for the Big Ten Tournament, and the NCAA Tournament, just trying to get better in those areas."

    Ohio State will have another long break between the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAAs. Even if the Buckeyes reach the championship game on March 4, they wouldn't play again until March 15 at the earliest. They could have two weeks off between tournaments.

    Some might wonder if that kind of break can thwart momentum, and it can.

    But Ohio State feels more like a team that could use the time off.


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    Former Ohio State defensive tackle Dylan Thompson announced that he is transferring to Virginia.

    COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Former Ohio State defensive tackle Dylan Thompson announced on Saturday that he will play his final year of college football at Virginia.

    Thompson announced on Feb. 5 that he will be a graduate transfer after being with the Buckeyes since he signed in 2014. He was a three-star prospect from Lombard, Ill., in the class of 2014.

    Thompson was not on scholarship last season, and was ruled academically ineligible the year before.

    Those two things combined with injuries limited him to just two games played in his Ohio State career, which both came last season.


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    Miami never leads until less than 2 minutes remained to play in overtime, then pulls out a big road victory over the Akron Zips.

    AKRON, Ohio -- The Miami RedHawks took down the Akron Zips on the road, 64-62, in overtime Saturday afternoon in Rhodes Arena.

    Miami trailed by 14 at halftime, 31-17, and by 14 with 9:56 to play, 44-30, before putting Akron's offense in the deep freeze for nearly six minutes to close within 44-43.

    Akron responded with four straight points, but turnovers and failure to get defensive rebounds allowed the RedHawks to tie the game, 51-51, at the end of regulation off a Logan McLane rebound and layup. McLane scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half and overtime.

    The Zips (12-16, 5-11) took a 57-51 lead to start the overtime. But Akron did not score again until Miami (15-14, 8-8) took its first lead of the game, 59-57 and 61-57 with 1:10 to go after back-to-back Akron turnovers. Miami then held on for the victory.

    "Best defensive performance we've had all year,'' Akron coach John Groce said of holding Miami to 34.4-percent shooting for the game. "The stats show that."

    The Zips and RedHawks entered the game with serious MAC Tournament seedings on the line. Miami was in a three-way  tie for sixth place, which was good for hosting a first-round MAC Tournament game. Akron was in a four-way tie for ninth, looking to move up among the top eight with a chance to host in the opening round.

    Akron came out with a purpose, building leads of 11-4, 20-9 and 29-12 before holding a 31-17 lead at halftime. Daniel Utomi, coming off a 29-point game at Bowling Green, already had 11 of his 24 points at halftime for the Zips.

    While Akron was shooting 52.2 percent from the field, Miami compounded what began as 1-for-15 shooting with a slew of turnovers, several forced by backcourt traps by the Zips.

    Then Miami flipped the script, forcing the Zips into turnovers and holding Akron to 24-percent shooting in the second half. That was enough for the victory.

    Two games remain for both teams with Miami traveling to Kent State on Tuesday before ending the season at home against Ohio University Friday night.

    Akron hopes to have injured 6-9 center Jaden Sayles (wrist) back this week, but he has not practiced. Backup guard Virshon Cotton (pink eye) will be back, as Akron travels to Buffalo Tuesday then hosts Kent State Friday night.


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    Tyler Naquin and Richie Shaffer hit two-run home runs for Cleveland in an 11-2 victory against Arizona.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Tyler Naquin hit a two-run home run and the Cleveland Indians got RBI hits from Giovanny Urshela, Eric Haase and Greg Allen on Saturday in an 11-2 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Salt River Fields.

    Naquin, who appeared in 19 games for the Indians in 2017, homered to right off Diamondbacks pitcher Jared Miller in the top of the third. Erik Gonzalez, who had singled earlier in the inning, scored.

    Shawn Morimondo started and pitched two innings, allowing a run on one hit for Cleveland. Nick Goody and Tyler Olson were among seven other Indians pitchers to appear in the game.

    Olson, who did not allow an earned run in 20 innings of work for the Tribe last season, gave up an RBI single to Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed in the fourth inning.

    Cleveland put six runs on the board in the top of the ninth behind a two-run homer by Nellie Rodriguez, back-to-back homers by Richie Shaffer and Haase and a sac fly by Brandon Barnes. Rob Refsnyder added an RBI single to close out the scoring.

    Shaffer's home run was his first of the spring. He led the Indians organization with four spring training home runs in 2017.


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    Check here for the live final-round leaderboard from LPGA Tour's Honda LPGA Thailand 2018.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Jessica Korda led by four shots entering the final round of the LPGA Tour's Honda LPGA Thailand 2018 this week.

    Korda carded 20-under through 54 holes. Moriya Jutanugarn was in second, Minjee Lee in third (15-under) and Ariya Jutanugarn in fourth (14-under). Lexi Thompson (13-under) was in fifth.

    The field was loaded with star power. Among others who started Round 1 on Thursday were Brooke Henderson, Shanshan Feng, Amy Yang, Nelly Korda, Michelle Wie and Lydia Ko.

    LPGA TOUR
    HONDA LPGA THAILAND
    Site: Chonburi, Thailand.
    Course: Siam CC (Pattaya Old Course). Yardage: 6,642. Par: 72.
    Purse: $1.6 million. Winner's share: $240,000.
    Television: Thursday-Sunday, 1-5 a.m. (Golf Channel).
    Defending champion: Amy Yang.
    Last week: Jin Young Ko won the Women's Australian Open.
    Race to CME Globe leader: Jin Young Ko and Brittany Lincicome.
    Notes: The field features nine of the top 10 in the women's world ranking. The only player missing is Women's British Open champion I.K. Kim at No. 8. ... Ko became the second player to win her LPGA Tour debut as a member. The other was Beverly Hanson in 1951. ... On the alternate list is Brittany Lang, who won the U.S. Women's Open in 2016. She has had only two top-10s in her past 38 starts since winning her first major. ... Lexi Thompson in 2015 is the only American to win the Honda LPGA Thailand since it began in 2006. ... Yang has won two of the last three years. ... The top 10 in the women's world ranking are from six countries.
    Next week: HSBC Women's World Championship.
    Online: www.lpga.com

    (Fact box from Associated Press.)


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    John Carroll defeated Ohio Northern, 94-77, in the Ohio Athletic Conference men's basketball championship game Saturday at the DeCarlo Varsity Center at JCU in University Heights.

    UNIVERSITY HEIGHTS, Ohio -- Matt Csuhran's 19 points in 23 minutes led a balanced attack as host John Carroll defeated Ohio Northern, 94-77, in the Ohio Athletic Conference men's basketball championship game on Saturday night.

    The victory, before a standing-room crowd at the Tony DeCarlo Varsity Center, clinched an NCAA Division III tournament berth for the Blue Streaks. John Carroll (23-5) will be considered to host a first-round game next weekend.

    "I really like our chances to host a couple games," said John Carroll coach Pete Moran moments after the game as Blue Streaks fans mobbed the court. "When you look at our strength of schedule and who we've beat, I think we have that chance."

    John Carroll is 5-4 in OAC championship games. The Blue Streaks won championships in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2016, all under the coaching of Mike Moran, the father of Pete Moran. Mike Moran retired after last season after 25 years at John Carroll.

    Csuhran, a 6-5 senior guard forward, was named the tournament's Most Valuable Player, but he preferred to mention his teammates.

    "The one thing we always preach is family," said Csuhran, who is averaging nearly 18 points a game. "We say that after every huddle. We spend so much time together off the court, and we play together on it. Definitely, if we weren't this close, we couldn't have done this."

    Antonio Vuyancih (14), Jimmy Berger (13), Jackson Sartain (11) and Jimmy Berger's brother, Ryan (10) also scored in double figures for the Blue Streaks.

    John Carroll's man-to-man defense and full court pressure disrupted the offensive rhythm of Ohio Northern (19-9), which shot 38 percent in the decisive second half.

    "We're a good team when we defend," Moran said. "We put a lot of emphasis on the defensive end the last couple weeks, and it paid off."

    The Blue Streaks held Polar Bears standouts Ryan Bruns and Nate Burger to 12 and 16 points, respectively. Bruns, a 6-8 center, took a 24.8 point scoring average into the game. John Carroll's 6-6 Allen Stokes, 6-5 Emil Hess, 6-2 Brian Papich and Csuhran took turns guarding Bruns.

    Burger was scoring 25.5 points per game. He was guarded at different times by Vuyancih, Sean Flannery and Jimmy Berger. 

    John Carroll took control of the game with two second-half scoring runs.

    "We wore on them a little bit," Moran said. "They started missing shots and we began getting open looks. I think our half-court intensity really wore on them."

    The Blue Streaks boosted their 43-39 halftime lead to 57-43 in the first four minutes of the second half. The 14-4 run began with Stokes' layup off a nifty Ryan Berger pass, followed by John Cirillo's running bank shot. Ryan Berger drove the lane for a fast break layup and Cirillo made a follow shot. Sartain then hit a 3-pointer and finished a fast break layup.

    The Polar Bears pulled to within 60-53, but John Carroll went on a 15-3 run to lead, 75-56, with 10 minutes left. Flannery canned two foul shots and Stokes converted a 3-point play with a fastbreak layup. Ryan Berger drove the lane for a hoop and Hess had a layup in transition. Sartain then ended any Polar Bears' hopes with consecutive 3-point shots.


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    Cleveland State got 25 points from Bobby Word and defeated Youngstown State in two overtimes Saturday, 99-94.

    YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio -- Bobby Word sank seven 3-pointers and finished with 25 points, Stefan Kenic chipped in 17 points, including a 3-pointer to force a second overtime period, and Cleveland State slipped past Youngstown State for 99-94 win in double OT in a Horizon League men's basketball game on Saturday night.

    Kenic made a jumper 10 seconds into the second extra period to put Cleveland State (9-22, 6-12 Horizon League) up, 89-87, and the Vikings never trailed again as Youngstown State (8-23, 6-12) twice tied it down the stretch. Jamarcus Hairston's layup with 2:06 remaining broke a 91-91 tie to put Cleveland State on top for good and the Vikings clinched it from the free-throw line.

    Word was 9 for 13 from the field, missing just two of his 3-point shots. Tyree Appleby added 12 points, including a layup at the end of regulation to force the first overtime, and Kasheem Thomas and Kenny Carpenter had 10 points apiece for Cleveland State, which shot 57 percent from the field, including 11 for 17 from long range.

    Both teams combined for five 3-pointers in the first overtime period, including Kenic's long ball with seven seconds left to force a second extra period.

    Jaylen Benton scored 21 points and Cameron Morse had 20 points to lead four Youngstown State players in double figures.


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    Jalen Avery's late FTs give Kent State a 64-63 win over Bowling Green on Saturday.

    KENT, Ohio -- Jalen Avery made two free throws with 3.9 seconds left for the fifth lead change in the final minute and Kent State defeated Bowling Green, 64-63, in a Mid-American Conference men's basketball game on Saturday night.

    Avery took the ball coast-to-coast, driving hard to the basket after Demajeo Wiggins had given the Falcons the lead with free throws at 8.4 seconds.

    Avery had also put the Golden Flashes on top with free throws at 13.8 seconds but the play of the final minute was a Wiggins layup with 23.3 to go. Justin Turner missed a step-back 3 and Derek Koch got the offensive rebound but was blocked by Dylan Frey. Koch got the ball back and was blocked by Danny Pippen before Wiggins came up with the ball.

    Kevin Zabo had 15 points for Kent State (14-15, 8-8 Mid-American Conference). Pippen had 11 points, eight rebounds and six blocks.

    Turner led the Falcons (16-13, 7-9) with 17 points and Wiggins had 14 with 13 rebounds.


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    Instead of drafting a QB No. 1 overall, what if the Browns take Barkley there and then Allen at No. 4. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Hey, Mary Kay!

    Hey, Mary Kay: Wouldn't the best move for our Browns to take Saquon Barkley at No. 1? I do believe if they're eyeing Josh Allen, he'll be there at No. 4. If he's not, we'll still have Sam Darnold as an option at  No. 4. But in a win-now situation, I would like to get a veteran QB, draft Barkley and Minkah Fitzpatrick then groom DeShone Kizer.  -- Rodney Wisdom, Atlanta, Ga.

    Hey, Rodney: I believe that even if the Browns acquire a veteran QB, they should still draft their QB of the future No. 1 overall and not take any chances. By draft day, they'll have one they like the best, and they should take him and be set for years to come. Although Barkley could be a gamechanger, the Browns can probably find an excellent running back in the second or third round, especially in this draft. Or, if they fall in love with Barkley, they can hope he's still there at No. 4. Ideally, they'll get their QB at No. 1 and then have their choice between Barkley and Alabama defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 4.

    Hey, Mary Kay: I have heard very little talk in Cleveland of signing Josh McCown. He would be the perfect fit for 1-2 years. He is a good QB and would be the BEST to nurture and teach whomever we draft. Why is he getting very little discussion as an option to sign and come back to Cleveland?  -- North Ridgeville, Ohio

    Hey, Bob: McCown will be on the Browns' watch list, along with every other potential available veteran QB, because ideally they want to start a veteran this season. But they will likely pursue other veterans first, including Cincinnati's AJ McCarron, who will also be an unrestricted free agent. Others on the radar are Nick Foles, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford. But if McCown gets to free agency and the Browns are still looking for a QB, he would be under consideration. He played very well for the Jets before breaking his hand last year, and would also be a great mentor to a young QB.

    McCarron 'would've loved' to have played for the Browns and other QB buzz

    Hey, Mary Kay: Is there any chance the Browns would swap picks with the Giants in a trade for Eli Manning and still take Saquon Barkley at two? -- Bruce Hoover, Delaware, Ohio

    Hey, Bruce: I doubt the Giants would be willing to part with Manning until they know for sure his replacement is ready to start. In 2016, the Eagles waited until after training camp to trade Sam Bradford to the Vikings for  first- and fourth-round pick when they knew Carson Wentz was ready to take over. But in the unlikely event the Giants are ready to make that decision on draft day, I'm sure the Browns would at least be willing to listen. The two-time Super Bowl MVP could step in and start -- and win -- for the Browns in 2018 providing they upgrade the receiving corps.

    Hey, Mary Kay: Quarterback aside, what is the one thing the Browns can do to win? -- Tommy Fairchild, Fairfield, Iowa

    Hey, Tommy:  The Browns can win some games just by virtue of winning the turnover battle alone. Teams that win that cateofory win almost 80% of the time. The Browns' 0-16 record can be attributed in last part to their league-low minus-28 turnover differential. That figure was 11 notches below the Broncos, who went 5-11. Most of those turnovers were committed by rookie DeShone Kizer, who threw a career-high 22 interceptions, but the Browns got little help from the defense in this department, finishing second-last in the league with only seven interceptions. In addition to cutting down on the giveaways, they must add defensive playmakers who can take it away.


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    The Cleveland Browns absolutely, positively must run the ball more. And that means get a running back in the 2018 NFL Draft.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- "You have to run the ball."

    That was one of the things Todd Haley said at the press conference announcing his appointment as the Cleveland Browns new offensive coordinator.

    "You have to run the ball when the other team knows you are going to run the ball," he explained.

    He talked about the need to adapt to the game, sometimes throwing 45 times in an attempt to win ... or running the ball 35 times.

    "But in this division, you better be able to run the ball at some point in the games when they know you are going to run it," he stressed again.

    He's not the first new Browns offensive coordinator to stress the running game.

    Hue Jackson did it when he took over as head coach.

    In his two seasons calling plays, here is where the Browns have ranked in rushing attempts:

    • 2017: 28th
    • 2016: 31st

    That's out of 32 teams.

    How about Haley when he called plays for the Steelers the last two years:

    • 2017: 15th
    • 2016: 16th

    So Haley was in the middle of the pack calling running plays. He had an exceptional quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger, so it was tempting to call passing plays.

    But Haley had a big-time running back in Le'Veon Bell. Haley used him, averaging 20 carries per game in the last five seasons.

    Part of the reason Bell emerged as a Pro Bowl runner is talent. It starts there. But Haley also created opportunities for Bell to run the ball.

    Jackson often said he wanted to run the ball more often, but couldn't do so. In many games, the Browns were behind early. That seemed to create almost a desperation in the mind of Jackson to have his quarterbacks heave the ball down field.

    He seemed to think being down 7-to-10 points was like 14-to-20.

    Of course, forcing passes with a rookie quarterback such as DeShone Kizer just made the situation worse.

    The only recent Browns offensive coordinator who concentrated on the run was Kyle Shanahan. The Browns were No. 7 in rushing attempts in 2014, his only season with the team.

    It helped that Brian Hoyer was a viable quarterback who could organize a team and stay away from rookie mistakes. But I remember games where Shanahan kept handing the ball to Terrance West, Isaiah Crowell and even Ben Tate (early in the season) simply to settle down the offense and take some time off the clock.

    I'd love to see Haley take that approach. It also would be a tremendous help if general manager John Dorsey can find an experienced quarterback to help set the tone for the offense.

    ABOUT THE RUNNING GAME

    1. Let's make a reasonably safe assumption that free agent running back Isaiah Crowell won't re-sign with the Browns. That leaves Duke Johnson and Matthew Dayes as the top running backs. So they need another back.

    2. Johnson is a restricted free agent. Here's hoping the Browns re-sign him. If they don't by the start of the season, he could be gone after 2018. Yet another reason the Browns need another back.

    3. Which leads to a discussion of Willoughby South product Kareem Hunt. He was picked by Dorsey in the third round (No. 86) of the 2017 draft. Hunt was one of the biggest surprises in the NFL, rushing for 1,327 yards (4.9 average) and 8 TDs. He also caught 53 passes.

    4. Hunt never lost a fumble in his four-year career at Toledo. He lost one fumble (his first game) for the Chiefs this season. That makes me wonder if Dorsey puts a high priority on hanging on to the ball when drafting running backs.

    5. Dane Brugler (NFLDraftScout.com) is a Mount Union product and one of my favorite draft analysts. I asked him about the Browns possibly taking Penn State's Saquon Barkley with the No. 4 pick. Brugler said he wouldn't do it. He believes Barkley is the best back in the draft, but the gap between Barkely and some others is not extremely wide.

    6. Brugler said he had Zeke Elliott and Todd Gurley rated higher than he does Barkley in this draft. Brugler also studied the fumble rates of the top college running backs. Barkley is "elite," having fumbled only once in 193 carries.

    7. "There's nothing wrong with taking Barkley at No. 4," he said. "But the Browns need so much. There are a lot of other good backs in this draft. They have three second-round picks."

    8. And Dorsey has a history of finding draft gold in the middle rounds. Brugler thought Auburn's Kerryon Johnson (1,391 yards rushing, 18 TDs) could fall to the Browns in the second round. "If his medical checks out, he can be a terrific player. Injuries are a concern." said Brugler. Johnson missed two games with a hamstring injury and had a shoulder problem. Johnson also hangs on to the ball, one fumble every 191 carries.

    9. For someone in the second-to-third-round range, Brugler mentioned one of my favorites -- Rasaad Penny of San Jose State. Penny's stats were stunning -- 2,248 yards rushing, a 7.8 average. He ran for 23 TDs. He caught 19 passes.

    10. In his career, Penny ran seven kickoffs back for TDs. He only returned two punts, averaging 35 yards an attempt. Brugler said Penny's one weakness was blocking when opponents blitzed his quarterback.

    ABOUT THE BROWNS

    1. If it's the Browns, you have to talk quarterbacks at some point with a draft guy. Brugler rates USC's Sam Darnold as the best, but it is subject to change. He talked about Darnold being only 20 years old, but mature. He's a guy who may need to sit for a while but could develop into a very good NFL starter. He had only 14 college starts.

    2. Unlike many scouts, he's not high on Wyoming's Josh Allen. In his report, Brugler wrote: "Allen's elite physical characteristics (size, athleticism and arm) along with his competitive spirit makes him scouting catnip. His unbalanced mechanics, sporadic ball placement and underdeveloped instincts are troubling red flags."

    3. As we discussed Allen, I said, "He sounds a lot like DeShone KIzer." Brugler agreed to an extent. He mentioned how Kizer was put in a terrible spot having to immediately start for the Browns. "If a team like Cleveland drafts Allen and does that, you'll probably see the same thing."

    4. Brugler isn't writing off Allen. Or Kizer. He likes both to an extent. "But these are quarterbacks who need patience and time to learn."

    5. The patience factor is key with nearly every quarterback in this draft -- especially when going to a bad team such as the Browns.

    6. Which circles back not only to the need for a veteran quarterback, but a major commitment to a running game -- and that means drafting a running back reasonably high.

    7. I also want the Browns to draft/sign some receivers. I'm all for Terrelle Pryor coming back on a reasonable contract, assuming he is healthy. Pryor had arthroscopic surgery on his ankle in November. The ankle bothered him much of the 2017 season as he caught only 20 passes with Washington. It's doubtful there will be a strong market for Pryor, who caught 77 passes with the Browns in 2016.

    8. I will discuss receivers in the upcoming weeks, but the Browns have to address this area. Josh Gordon hasn't played a full season since 2012. Receiver Corey Coleman broke his hand in each of the last two seasons. No one is sure if the 2016 first-round pick can make any real impact in the NFL. Dorsey didn't draft Coleman, so he can trade Coleman without being blamed for making a bad pick. No one will blame Coleman on Dorsey.

    HEAR ME TALK, IT'S FREE!

    March 1: Wadsworth Library, 7 p.m.

    March 6: Wickliffe Library, 7 p.m.

    March 13: McKinley Library, Niles, 6:30 p.m.

    March 29: Dover Library, 6:30 p.m.


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    Cleveland Cavaliers vs. San Antonio Spurs minus Kawhi Leonard who has missed all but nine games this season

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers start a five-game homestand this afternoon against the San Antonio Spurs, who are still without the services of all-star Kawhi Leonard, but have managed the third-best record in the West.

    Leonard has missed all but nine games this season and even though he has been medically cleared to play recently, Leonard has chosen not to play. According to his coach, it is unlikely he'll suit up anymore this season.

    Like the new-look Cavs' chances to beat the Spurs minus Leonard? It should be a good comparison of where the Cavs are since the first time the two teams met this season, in late January, the Spurs won 114-102 without playing Leonard, Pau Gasol or Manu Ginobili.

    Crowquill, by Plain Dealer artist Ted Crow, appears three times a week in The Plain Dealer and on cleveland.com.


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    Everything has changed for the better for the Cavaliers since General Manager Koby Altman added four new players.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Scribbles in my Cavaliers notebook:

    1. They won in Boston. In Oklahoma City. They lost at home, but won the next night in Memphis. If you're a Cavs fan, your heart has to be beating stronger since Koby Altman rebuilt the roster.

    2. The Cavs are 3-1 with the additions of Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Rodney Hood and George Hill. But I maintain they are 5-1. Here's why. They beat Minnesota at home in a game where LeBron James was told big changes were coming the next day. Then they went Atlanta and beat the Hawks -- even though the new guys had joined the team but were not permitted to play until the trade was finalized.

    3. The spark happened because Altman's trades lit a fire under LeBron James. The Cavs star has a brilliant NBA mind. Former Cavs General Manager David Griffin often said, "LeBron is a basketball savant." James could see how the trades would impact the course of the season even before the players hit the court with the Cavs.

    4. James knew this would truly be his team. He would not be sharing the ball with Isaiah Thomas ... or, to a lesser extent, Dwyane Wade. James loves to be in control of all he can, on or off the court. If James desires, he can bring the ball up the court every time he's on the court. That creates more player movement and better spacing. It also plays into his passing instincts.

    5. I'll show my age, but I've always believed James is at his best when he plays the Magic Johnson role. He guides the offense. When needed, he can be a freight train roaring to the rim. Or he can start his drive and then pass off to open long-range shooters.

    6. James also knows a team must play reasonable defense to contend to a title. That's why he became extremely excited when he heard the names of the four players possibly coming to Cleveland. Nance loves to defend. He is strong enough to handle big men. He also is quick enough to switch on defense and make life hard for a guard wanting to drive to the rim.

    7. Nance is so fundamentally sound. His father (former Cavs star Larry Nance) was his first teacher and laid the foundation. At Revere High, Dean Rahas played a role. I also give a lot of credit to Larry Shyatt. The Cleveland Heights native coached Nance for four years at Wyoming. Shyatt always preached defense.

    8. Unlike so many of his peers who were spoiled by recruiting attention and national AAU tournaments, Nance was raised as a basketball player with the gospel of unselfishness. I wrote a story about how his parents didn't expose him to the underbelly of some elite summer basketball leagues. He played four years at Revere, four more at Wyoming. He earned his way to the NBA.

    9. Clarkson has been a revelation. I didn't know his game very well. He started at Tulsa, more of a mid-major program. He played there for two years, then transferred to Missouri. He was a second-team All-SEC selection and the 48th pick. That low in the second round means he was not highly regarded. But Clarkson showed he could score and earned a 4-year contract.

    10. Another old guy reference: Clarkson is the Vinnie Johnson of the Cavs. The Microwave. Or more modern, he can be the Jamal Crawford. He comes off the bench firing and puts tremendous pressure on the defense.

    11. Hood is a beautiful, smooth lefty shooter. Hill is an experienced point guard, trained by the San Antonio Spurs about what it takes to win. The four players just fit with James and the Cavs.

    12. The new players give the Cavs depth. Coach Tyronn Lue has them averaging the following minutes: Hill (27), Hood (24), Nance (22) and Clarkson (21). Only Hill starts. So far, the new guys are buying into a team where they don't play as much or shoot as often as they did at various times in their careers. I don't think that will change if they keep winning.

    13. In the last five games, J.R. Smith is averaging 12 points, shooting 55 percent (50 percent on 3-pointers). Suddenly, he knows he fits. His confidence is back.

    14. In the four games since the trade, the Cavs are averaging 114 points and giving up 102. They were allowing nearly 111 points before the deals.

    15. Meanwhile, ESPN has yet another story about where will LeBron James play next year? Sigh. Guess they haven't noticed how James and the Cavs are playing since the trades.


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    Check here for live scoring, TV, live streaming and updates from NASCAR's 2018 Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Kyle Busch will be on the pole for today's NASCAR 2018 Folds of Honor Quiktrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

    The start time of today's race has been moved up to 1:06 p.m. due to a threat of inclement weather. The race will be televised on FOX. Live streaming is available on FOX Sports Go. You can get live scoring and updates at NASCAR's Race Center.

    Busch had a fast lap of 30.024 (184.652 mph) in the final round of Friday's qualifying to edge Ryan Newman by .038 and claim the pole.

    Newman was the fastest in Saturday's practice at 184.868 mph.

    Daytona 500 winner Austin Dillon will start 25th, while Bubba Wallace, who finished second at Daytona, qualified 19th Friday.

    NASCAR

    MONSTER ENERGY CUP
    FOLDS OF HONOR QUIKTRIP 500
    Site: Atlanta
    Schedule: Sunday, race, 2 p.m., FOX.
    Track: Atlanta Motor Speedway (oval, 1.5 miles).
    Race distance: 500.5 miles, 325 laps.
    Last year: Brad Keselowski won the spring race in Atlanta after starting fifth.
    Last week: Austin Dillon won his first Daytona 500.
    Fast facts: Bubba Wallace finished second last week. This will be his first full season in Cup. ...It was just the second career win in NASCAR's top series for Dillon, who had only four top-10 finishes in 36 races in 2017. ...Ryan Blaney led a race-high 118 laps last week. ...Martin Truex Jr., the defending series champion, finished 18th.
    Next race: Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube, March 4, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Las Vegas.

    (The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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    The Cavaliers (35-23) host the San Antonio Spurs (35-25) on Sunday. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cavaliers (35-23) host the San Antonio Spurs (35-25) on Sunday.

    When: 3:30 p.m.

    TV: ABC

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: Watch ESPN app

    Last meeting: The Spurs won 114-102 on Jan. 23 in San Antonio.

    Cavs minute:  They've won five of six and are outscoring opponents by 10.6 points per game during this stretch. .... The last time the Cavs saw the Spurs, Cleveland was headed in the opposite direction. Mired in turmoil, the Cavs' infamous team meeting -- where people yelled at Kevin Love, and then, well, everyone -- took place the day before the game. LeBron James finished with 28 points, nine rebounds, and seven assists, and became the youngest player to score 30,000 points, but he (along with everyone else) was totally ineffective over the final 7:38 of the fourth quarter. ... James of course has been super effective lately. He's averaging a triple double this month (25.8 points, 10.0 rebounds, 10.6 assists), and needs just eight assists to pass Rod Strickland (7,987 assists) for 11th place all time. ... Today marks the start of a five-game homestand, the longest of the Cavs' season.

    Spurs minute: Now, they're the ones with turmoil. San Antonio has lost four straight and is playing under the assumption that star forward Kawhi Leonard will not play again this season, even though he's been medically cleared to return from the quadriceps injury that's cost him all but nine games. ... This is the Spurs' sixth consecutive road game, though they had a reprieve with the All-Star break. ... LaMarcus Aldridge scored 30 against the Cavs the last time and Dejounte Murray added 19 points and 10 assists. Tony Parker was lethal off the bench with 14 points. Leonard, Pau Gasol, and Manu Ginobili all missed the game. ... Aldridge, the Spurs' lone All-Star this year, put up 38 points in the loss Friday to Denver. Ginobili needed a chest X-ray after Friday's game and said he didn't know if he'd be available to play against the Cavs. Danny Green missed that game with an illness.

    See Cavs stats

    See Spurs stats


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    The Browns front office goes to the NFL Scouting Combine this coming week. As the QB scouting begin in earnest, new GM John Dorsey might need a refresher in recent Browns history. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - The NFL Scouting Combine quarterback pageant begins in Indianapolis next week.

    Ladies and gentlemen, start your search engines. Every one of them enters with an easily Googled weakness.

    USC's Sam Darnold: There's a Times Square element to his game that doesn't so much recall excited crowds and bright lights as a ball dropping to the ground.

    UCLA's Josh Rosen: Thinks he's smarter than you. Spoiler alert, unless you're the brains behind the Large Hadron Collider, he probably is.

    Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield: How's the weather down there, son? Great escapability has its limits as proven last February by one determined police officer and one well-placed wall.

    Wyoming's Josh Allen: Checks enough "prototype" boxes to be considered No. 1 on Mel Kiper Jr.'s board. But the most major concern remains a stumbling block for the rest of us after a 0-16 season with DeShone Kizer behind center: Can Allen hit that barn over there? Just to be safe, aim at the broad side.

    It's no small wonder if taking the measure of these quarterbacks is an especially fear-based exercise for Browns fans, who don't need a search party to find comparisons to previous "types" who disappointed once they slipped into the home colors.

    So today we give the front office Dream Team of John Dorsey, Alonzo Highsmith, Eliot Wolf and Scot McCloughan a quick, if not helpful, guide. Here's what not to say when we ask for first, second and third takes on the quarterback decision guaranteed to shape the next 10 years of Browns football.

    Allen: It's OK to mention his geographical connection to Carson Wentz even it's not transferable. But please fight all urges to compare his arm to that of Brandon Weeden. That is not especially comforting in these parts.

    In that same vein, refrain from saying, "Arm so strong he can complete passes underhanded."

    Mayfield: Do not suggest in any way your belief that he could take the league by storm, aka "wreck" it. We are a little sensitive to certain phrasing around here. Not all of it is specific to quarterbacks.

    So if the topic of Mayfield getting tackled by a police officer comes up, try not to explain it away as boys being boys. If it wasn't enough to get a guy as nice as Romeo Crennel off the hook, you have no chance.

    Mayfield might well be a Cleveland kind of guy. After all, he was wearing a gray hoodie stained with soy sauce the night of the public drunkenness incident. But let it go at that.

    Do not under any circumstances say the officer in question told you Baker was one of the nicest guy he ever arrested. That brings back memories of Carmen Policy on Gerard Warren. It's only a short leap from there to the reminder that linemen the size of Big Money pack quite a wallop when colliding with QBs as small as Mayfield.

    Rosen: If you find the Bruins quarterback talented but standoffish, in a RG III way, keep that comparison to yourself.

    Further, if you learn later that teammates didn't show up for his birthday party just like in the movie Draft Day, leave it alone. It won't be the slightest consolation to say, "After the way he made the earth move at UCLA, they probably couldn't find his house."

    Darnold: If you want to tell us that -- rest assured -- his ball security is no worse than Jeff Garcia's, please specify the version who played for the Niners, not the one who hunted his nine fumbles here in 2004 like a senior searching the beach for lost coins.

    And just know that no one will rest, or be adequately assured, until you deliver a guy who remains the last name on the starting quarterback T-shirt for at least three or four years.

    I think I speak for Browns fans when I say, have at it, guys. Everyone is counting on you.

    Oh, and if you trade down, do not pick a quarterback at No. 22.

    If you really want to know why, schedule a movie night in Berea and watch "The Omen."