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AFCON 2023 Shock: Underdogs South Africa Knock FIFA World Cup Semi-Finalists Morocco Out Of Round Of 16 – originally posted on Sportslens.com

Not many batted an eyelid when Morocco drew South Africa in the Round of 16 of the 2023 African Cup of Nations (AFCON). After all, it looked like a straightforward affair on paper, as the 2022 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists possessed far too much quality to be troubled by the underdogs, South Africa.

The complacency and the sense of inevitability seemingly had complete control of the Morocco players on Tuesday night (January 30), as they looked hopelessly underprepared for the brash and relentless South African unit. It ended 2-0 in favor of Hugo Broos’ side on the night, marking a historic win for the 66th-ranked FIFA nation.

South Africa’s Fighting Spirit Pays Off In The Second Half, As Morocco Rue Missed Opportunities

Morocco, who are in 13th place in the FIFA Men’s World Rankings, looked the more confident team when in possession. They passed the ball around with ease and made inroads into the opposition box time and time again.

Amine Adli and Selim Amallah had two excellent opportunities to find the back of the net in the opening quarter of the game, but they somehow failed to hit the mark. South African center-back Mothobi Mvala also popped up with a couple of crucial blocks to keep Adil and Achraf Hakimi from wheeling away in celebration.

Teboho Mokoena lodged South Africa’s first and only shot on target in the first half, testing Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou with a zinger of a strike from long range.

Minutes into the second half, Azzedine Ounahi won possession inside the opposition half, played a little one-two with Youssef En-Nesyri, and went for goal from close range. The strike lacked accuracy as it sailed over the South African crossbar.

In the 57th minute, South Africa came out all guns blazing for the first time on the night and deservedly put their noses in front. Receiving the ball from Themba Zwane, Evidence Makgopa thumped the ball home from a tight angle, leaving Bono on the grass. Morocco created a couple more chances in the aftermath of the goal, but their finishing let them down.

The equalizer seemed to be inevitable when the referee pointed to the spot after a clear handball from Mvala. But against all odds, captain Hakimi applied too much power to his penalty and saw it crash against the top of the post and zip behind for a goal kick.

Things went from bad to worse for the best-ranked African team when Manchester United ace Sofyan Ambrabat saw a second yellow for bringing down Mokoena on the inside-left channel, just outside the box. After a VAR review, the referee changed the card to a straight red, frustrating Amrabat further. Mokoena took the resulting free-kick with aplomb, finding the back of the net with a gem of a curler and sealing a 2-0 win for the underdogs.

Having beaten one of the tournament favorites, South Africa will square off against Cape Verde in the 2023 AFCON quarter-final on Saturday (February 3).

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

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By: Sushan Chakraborty
Title: AFCON 2023 Shock: Underdogs South Africa Knock FIFA World Cup Semi-Finalists Morocco Out Of Round Of 16
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/afcon-south-africa-knock-fifa-world-cup-semi-finalists-morocco/
Published Date: Wed, 31 Jan 2024 12:25:35 +0000

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Nikola Jokic Shares His Thoughts On The NBA MVP Conversation

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Nikola Jokic Shares His Thoughts On The NBA MVP Conversation – originally posted on Sportslens.com

The end of the NBA regular season marks the close of the individual award races around the league. Many of the 2023–24 awards have long been locked up, at least based on their betting odds, and there are just one or two that still have to be decided. The odds for MVP are heavily in the favor of Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokić, though the superstar doesn’t seem to buy in to any conversation regarding the honors.

Jokic Comments On The NBA MVP Discussion

It has been Jokic’s award to lose since Joel Embiid went down with an injury in late January. It would be the third time that he has earned the honor of being named the most valuable, as he has averaged a near triple-double yet again this season, and has his team in position for another deep playoff run.

During his post-game press conference following Denver’s big win over the Timberwolves on Wednesday, Jokic was asked about his thoughts on the MVP discussion happening as the season comes to a close:

I think the whole MVP conversation is getting out of control. I think I’m playing good basketball, the team is playing good basketball. If I win it, great. If I don’t win it, congrats to the other guy. I think there’s a lot of players playing really good basketball in the league.

Gilgeous-Alexander & Doncic Have Been The Other Candidates Lately

The other two players that have been garnering the most attention in MVP talks down the stretch have been Luka Dončić and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. The latter has been in the conversation for much of the season, as the Thunder guard has led the league in scoring and has had his team at the top of the standings throughout the year.

Doncic has been arguably the best player in the league over the past couple of months. Not only has he been putting up impressive numbers, but his Mavericks have been on fire as of late, having won 16 of 18 to catapult into the top-5 in the West.

Jokic was the winner of the NBA MVP award in both 2021 and 2022, and there were some who believed that he should have taken home the hardware last season as well. Had be topped Embiid in 2023, he would be on the brink of an unprecedented fourth straight MVP win.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

———————–

By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: Nikola Jokic Shares His Thoughts On The NBA MVP Conversation
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/nikola-jokic-shares-his-thoughts-on-the-nba-mvp-conversation/
Published Date: Thu, 11 Apr 2024 20:43:13 +0000

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Bulls Coach Billy Donovan Is A Candidate For The Kentucky Head Coaching Job

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Bulls Coach Billy Donovan Is A Candidate For The Kentucky Head Coaching Job – originally posted on Sportslens.com

College basketball is coming off of a weekend in which they owned the sports landscape. The women’s Final Four set viewership records and the men’s side saw UConn pull off back-to-back championships, but some of the biggest news came off of the court, when it was announced that John Calipari would be leaving Kentucky after spending the last 15 years as the head coach. There has already been plenty of speculation about who will take the high profile job, and Chicago Bulls head coach Billy Donovan has been one of the names most often floated.

Is The Bulls Head Coach A Candidate For Kentucky Job?

While he has been in the NBA ranks for the past nine years, most of Donovan’s success as a head coach came during his days at the college level. He is best known for being the head coach at the University of Florida from 1996 until 2015, a span that saw six Elite 8 appearances and back-to-back National Championships in 2006 and 2007.

But his first ever job as a coach of any kind came at Kentucky, where he worked as an assistant under Rick Pitino. So a connection between Donovan and the program exists, which make him one of the assumed leading candidates for the job.

Does Donovan Want To Head Back To The College Ranks?

Would he leave the Bulls and the NBA in order to move back down to the collegiate ranks? His name is brought up nearly every time there is a prestigious NCAA job opening, though this particular program might be more enticing to Donovan than openings in the past. But despite Chicago’s struggles this season, it appears that his job with the Bulls is safe, as he recently signed a multi-year extension with the team.

Kentucky can certainly offer more money, though, and as The Athletic reports, the Bulls likely won’t be interested in getting into a bidding war. They instead could be banking on the fact that coaching the Wildcats brings far more pressure than coaching the Bulls does, which may be a reason for the 58-year-old Billy Donovan to stay put in Chicago.

Other names that have been mentioned as possible Calipari replacements are Baylor head coach Scott Drew and Nate Oats of Alabama.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

———————–

By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: Bulls Coach Billy Donovan Is A Candidate For The Kentucky Head Coaching Job
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/bulls-coach-billy-donovan-is-a-candidate-for-the-kentucky-head-coaching-job/
Published Date: Tue, 09 Apr 2024 15:18:30 +0000

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James Harden Can Reach These Two NBA Career Milestones During Final Week Of The Season

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James Harden Can Reach These Two NBA Career Milestones During Final Week Of The Season – originally posted on Sportslens.com

James Harden and the Los Angeles Clippers still have plenty to play for over the final four games of the regular season. While it is unlikely that they are unseated as the 4th seed in the Western Conference, they still have to stave off the surging Dallas Mavericks if they want to keep home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. They’ll play back-to-back games against the Phoenix Suns to start the week, and Harden will be setting himself up to chase a couple of NBA career milestones.

Harden Is On The Doorstep Of Two NBA Milestones

He is one of the most statistically accomplished players that are active in the league today. He is #3 on the list of three-pointers made all time, and should be passing Ray Allen for the #2 spot early on in the 2024-25 season. He is 20th on the all-time scoring list as well, and should pass Kevin Garnett within the first few games of the next campaign as well.

But there are a couple of marks that he is threatening going into the final week of the season. The first, and the one that he is highly unlikely to reach, is the 26,000 points mark. Harden will enter the week needing 119 points to hit the milestone, which means that he would have to average 30 points per game over the final four, a total that he has reached just once this season while averaging 16.7 per. It is likely that he will eclipse the 26k points mark in the second or third game of next season.

The Steals Mark Feels More Achievable Over Final Week

But the steals milestone feels very achievable. Harden has a while to go until he is ranked in the top-25 all-time in number of steals in NBA history, coming in at #37. But he is coming up on a personal milestone in the category, as he needs just 3 steals during the final week of the season in order to hit 1,600 for his career. He may even pass Jason Terry for #36 on the list if he somehow nabs 7 defensive takeaways over the final four games, though that will likely come next season as well.

He has averaged better than one steal per game in essentially every season of his career, and 2023-24 has been no different. Harden is stealing 1.1 balls per game this year, and should be able to hit the 1,600 mark in his 4 games to wrap up the NBA season.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

———————–

By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: James Harden Can Reach These Two NBA Career Milestones During Final Week Of The Season
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/james-harden-can-reach-these-two-nba-career-milestones-during-final-week-of-the-season/
Published Date: Mon, 08 Apr 2024 22:48:54 +0000

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