WISCONSIN SPORTS ROUNDUP: Finley expected to face double coverage Sunday
Tight end Jermichael Finley is expected to get more attention from opposing defenses, with injuries to Packer receivers Randall Cobb and James Jones. Last weekend, Finley burned a safety in single coverage for a 52-yard catch in the Packers' win at Baltimore. This Sunday against Cleveland, Finley could face the type of double-coverage that he's seen only occasionally this year. Finley is quietly having a solid year as the Pack's top tight end. He has caught 20 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns -- and he's on pace to break his previous season high of 61 receptions. Coach Mike McCarthy says he'll announce today whether Jones can play against the Browns on Sunday at Lambeau Field. Jones has sat out practice all week, after spraining a knee against the Ravens. Cobb is out until at least December 15th after he broke a fibula at Baltimore. Rookie corner Micah Hyde will return punts for Green Bay in place of Cobb. Coach Mike McCarthy said he was happy with Hyde's performance a week ago, when he returned five punts for an average of almost 14 yards.
Wisconsin sophomore Jack Russell will kick extra points and field goals tomorrow night, when the Badgers play at Illinois. He replaces Kyle French, who lost his starting spot a week ago after missing field goal attempts in his previous two games. Last evening, French said he would forgo his senior year at the U-W in 2014. He tweeted that his coaches urged him to focus on a career outside of football. French said he was grateful for his time with the Badgers, and will look forward to his future. French started the year as Wisconsin's Number-One kicker. He made 5-of-8 field goal attempts this season, and was 18-for-29 in his collegiate career. Russell is 0-for-3 in field goal attempts during his tenure at Madison. The coaches gave him some competition at practice this week, when they had freshman Andrew Endicott try out. Endicott will continue handling kickoffs for the Badgers. Meanwhile, receiver Jared Abbrederis will start for Wisconsin, after suffering a head injury a week ago. He's been medically cleared to play against the Illini, along with corners Darius Hillary and Peniel Jean. The Badgers will try to improve to 3-and-1 in Big Ten play against Illinois, which lost its only conference game so far.
Marquette is ranked 17th and Wisconsin 21st in the new men's college basketball pre-season coaches' poll from U-S-A Today. The Golden Eagles went 26-and-9 a year ago while making the N-C-A-A Elite Eight round. Earlier this week, Marquette was tabbed as the pre-season favorite to win the newly re-organized Big East Conference. The Eagles were ranked 11th in the final coaches' poll last spring. Wisconsin went 23-and-12 last season under long-time head coach Bo Ryan, last season's Big Ten Coach-of-the-Year. The Badgers were 22nd in last year's final poll.
Marquette men's basketball forward Jameel McKay said yesterday that he'll transfer elsewhere, before he could play a single game for the Golden Eagles. The 6-6 McKay had transferred to Marquette earlier this year, after playing two seasons in junior college at Indian Hills. He might not have gotten a lot of playing time with the Eagles, since four other front-line players were ahead of him on the depth chart. McKay tweeted that he has no hard feelings while searching for a new school -- and he wished everyone the best. Meanwhile, Canada native Marial Shayok gave a verbal commitment yesterday to play for Marquette next fall. The 6-6 Shayok now plays forward at Blair Academy in New Jersey. He could provide the Eagles with a larger presence up-front after Davante Gardner, Chris Otule, and Jamil Wilson graduate next spring.
In golf, Pewaukee native Mark Wilson is far down the leader-board after the opening round of the P-G-A's Shriners Hospitals Open in Las Vegas. Wilson is tied for 122nd among the 132 players in the field, after shooting a three-over-par 74 yesterday at the T-P-C Summerlin course. Wilson is the only Wisconsin player in the tournament, the second in the newly-revamped P-G-A 2014 schedule. J-J Henry has the lead, after shooting an 11-under-par 60 in Round-One.
Former Wisconsin women's hockey star Brianna Decker scored once, as the U-S women to lost to Canada 6-to-3 last night in an exhibition game in Quebec. Ex-Badgers' goal-tender Jessie Vetter allowed three goals in the first period, before she was relieved by Molly Schaus for the final two stanzas. Rebecca Johnson and Hayley Wickenheiser each scored twice for Canada. It was the second of six exhibitions between the two teams, leading up to the Olympics in Sochi in February. Canada won the first contest 3-to-2 last Saturday. The Canadians and Americans will play their next exhibition on December 12th in Calgary.
Verona native Nick Schmaltz is among 22 players named to the American squad for the World Junior "A" Challenge tournament next month in eastern Canada. All 22 players compete in the U-S Hockey League. The 17-year-old Schmaltz is currently with the Green Bay Gamblers, whose coach Derek Lalonde is heading up the U-S team. Two other Gamblers were also named to Team U-S-A -- Jordan Gross of Maple Grove Minnesota and Matthew Weis of Madison New Jersey. They've all helped Green Bay get off to a 4-1-and-2 start this season. Schmaltz led the U-S in scoring at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Cup in August, where the Americans took second. The U-S has won four of the last five Junior "A" Challenge tournaments. This year's event takes place November fourth-through-10th in Yarmouth Nova Scotia. The U-S will tune up with Canada West in an exhibition on November second. Their first game in the Challenge will be against Russia on November fifth.