Ja Morant records triple-double to lead No. 12 Murray State to upset of No. 5 MarquetteTom Schad, USA TODAYPublished 6:57 p.m. ET March 21, 2019 | Updated 7:49 p.m. ET March 21, 2019
SportsPulse: The Ja Morant bandwagon is fully loaded and, according to USA TODAY's Scott Gleeson, there's no reason he can't lead Murray State on a deep run. USA TODAY
HARTFORD, Conn. — It was long expected to be the main event at the XL Center on Thursday: Murray State. Marquette. Ja Morant. Markus Howard.
It more than lived up to the hype.
Morant dazzled with a mammoth dunk over Joey Hauser, and wraparound assists that turned into wide-open 3-pointers for teammates.
Howard responded with step-back jumpers and floaters in the lane.
In the end, however, Morant and 12th-seeded Murray State proved to be too much, routing the fifth-seeded Golden Eagles, 83-64, in a game that served as a celebration of two of the most talented guards in this year's NCAA tournament – and, ultimately, a national re-introduction of sorts for Morant.
A no-star recruit from South Carolina who is projected to be a top-five NBA draft pick, Morant recorded the first triple-double in the NCAA tournament since Draymond Green achieved the feat in 2012. He finished with 17 points, 16 assists and 11 rebounds. And he appeared to have some fun while doing it.
When Morant hit a step-back three just before halftime, for example, he walked into the locker room talking smack – either to the Marquette fans who had chanted "o-ver-rate-ed" when he was at the free-throw line, or maybe to no one in particular.
While Howard was a brilliant scorer – dropping 16 in the first half and 26 total – Morant elevated the Racers (28-4) with an array of impressive passes, including five assists in the first 5:50 of the game. On multiple occasions in the first half, he drew the focus of all five Marquette defenders, then calmly dished the ball to a teammate for an open shot.
“You might see a lot of dunks and all that," Morant's high-school coach, Dwayne Edwards, told USA TODAY Sports on Wednesday, "but to make a good pass – you’re talking about a guy who gets excited to set his teammate up with a good pass. That’s Ja Morant. You put four other players around him, and he can bring that out of them.”
Murray State guard Ja Morant dunks against Marquette. (Photo: David Butler II, USA TODAY Sports)
That's what happened Thursday evening – helping propel the Racers to their first NCAA tournament win since 2012, when they beat Colorado State in the first round with Isaiah Canaan at point guard.
Morant was hardly an unknown entering this tournament, especially among NBA fans who have often seen him near the top of mock drafts, alongside Duke star Zion Williamson. Thursday's game simply put the slender 6-foot-3 guard in front of a national television audience, the grandest stage of his career to date.
He responded by making goggles with his hands after finding a teammate for an open three. By mouthing "oh my God" after whipping a no-look pass into the post for a layup. By scowling after dunking on top of Hauser –- a play you might have seen on social media by now.
JA JAM! #MarchMadness
By the end, Murray State had built up a lead of more than 20 points, and two sections of Marquette fans behind their team's bench sat in silence. They weren't chanting "o-ver-rate-ed" anymore.
When You Meet The Enemy, And It Is 'Us'
March 21, 20195:00 PM ET
Measure Twice ...: Lupita Nyong'o stars in Us, the latest horror film written and directed by Jordan Peele.
There's so much to admire about Us, Jordan Peele's muscular follow-up to Get Out, that it's worth appreciating what Peele does when the ebb-and-flow of horror tension reaches low tide. Many of the most celebrated horror maestros are hailed for their big, atmospheric set-pieces, but getting to those moments can often feel like crude narrative patchwork, the listless verses before a killer chorus. Peele excels in these obligatory sections, where his skills as a sketch comedy writer and pop-culture savant can liven up conversations that we've been conditioned to expect as the yadda-yadda bridging to nightfall, when a film can finally uncork some suspense and mayhem.
There's mayhem aplenty to be uncorked in Us, which is as conceptually messy as Get Out was ruthlessly self-contained, but Peele's quick evolution into a full-service entertainer dispels any fears of a sophomore slump. He can deftly mix-and-match ideas cherry-picked from past classics — the echoing childhood trauma of Don't Look Now, the alien doppelgängers of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the masked home-invasion of The Strangers — but he can also handle the banalities of a family car trip to the beach or underscore a gruesome sequence with the theremin whistle of the Beach Boys' "Good Vibrations." He's actively engaged at every moment, which is especially helpful when the film's bold abstractions start to wriggle away from it a little.
Where Get Out turned a Stepford Wives premise into a bitterly satirical allegory for what it's like to be black in America, Us opens up to a broader, vaguer, more suggestive diagnosis of social ills, packaged as a metaphysical shocker where the characters are attacked by versions of themselves. Starting with a flashback in 1986, the film opens with young Adelaide Wilson wandering off from a Santa Cruz boardwalk one stormy summer night and entering a hall of mirrors, where she encounters a child that's her exact reflection—but not. (Think of the famed mirror sequence with Groucho and Harpo Marx in Duck Soup, only utterly bone-chilling.)
Now a grown-up with a husband (Winston Duke) and two children (Evan Alex and Shahadi Wright Joseph) of her own, Adelaide (Lupita Nyong'o) vacations to a secluded home near Santa Cruz and immediately seizes up with panic, as memories of this past trauma bleed insidiously into the present. Seemingly innocuous visual cues land with such a devastating impact that Adelaide pleads with her husband to split town even before a more tangible threat arrives. But as they're preparing to leave, another family of four arrives on their driveway, dressed in matching red jumpsuits. They also happen to look exactly like they do, making them literally their own worst enemy.
There's an explanation for this curious phenomenon — a big one, in fact, connected to a network of tunnels cited in the opening titles — but Peele is asking America herself (the Us or U.S. of the title) to look itself in the mirror and consider the destinies of those invisible millions who share our country, but not always our good fortune. The deeper the film goes into accounting for what's really happening, the less it holds up under scrutiny, both in the logistics of the doppelgängers' existence and in the abstract themes Peele appears to be exploring. That's not as damaging to the film as it sounds, but Us plays better as an intuitive experience than a puzzle box where every question has an answer. Peele would rather tease the imagination than tidy things up.
In that respect, Us is a leap forward for Peele as a director, because so much of what he's trying to express doesn't make sense on the page, as Get Out did. In a stunning dual performance as Adelaide and her gravel-voiced other, Lupita Nyong'o carries the psychological complexities of a woman whose identity was shattered by an incident over 30 years earlier and who still gets cut by the shards. What's happening to her is fundamentally inexplicable and unresolvable, so Peele allows that chasm to open up and swallow the rest of the film whole, like a crack in the earth that portends the apocalypse.
It's also possible to receive Us simply as a gripping home invasion thriller, with Adelaide and her family squaring off against these uncanny, relentless attackers whose origins and motives are a mystery. Though Peele has made it emphatically clear that Us is a horror film, not a comedy — the film itself makes the case just fine on its own, frankly — he seizes the opportunity to lighten up the tone, whether through a funny gesture in the middle of a skirmish or through the casting of Tim Heidecker and Elisabeth Moss as a bourgeois couple who seem to be staging their own version of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. Us is a serious film about the American underclass, those who toil out of sight and out of mind. Us is also a lot of fun.
March Madness today: Ja Morant shows out in Murray State win; Maryland, Auburn narrowly escape upsetsMurray State's Ja Morant posted the first men's tournament triple-double in eight years in the Racers' win over Marquette. (David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports)By Matt Bonesteel ,Jacob Bogage andDes BielerMarch 21 at 8:32 PM
• No. 12 Murray State gets triple-double from star Ja Morant in upset of Marquette
• No. 4 Kansas easily dispatches No. 13 seed Northeastern, 87-53
· No. 2 seed Michigan State hangs on against No. 15 seed Bradley, 35-34.
• No. 6 seed Maryland wins first postseason game in three years, beats No. 11 seed Belmont, 79-77.
• Minnesota delivered the day’s first upset, eliminating No. 7 seed Louisville, 86-76.
How the NCAA bracket drives us to madness
The beloved NCAA tournament captivates millions year after year, but it’s the bracket that really gets people talking. (Adriana Usero/The Washington Post)
Empty seats for start of Villanova-Saint Mary’s
There weren’t many fans on hand for the start of the South region matchup between No. 6 Villanova and No. 11 Saint Mary’s. Or, to be more precise, there were plenty of fans, it was just that most of them were still trying to get into the XL Center in Hartford, Conn.
The cause of the unusually quiet first-half scene was the fact that the game kicked off the second session of NCAA contests at the arena, and the NCAA sells tickets separately for the sessions and mandates that everyone leave after the first. Given that the second game of the initial session, Murray State’s West Region win over Marquette, didn’t end until almost 7 p.m. with Villanova-Saint Mary’s scheduled to tip off at 7:20 — it was pushed back to 7:50 in a nod to the problematic situation — that didn’t leave much time for thousands of fans to be replaced by thousands of others.
Hartford crowd at tip-off for Villanova. Had to clear the arena for the night session. What a mess.
My view at 7:50 and I was in line when they opened the doors at 7:30 pic.twitter.com/90OPtxSf4t
Family tragedy for Florida State player
After No. 4 Florida State’s win over No. 13 Vermont Thursday, Seminoles forward Phil Cofer learned that his father had passed away. An FSU spokesman said (via ESPN) that Cofer got the news in a phone call placed to the locker room, and he was moved to a more remote area where he was consoled by teammates, coaches and other Seminoles personnel.
Cofer did not play in the game because of a foot injury, and it was not immediately clear if he would be with the team for its second-round matchup Saturday against Murray State. His father, Mike Cofer, was a former NFL linebacker who was said to have been dealing with an extended illness before passing away at 58.
Ja Morant is not your average college basketball player, and his Murray State squad showed that it may not be your average No. 12 seed. The Racers began pulling away from the Golden Eagles just before halftime, with Morant notching a rare NCAA men’s tournament triple-double (more on that below) with 17 points, 11 rebounds and 16 assists. Murray State’s Tevin Brown chipped in with a team-high scored 19 points. Marquette was led, as it so often was this season, by Markus Howard, whose 26 points were one more than his season average.
Next up for the Racers is Florida State, the No. 4 seed in the West Region which topped No. 13 Vermont in its first-round matchup.
JA JAM! #MarchMadness
Triple-double for Ja Morant
No, Ja Morant was not overrated, as chants by Marquette fans would have it. The Murray State star, expected to be a very high pick in the upcoming NBA draft, notched a triple-double against the Golden Eagles with 19 points, 12 rebounds and 16 assists in an easy win for his Racers.
The effort is believed to be the eighth triple-double in NCAA tournament history, and it was the first since Draymond Green posted a 23-11-10 line for Michigan State in a 2011 loss to UCLA.
Ja Morant completes his triple-double with 4 mins left... #MarchMadness
More on Ja Morant's big night:- 55 points created: most by any player in last 10 tournaments- 1st player with 15 Pts + 15 Ast in a tournament game since Earl Watson in 2000- Led Murray State to largest margin of victory by a 12-seed since 1999 (Missouri State)
Ja Morant has become the 8th player to record a triple-double in the tournament since assists became an official stat in 1983-84. He joins:Draymond Green (2x)Cole AldrichDwyane WadeAndre MillerDavid CainShaquille O'NealGary Grant
Kansas had an unusually frustrating regular season, failing to win the Big 12 title for the first time in 15 years before falling in the conference tournament final to Iowa State. The Jayhawks appeared to take out some of those frustrations on Northeastern, swatting aside the CAA champions with a dominant second half. Four players scored in double figures for Kansas, led by junior forward Dedric Lawson’s 25 points, while junior guard Jordan Roland paced Northeastern with 12 points.
With the win, the Jayhawks extended their streak of winning at least one NCAA tournament game to 13 years. Kansas moves on to face No. 5 Auburn, which squeaked past No. 12 New Mexico State earlier in the day, in a Midwest Region second-round game.
Ja Morant hits halftime buzzer-beater
Murray State may have entered the tournament as a lowly 12-seed, but the Racers have one of the most high-profile players in Ja Morant. The sophomore point guard, who is expected to be a top-three pick in June’s NBA draft, didn’t disappoint during the first half of a game against the West’s No. 5 seed Marquette, racking up 10 points and eight assists and hitting a step-back three with seconds to go.
Ja Morant's footwork = #MarchMadness
The shot helped Morant’s Racers take a 42-35 halftime lead over the Golden Eagles. For his part, Marquette star Markus Howard more than held up his end of the bargain in a much-anticipated individual showdown within the game. The junior guard, who averaged 25.0 points per game this season, notched 16 in the first 20 minutes.
Bradley had the Spartans worried early. The Braves went to the half leading by one and hung around most of the second half, opening up a five-point lead in the early going. But Michigan State responded with a 13-2 run to pull ahead and regain some confidence. The Braves came back with a run of their own to retake the lead, but the Spartans scored eight straight points and never looked back to avoid the upset.
Maryland’s dubious streak is over. The Terrapins hadn’t won a postseason game in three years, but stormed back to beat Belmont on Thursday behind a gritty second half and their two power forwards on the block. Bruno Fernando and Jalen Smith combined for 37 points and 25 rebounds.
POSTER ALERT #MarchMadness
Down 67-60 with 7 minutes to play, Maryland outscored the Bruins, 19-10, down the stretch. Junior point guard Anthony Cowan Jr., struggled to 3-of-19 shooting, including 1-of-11 from three-point range, but hit that only three-pointer with 4 minutes to play to tie the game at 71. Darryl Morsell spun in a layup while being fouled a minute later to put the Terps up three, and Maryland never gave up the lead.
The Terrapins will next face LSU, which defeated Yale earlier Thursday, in the round of 32.
Darryl Morsell = Clutch #MarchMadness
The Seminoles weathered a bumpy start to sprint past the Catamounts in the second half. Vermont put four scorers in double figures, but Florida State responded with 21 points and 8 rebounds off the bench from big man Mfiondu Kabengele and 19 points from starter Terance Mann. The Seminoles will face the winner of No. 5 seed Marquette and No. 12 seed Murray State in the West Region.
Auburn seemingly did everything it could to hand this game to New Mexico State, but made one too many free throws down the stretch for the Aggies to overcome. Up seven points with less than a minute to play, New Mexico State whittled the lead to one point with 29 seconds left on Trevelin Queen’s deep three-pointer.
NMSU NOT DONE YET! #MarchMadness
Auburn went up four with 12 seconds to play, but JoJo Zamora nailed another three to the cut the lead back down to one. Samir Doughty made one free throw for the Tigers with six seconds left to make it a two-point margin, but the Aggies got another chance when Terrell Brown was fouled on a three-pointer with less than two seconds left. He only converted one of three foul shots but that still wasn’t it, as the ball went out of bounds off Auburn. Queen got open on the inbounds play for one last three-pointer from the corner but missed badly at the buzzer, allowing Auburn, the Southeastern Conference champion, to hang on.
No. 3 seed LSU’s whirlwind season continues after withstanding a late rally from Yale, 79-74. The season began with the death of junior forward Wayde Sims, who was shot during a late-night altercation on Sept. 28. The Tigers will finish their season without Coach Will Wade, who has been suspended by the university in the midst of a recruiting scandal. The Tigers are now 2-1 under interim coach Tony Benford, who has previous head coaching experience at North Texas.
Four Tigers scored in double figures on Thursday, including a team-high 19 points from Skylar Mays and double-doubles from Naz Reid and Kavell Bigby-Williams. Alex Copeland led Yale with a game-high 24 points.
Bigby-Williams COMING THROUGH! #MarchMadness
No NCAA tournament team this season averaged fewer three-pointers than Minnesota, which came into Thursday’s March Madness opener against Louisville making only 5.2 shots from long distance per game.
But the 10th-seeded Golden Gophers topped that paltry total by halftime, making six over the game’s first 20 minutes and finishing with 11 in a relatively comfortable 86-76 win over No. 7 Louisville in Des Moines.
Gabe Kalscheur, the only reliable three-point shooter in Minnesota’s main rotation this season, led the way as usual with five three-pointers and finished with 24 points. Big man Jordan Murphy, who entered the game with only six three-pointers on the season, made two of his three attempts.
The win must have been especially satisfying for Minnesota Coach Richard Pitino, and not only because it was his first career NCAA tournament win and the program’s first in six seasons. Pitino’s father, Rick, was fired by Louisville 18 months ago over his alleged role in the federal investigation into college basketball recruiting (currently coaching a Greek pro team, the elder Pitino was not in attendance Thursday).
Syracuse announced Wednesday an indefinite suspension for senior point guard Frank Howard. The Orange begin play Thursday against Baylor in Salt Lake City. Howard will be held out of the tournament “for an indefinite period of time,” Syracuse said, because of “a violation of athletic department policy.” Howard played well during the ACC tournament, scoring 28 points against Duke, but he also missed the start of the season with an ankle injury, so the eighth-seeded Orange at last has some inkling of life without Howard heading into Thursday night’s matchup with Baylor. (Read more)
Kentucky Coach John Calipari announced Thursday morning that forward PJ Washington, the team’s leading scorer and rebounder, will miss the second-seeded Wildcats’ tournament opener against Abilene Christian with a sprained foot. The coach added that there was no fracture and that the team’s medical staff put Washington into a hard cast for precautionary reasons.
Washington suffered the injury in Kentucky’s SEC tournament loss to Tennessee on Saturday. It’s unclear what Thursday’s update means for his status should the Wildcats beat Abilene Christian, as expected. Calipari, meantime, did his best Wednesday to squelch speculation that he might be interested in becoming the UCLA coach. (Read more)
Other games of note
No. 4 Kansas vs. No. 13 Northeastern, approx. 4 p.m. Eastern (TNT): The Huskies are one of the best shooting teams in the tournament and are a trendy underdog pick against the Jayhawks, who haven’t been seeded this low since 2006, when they lost in the first round as a No. 4 seed.
No. 5 Marquette vs. No. 12 Murray State, approx. 4:30 p.m. Eastern (TBS): It’s a battle of dynamite scorers, as the Golden Eagles’ Markus Howard (25 points per game) battles the Racers’ Ja Morant (24.6 points per game).
No. 11 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 6 Villanova: The Gaels are good at stopping the thing the Wildcats do best — shoot three-pointers — but a defending national champion hasn’t lost in the first round since Connecticut in 2012. Villanova has won the national title two of the past three seasons.
Schedule and results
Game times and TV information. All times Eastern.
- No. 10 Minnesota 86, No. 7 Louisville 76
- No. 3 LSU 79, No. 14 Yale 74
- No. 5 Auburn 78, 12 New Mexico St. 77
- No. 4 Florida State 76, 13 Vermont 69
- No. 2 Michigan State 76, No. 15 Bradley 65
- No. 11 Belmont vs. No. 6 Maryland, 3 p.m., truTV
- No. 13 Northeastern vs. No. 4 Kansas, 3:50 p.m., TNT
- No. 12 Murray St. vs. No. 5 Marquette, 4:20 p.m., TBS
- No. 10 Florida vs. No. 7 Nevada, 6:45 p.m., TNT
- No. 15 Abilene Christian vs. No. 2 Kentucky, 7 p.m., CBS
- No. 11 Saint Mary’s vs. No. 6 Villanova, 7:15 p.m., TBS
- No. 16 Fairleigh Dickinson vs. No. 1 Gonzaga, 7:15 p.m., truTV
- No. 15 Montana vs. No. 2 Michigan, 9:15 p.m., TNT
- No. 10 Seton Hall vs. No. 7 Wofford, 9:30 p.m., CBS
- No. 14 Old Dominion vs. No. 3 Purdue, 9:45 p.m., TBS
- No. 9 Baylor vs. No. 8 Syracuse, 9:55 p.m., truTV
Tournament news and notes
The Terps have lost four straight postseason games, three in the Big Ten tournament and a 2017 NCAA tournament opener. No one in the program needs to be reminded. But a loss to Belmont Thursday would raise the heat on Coach Mark Turgeon. (Read more)
If Izzo’s No. 2 seed Michigan State (28-6) can win two games in Des Moines, starting with No. 15 Bradley (20-14) on Thursday, his NCAA tournament win total would reach 50. He’s as much a part of the American March as St. Patrick’s Day or final bursts of cold. He’s part of the landscape, always somewhere on a bracket, 22 years running, having held down every seed from 1 to 10 except 8, having reached seven Final Fours from seeds Nos. 1, 2, 5 and 7. (Read more)
Since 2002, Boeheim and Self have each won more than 100 games decided by five points or fewer, according to KenPom.com. Few trails just behind. All three enjoy winning percentages in close games of nearly 75 percent. (Read more)
'Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice' Review In Progress: So Much Harder Than 'Dark Souls' Or 'Bloodborne'
Be afraid. Prepare to die—over and over again.
You've never played anything quite like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twicebefore.
I'm a FromSoftware veteran. I've beaten Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II, Bloodborne and Dark Souls III. Some of these I've beaten solo without ever summoning another player. I'm not the best Souls player out there, but I'm pretty good.
Each of these games has been challenging. Scrabbling your way through the Boletarian Palace, navigating the treacherous passages of Sen's Fortress, finally overcoming the odds . . . it always comes with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It's unlike any other type of game I can remember. Beating those ridiculous Maneaters in Demon's Souls. Finally taking down Smough and Ornstein, not to mention getting past those dreadful Silver Archers. Putting an end to the beastly Vicar Amelia. What emotional moments these all were.
Finally getting to the bitter end has always come with a sense of relief and triumph. You've made it through the gauntlet and to the other end and now you can go do it again in NG+.
Go East, Shinobi
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is so much harder than any of these games it's not even funny. I'm far from completing the game, but even in its opening few hours it's more challenging than some of the most difficult parts of previous FromSoft games. As you progress further, it only gets more and more difficult, even as you are required to hone your skills to a fine edge. As the game's various skill trees blossom, and you gain various new powerful Shinobi prosthetic tools, the true scope of Sekiro's depth comes to life. But even as you grow in skill and power, so do your foes. And the learning curve is steep and relentless.
The game's challenge is heightened further by the fact that you have to go it alone. You can't turn on "easy mode" by summoning help. In Sekiro, you're a lone wolf and you must fend for yourself.
Dear readers and potential players of this game, here is a truth: You will die so many times, in so many different ways, that when you do finally topple that ridiculously challenging boss, you will feel godlike and badass and just utterly relieved all at the same time. You'll exhale without realizing you were holding your breath.
How many controllers you go through before you get to that point remains to be seen. It's the kind of game that will certainly encourage rage-quitting.
If that sounds familiar—if it reminds you of Dark Souls, perhaps—get over this delusion. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is much more challenging than anything FromSoftware has made previously.
And frankly, I think it's the kind of game that most people will never finish. That's normal for most single-player games, but I think it's doubly true here. I bet we see a pretty high drop-out level not that far into the game. I could be wrong, but this is my prediction. And that's fine. This is a game for the truly masochistic, the diehard, the hardcore. The true ninjas.
I love it. Sometimes I hate it, but then I figure out the puzzle, I figure out what I was doing wrong. I learn, I improve, I emerge victorious. And then it's on to the next overwhelming challenge.
I think Dark Souls is a reasonable challenge for just about any gamer that puts the time and effort into it to see it through. I think Bloodborne, while faster and perhaps a bit more challenging in some respects, is also a game that can be overcome by most reasonably decent gamers, especially since you can summon help (though I played before there was any online community during the pre-release review phase and I managed . . . once I got the hang of it . . .)
But Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice is going to intimidate the hell out of people. It's not just learning a new system, either. That's part of it—you will need to relearn everything you thought you knew about these games. It's a much more radical shift in gameplay style than even Bloodborne.
With Bloodborne, I simply had to retrain my brain to play the game differently than I would in Dark Souls, trading the sword-and-board for a faster, more aggressive and riskier approach. In Sekiro, it goes beyond that. Mechanically, there are just way more moving pieces. Between your sword attacks, your grappling hook, all the prosthetics and items, and all the various ways you have to defend and attack . . . it's an intricate, fluid and frankly beautiful system.
In Sekiro, you have to learn to respond to a vast array of rapidly incoming threats. There are sweeping attacks that you have to jump to avoid, potentially unleashing a cool jump-based counter-move; there are thrusting attacks that require a special skill to properly parry that also opens up a killing blow (otherwise you'll need to dodge to the side); there are normal slashing attacks that can be parried or dodged, with benefits to both. A perfectly timed parry opens up a Shinobi Deathblow. Simply blocking enough attacks in a row can drain your opponents Posture as well.
Then there are grabbing attacks and other special attacks and you'll have to learn how to properly counter each one, which in turn requires you to be able spot each opponent's tell and anticipated the attack. It's all so fast and brutal.
Unlike Souls and Bloodborne, there is no Stamina bar in Sekiro. You still have Vitality/HP, but Posture replaces Stamina. The higher your Vitality, the quicker your Posture replenishes. Holding up your sword also replenishes Posture more quickly. When you're out of Vitality you die; when you're out of Posture you open yourself up to devastating attacks. It's a really interesting, innovative system that works incredibly well in practice.
Breaking an enemy's Posture will allow you to deal a Shinobi Deathblow. This will take out a normal enemy, but harder enemies can have more than one health bar, meaning you'll need to break their posture two times or more. Breaking each enemy's posture varies, but the basic rules apply. Either widdle down their Vitality or exploit their weaknesses. Either way, when that blood red dot appears on your foe, go in for the killing stroke.
There are many ways to break an enemy's Posture:
- Perfectly time a counter.
- Stealth attack/backstab.
- Keep parrying an enemy until their posture breaks.
- Keep attacking an enemy until their posture breaks.
- Use various special moves/counters you gain in the skill tree.
- Use various Shinobi prosthetics like the Shinobi ax to break shields/posture.
- Combine various elements of the above to exploit weaknesses.
Pretty quickly you should be able to face down normal enemies with relative ease, though you'll often find yourself facing a mob of five or six or more, some firing long-range weapons while others come in for the kill. And, naturally, as you progress into more difficult areas the normal bad guys become more challenging as well.
It's the higher-tiered enemies, mini-bosses and actual bosses that are the real challenge, of course. As soon as an enemy has two health bars they become enormously difficult. You can sneak attack some of them to take out one health bar, but if you wait to try to get a second sneak attack they'll go back to full health. Cheesing isn't that easy in Sekiro.
But even with one health bar remaining, many of these more challenging enemies are incredibly difficult to take down. Many can kill you in just one or two hits. Their moves are more difficult to counter. They're either bigger or stronger or faster than common enemy types, and you won't have much Vitality or Posture or healing items to fall back on. Learning enemy movesets and timing in these encounters is crucial, but even then it's so easy to make one tiny wrong move and find yourself, well, dead again. You can also eavesdrop on certain enemies who will give you clues about upcoming fights or secrets. Definitely eavesdrop whenever you can.
Another big change is the lack of grinding to improve your character, at least not to the degree you found in previous From games. In order to increase stats, you need to gather four prayer beads which are typically dropped by these harder mini-bosses. After four are collected you gain just a smidgeon more Health and Posture. Beating bosses grants you Memories which you can trade in for an increase in Attack power.
The whole "die twice" thing is also kind of a tease. Bonfires in this game are called Scultpor's Idols, and you find them as you progress. They serve as checkpoints. Resting at them will refill your health and this game's version of Estus Flasks. And you'll regain one revive option, allowing you to come back to life with half your health and continue the fight. You can earn more revives by killing enemies.
But this won't replenish your Healing Gourds (Estus Flasks, basically).
Meanwhile, death comes with a cost. Something about the blood of the Divine Heir that's been bestowed upon Sekiro which gives him the power to come back to life is also spreading a disease known as Dragonrot. It will begin inflicting any NPC you come into contact with which can hinder their quest-lines unless you heal the affliction.
Likewise, the more Dragonrot there is, the lower your chance of recovering Skill XP and sen (money) become. Skill XP is what you use to unlock skills in the game's various skill trees. Earn enough for one point and that point is "banked" and you'll never lose it until you spend it. But if you're somewhere in-between skill points and die, you'll lose half your XP and half your money (which is used to buy items in this game.)
Unseen Aid is a stat in this game that protects against that loss. A higher Unseed Aid percentage means you're more likely to not lose XP or sen. The spread of Dragonrot decreases your chances of receiving Unseen Aid. Because dying isn't punishment enough, I guess.
At least you do have a chance to Revive, with half your life and no replenishment of Healing Gourds, and you can gain extra Revives by killing enemies.
Thus you are left facing enormously challenging enemies, losing XP and currency (almost) every time you die, unable to summon help or grind to improve stats (though you can to earn more skills . . .) carving your way through a demonic version of Sengoku Japan. All you have is your skill and your wits.
It's a sublime distillation of everything that makes the Souls games so amazing, but it truly is more challenging than any of those games by a very long mile. I am not exaggerating here. I think Sekiro may be one of the very best games ever made, but it is not going to be for everyone. I still recommend that everyone gives it a shot. It takes patience but it's just such a well-crafted action game, I've never played anything quite like it.
I'm playing the game at my own pace rather than rushing through. I'd get too frustrated, I think. So I'll take my time to finish this beast. And I'm okay with that. I'm in no hurry to be done with the world of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. It's the best game I've played since Bloodborne.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice launches on PS4, Xbox One and PC tomorrow, March 22nd.
This is a review-in-progress. In future installments I'll delve into the story and world, the graphics and sound and so forth. I wanted to talk chiefly about combat and challenge in this opening foray. But the world-building, the level design, it's every bit as outstanding and I can't wait to talk more about it. Good luck!
MARCH 21, 201901:26March 21, 2019, 5:26 PM EDTBy Shamard Charles, M.D.
CVS Pharmacy announced Wednesday that it will begin selling hemp-derived CBD products in eight states. The national drug store chain will be marketing the topical cannabidiol products, such as creams, sprays and roll-ons, as “an alternative source of relief,” CVS said in a statement to NBC News. CVS will also be partnering with a company to test and verify the quality of the CBD topicals sold in its drug stores.
“We are carrying hemp-derived CBD products in select states to help meet consumer demand for alternative care options,” said CVS Health Spokesperson, Mike DeAngelis.
The items will be sold in Alabama, California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Maryland and Tennessee.
CBD, or cannabidiol, comes from the hemp plant, a close relative to another member of the cannabis family, marijuana. Both plants contain abundant types of cannabinoids, but marijuana is high in the psychoactive chemical THC, while hemp is rich in CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis that has generated quite a buzz for its potential medicinal benefits.
CBD has been touted as a treatment for a wide range of conditions — including anxiety, pain, inflammation and even cancer — but little reliable research has been done on CBD's effects on humans, experts say. The only FDA-approved CBD oil is Epidiolex, an oral solutionprescribed for the treatment of seizures associated with two rare, severe forms of epilepsy.
“Societies have jumped far far ahead of science,” said Dr. Margaret Haney, a professor of neurobiology at Columbia University Medical Center and director of Columbia’s Marijuana Research Laboratory. “So it’s showing up in lotions and pretty much any form of product one can use. There’s a lot of different ways one could use CBD, but the ways we have studied CBD is much more limited.”
CVS has at least 9,800 stores nationwide and will soon roll out the CBD products in over 800 stores in the eight states. The health care chain says that effectiveness claims will vary from product-to-product, but that the company does not plan to market any of the items as a 'cure-all' product.
“We’re going to walk slowly, but this is something we think our customers will be looking for,” CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said in an interview Wednesday with CNBC’s Jim Cramer.
The company noted that they would not be selling any CBD-based supplements or food additives. Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, it is illegal to introduce drug ingredients like CBD into the food supply or to market them as dietary supplements.
“Selling unapproved products with unsubstantiated therapeutic claims is not only a violation of the law, but also can put patients at risk, as these products have not been proven to be safe or effective,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement in December.
For this reason, CVS will market the creams and salves as over-the-counter medicinal products, merchandised in a dedicated display.
There have been more dangerous situations where people turn down effective medications to use unproven products, like CBD.
To assure accurate labeling and safety for customers, CVS has partnered with Eurofins, a third party laboratory, to test all CBD topicals for THC, CBD content, and other contaminants, DeAngelis said in the statement to NBC News.
“We are working only with CBD product manufacturers that are complying with applicable laws and that meet CVS’s high standards for quality. Only products passing these independent tests are offered for sale in our stores,” the statement said.
Some experts believe the move by CVS to sell CBD over-the-counter may provide more questions than answers, at least initially.
“It’s a way to reduce the stigma for a product that really doesn’t deserve to be stigmatized,” said nutritionist and cannabis practitioner Brooke Alpert. “On the other hand, because of the lack of regulation it raises questions like: do people really know what they’re getting; can other brands get away with selling inferior products; and where can people find more information about these products?”
Another big concern for experts is that patients will avoid proven medications in favor of CBD.
“There have been more dangerous situations where people turn down effective medications to use unproven products, like CBD,” said Haney.
Bane Explains His Monstrous Origins In New Gotham Clip
The final season of Gotham is a hit with fans thus far. And tonight’s episode is no exception, as Bane is set to run wild. The official YouTube channel for the Fox show has a new clip featuring the masked character. In it, the villain explains how he became this way to a restrained Jim Gordon.
Bane, as played by Shane West, explains how he came to be this “monster”. While in Pena Dura prison, the guards would partake in a cruel game on the kids at the time. They would take select children and bury them alive. Although he manages to overcome these odds, they somehow make the game even worse the next time around. They bury the chosen kids even deeper and play yet again. “I was the champion,” he says. “To survive, I had to stop being human.”
This character wasn’t always born to be this “monster.” He originally came to Gotham as Eduardo Dorrance earlier on in the series. But after a grave wound from Gordon, he received guidance from a rather unlikely ally.
Bane wasn’t sure about his rebirth. “But she knew,” referring to Theresa Walker (Jaime Murray). As a result of his torment, he is ready to burn Gotham City down to ashes. But first, Bane is targeting someone closer to Jim, his ex, Barbara.
In another clip, which you can also see below, Bane stomps his way into a hospital. He makes short work of a staff member before calling for Barbara on the intercom. And he couldn’t come at a worse time, as she’s about to go into labor with Jim’s child. Gotham season 5 episode 10 premieres tonight on Fox.
What do you think about these Gotham preview scenes? Let us know in the comments below!
Light Beer Brand Feud Turns 'Spy vs. Spy'
The battle of the light beer brands is starting to feel interminable even to some beer fans, judging from social media threads.
As all the media-connected world knows by now, the feud was set off by Bud Light’s Super Bowl spots dissing Miller Lite and Coors Light for using corn syrup in brewing.
Just days after MillerCoors launched a March Madness promo featuring a Coors Light-branded tap handle that detected Bud Light ads and triggered free Coors Lights for bar patrons, the company’s Miller Lite has fired another volley.
Miller Lite today posted two satiric ads on its social channels that seem to show actors and production workers shooting some new Bud Light medieval-themed spots, but choosing to drink Miller Lite on their breaks.
One (below) takes place on an ad shoot troubled by a faulty snow machine. The other, “Aftermath,” specifically spoofs the Bud Light Super Bowl spot co-produced with “Game of Thrones.”
Both DDB-produced videos end with the assertion: “In the real world, more taste is what matters,” and a shot of a Miller Lite with the screen message: “More taste & half the carbs of Bud Light.”
Miller Lite will be running the spots throughout the NCAA Tournament--the brand's two heaviest advertising weeks of the year--across TV, digital and social channels.
But in a turnabout reminiscent of the classic Mad magazine comic strip “Spy vs. Spy,” Anheuser-Busch InBev was ready with a Bud Light reply video to post on its own social channels.
Called “Imitation,” that video, from Wieden + Kennedy New York, has Bud Light’s medieval king character suggesting that if Miller is “this set on imitating our kingdom,” it should also consider imitating Bud Light’s move to put its ingredients list on its outer packaging. The ad ends with screen messaging stating that Bud Light is “brewed with no corn syrup.”
In alerting the press to their latest ads, each brand offered stats. Miller Lite says it's picking up share "not only in its segment, but across the entire beer category, per Nielsen." Bud Light says it's seen "share trend improvement" in the premium light segment," per IRI.
Another suggestion: Wake us when the war is over.