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    By Don Jensen, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    OLDSMAR — If Purple Egg and Cor Cor develop into stars of tomorrow, their connections can look back at Saturday.

    Both 2-year-olds remained undefeated and won their first stakes races with record-setting performances at Tampa Bay Downs during the track's 87th season opener.

    Purple Egg, a Kentucky-bred gelded son of Lion Heart and whose seven Goodwood Racing II owners include Downs vice president of marketing and publicity Margo Flynn, came from off the pace to win the $75,000 Inaugural Stakes.

    Cor Cor gave a gutsy effort to take the $75,000 Sandpiper Stakes for trainer Joan Scott, a Penn Laird, Va., native and a descendant of late country music legend Patsy Cline.

    A crowd of 5,226 attended the Cotillion Festival Day 10-race card for 2-year-olds only. All-source handle was $4,167,125.

    Purple Egg improved to 3-0 under trainer Jane Cibelli, founder of the Goodwood Racing II syndicate, which purchased him for $22,000 at a Keeneland (Ky.) yearling sale.

    "I knew he was very talented," Cibelli said. "Obviously, (2-year-olds) are very fragile. They're equine athletes, just like football players. They (can) get hurt, so that's always a big worry.

    "The Pasco (Jan. 12 at the Downs) is an option next. If he's good enough (after that) to run in the Sam F. Davis (Feb. 2), that's where he'll run."

    Ridden by Roberto Alvarado Jr., Purple Egg ($6.60) rallied in the six-horse field to wear down 1-2 favorite Brave Dave in deep stretch. Purple Egg won by one length and clocked 6 furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1 minute, 9.93 seconds, eclipsing Dream of Angels' 1:10.89 in 2006.

    "It's great to see him move up in stakes company and rate well, come from off the pace and finish up strongly," Flynn said.

    Goodwood Racing II was perfect on the day, also winning with Swear Me In in a maiden special weight event, one of six maiden races on the card.

    Cor Cor, a Florida-bred filly by Smoke Glacken, showed a lot of heart for owners Steve Ballou and Harriet Waldron. She set a blistering pace (fractions of 21.95 and 44.0 seconds) to open up an early three-length lead, withstood challenges from two rivals throughout the stretch and outlasted Vitameta by a half-length. It was her second victory.

    Purchased for $42,000 at an Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. juvenile sale, Cor Cor paid $5 as the favorite in the eight-horse field under jockey Scott Spieth, who recorded his 4,134th lifetime victory.

    Cor Cor's time of 1:10.02 topped the stakes record of Misty Rosette (1:10.33) in 2005. It was the second Sandpiper triumph for Scott, who won in 2008 with Dr. Zic.

    "(Cor Cor) is a rocket," Scott said. "She hung on and kept digging in. Probably she will stick to sprinting. There's plenty of races for that."

    Tampa Bay DownsTampa Bay Downs

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    LEXINGTON, Ky. — Baylor's comfort with the zone defense on Saturday created uneasiness for No. 8 Kentucky.

    It left the Wildcats with a 64-55 loss to the Bears, a two-game losing streak and the end of their 54-game run at Rupp Arena.

    Not to mention a lot of soul searching.

    "They came in here and executed what they were supposed to be doing," Kentucky freshman center Willie Cauley-Stein said. "I gave them credit for that. We shot ourselves in the foot. We didn't make shots and gave up easy plays that could have helped us in the end."

    Kentucky's struggles with Baylor's combination of zone alignments were symbolized by its failure to get the ball inside to its big men and a failure to answer it from the outside.

    The Wildcats (4-3) shot 30 percent, their worst under coach John Calipari. That was 10 percent worse than in Thursday's 64-50 loss at Notre Dame.

    "That's what happens when you have a bunch of freshmen out there," Calipari said.

    Pierre Jackson scored 17 and Isaiah Austin and A.J. Walton 11 each for the Bears, who beat the Wildcats for the first time in eight tries. Baylor also avenged last year's Elite Eight loss to Kentucky, which went on to win its eighth national title with freshmen Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist leading the way.

    Though Calipari has insisted that center Cauley-Stein, forwards Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel and guard Archie Goodwin might be as good as their predecessors by the spring, they were going to encounter some bumps along the way.

    Baylor provided plenty with its zone and athleticism that at times left Kentucky's youngsters flat-footed.

    NO. 1 INDIANA 87, COPPIN ST. 51: Victor Oladipo and Will Sheehey scored 14 each for the host Hoosiers (8-0), who pulled away after missing their first nine shots.

    NO. 2 DUKE 88, DELAWARE 50: Ryan Kelly scored 15 of his 18 in the decisive first half for the host Blue Devils (8-0), who never trailed and led by as much as 46.

    NO. 3 MICH. 74, BRADLEY 66: Freshman Nick Stauskas scored 22 in his first start, and the visiting Wolverines (7-0) survived a late run.

    NO. 4 OHIO ST. 70, N. KENTUCKY 43: LaQuinton Ross scored a career-high 22 for the host Buckeyes (5-1), who rebounded from Wednesday's loss to Duke despite shooting only 38 percent.

    NO. 5 L'VILLE 69, ILLINOIS ST. 66: Russ Smith scored 24 and Peyton Siva added 20 for the host Cardinals (6-1). Down by 3 with eight seconds left, the Redbirds' Tyler Brown airballed a 3-pointer that was saved by Bryant Allen to Jackie Carmichael. Carmichael found Brown, who drew contact from Louisville's Chane Behanan at the buzzer. The shot went awry and no foul was called.

    NO. 9 ARIZ. 85, TEXAS TECH 57: Nick Johnson scored 18 for the visiting Wildcats (5-0), who pulled away after a slow start.

    NO. 11 CREIGHTON 80, ST. JOSEPH'S 51: Doug McDermott scored 18 of his 23 in the first half, and the host Bluejays (7-1) bounced back after being upset by Boise State on Wednesday.

    NO. 12 GONZAGA 85, PACIFIC 67: Sam Dower scored 18 for the host Bulldogs (8-0), who tied the 1994-95 squad for most wins to start the season.

    NO. 13 MICH. ST. 84, NICHOLLS ST. 39: Keith Appling scored 13 and the host Spartans (6-2) used a 27-4 first-half run to rout the Colonels, who were missing three starters to injury and illness.

    NO. 14 UNC 102, UAB 84: Leslie McDonald scored a career-high 24 in his first career start to lead a balanced offensive showing for the host Tar Heels (6-2).

    VA. TECH 81, NO. 15 OKLA. ST. 71: Erick Green scored 28 and hit eight free throws in the final 76 seconds for the host Hokies, who are 7-0 for the first time since 1982-83 and beat the Cowboys (5-1) for the fourth straight time.

    NO. 16 MISSOURI 72, APPY ST. 56: Laurence Bowers matched his career high with 23 points for the Tigers (6-1), who have won 69 in a row at home against nonconference foes dating to 2005.

    NO. 17 CINCINNATI 58, 'BAMA 56: Cashmere Wright's fadeaway jumper from the baseline at the buzzer gave the host Bearcats (7-0) the victory.

    NO. 21 MINN. 87, N. FLORIDA 59: Rodney Williams had 12 of his 15 points in the second half and added eight rebounds as the host Gophers (8-1) won their fourth straight game.

    NO. 24 UNLV 77, HAWAII 63: Anthony Bennett had 16 points, eight rebounds and three blocks for the host Runnin' Rebels (5-1), who pulled away after fighting off a Warriors second-half run.

    NO. 25 NEW MEXICO 77, INDIANA ST. 68, OT: Kendall Williams scored a season-high 24 and Hugh Greenwood scored eight of his 14 in overtime for the visiting Lobos (8-0), who squandered a 19-point lead in the second half.


    MIAMI 75, UMASS 62: Reggie Johnson had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the visiting Hurricanes (5-1), who won their fourth straight.

    UCF 90, FLA. TECH 62: Freshman Matt Williams scored 21, all on 3-pointers, as the host Knights (4-2) routed the Division II.

    FAMU 75, B-CU 67: Jamie Adams scored 24 for the host Rattlers (2-6), who handed Bethune-Cookman (2-6) its third straight loss in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference opener for both.

    ROLLINS 73, ECKERD 45: Brett Chance scored 17 for the host Tars, who hit 11 3-pointers to rout the Tritons (2-1) in their Sunshine State Conference opener.

    TAMPA 83, ARMSTRONG 82: Da'Markco Foster hit a driving layup with three seconds left, and the Spartans (6-0) rallied after blowing a 20-point lead in the Ames Classic at Saint Leo.

    SAINT LEO 83, FORT VALLEY ST. 65: Marcus Ruh had 23 points, and the host Lions (4-2) bounced back from an opening-day loss at the Ames Classic.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/01/12--19:48: UF volleyball in Sweet 16
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    The Florida volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16, routing College of Charleston 25-20, 25-16, 25-14 on Saturday in Gainesville.

    Chloe Mann had 10 kills and four blocks to go with a match-high .615 hitting percentage for the Gators (27-4). Betsy Smith had eight kills and Tangerine Wiggs seven blocks. Ziva Recek landed four service aces for UF.

    Florida capitalized on its size and physical advantage, hitting .315 for the match and holding the Cougars to .079.

    Sophomore Sloane White led the Cougars with 11 kills, while junior Emily Neideffer tallied nine kills and a team-best .375 hitting percentage.

    Earlier, Florida State was eliminated in five sets by No. 22 Purdue. The ninth-seeded Seminoles (28-4) lost 20-25, 25-21, 21-25, 25-23, 11-15, snapping a 27-match win streak at Tully Gym that spanned two years.

    The Boilermakers (23-10) were boosted by outstanding defensive play. Purdue had 17 team blocks, by far the most by an FSU opponent this season.

    "Certainly we're very proud of the girls on a great season," Seminoles coach Chris Poole said.

    Tampa advances

    TAMPA — A career performance from senior Danielle Selkridge helped No. 7 Tampa to a 25-22, 21-25, 25-12, 25-11 victory over Palm Beach Atlantic in the region final that sent the Spartans (30-3) to the NCAA Division II Elite 8.

    Selkridge had 20 kills and committed a single attack error, good for a .655 hitting percentage. The South Region player of the year blocked four attacks in the final home match of her career.

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    TAMPA — One sign that USF didn't have a good first quarter on Saturday night: QB Matt Floyd was listed among the top tacklers with two.

    USF hoped to see progress from the redshirt freshman in his third game stepping in for the injured B.J. Daniels. But he took a step back with three turnovers during the opening 10 minutes of the 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh.

    On the Bulls' third offensive play, Floyd's pass went off WR Andre Davis' hands and was intercepted by S Jason Hendricks.

    That set up the Panthers at the Bulls 21, and they eventually scored on Ray Graham's 1-yard run for a 7-0 lead. It was a sign of things to come.

    Floyd drove the Bulls to the Panthers 5 on the next drive. But on third and goal, LB Todd Thomas intercepted him. Only Floyd's hustle and tackle prevented a touchdown.

    On the Bulls' next offensive play, Floyd was sacked and the ball was knocked loose. Pittsburgh recovered at the USF 23, setting up Kevin Harper's 25-yard field goal that gave it a 10-0 lead.

    Floyd added a third interception, by CB K'Waun Williams, on a deep pass during the third quarter. He finished 12-of-24 for 93 yards and threw five interceptions over the three games while neither running nor throwing for a touchdown.

    SENDING THEM OFF: USF paid tribute to its 25 seniors before the game, including five bay area high school graduates: RB Lindsey Lamar (Hillsborough), FB Chris Breit (Plant), walk-on FB Spencer Cavalieri (Gaither), OT Mark Popek (Plant City) and TE Andreas Shields (Wharton).

    SPARSE CROWD: The actual attendance wasn't available, but USF's final home crowd of the season was generously announced as 35,141.

    The lowest of the season was down by about 1,000 from its last home game, Nov. 3 against Connecticut. The actual attendance for that game was just 20,665.

    FIVE STRAIGHT: Pitt is heading to the ACC after this season. And the Panthers leave with a five-game win streak against the Bulls, the first opponent ever to do so. Cincinnati and Rutgers beat the Bulls four times in a row from 2006-09.

    THIS AND THAT: Junior DE Ryne Giddins, who has bounced back with solid play after being limited for much of the season with injuries to both shoulders, returned to the starting lineup and deflected a pass during the first quarter. … USF had its best success of the season on kickoff returns, Marcus Shaw getting a 48-yarder in the first quarter. The Bulls still struggled on punt returns, giving WR Victor Marc a try but watching him not field two punts that were downed at the USF 2.

    WILLIE J. ALLEN JR.   |   TimesWILLIE J. ALLEN JR. | Times

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  • 12/01/12--20:07: Magic to visit Howard's digs

  • Saturday, December 1, 2012

    Tonight's game won't be ordinary by any means. After a tumultuous season and split with center Dwight Howard, the Magic faces its former franchise star in his new uniform of the Los Angeles Lakers.

    Opinions vary about the reunion.

    Magic guard J.J. Redick deadpanned, "I would assume he would be excited to play the Magic."

    Some are indifferent to playing against Howard, who stepped into another difficult situation. The Lakers fired coach Mike Brown after five games and have struggled under Mike D'Antoni without injured point guard Steve Nash.

    "I don't care," the Magic's Glen Davis said. "Dwight's got his own problems, and we got our problems."

    Asked if the Magic might have to match Howard's intensity, given the situation, Davis said, "Competing is competing, no matter how he feels."

    Redick played with Howard from 2006-07 to 2011-12, but he said the trade drama plagued the entire team last season. "Last year was tough at times. The whole thing was a distraction. We've covered that," he said.

    Redick said it won't be weird facing Howard.

    "No, you have teammates and then you don't have teammates," he said. "There (will) be a day I won't play with Jameer (Nelson.)"

    Arron Afflalo, who arrived from the Nuggets in the Howard transaction, said he's sure there will be "some hoopla and some leftover things here" in the matchup.

    Coach Jacque Vaughn was asked if he was concerned about his players getting caught up in playing against Howard. "It's our next game. That's all I'm concerned about," he said.

    Redick admitted that the loss of Howard was devastating to the franchise. He said if the Magic wants to contend again, as it did when it went to the 2009 NBA Finals, "We will need a player like that at some point. It's just the truth."

    Spurs coach 'disappointed' by fine

    SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Gregg Popovich said he doesn't know if the Spurs will appeal a $250,000 fine from the NBA for sending his star players home to rest instead of playing them in Miami against the Heat.

    Speaking publicly for the first time since commissioner David Stern handed down the fine Friday, the coach and team president said before Saturday's game against Memphis that he was "disappointed" in the decision.

    "What I do from my perspective is from a coaching perspective," Popovich said. "And I think the league operates from a business perspective. And I think that's reflective in the action that they took."

    Rather than play Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili — three of the NBA's biggest names — against Miami in a nationally televised game Thursday, Popovich put them on a plane and sent them home. It came at the end of a six-game road trip and after the Spurs had played five times in seven days.

    Swingman Danny Green was also put on that early flight. Popovich justified his decision by saying he didn't want to subject Green and his aging three to so much wear-and-tear this early in the season.

    Stern apologized to fans before the Miami game and vowed his office would hand down "substantial sanctions," which Stern delivered on the next day. He said he "concluded that the Spurs did a disservice to the league and our fans."

    Popovich bristled when asked whether he might nonetheless do the same thing. "I don't have a crystal ball," Popovich said.

    Teams are required to report as soon as they know a player will not travel because of injury. The league's statement said the Spurs were in violation of league policy reviewed with the board of governors in April 2010 against resting players in a manner "contrary to the best interests of the NBA."

    Game highlights: Dwyane Wade scored a season-high 34, LeBron James added 21 and the host Heat rallied from a 14-point deficit to beat the Nets 102-89 Saturday. The Heat won its sixth in a row to remain atop the Eastern Conference. Miami held the Nets to 30 points in the second half. Andray Blatche scored 20 for Brooklyn, which had won five in a row. … Kevin Durant scored 20 as the visiting Thunder won its fifth in a row, 100-79 over the Hornets. … Patrick Patterson scored 20, Chandler Parsons and Jeremy Lin scored 19 apiece and the host Rockets beat the Jazz 124-116.

    Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.

    Heat 102, Nets 89

    BROOKLYN (89): Wallace 5-11 2-4 13, Humphries 4-8 3-4 11, Blatche 8-12 4-7 20, Williams 3-11 3-5 10, Johnson 5-14 0-2 12, Bogans 0-1 0-0 0, Stackhouse 5-11 1-1 11, Evans 1-1 0-0 2, Watson 2-5 4-4 10, Childress 0-1 0-0 0, Taylor 0-0 0-0 0, Teletovic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 33-75 17-27 89.

    MIAMI (102): Lewis 1-4 0-0 2, James 8-15 4-6 21, Bosh 2-7 4-4 8, Chalmers 3-8 0-0 7, Wade 14-20 5-6 34, Allen 5-7 1-1 13, Haslem 0-2 0-0 0, Miller 1-3 0-0 3, Cole 5-10 1-2 12, Anthony 1-1 0-0 2, Pittman 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 0-0 0, Harris 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 40-78 15-19 102.

    Brooklyn 24 35 19 11— 89

    Miami 16 34 32 20— 102

    3-Point GoalsBrooklyn 6-28 (Watson 2-4, Johnson 2-9, Williams 1-4, Wallace 1-6, Bogans 0-1, Stackhouse 0-4), Miami 7-20 (Allen 2-3, Cole 1-1, James 1-2, Miller 1-3, Wade 1-3, Chalmers 1-4, Jones 0-1, Lewis 0-3). Fouled OutHaslem. ReboundsBrooklyn 56 (Wallace 9), Miami 38 (James 9). AssistsBrooklyn 20 (Williams 12), Miami 20 (Wade 7). Total FoulsBrooklyn 21, Miami 25. TechnicalsBogans, Brooklyn Coach Johnson, Allen, Miami Coach Spoelstra. A19,961 (19,600).

    Rockets 124, Jazz 116

    UTAH (116): Carroll 2-8 0-0 4, Millsap 3-11 5-6 12, Jefferson 10-19 0-0 20, M. Williams 7-13 0-0 16, Foye 8-11 0-0 20, Kanter 3-7 0-0 6, Hayward 8-12 2-2 21, Watson 1-3 0-0 2, Burks 4-7 2-3 11, Evans 2-3 0-0 4. Totals 48-94 9-11 116.

    HOUSTON (124): Parsons 7-12 2-2 19, Patterson 8-17 2-2 20, Asik 5-5 4-5 14, Lin 8-14 2-2 19, Harden 7-16 3-3 18, Smith 3-5 7-9 13, Delfino 5-7 0-0 13, Morris 0-2 0-2 0, Douglas 3-5 1-1 8. Totals 46-83 21-26 124.

    Utah 28 21 37 30— 116

    Houston 28 30 27 39— 124

    3-PointUtah 11-20 (Foye 4-6, Hayward 3-5, M. Williams 2-3, Millsap 1-2, Burks 1-2, Carroll 0-1, Jefferson 0-1), Houston 11-22 (Delfino 3-5, Parsons 3-5, Patterson 2-5, Douglas 1-2, Lin 1-2, Harden 1-3). RebsUtah 46 (Millsap 11), Houston 44 (Asik 12). AssistsUtah 25 (M. Williams 7), Houston 26 (Lin 8). Total FoulsUtah 22, Houston 17. A14,432 (18,023).

    Thunder 100, Hornets 79

    OKLAHOMA CITY (100): Durant 7-13 4-4 20, Ibaka 2-7 1-2 5, Perkins 5-6 0-0 10, Westbrook 8-18 0-0 18, Sefolosha 3-5 1-2 8, Martin 6-13 6-7 19, Collison 6-8 0-0 12, Thabeet 1-1 0-1 2, Maynor 1-5 0-0 3, Jackson 0-0 0-0 0, Liggins 1-1 1-1 3, Jones 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 40-79 13-17 100.

    NEW ORLEANS (79): Aminu 4-12 0-0 8, Anderson 6-17 6-8 21, Lopez 6-9 0-0 12, Vasquez 2-8 0-0 5, Mason 4-7 1-1 11, Henry 1-3 2-4 4, Rivers 2-9 1-1 5, Smith 1-5 0-0 2, Roberts 3-5 2-2 8, Thomas 1-3 1-2 3, Miller 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 30-81 13-18 79.

    Oklahoma City 30 24 30 16— 100

    New Orleans 21 23 13 22— 79

    3-Point GoalsOKC 7-16 (Westbrook 2-3, Durant 2-4, Maynor 1-2, Sefolosha 1-2, Martin 1-4, Ibaka 0-1), New Orleans 6-24 (Anderson 3-11, Mason 2-4, Vasquez 1-2, Roberts 0-1, Smith 0-1, Miller 0-2, Rivers 0-3). RebsOKC 48 (Durant 8), New Orleans 51 (Anderson 10). AssistsOKC 21 (Westbrook 10), New Orleans 18 (Vasquez 7). Total FoulsOklahoma City 17, New Orleans 16. TechnicalsAnderson. A14,547 (17,188).

    Bulls 93, 76ers 88

    PHILADELPHIA (88): Turner 6-17 0-0 12, T.Young 10-16 2-5 22, Allen 4-8 2-2 10, Holiday 9-17 4-6 23, Richardson 3-12 1-1 8, Wright 2-2 0-0 5, Hawes 2-7 2-2 6, Wayns 0-3 2-2 2. Totals 36-82 13-18 88.

    CHICAGO (93): Deng 10-16 4-4 25, Boozer 5-14 2-4 12, Noah 6-15 0-0 12, Hinrich 2-6 1-2 6, Hamilton 6-12 3-4 15, Butler 1-1 0-2 3, Gibson 5-8 1-2 11, Robinson 2-5 2-3 7, Belinelli 1-4 0-0 2. Totals 38-81 13-21 93.

    Philadelphia 19 22 23 24— 88

    Chicago 22 19 26 26— 93

    3-Point Philly 3-12 (Wright 1-1, Holiday 1-3, Richardson 1-6, Wayns 0-1, Turner 0-1), Chicago 4-7 (Hinrich 1-1, Butler 1-1, Deng 1-2, Robinson 1-3). RebsPhilly 43 (Allen 8), Chicago 59 (Noah 13). AssistsPhilly 17 (Holiday, Turner 7), Chicago 28 (Deng, Noah 7). FoulsPhilly 19, Chicago 16. TechnicalsTurner, Philadelphia defensive three second, Noah. A21,607.

    Blazers 118, Cavs 117, 2OT

    PORTLAND (118): Batum 7-15 5-6 22, Aldridge 10-21 1-3 21, Hickson 4-5 3-4 11, Lillard 9-17 2-2 24, Matthews 3-12 4-4 11, Barton 3-5 0-0 7, Jeffries 1-1 0-0 2, Leonard 1-1 0-0 2, Smith 3-6 0-0 6, Babbitt 2-7 0-0 4, Freeland 3-4 2-2 8. Totals 46-94 17-21 118.

    CLEVELAND (117): Gee 9-17 1-3 22, Thompson 5-8 0-0 10, Varejao 7-11 5-6 19, Pargo 3-12 4-4 13, Waiters 4-17 2-2 12, Zeller 6-11 2-2 14, Gibson 2-9 0-0 6, Casspi 4-9 0-1 11, Sloan 3-5 4-4 10. Totals 43-99 18-22 117.

    Portland 21 26 23 21 12 15— 118

    Cleveland 28 20 26 17 12 14— 117

    3-Point GoalsPortland 9-25 (Lillard 4-7, Batum 3-4, Barton 1-3, Matthews 1-5, Smith 0-2, Babbitt 0-4), Cleveland 13-35 (Casspi 3-6, Pargo 3-6, Gee 3-8, Gibson 2-6, Waiters 2-8, Sloan 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsPortland 49 (Aldridge 9), Cleveland 63 (Varejao 17). AssistsPortland 25 (Lillard 11), Cleveland 32 (Pargo 8). Total FoulsPortland 21, Cle. 21. A16,624.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — James Wilder Jr. ran for two touchdowns as No. 13 Florida State held off Georgia Tech 21-15 Saturday night to capture its first Atlantic Coast Conference championship since 2005 and earn a trip to the Orange Bowl.

    It was FSU's 13th ACC title.

    The heavily favored Seminoles (11-2) built a 21-6 lead at the half and held on to win, helping to erase some of the sting from last week's 37-26 home loss to Florida.

    Despite its record, Georgia Tech (6-7) is bowl eligible after receiving a waiver from the NCAA on Thursday.

    It looked like Georgia Tech, a two-touchdown underdog, might get blown out, but the game wasn't decided until Karlos Williams intercepted Tevin Washington around midfield with less than a minute remaining. The Seminoles were scoreless in the second half.

    The Yellow Jackets slowed down the Seminoles in the second half and forced two turnovers by quarterback EJ Manuel.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Andy Warrener and Steve Lee, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    EAST LAKE — The 2012 East Lake Invitational wrestling tournament provides an annual, early season tuneup for teams and individuals hoping to earn a trip to the state meet in Lakeland in February.

    Dixie Hollins (eighth, 111 points) was the top-scoring team from Pinellas County behind meet leaders Venice (247.50), Longwood Lyman (215) and Orlando George Jenkins (169.50). St. Petersburg (10th, 95.5) was the only other Pinellas team in the top 10 and host East Lake (79) was 13th.

    Dixie Hollins heavyweight Andre Matthews finished atop the 285-pound medal stand. Matthews went 4-0 and beat Lyman's Matt Hutley 4-1 in the final.

    "It feels good, I'm just back from football, practiced two weeks and here I am," he said.

    St. Petersburg all had two individual champions in seniors Thomas Moser (160) and Brandon Mayhone (220).

    Moser dominated, pinning three of his four opponents en route to a 10-6 win over Riverview's Tyler Downey. Mayhone has honed his technique of, "keeping my head up while taking shots" and claims it made a difference Saturday. Mayhone went 5-0, pinning three of his opponents as well.

    Top individual honors went to Northside Christian senior Alex Kruklinski (182). He pinned three of his four opponents and cruised to a 6-1 victory in the final against Danny Bergstrom of Largo. He was named most outstanding individual wrestler.

    PHU fifth at invite

    PLANT CITY — Palm Harbor University placed fifth as the top Tampa Bay area team at the annual Cougar Invitational at the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds.

    Host Durant finished 13th in the event, which drew 32 teams from Florida and Georgia. Kissimmee Osceola won with 258 points.

    "We bumped up three places," Palm Harbor U. coach Brad Sakevich said. "The kids wrestled tough and did a good job."

    PHU's Jared Prince (120 pounds) and Aaron Hartman (145), along with Hillsborough's Demetrius Hill (195), advanced to finals but did not win.

    Times correspondent Steve Lee contributed to this report.

    East Lake Invitational

    Team scores: 1. Venice 247.50, 2. Lyman 215, 3. George Jenkins 169.50, 4. Riverview 162, 5. Fivay 156, 6. River Ridge 124, 7. Sunlake 117, 8. Dixie Hollins 111, 9. Southridge 107.50, 10. St. Petersburg 95.50, 11. Countryside 94, 12. Dunedin 87.50, 13. East Lake 79, 14. Northeast 72, 15. Pinellas Park 67.50, 16. Largo 59, 17. Clearwater 55, 17. Mitchell 55, 19. Seminole 50, 20. Northside Christian 39, 21. Osceola 36, 21. Weeki Wachee 36, 23. Ridgewood 30, 24. Booker 23, 25. Tarpon Springs 21

    Cougar Invitational hosted by Durant

    Team scores: 1. Kissimmee Osceola 258, 2. Camden Co. 197.5, 3. Winter Springs 183.5, 4. South Dade 157.5, 5. PHU 151, 6. Effingham 136.5, 7. Riverdale 136, 8. Springstead 118.5, 9. Lake Highland Prep 115.5, 10. Lake Gibson 106.5, 11. SW Miami 102, 12. Collins Hill 92.5, 13. Durant 92, 14. Braddock 85.5, 15. Sarasota 78, 16. King 72, 16. Robinson 72, 18. Steinbrenner 70.5, 19. Bayside 59, 20. Fort Walton Beach 44, 21. Hillsborough 41, 22. Western 31, 23. Lakeland 30.5, 24. Freedom 20, 25. Strawberry Crest 15, 26. Tampa Prep 14

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    By Steve Lee and Andy Warrener, Times Correspondents
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    PLANT CITY — Palm Harbor University placed fifth and Springstead eighth Saturday to give the Tampa Bay region two top-10 teams in the 17th annual Cougar Invitational that shifted back to the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds after a year in Tampa.

    Host Durant finished 13th in the prestigious tournament that featured 32 teams from Florida and Georgia. Kissimmee Osceola won with 258 points.

    Palm Harbor's Jared Prince (120) and Aaron Hartman (145), along with Hillsborough's Demetrius Hill (195), also advanced to championship matches, but did not win. Hartman and Hill were visibly upset after both were pinned.

    Two area third-place winners were King's Wasserman (120) and Durant's Austin Haley (126). Wasserman defeated Kissimmee Osceola's Hakeem Butler in a 10-8 decision.

    "After I lost in the semis it feels good to win a wrestleback," said Wasserman, who wrestled last year at 106.

    Haley was deadlocked in a scoreless match with Palm Harbor's Mike May through two periods before winning 3-0.

    "It was very, very exciting," said Haley, who last year placed fourth in the tourney at 106. "I just had to keep with the basics. If you make one little mistake they could capitalize on that. If you place good here it kind of helps your state ranking."

    Among other area teams, King and Robinson and tied for 16th.

    Riverview fourth at East Lake Invite

    EAST LAKE — Riverview was the top-placing Hillsborough County team at the annual East Lake Invitational, finished fourth with 162 points in the 25-team field, behind meet winner Venice (247.5) on Saturday.

    The Sharks put senior Dylan Baxter (145 pounds) and junior Connor Barrick (195) at the top of the medals stand. Baxter, who was one match shy of reaching state last season, posted a 5-0 record with two pins, culminated with a 5-2 win over Venice's CJ Trammel in the final. Barrick went 4-0 with two pins before beating Venice's George Walker, 4-3.

    Times correspondent Andy Warrener contributed to this report.

    Monday's schedule

    Girls basketball

    Academy at the Lakes at Hernando Chr,, 7:30

    Lecanto at Springstead, 7:30

    Boys basketball

    Seffner Christian at Tampa Catholic, 7

    Springstead at Weeki Wachee, 7:30

    Wesley Chapel at Land O'Lakes, 7:30

    River Ridge at Pasco, 7:30

    Boys Soccer

    Calvary Chr. at Academy at the Lakes, 4

    Brooks Debartolo at Sunlake, 5

    Zephyrhills at Pasco, 6:45

    Wesley Chapel at Land O'Lakes, 7:30

    Wiregrass Ranch at Mitchell, 7:30

    Girls Soccer

    Mitchell at Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30

    Land O'Lakes at Wesley Chapel, 7:30

    River Ridge at Sunlake, 7:30

    Pasco at Zephyrhills, 7:45

    Cougar Invitational hosted by Durant

    Team scores: 1. Kissimmee Osceola 258, 2. Camden Co. 197.5, 3. Winter Springs 183.5, 4. South Dade 157.5, 5. Palm Harbor U. 151, 6. Effingham 136.5, 7. Riverdale 136, 8. Springstead 118.5, 9. Lake Highland Prep 115.5, 10. Lake Gibson 106.5, 11. SW Miami 102, 12. Collins Hill 92.5, 13. Durant 92, 14. Braddock 85.5, 15. Sarasota 78, 16. King 72, 16. Robinson 72, 18. Steinbrenner 70.5, 19. Bayside 59, 20. Fort Walton Beach 44, 21. Hillsborough 41, 22. Western 31, 23. Lakeland 30.5, 24. Freedom 20, 25. Strawberry Crest 15, 26. Tampa Prep 14.0

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    By Joe Polito, Times Correspondent
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    MANHATTAN, Kan. — Collin Klein threw for a touchdown and ran for two as No. 7 Kansas State beat No. 23 Texas 42-24 Saturday night for the Big 12 title, its third conference crown in 117 years, and a Fiesta Bowl berth.

    The Wildcats had never played for a conference championship in their last game at home. (Their other two Big 12 titles came in neutral-site games.) And the team predicted to finish sixth by the coaches during the preseason turned a 10-7 halftime deficit into a fifth consecutive victory over Texas.

    Kansas State and Oklahoma finished 8-1 in the league, but Kansas State won their matchup, 24-19 on Sept. 22 in Norman.

    The Wildcats opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive capped by John Hubert's 2-yard touchdown run. Texas answered with a touchdown drive of its own that ended with a 2-yard run by Malcolm Brown.

    But Kansas State scored the next four touchdowns. Hubert scored two of them on short runs. Klein found the end zone on a 9-yard run, and Tyler Lockett caught a 55-yard touchdown to start the blowout.

    Sooners hold off Frogs

    FORT WORTH, Texas — Landry Jones threw for 244 yards and two touchdowns as No. 12 Oklahoma beat TCU 24-17 to earn a share of the title.

    The Sooners would have won the title outright if Kansas State had lost. Even so, the Sooners, whose only other loss came to No. 1 Notre Dame, are in good shape for an at-large BCS berth.

    "In the end, it's just great to be in this position and to be a winner again," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. "For these guys, Big 12 champs or co-champs, they're recognized as champions."

    TCU still had a chance when Oklahoma's Mike Hunnicut missed a 42-yard field goal with 2:49 left. Freshman quarterback Trevone Boykin appeared to score on a 12-yard run. But a holding penalty nullified the touchdown. Soon after, Hunnicut threw an incompletion on fourth and 12.

    "We like to make them interesting around this place," Jones said. "Unfortunately, we didn't finish it the way we wanted to offensively, but the defense did."

    TCU, a two-time BCS buster while in the Mountain West, lost all four of its Big 12 home games (while going 4-1 in the road games) in its first season in the league.

    "We had a chance to win," TCU coach Gary Patterson said; "simple as that."

    Baylor 41, No. 24 Okla. St. 34: Lache Seastrunk rushed for 178 yards, including a late 76-yard touchdown, for the host Bears. Baylor has won at least seven games in three consecutive seasons for the first time since 1949-51. One play after the Cowboys cut it to 34-27 with 5:30 left, Seastrunk burst through the middle. He slowed about 25 yards shy of the end zone, stumbled and fell with a cramp in his right leg as he scored. "In order to be a good football team like we've been the last few years … you have to be able to win on the road," Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said. "That comes with experience and maturity. We didn't really have that (Saturday)."

    W. Va. 59, Kansas 10: Geno Smith tied a Division I-A record by completing 95.8 percent of his passes for the host Mountaineers. He went 23-of-24 for 407 yards and three touchdowns, matching Tennessee's Tee Martin against South Carolina in 1998. West Virginia scored touchdowns on five of its six first-half possessions to lead 35-7.

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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer, and Times wires
    Saturday, December 1, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — Reliever Burke Badenhop anxiously waited out Friday's midnight non-tender deadline, relieved the Rays offered him a contract for next season.

    Then he got up Saturday and found out he was traded to Milwaukee for a minor-leaguer.

    "I was definitely surprised, especially right after the tender date," Badenhop said via text message. "I was pleased to wake up this morning as a Ray, but that didn't last long."

    The Rays saved his projected $1.6 million salary (up from $1.075 million), but also must have felt they could upgrade his middle relief spot. In a career-high 66 appearances, Badenhop was 3-2 with a 3.03 ERA after being acquired from the Marlins in a similar deal last year.

    "I couldn't have been more appreciative to have spent time with Tampa Bay," Badenhop said. "It's tough to leave but I'm happy to land with a great team like Milwaukee. Spending a year with (manager) Joe Maddon, (pitching coach) Jim Hickey and (executive vice president) Andrew Friedman was a great experience."

    In return, the Rays got outfielder Raul Mondesi Jr., a 20-year-old who played at rookie-level Helena last year, hitting .231 with five homers and 32 RBIs in 68 games. He is the son of the former NL All-Star.

    The Rays have Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee back in their bullpen, plus Wade Davis if he is not traded or moved back to the rotation. Other internal candidates are Cesar Ramos, Brandon Gomes, Josh Lueke and whichever other starters don't make the rotation.

    The Rays let outfielder Ben Francisco become a free agent at the deadline but hung on to infielder Ryan Roberts, who projects to make around $3 million. Roberts would look to be the starting second baseman, though the Rays are going to remain open to other options and could use him at a number of positions.

    Around the majors

    CUBS ADD JAPANESE PITCHER: Right-handed reliever Kyuji Fujikawa agreed to a two-year deal with Chicago that has a vesting option for a third year and includes a guaranteed $9.5 million, FOX Sports reported. Fujikawa, 32, is expected to be the Cubs' closer.

    D'BACKS, HUFF TALK: The Diamondbacks have contacted former Ray Aubrey Huff, 35, and may look at him as a backup corner infielder.

    GIANTS CLOSER ON MARKET: The Giants elected to non-tender Brian Wilson on Friday, meaning the former All-Star closer is now a free agent. A key figure during the club's run to the 2010 World Series title, Wilson made two appearances this season before having reconstructive elbow surgery for a second time.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report. Marc Topkin be reached at topkin@tampabay.com

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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    INDIANAPOLIS — If you had spent time around the Wisconsin players and coaches last week, you never would have suspected the unranked Badgers were entering the Big Ten title game against No. 14 Nebraska having lost three of their past four games in overtime.

    "We have been through a lot as a team, a lot of heartbreaking losses," senior defensive end Brendan Kelly said last week. "But I think at some point that makes you closer and makes you want it more, because you are so close and you're not getting what you want.

    "It's like you have a dog on a chain and you're trying to hold him back. But he is barking, and he is ready to go."

    That was one big dog that broke its chain Saturday night at Lucas Oil Stadium.

    Wisconsin rushed for more than 500 yards and scored 10 touchdowns in a 70-31 beatdown of Nebraska to earn a place in the Rose Bowl against Stanford.

    James White lead the Badgers (8-5) with four rushing touchdowns and one passing, a 2-yard toss to tight end Sam Arneson. But he ran for a paltry 108 yards — paltry compared to Melvin Gordon's 217 (one touchdown) and Montee Ball's 201 (three scores).

    Wisconsin rushed for the 539 yards total. It passed for 101. Quarterback Curt Phillips was 6-of-8 for 71 yards.

    Defensive back Marcus Cromartie also returned an interception for a touchdown for Wisconsin, which is the first team to reach the Rose Bowl with five losses and the first Big Ten team to make the game three straight years since Michigan in the late 1970s.

    The Cornhuskers (10-3) were down 14-0 2:07 into the game on Gordon's 56-yard run and Cromartie's 29-yard return. With 4:46 left in the quarter, they were within 10-7 on a 76-yard score by quarterback Taylor Martinez and a 32-yard field goal by Brett Maher.

    They didn't score again until 10:47 of the third quarter, on an 11-yard run by Martinez that made the score 49-17.

    Martinez rushed 19 times for 140 yards and the two scores, and was 17-of-33 passing for 182 yards and no touchdowns.

    Nebraska entered having won its past six games and as champion of the Legends Division with a 7-1 record.

    With a 4-4 league record, Wisconsin was the third-best team in the Leaders Division, behind Ohio State (12-0, 8-0) and Penn State (8-4, 6-2).

    With the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA sanctions, Wisconsin represented the division in the title game. The Badgers spent last week explaining why they belonged in it.

    "We make no apologies for going to the game at all," defensive line coach Charlie Partridge said. "We do things right as much as we can. And for that reason we did enough to go to the game this year.

    "Every game that we didn't come out on the front end of it, we were competitive. The scores tell that."

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    By Andy Warrener and Steve Lee, Times Correspondents
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Fivay finished fifth overall to lead a strong North Suncoast contingent at the East Lake Invitational wrestling meet on Saturday, while Springstead was eighth at Durant's Cougar Invitational at Plant City.

    Fivay scored 156 points at East Lake, well behind meet winner Venice (247.5), with River Ridge sixth (124) and Sunlake seventh (117) in the top 10 of the 25-team meet. The East Lake Invitational is one of the big early season tuneups for teams and individuals hoping to earn a trip to the state meet at Lakeland in February. Mitchell, Weeki Wachie and Ridgewood also competed.

    The Falcons put two individuals atop the podium, with junior Cole Manion (106 pounds) and senior Collin Hahn (170) winning their weight classes.

    Manion was just one match shy of the state finals last season, but according to coach Andy Medders the junior is, "way better" this year and is now cutting weight to make 106 instead of eating to make 106. Manion beat Venice's Kyle Kelley 7-4.

    Teammate Hahn did advance to the state meet last year and went 4-0 at East Lake, including a final where he topped Lyman's Josh Velez 3-1 despite having his nose bloodied.

    "He (Velez) had a good stance, it was hard to set up my shots," Hahn said.

    River Ridge had senior Dakota Arends reach the top the 113-pound medal stand. Arends was fifth at state last season after compiling a 38-5 record in Class 2A. He went 4-0 Saturday, pinning two opponents and outscoring the others 18-4. Arends wrestles at a more natural weight this year with higher expectations.

    "At 106 last year, my body felt drained," Arends said. "I'm wrestling at my natural weight this year and now I don't think about it anymore, it just flows."

    At the Cougar Invitational at the Strawberry Festival Fairgrounds, Springstead's Michael McDonald claimed the North Suncoast's lone individual title. McDonald (10-0) reached the 113-pound final after four pins and posted a major decision victory over South Dade's Maleek Williams 10-2.

    "I don't know if I had as much confidence last year as a freshman," said McDonald, who was eliminated in the first round of last year's invitational. "Now I work hard."

    Springstead posted 118.5 points behind meet winner Kissimmee Osceola (258).

    Times correspondent Steve Lee contributed to this report.

    East Lake Invitational

    Team scores: 1. Venice 247.50, 2. Lyman 215, 3. George Jenkins 169.50, 4. Riverview 162, 5. Fivay 156, 6. River Ridge 124, 7. Sunlake 117, 8. Dixie Hollins 111, 9. Southridge 107.50, 10. St. Petersburg 95.50, 11. Countryside 94, 12. Dunedin 87.50, 13. East Lake 79, 14. Northeast 72, 15. Pinellas Park 67.50, 16. Largo 59, 17. Clearwater 55, 17. Mitchell 55, 19. Seminole 50, 20. Northside Christian 39, 21. Osceola 36, 21. Weeki Wachee 36, 23. Ridgewood 30, 24. Booker 23, 25. Tarpon Springs 21

    Cougar Invitational hosted by Durant

    Team scores: 1. Kissimmee Osceola 258, 2. Camden Co. 197.5, 3. Winter Springs 183.5, 4. South Dade 157.5, 5. Palm Harbor U. 151, 6. Effingham 136.5, 7. Riverdale 136, 8. Springstead 118.5, 9. Lake Highland Prep 115.5, 10. Lake Gibson 106.5, 11. SW Miami 102, 12. Collins Hill 92.5, 13. Durant 92, 14. Braddock 85.5, 15. Sarasota 78, 16. King 72, 16. Robinson 72, 18. Steinbrenner 70.5, 19. Bayside 59, 20. Fort Walton Beach 44, 21. Hillsborough 41, 22. Western 31, 23. Lakeland 30.5, 24. Freedom 20, 25. Strawberry Crest 15, 26. Tampa Prep 14.0

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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    TAMPA — Three years ago, Skip Holtz came to the USF football program with optimism and excitement, hopeful he could elevate the Bulls to their first Big East title and more.

    Sunday, less than a day removed from a humbling end to a 3-9 season, the worst in USF history, that chapter closed. Holtz was fired as coach after a 1-6 Big East record this year left him 5-16 in conference play during his tenure, easily the league's worst record in that time.

    Athletic director Doug Woolard called the firing a "very difficult" decision. It is also an expensive one, costing USF $2.5 million over the next five years under the buyout terms of his contract.

    The Bulls now turn their focus to finding the third coach in the program's 16 years.

    "It's not easy to part ways with such a good man," Woolard said during a news conference at USF's Lee Roy Selmon Athletic Center. "I am thankful for his friendship and what he has done for USF athletics. However, my responsibility to our students, our fan base and the university as a whole is clear: We must put a more successful football program on the field. Beginning today, we move in a new direction toward that goal."

    Six months ago, Woolard thought Holtz was part of that direction, giving him a contract extension through the 2017 season despite the Bulls losing seven of their final eight games last year to finish 5-7, 1-6 in the Big East. Woolard saw other programs courting Holtz and wanted the stability of a new deal, but as a result, USF's buyout is $1.5 million more than it would have been under his original contract.

    Woolard said the extension had "zero" impact on his decision to fire Holtz, 48, who won two Conference USA championships at East Carolina before coming to Tampa. His Bulls record overall was 16-21.

    "I want to thank my assistant coaches, staff, the players and their families for their dedication and loyalty," Holtz said in a statement released by USF. "I'm extremely proud of how they fought through adversity during this time. Throughout my time here, the young men on this team never gave up, and that reflects on their character, as individuals and as a team."

    Holtz did not return messages seeking further comment.

    Holtz's teams could compete with anyone but were best known for late-game collapses. Three games last season were lost on the final play and a fourth with 12 seconds left. This year the Bulls lost three games by allowing 75-yard touchdown drives in the final two minutes. Nine of Holtz's losses came by four points or fewer, which only added to the frustration of USF fans.

    "I am keenly aware of how difficult the 2012 football season has been to our loyal and faithful fan base," said Woolard, one day after USF's season finale, a 27-3 loss to Pittsburgh, drew an actual attendance of 18,841 at Raymond James Stadium, barely half the number of tickets distributed for the announced attendance of 35,141. "While our program is young … our history is rich, and the expectations of coaches, players, students, administrators and fans are high. That is why the past few months have been hard for all of us," Woolard said.

    Holtz remained positive and upbeat throughout, stressing the progress his players were making everywhere but in the league standings. Woolard was quick to point out the huge academic strides the program made under Holtz, setting records for highest team grade-point average one semester after the next.

    But coaches are ultimately judged by the scoreboard.

    Holtz had a 2 p.m. meeting Sunday to say goodbye to his players, an emotional gathering for a close team.

    USF did not allow the players to talk to the media, but they expressed their sentiments on social media. They were disappointed by Holtz's firing and thanked him for his positive influence on and off the field.

    "All I can say is (Holtz) taught me more than football," freshman linebacker Corian Hamilton said on Twitter. "He taught me how to be a good man and one day be a great father. Thanks."

    "It's somber," said assistant coach Larry Scott, a member of USF's first team in 1997. "It's a really good group of kids. He's a great man, great husband, great father, great leader of men.

    "(But) if you're not performing well, if you're not putting a product out that you want, things like this at some point are inevitable."

    USF will move quickly to find a replacement for Holtz. One popular choice is Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart, young enough at 36 that he had three touchdowns as a Western Kentucky quarterback in beating the Bulls in their first season. Taggart coached under Jim Harbaugh, currently the San Francisco 49ers coach in the National Football League, when Harbaugh was a college coach at Stanford, and this season he guided Western Kentucky to an upset at Kentucky of the Southeastern Conference.

    "Every program experiences highs and lows on the way to national prominence," Woolard said. "Brighter days are ahead. … Our fan base deserves to know that we are committed toward making USF successful on a national scale. We will conduct our search for the next head coach with that in mind."

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    By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    TAMPA — Steve Spurrier's last Tampa bowl trip — a 31-10 loss to Iowa — was so humiliating, he reportedly pondered retirement.

    That was four years, 37 victories, two quarterbacks and one division title ago. Now, the 67-year-old ball coach is returning, equipped with a bit of the old swagger and sound bites.

    "We stunk it up and didn't play well (in that 2009 game)," Spurrier said. "I feel we're a completely different team than we were four years ago."

    The Outback Bowl announced Sunday that Spurrier's 11th-ranked South Carolina squad (10-2) will face No. 19 Michigan (8-4) in the annual SEC-Big Ten clash on New Year's Day at Raymond James Stadium.

    "This one's going to be a ball," Outback Bowl president/CEO Jim McVay said Sunday evening with his trademark glee.

    "You've got Steve Spurrier … playing the high-profile Michigan Wolverines with a quarterback (Deerfield Beach's Denard Robinson) from Florida who's one of the dynamic playmakers in the country."

    The Outback, just behind the Capital One in the non-BCS bowl pecking order, typically takes an SEC East squad. It had no shot at Sugar Bowl-bound Florida and hosted SEC runner-up Georgia in last year's contest.

    That left the Gamecocks and Vanderbilt as the East's lone remaining bowl-eligible teams, barring the Outback being able to snag a West squad.

    "We talked about a lot of things, and there were some questions about certain teams that may or may not be available," McVay said.

    "It just came out that this was the way that we wanted to go with South Carolina and Spurrier and (NFL-bound defensive end) Jadeveon Clowney and the Gamecocks. (The SEC) has got six teams in the top (11), so how could you go wrong?"

    Spurrier, who has never faced Michigan, has compiled a 37-15 record since that loss to Iowa. By contrast, Michigan coach Brady Hoke's last Outback trip — as a Wolverines assistant — ended triumphantly if not comically.

    With roughly a minute to go in the 2003 contest, diminutive left-handed Florida receiver Vernell Brown took a reverse handoff and tossed a wobbly pass to the left flat toward quarterback Rex Grossman, the intended receiver.

    Wolverines linebacker Victor Hobson picked it off, securing a 38-30 Wolverines win. But that was against Spurrier's UF successor, Ron Zook.

    This time, Michigan gets Spurrier himself.

    "(The Outback) made my final game as an assistant coach at Michigan … a very enjoyable and memorable experience," Hoke said in a statement. "The SEC is an excellent conference and we look forward to the challenge of facing them on New Year's Day."

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    DENVER — He threw a touchdown pass to a defensive tackle. He converted a third down by dumping the football to a running back already sprawled on his keister. When referees failed to reward him for catching the defense with too many men on the field, he ran down the sideline, called timeout and convinced his coach to throw the red flag for a challenge, which his team won.

    All that was left for Peyton Manning to do as the final seconds drained from the Broncos' 31-23 win Sunday was avoid the melee resulting from Bucs coach Greg Schiano ordering his defense to fire off the ball when the quarterback took a knee.

    "After the game he came up and told me on the end-of-the-game play, he didn't mean any harm or injury to me, and I appreciated that comment," Manning said.

    After witnessing Sunday's performance, the Bucs probably felt like kneeling before Manning.

    The legend of the Broncos quarterback grew by another chapter as Manning passed for 242 yards and three touchdowns to help Denver (9-3) win its seventh straight game and clinch the AFC West.

    "I give the guy a lot of credit," Bucs safety Ronde Barber said of Manning. "He's the best quarterback of my generation for a reason."

    The second straight loss allowed the Falcons to clinch the NFC South and dropped the Bucs (6-6) one game behind Seattle for the final wild card.

    Tampa Bay led 10-7 at halftime before Manning capped third-quarter drives with touchdown passes of 8 and 10 yards to Demaryius Thomas.

    The Broncos made it 28-10 when Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman was hit by tackle Mitch Unrein as he threw a pass, which was intercepted and returned 26 yards for a touchdown by linebacker Von Miller.

    The Bucs battled back on field goals of 50 and 55 yards by Connor Barth and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Freeman to Mike Williams with 2:33 to play. But Denver recovered the ensuing onside kick to end Tampa Bay's comeback hopes.

    Manning was composed, confident and in command against a Bucs defense that entered last in the NFL against the pass. He started the game by capping a 65-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown to the 6-foot-4, 291-pound Unrein, who entered the game as a fullback and had not scored a touchdown since ninth grade.

    Still, the Bucs led at halftime, 10-7.

    That didn't last long. In the second half, Manning took over the game. He converted one third down by dumping a pass to running back Knowshon Moreno, who was sprawled on the turf just in front of the yardsticks near the Bucs bench.

    "I can't decide if he was trying to throw that ball there or trying to get rid of it," Barber said. "Either way, that's Peyton Manning.

    It was a heck of a play."

    The play was so clever, Schiano complimented Manning on the sideline.

    "That's the first time I've ever had an (opposing) head coach tell me that was a good play in the middle of the game," Manning said, "so I appreciated the compliment."

    Schiano was less than complimentary when Manning caught the Bucs with too many men on the field by using his no-huddle tempo after it appeared they were stopped on third and 1 early in the second quarter.

    Officials didn't throw a flag initially, so Manning ran down the sideline, signaled for a timeout, then implored Broncos coach John Fox to throw the challenge flag. He did, and the call was reversed after review.

    Schiano argued with officials that Manning never left the field with the Broncos in punt formation.

    "The whole bit, the whole operation, I'm not sure of," Schiano said.

    Manning's efforts went for naught when the Bucs forced a punt soon after.

    For the second straight game, the Bucs never got running back Doug Martin untracked. He was held to 56 yards on 18 carries (3.1-yard average) a week after the Falcons limited him to 50 yards on 21 attempts.

    "The reality is when you get hit and throw the pick six, it changes the complexion of the game," Schiano said. "Now we're not able to run the football."

    With the Broncos' pass rush free to tee off, Freeman struggled. He finished 18-of-39 for 242 yards, two touchdowns and the interception. While he was only sacked once, Freeman was probably hit more than he had been in any game this season.

    "When he had ample time, I thought he played well," Schiano said. "I thought he had control of the game the entire time. The pick six, he had no control over. He got hit."

    Schiano drew a scolding from Giants coach Tom Coughlin in Week 2 when he had his defense submarine Eli Manning in the final seconds of the game during the kneel-down. On Sunday, big brother got the same treatment. He was ready for it — the last Manning standing.

    "Certainly, you're looking at a first-ballot Hall of Famer," Schiano said of Peyton. "There are reasons why."


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    By Jim Huddleston, Times Correspondent
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    What's hot: Winter is great for exploring the flats for dropoffs game fish use as ambush areas. Negative tides leave shoals exposed, as well as sandy potholes that dot the shallows. Clear water throughout the St. Joseph Sound creates great sight-casting opportunities for large speckled trout and redfish.

    Tactics: With larger female trout moving inside the barrier islands toward the grass flats, artificials have been productive. Use turtle-grass-colored jerkbaits and darker soft suspension baits in 2-4 feet. Focus on sandy potholes with good current flow such as the flats east of the spoil islands along the Intracoastal Waterway.

    Tip: When live-baiting specks, rig a select-sized shrimp about 3 feet from the cork. A peg cork with a small part of the top broken off will chug water when popping. This often will draw reaction strikes from nearby.

    Jim Huddleston charters out of Tampa, Palm Harbor and Clearwater and can be reached at (727) 439-9017 and at jimmy@captainhud.com.

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  • 12/02/12--16:08: Patriots 23, Dolphins 16
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Pats clinch East vs. error-prone 'Fins

    MIAMI — Even when the Dolphins intercepted Tom Brady, they made a costly mistake.

    A blocking penalty on the runback cost Miami points, and several other lapses also hurt as the Patriots won to clinch their fourth consecutive AFC East title.

    Brady stuck with short throws for much of the afternoon and was content to hand off during a clock-consuming drive in the fourth quarter.

    "It's not supposed to be easy, and it wasn't easy (Sunday)," said Brady, whose team gained a season-low 321 yards.

    A botched punt, a roughing-the-punter penalty and a fumble by Miami resulted in 17 New England points. The blocking penalty negated a touchdown on the interception return by safety Reshad Jones.

    "It's tough to beat a good team like New England with missed opportunities," guard Richie Incognito said. "We're a team with no margin for error. That's the story of the game: They made their plays, and we didn't."

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  • 12/02/12--16:11: Bills 34, Jaguars 18
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Bills QB shines

    ORCHARD PARK, N.Y — With his job security in question, Bills QB Ryan Fitzpatrick came through with one of his most complete performances of the season.

    Fitzpatrick threw two touchdown passes and scored on a 1-yard run to lead the Bills past the Jaguars. He led five consecutive scoring drives that produced 27 points.

    The Bills won despite finishing the game without their top two receivers. Stevie Johnson left late in the third quarter after hurting his left hamstring, and Donald Jones (calf) sat out.

    After going 33-of-59 for 615 yards and six TDs in his past two games, Jaguars QB Chad Henne struggled, including a game-ending interception by safety Jairus Byrd.

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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — Mercer never blinked, pushing back one Florida State run after another to upset the defending Atlantic Coast Conference champions Sunday.

    Langston Hall and Travis Smith hit two free throws each in the final 23 seconds to lift the Bears to a 61-56 upset over the Seminoles.

    "We played a lot of guys and we've got to get production from all of them to win a game like this with a game on the line," Mercer coach Bob Hoffman said. "We've got a group of veteran kids who believe what they can do together at a high level."

    Smith led Mercer (4-4), an Atlantic Sun member, with 13 points, and Hall had 10 points, five assists and five steals. It was the Bears' first win over FSU since 1954 but their second in as many seasons over an ACC team. They defeated Georgia Tech last season.

    The Seminoles (4-3) have lost two in a row heading into Wednesday's game against seventh-ranked Florida. Coach Leonard Hamilton took much longer than usual before coming to the media room afterward but didn't discuss what he said to his team, which has one full-time starter, Michael Snaer, back from last year's ACC titlists.

    He praised Mercer, which won 27 a year ago and returned many of its players.

    "To their credit, they did what experienced teams do," Hamilton said. "They did a very good job … maintaining their poise, didn't panic."

    Former Clearwater High standout Okaro White was the lone FSU player in double figures, finishing with 14 points and a team-best six rebounds.

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