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Pratt accounts for 6 TDs, No. 21 Tulane tames SMU 59-24

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Michael Pratt used his feet and his right arm to dissect SMU’s defense with ruthless efficiency and send Tulane into a high-stakes regular-season finale with no shortage of confidence.

Pratt passed for three touchdowns and ran for three scores, and No. 21 Tulane capitalized on a slew of SMU mistakes to beat the Mustangs 59-24 on Thursday night.

“I didn’t know it was going to be like that,” Pratt said of the resounding end to SMU’s seven-game winning streak in the series. “I thought a little bit more of a shootout. Defense did a phenomenal job. On offense, we just took care of the ball, marched down the field and scored.”

Tulane running back Tyjae Spears carried 13 times for 121 yards — his fifth straight game eclipsing 100 yards rushing — and finished with two TDs rushing and one receiving.

“Just a hard-running dude — got great speed and lateral movement,” said Tulane coach Willie Fritz, whose offense totaled 310 yards on the ground. “You’re not going to arm tackle him. When you can run it effectively, it opens everything up.”

Now Tulane (9-2, 6-1 American Athletic Conference) can clinch a berth in the conference title game by winning its regular-season finale at Cincinnati.

SMU (6-5, 4-3) came in as one of the top offenses in the AAC, averaging 486.4 yards and a league-high 40.3 points per game. But the Mustangs were plagued by dropped passes and five turnovers as they dropped out of contention for a conference title game berth.

“Their defense has been really good, No. 1 in our league all year for a reason,” SMU coach Rhett Lashlee said. “They don’t give up explosive plays. We knew that. So you could tell when we fell behind, it was just tough.”

Tanner Mordecai was intercepted twice and lost a fumble when he was sacked by Darius Hodges. SMU fumbled five times in all, losing three.

“You can’t turn the ball over five times, give up 300 yards rushing and beat anybody at any level of football,” Lashlee said. “We pretty much did everything you can do to get beat and got our teeth kicked in.”

The Mustangs’ first turnover came on a muffed punt by Roderick Daniels that Tulane long snapper Ethan Hudak recovered on the SMU 7. That set up Spears’ TD reception to make it 21-0 late in the first quarter.

A muffed punt by Tulane returner Jha’Quan Jackson deep in Green Wave territory looked like a potential momentum changer when SMU immediately converted that break into a 19-yard TD pass from Mordecai to RJ Maryland. But the Green Wave responded quickly with Pratt’s 26-yard, tackle-slipping scoring run.

Tulane opened the second half by widening its lead to 35-7 on Pratt’s floating, 26-yard timing pass to Shae Wyatt, who made an over-the-shoulder catch and narrowly got his feet in bounds before falling out of the left side of the end zone.

One play after Tulane safety Lummie Young intercepted Mordecai, Pratt found Wyatt again — this time well behind the SMU defense for a 46-yard score that made it 49-7.

“We just stayed on their necks, stayed playing our style of football for four quarters,” said Tulane linebacker Nick Anderson, who had a game-high 12 tackles. “We’ve been losing to those guys for a minute. So, it feels good to finally get a win on the board against them.”

THE TAKEAWAY

SMU: The Mustangs’ error-filled performance belied their recent form. SMU entered the game having won four of five — with its lone loss in that stretch by just 2 points to No. 22 Cincinnati on Oct. 22 — to get back in the AAC race.

Tulane: After struggling a week earlier to stop UCF running QB John Rhys Plumlee, Tulane’s conference-leading defense returned to form against SMU’s pass-heavy attack.

“Last week we played an athletic team that really got us out of our scheme,” Anderson said. “This week we just emphasized going back to our basics, doing what we do best, which is running around making tackles and covering.”

The Green Wave handed SMU its most lopsided loss of the season. Pratt became the fourth QB this season to have at least three TDs passing and rushing in one game. The others are LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Oregon’s Bo Nix and Plumlee. Wyatt finished with three catches for 104 yards.

UP NEXT

SMU: Hosts Navy on Nov. 19.

Tulane: Visits Cincinnati on Nov. 25.

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Source: https://apnews.com/article/college-football-sports-michael-pratt-tyjae-spears-top-25-today-40373b08b4a309ea57d8520f3dceb395

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Report: NWSL to expand in Boston, Utah and California

The National Women’s Soccer League is close to expanding by three teams, which will be in Boston, Utah and the San Francisco area, according to a Friday report in the Wall Street Journal.

The women’s pro league previously indicated it would add at least two teams by 2024. The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that the franchises in northern California and Utah are set to start play next year, with Boston to join at a later date.

The NWSL did not confirm the report in a statement Saturday to The Associated Press, saying: “We remain engaged in our expansion process and are excited about our prospects. When we have news to share, we will do so.”

The NWSL has 12 teams, after Angel City in Los Angeles and the San Diego Wave joined the league last year.

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the Boston and Bay Area groups will pay about $50 million in franchise fees. The Utah team will pay a reduced fee because of a previous agreement struck when the Utah Royals folded in the 2020 season.

Before the NWSL draft earlier this month, league commissioner Jessica Berman said it would be “somewhere between days and months, more like weeks, when we’ll be in a position to share information” about an expansion.

“What I can say is that I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunities we have in front of us,” she added.

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Former MVP Candace Parker to sign with champion Aces

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-time MVP Candace Parker announced on social media Saturday that she would sign with the defending champion Las Vegas Aces.

Parker spent the past two seasons playing for her hometown Sky, leading Chicago to the WNBA championship in 2021. She also won the 2016 title playing for the Los Angeles Sparks.

She posted on Instagram that Chicago would always be her home, but “my family’s home is on the west coast.

“To play for a championship close to home is the perfect situation for us. I’m looking forward to continuing the journey this summer in Las Vegas.”

The free-agent signing period begins Wednesday, and the Aces can’t comment until then.

Parker, a 6-foot-4 forward/center, adds to an already loaded lineup that includes reigning MVP A’ja Wilson, who also won the league’s top award in 2020. Wilson also was last season’s Defensive Player of the Year.

Chelsea Gray was MVP of the WNBA Finals and Kelsey Plum MVP of the All-Star Game. Wilson, Plum and Jackie Young were All-Star starters.

Parker and Gray were teammates on Los Angeles’ 2016 title team.

The Aces traded one of their key pieces, two-time Sixth Woman of the Year Dearica Hamby, to the Sparks on Jan. 21, creating speculation Las Vegas was creating salary cap room to sign a big-name player.

Parker, the 2020 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2016 Finals MVP, certainly fits that bill. Even at 36 last season, she averaged 13.2 points, 8.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists for the Sky.

“Candace has done so much for our franchise in her time here,” Chicago coach and general manager James Wade said in a statement. “I understand her reasons for wanting to be closer with her immediate family. We wish her nothing but the best. She will always be a part of the Sky family. We will celebrate her time here as she deserves.”

Losing her is a big blow to the Sky, who made the semifinals in last season’s playoffs before losing in five games to the Connecticut Sun. Kahleah Copper is the only starter under contract for next season, so the Sky could head into a rebuild.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to win a championship in my hometown and parade down the same streets I watched the Bulls parade down as a young girl first falling in love with the game of basketball,” Parker posted.

Parker joins the Aces at a time the Women’s National Basketball Players Association said it wanted that organization investigated regarding allegations that Hamby made after being traded. She posted on Instagram she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” because she is pregnant with her second child.

The Aces still have not commented on Hamby’s allegations.

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Estrada, Hofstra end No. 18 Charleston’s 20-game win streak

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — This season, Hofstra has been a one-man show. This time, Aaron Estrada had some help as the Pride ended the nation’s longest winning streak.

Estrada scored 25 points, but just two in the second half, while Darlinestone Dubar added 18 as Hofstra had four players in double figures to knock off No. 18 College of Charleston 85-81 on Saturday — ending the Cougars’ 20-game win streak.

“That’s a really big for our program,” Hofstra coach Speedy Claxton said. “To beat a nationally ranked team on their home court when they’ve got it rolling like they do speaks volumes about our kids.”

Claxton saw a team effort to take down the hottest team in the country.

“It wasn’t just Aaron,” Claxton said. “He had a great first half, but we had other guys step up and make baskets or get rebounds when we really needed them.”

The loss ended Charleston’s spotless run that began after losing to then-top-ranked North Carolina on Nov. 11.

Hofstra, the CAA’s leader in field-goal shooting, used that to move past Charleston in the second half as it made 18 of 32 attempts. The Pride led 76-69 with 6:10 to play before the Cougars cut it to two points on Ryan Larson’s foul shots with 2:02 to play.

But Charleston managed just two free throws after that and missed all four 3-pointers they tried.

This is the second straight season the Pride have beaten a Top 25 team. A year ago, Hofstra defeated then No. 24 Arkansas 89-81. The Pride’s only other victory against a Top 25 team came against Southern Illinois in 1976.

Hofstra (15-8, 8-2 Colonial Athletic Association) beat the Cougars (21-2, 9-1) at their own game — 3-point shooting. The Pride were 11 of 22 from 3-point range and overall shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half.

Estrada, who had 23 points in the opening half, shredded the Cougars defense at will. Estrada was 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

“Estrada is a great player, hit a bunch of tough shots, especially in the first half,” Charleston coach Pat Kelsey said. “Hofstra is a very, very talented team. It’s not just Estrada. They were better than us tonight.”

Then Estrada took over. The CAA’s leading scorer at 21.1 points a game scored 16 of the next 24 points for the Pride, including four 3-pointers.

Ante Brzovic’s dunk at the buzzer gave the Cougars a 46-44 advantage at halftime.

Tyler Thomas had 17 points and eight rebounds for Hofstra.

Brzovic finished with 18 points to lead the Cougars.

BIG PICTURE

Hofstra: The Pride are on a roll in 2023. winning seven of their past eight games, including three in a row.

College of Charleston: The Cougars chances of receiving an NCAA Tournament at-large bid took a major blow with the loss to the Pride. Despite having the nation’s longest win streak for three months, Charleston will most likely have to win the CAA Tournament in March to advance to the NCAAs.

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

The Cougars’ 20-game win streak wasn’t the only streak to end on Saturday. College of Charleston played 14 of its first 23 games at TD Arena to start the season and were a perfect 13-0 at home before facing the Pride. Charleston’s 13-game home win streak included three wins in the Charleston Classic. The Cougars became the first mid-major program to win the ESPN event, beating Virginia Tech 77-75 in the championship game. Charleston will finish the season playing four of their final eight games on the road.

POLL POSITION

Charleston’s first loss in nearly three months might drop the Cougars from the national rankings. They have been part of the last four rankings, entering at No. 23 before reaching No. 18 this past week.

UP NEXT

Hofstra returns home to play Towson on Thursday night.

College of Charleston starts a two-game road trip at Drexel on Thursday night.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

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