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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    GAINESVILLE — One year after barely qualifying for a bowl game at all, the Florida Gators are going to a BCS bowl.

    Florida (11-1) finished the season ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings, behind No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama, and will play Louisville (10-2) in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 2 in New Orleans. The Gators will be making their 22nd consecutive bowl appearance, the second-longest streak in the nation and tops in the SEC.

    This will be Florida's first BCS bowl appearance since a 51-24 victory over Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl after the 2009 season, and the Gators' ninth overall appearance in the Sugar Bowl. Florida is 3-5 in its eight previous Sugar Bowl appearances, which includes a 52-20 victory over Florida State for the national championship after the 1996 season.

    "We're honored to play in New Orleans," Florida coach Will Muschamp said Sunday night. "New Orleans is a great place for a lot of Gators, it was their first national championship in 1996. I have a lot of respect for Louisville and the football team they have."

    Louisville, making its first appearance in the Sugar Bowl, earned its BCS bid with a 20-17 victory over Rutgers this past Thursday.

    Interestingly, this is not the matchup most fans anticipated before Sunday afternoon. Florida was expected to play Oklahoma, a rematch of the national championship game after the 2008 season. But when Northern Illinois unexpectedly ended up ranked high enough in the BCS standings to earn a BCS bid, it knocked Oklahoma out.

    "We're going to play in the Sugar Bowl and represent our conference and that's a huge honor in itself," Muschamp said. "We have great motivation for this game, regardless of the circumstances."

    For many Gator players, the game will pit them against their former defensive coordinator, Charlie Strong, now in his third season as head coach at Louisville. Former UF assistants Vance Bedford and Kenny Carter are also on Louisville's staff.

    "We're so excited here at the University of Louisville to be playing an opponent like the University of Florida," Strong said. "Our football team has done a great job. It's a resilient team, a team that we had two of our stumbles late in the season, but from the onset we played pretty well. And I'm just so happy for this program and so happy for this university."

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires


    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    NEW YORK — On one side, a blossoming dynasty from the college football capital of the Deep South. On the other, the sport's most famous team, trying to reclaim its place among the elite.

    Notre Dame and Alabama bring star power and power football to the BCS title game.

    The matchup became official Sunday night when the final standings were released and, to no one's surprise, the Fighting Irish were first and the Crimson Tide was second.

    The one bit of drama on Sunday was whether Northern Illinois could be this year's BCS buster. The Huskies got in, getting a spot in the Orange Bowl against Florida State, taking a bid away from Oklahoma and again irking some fans.

    As for the main event in the penultimate BCS, there was little controversy: No. 1 Notre Dame (12-0) against No. 2 Alabama (12-1) in Miami. The Irish clinched their spot a week ago by completing their perfect season against Southern Cal.

    "The tradition of Alabama and Notre Dame brings special attention to it, but we're just trying to the best team on Monday, Jan. 7," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said Sunday. "All of that tradition, what's happened in the past, is not going to help us Jan. 7, but we do respect the traditions."

    Coach Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide are on the verge of one of the great runs in history. Alabama would become the first team to repeat as champs since the BCS was implemented in 1998.

    Alabama earned its spot Saturday, beating Georgia 32-28 in a thrilling SEC title game. The Tide put its no-frills muscle on display, mashing Georgia with 350 yards rushing. Eddie Lacy ran for 181 to up his season total to 1,182 with 17 touchdowns. T.J. Yeldon has more speed, going for 1,000 yards with 12 TDs.

    Notre Dame's Kelly built his reputation at previous stops on fast-paced spread offenses. In South Bend, Ind., he has put the fight back in the Irish, who have not won a national title since 1988. Notre Dame has allowed the fewest touchdowns in the country (10) and is sixth in total defense (286 yards per game). The face of the Irish is middle linebacker Manti Te'o, who is a likely Heisman finalist.

    Along with 300-pound linemen Stephon Tuitt and Louis Nix, they form a red-zone wall. Late goal-line stands highlighted wins against Stanford and USC.

    "There's some pretty physical guys that have some great toughness and some great licks," Saban said of Notre Dame.

    A look at BCS games that don't include Florida teams:

    Rose Bowl: Unranked Wisconsin (8-5) makes its third straight trip to this bowl, while No. 8 Stanford (11-2) is hoping for another victory in its run through the BCS. It's a rematch of the 2000 Rose, won 17-9 by Wisconsin. But the Badgers have lost their last two trips, against TCU and Oregon. Stanford is in its third consecutive BCS bowl, having been to the Orange and Fiesta in consecutive seasons previously.

    Fiesta Bowl: No. 5 Oregon and No. 7 Kansas State, teams in the national-title picture just two weeks ago and 11-1 now, will give the Fiesta a second straight marquee matchup after last year's Okahoma State-Stanford double-overtime thriller. The Ducks, with Heisman Trophy contender Kenjon Barner and all those fleet-footed players, against the gritty Wildcats and their Heisman-worthy quarterback, Collin Klein. The score could easily go as high as last year's 41-38 Cowboys' victory.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Ryan Lilja's eyes welled as he recalled the emotions in the Chiefs locker room moments after Sunday's 27-21 win over the Panthers.

    The victory came a day after linebacker Jovan Belcher murdered his girlfriend — police said he shot her nine times at their apartment in front of his mother, the New York Post reported — and later committed suicide at the team's training facility in front of coach Romeo Crennel, GM Scott Pioli and defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs.

    "It was different," said Lilja, an offensive lineman and nine-year veteran. "There were emotions that guys aren't used to feeling after wins or losses. Guys were confused. … A lot of hugs, a lot of tears and a lot of guys saying, 'I love you' and meaning it."

    Many players' eyes were moist with tears as they talked about how difficult it was to deal with the loss of a teammate and anger over Belcher, 25, murdering Kasandra Perkins, 22, with whom he had a 3-month-old daughter, Zoey.

    Tackle Eric Winston said the day probably was hardest on running back Jamaal Charles, whose wife was a cousin of Perkins'. Belcher and Perkins met through Charles, said Brianne York, a friend of Perkins'.

    Winston said he told Charles before the game, on behalf of the offensive line, "We're going to go carry you." Charles had 127 yards.

    Charles was not available to the media after the game.

    "I feel for Jamaal more than anybody," Winston said. "(Perkins) was family to him. … I'm sure he has some conflicting emotions, much more and much deeper, and much more vigorous than we have."

    Crennel said he did not want to discuss seeing Belcher kill himself. "Hopefully you'll respect my wishes on that because it wasn't a pretty sight," he said. Pioli and Gibbs did not speak to reporters.

    Crennel knew he had to be strong for his players, especially after it was decided in a meeting with the team's six captains Saturday the game would be played. "I'm even-keeled, and I felt that I would be able to handle it," he said, adding "everybody was on board" with the decision to play.

    Players had discussed setting up a trust fund for Zoey. But, Winston said, "we can toss all the money we want at it, but that's not going to bring her parents back."

    Belcher and Perkins briefly lived apart but had gotten back together by Thanksgiving, York said. The couple had argued about "normal couple stuff," and Perkins had gone to visit her family in Texas after Halloween, York said. Perkins also briefly stayed with Charles' wife.

    The root of their arguments was that "sometimes (Belcher) would just be down in his man cave or whatever" and Perkins wanted more family time, York said. "They ended up wanting to try to work it out, and the next time I went over and visited, she told me everything was good … so I thought everything was fine."

    Kansas City police spokesman Darin Snapp reiterated the couple had argued recently but couldn't provide details. Reports said the couple argued after Perkins went to a concert Friday night, then out with friends and got home around 1 a.m. Saturday.


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  • 12/02/12--20:05: Bengals 20, Chargers 13
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Bengals sail on as Chargers flailing

    SAN DIEGO — Andy Dalton and the Bengals didn't flinch. No, they just had to bide their time and wait for the Chargers to cough up another fourth-quarter lead.

    Dalton scrambled up the middle for a 6-yard touchdown with 4:11 left for the go-ahead score as Cincinnati won its fourth straight.

    The Bengals also kept coming after Philip Rivers, forcing two turnovers in the final 3:54.

    "We kept overcoming adversity and we didn't flinch," coach Marvin Lewis said. "We just went out there and went back to work. … We weren't perfect. But we had to keep playing and make adjustments and keep coming."

    The Bengals remained tied with Pittsburgh in the race for the AFC's second wild-card berth.

    The Chargers are on the cusp of missing the playoffs for the third straight season, which is all but certain to cost coach Norv Turner his job, and maybe general manager A.J. Smith too.

    "We were flat as hell the second half," fullback Le'Ron McClain said.


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  • 12/02/12--20:13: Browns 20, Raiders 17
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Cleveland breaks road skid at 12

    OAKLAND, Calif. — Nursing a three-point lead and backed up to the shadow of his own goal posts, rookie Brandon Weeden engineered a touchdown drive that gave the Browns a happy plane ride home, and hope for a much brighter future.

    Weeden threw for a career-high 364 yards and a touchdown and made key plays on the clinching 94-yard drive that helped the Browns snap a 12-game road losing streak by beating the Raiders.

    "That was kind of a statement," Weeden said. "We strung together a lot of really good plays. That shows the potential we have as an offense, and that's encouraging."

    Weeden hit fellow rookie Josh Gordon on a 44-yard score in the second quarter and Trent Richardson scored on a 3-yard run after Sheldon Brown made a key interception deep in Cleveland territory.

    The Raiders have lost five straight and were eliminated from playoff contention for a 10th straight year.


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    Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Playoff picture murkier

    Making the playoffs isn't out of the question for the Bucs. But Sunday's events didn't help their chances.

    Their loss at Denver, coupled with the Seattle's thrilling overtime win in Chicago, left Tampa Bay one game behind the Seahawks (7-5) in the race for the final NFC wildcard berth.

    The Vikings, who also are in the race, lost to the Packers and are tied with the Bucs at 6-6 (although the Bucs own the tiebreaker by virtue of their head-to-head victory).

    And there's another possible variable, too. The Redskins (5-6) play tonight against the Giants and could put themselves in position to make a run at postseason, too. Washington would own the tiebreaker with the Bucs because of its head-to-head victory over Tampa Bay.

    The Bucs' remaining games are against the Eagles, Saints, Rams and Falcons, and the margin for error now is smaller.

    "We have a lot of football left to be played," QB Josh Freeman said. "We are, right now, a game out. We're just focused on the next game, focused on getting ready for the Eagles. I know everybody can't wait to get back in the building, watch this game, evaluate, try to learn and try and grow."

    Freeman picked for six

    There might not have been a bigger play in Sunday's game than LB Von Miller's interception and 26-yard touchdown return in the third quarter.

    With the Bucs already trying to mitigate the damage done by two Peyton Manning touchdown passes earlier in the quarter, QB Josh Freeman, while absorbing a hit from DT Mitch Unrein, tried to throw downfield to WR Vincent Jackson, who was running a go route but hardly seemed open.

    "I thought I had a window to stick it in there, but it didn't play out," Freeman said. "The type of swing pick-sixes are, from a momentum standpoint, from a points standpoint, it's tough to overcome."

    Miller's version was as follows: "It was just a basic zone-drop for us. I was able to drop back and I think Josh saw me at the last second. I was able to get my hands on it and get into the end zone. Great blocking by my teammates, too."

    In the backfield, Freeman was under duress from Unrein, who had a rather easy path to the quarterback.

    "Actually, nobody even blocked me, so I had a free run to the quarterback," he said. "Luckily, I got a little pressure on him. I don't know if that caused him to throw it to Von or not."

    The play put the Bucs three scores behind, 28-10, and proved the beginning of the end.

    No fooling Peyton

    The Bucs knew it was probably an unreasonable objective. After all, you don't exactly fool Peyton Manning. You can make him think, or make him second guess himself. But usually, Manning figures you out.

    Despite the Bucs' best efforts on Sunday, Manning overcame their strategies.

    "We did a lot of different things on defense today," S Ronde Barber said. "... But the guy has been doing this a long time. There's not much he hasn't seen or can't figure out. I give him a lot of credit."

    Among the tricks the Bucs used was a particularly interesting one. While Manning makes numerous changes and calls at the line of scrimmage, the Bucs, rather than react to them, decided to stand pat until after the ball was snapped. The idea, players said, was to not tip off their coverages and blitzes before the snap.

    "I think it helped a little," LB Lavonte David said. "He's like a machine out there. So we tried to just play it cool."

    The Bucs tried a variety of blitzes, too, none of which had a major effect. They didn't register a sack or even an official quarterback hit. Manning's trademark quick release plus his ability to throw passes with great anticipation made pressuring him nearly impossible.

    "With the way he throws the ball, he's getting the ball out quick," DT Gerald McCoy said. "He doesn't hold the ball. ... He is who he is. I'll just credit him."

    And among the biggest challenges when facing Manning is the breakneck pace at which he conducts the offense, often racing up to the line of scrimmage to catch defenders out of position and prevent defensive substitutions.

    "I actually thought we handled it pretty well in the first half," Barber said. "But it's difficult. Obviously we're trying to substitute and he's not letting you substitute. He has his plays and most of their stuff is checked at the line of scrimmage anyway because he's comfortable doing that. We're trying to play that chess game with him and it's not as easy as it may seem."

    Hit parade on Freeman

    The stat sheet will reflect that Josh Freeman was sacked just one time by the Broncos. His aching body this morning will tell him the toll was much greater.

    Freeman was on the run from the Broncos' stout defensive front, finishing 18 of 39 for 242 yards and an interception.

    "We knew coming in that they've done that to everybody," coach Greg Schiano said. "That's where our line was struggling. They (the Broncos) are really productive. ... They made a couple plays that certainly hurt us for sure."

    The score only compounded the problems. When the Broncos had a breakout third quarter, scoring 21 points to take a 28-10 lead, it forced the Bucs to throw more regularly, which played to the Broncos' strength.

    "Once you make it a one-dimensional game, they have a lot of athletes out there that can get to the quarterback," G Jeremy Zuttah said.

    Not that Freeman let it affect his mindset.

    "Josh always deals with it," Zuttah said. "He's never going to cry about the pressure. He's always (saying), 'Come on, guys, let's make a play' and we try to play through it together."

    The offensive line injuries seem to be catching up with the Bucs. But the Broncos' talent might have shined regardless.

    "The hype these guys get is well deserved," Freeman said. "They get after it."

    Martin held in check (again)

    A week after being held to his lowest per-carry average of the season (2.4 yards) against the Falcons, Bucs rookie RB Doug Martin had another uninspiring performance at Denver.

    Martin rushed for 56 yards on 18 carries (3.1 yards per carry), well below the 95.5 yards per game he was averaging entering Sunday.

    Like the Falcons, the Broncos made stopping Martin a top priority and succeeded in doing so. Because he's been the talk of the league recently after record-setting performances, Martin now is a focus of opposing defenses and they're cooking up strategies to limit him.

    "I think it was more scheme today," Martin said. "I think they seemed to have a better scheme than us."

    That, plus Denver has an underrated defense that ranked ninth against the run entering the game. The Broncos defensive line, led by DE Von Miller, made life tough on Martin with its penetration.

    Martin wasn't the least bit surprised. Miller was one of his offseason training partners in California.

    "They have great athletes," Martin said. "I trained with Von Miller over the summer and he's just a freak. You have to really give respect to that defense and how they played."

    Long day for Leonard

    The Bucs never figured undrafted rookie CB Leonard Johnson would be lining up opposite Atlanta's Julio Jones one week and Broncos star Demaryius Thomas the next.

    But injuries, roster moves and suspensions have reduced the Tampa Bay secondary to shambles, so Johnson had another tall order on his hands Sunday.

    And during a particular third-quarter series, Johnson came up particularly short in the matchup, allowing a 13-yard completion, committing a 16-yard pass interference infraction and yielding an 8-yard touchdown pass — all against Thomas — in a span of five plays.

    Johnson was especially disappointed in the interference call because he actually had adequate coverage.

    "I don't know that I would do anything really different," he said. "But when the ball is in the air, when it's a big-body (receiver), I have to put myself in a position where I don't get boxed out. That's pretty much how that went."

    Thomas, 6-3 and 229 pounds, was a physical challenge for the 5-10, 202-pound Johnson. But on the touchdown, Johnson was in perfect position. But so, too, was Peyton Manning's laser of a pass thrown before Thomas even came out of his final cut.

    "I was right in position," Johnson said. "That's just Peyton. Nothing I could have done better. I think even (Thomas) was kind of shocked."

    Sullivan linked to new job

    Offensive coordinator Mike Sullivan was linked to the vacant Boston College coaching job in a report that aired Sunday on ESPN.

    Sullivan was not available for comment after the Bucs loss, and coach Greg Schiano declined to address the matter.

    "That kind of stuff I keep private with my assistant coaches and our organization," Schiano said. "If there's anything to that, that will come out the appropriate way and I don't think this is the place to talk about it."

    Boston College fired coach Frank Spaziani last week after the Eagles posted a 2-10 record.

    Sullivan would be one of many reported candidates for the job, a list that includes Saints assistants Aaron Kromer and Pete Carmichael.

    Quick hits:

    — Doug Martin's 1,480 all-purpose yards this season is the most by a rookie in Bucs history (surpassing Warrick Dunn's 1,440 in 1997).

    — With two more TD passes Sunday, Josh Freeman now has 74 for his career, second in team history behind only Vinny Testaverde's 77 (1987-'92).

    — Connor Barth now has six field goals of 50 yards or more this season (hitting from 50 and 55 Sunday), the most in single season in team history. His 55 yarder ties as the fourth longest by a Buccaneer.


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  • 12/02/12--20:29: NFL news and notes
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Around the league

    LB URLACHER AMONG BEARS LEAVING INJURED

    Undermanned Chicago was hit with more injuries Sunday in a loss to the visiting Seahawks, including to LB Brian Urlacher, above.

    Urlacher injured a hamstring in the 23-17 defeat. CB Tim Jennings (shoulder) also was hurt on Seattle's winning drive. WR Earl Bennett (concussion) and S Chris Conte (illness) left earlier.

    The Bears already missed returner Devin Hester (concussion), guard Chris Spencer (knee) and G Lance Louis (torn ACL).

    Browns employee commits suicide

    A member of the Browns' grounds crew killed himself at their practice facility, a team spokesman said. Jay Glazer of Fox Sports identified the man as Eric Eucker. The body was found Saturday in suburban Cleveland.

    COSTAS STAND: NBC broadcaster Bob Costas used his halftime segment on Sunday Night Football to advocate for gun control a day after Chiefs LB Jovan Belcher's murder-suicide. Costas paraphrased and quoted extensively from a piece by Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock. Reaction on social media was swift, with many criticizing the broadcaster for expressing his personal views on an entertainment program.

    CHIEFS: RB Peyton Hillis scored their first touchdown on the opening drive of a game since Dec. 26, 2010.

    DOLPHINS: LT Jake Long left with a left triceps injury. … S Jonathon Amaya, charged with battery Monday after a confrontation with a taxi driver, was inactive.

    JETS: TE Dustin Keller (left ankle) and Joe McKnight (ribs) left with injuries.

    LIONS: Calvin Johnson had a career-high 13 receptions for 171 yards. He had at least 125 yards receiving for the fifth straight game, matching an NFL record set in 1966 by Pat Studstill of the Lions.

    PACKERS: WR Jordy Nelson (hamstring) and OL T.J. Lang (ankle) were hurt.

    RAIDERS: Coach Dennis Allen flew to the Dallas area after the game to be with his father, former NFL linebacker Grady Allen, who has a serious health issue.

    STEELERS: CB Ike Taylor has a fibula injury that could be significant, profootballtalk.com reported.

    TEXANS: DE J.J. Watt had a sack and two batted passes, joining Reggie White as the only players with at least 15 sacks and 13 passes defensed in a season. Watt has 15½ sacks and 15 passes defensed.

    TITANS: RT David Stewart was carted off after breaking his right leg.

    NUMBER OF THE DAY

    17 Games with 10 or more catches for Patriots WR Wes Welker after he had 12 against Miami; he tied Hall of Famer Jerry Rice for most 10-catch games in NFL history.

    Times wires


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  • 12/02/12--20:37: Steelers 23, Ravens 20
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    BALTIMORE — Because there's still some life in the 37-year-old arm of Charlie Batch, the Steelers remain alive in the AFC North.

    Batch directed a 61-yard drive in the closing minutes and Shaun Suisham kicked a 42-yard field goal as time expired Sunday to give Pittsburgh a 23-20 victory over Baltimore.

    Playing without injured Ben Roethlisberger for a third straight week, the Steelers turned to Batch for the second game in a row. The 15-year veteran threw for 276 yards and a touchdown, rallying the Steelers in a must-win game against their hated division rivals.

    "This is big. It was another opportunity for me to come out here and start, which is rare right now," said Batch, who took over after backup Byron Leftwich was injured against Baltimore two weeks ago.

    "To be able to go on the road and do something that nobody outside of our locker room thought that we could do is big."

    Pittsburgh snapped a two-game skid and kept alive its slim hopes of overtaking Baltimore, which leads the division by two games. The teams split their games this season, with each winning by three points. Seven of the past eight regular-season games between the teams have been decided by that margin.

    "That was a typical Pittsburgh-Baltimore game," Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. "It's amazing how it works out that way."

    Pittsburgh trailed 13-3 in the first half and 20-13 in the fourth quarter before coming back.

    The Ravens could have clinched a playoff berth with a win. Instead, they had a 15-game home winning streak snapped and lost for the first time in 13 games against division foes.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/02/12--20:45: Cowboys 38, Eagles 33
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 2, 2012

    Cowboys rally to stay in playoff hunt

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo threw for three touchdowns to pass Troy Aikman for Dallas' franchise record, and the Cowboys beat the Eagles to hold onto their playoff hopes.

    The Cowboys trailed 27-24 when Romo led an 86-yard drive. Bryant gave Dallas the lead when he took a screen pass from the 6 and got inside the pylon with 5:40 left. The Eagles lost their eighth straight despite 169 yards rushing and two TDs from rookie Bryce Brown.

    Dallas went up by 11 when rookie cornerback Morris Claiborne returned a fumble by Brown 50 yards for a TD. Philadelphia's Damaris Johnson returned a punt 98 yards with 31 seconds left, but Dallas recovered the ensuing onside kick.

    A 15-yard touchdown from rookie starter Nick Foles to former Clearwater Central Catholic and Florida standout Riley Cooper gave the Eagles a 24-17 lead in the third quarter.


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    NASHVILLE — Adding first baseman James Loney is the kind of deal the Rays typically make, picking up a veteran, coming off a down year, at a low price, with thoughts he can do better in their colors.

    So while they did that Monday — agreeing to terms on a one-year deal for $2 million plus another $1 million in incentives that will be official after a physical today — they continue to discuss a move that would be somewhat uncharacteristic, in trading one of their top starting pitchers.

    "I've come to grips that it may happen," manager Joe Maddon said. "Do I want it to happen? Not necessarily."

    In Loney, the Rays get a 28-year-old left-hander who at the least projects to be the primary starting first baseman, playing in a platoon against right-handed starters. He is coming off a miserable 2012 season, with career lows in average (.249), homers (six), RBIs (41), on-base percentage (.293) and on-base plus slugging (.630), and was traded in the August mega-deal from the Dodgers, where he'd been his entire career, to the Red Sox.

    Maddon — while not confirming the deal — said the Rays have liked a lot about Loney for several years, citing his tremendous defense, the "quality" of his at-bats and "a real calmness" in his approach to the game.

    Further, that they feel they could be getting Loney at the right time as he gets past underachieving, borrowing radio man Dave Wills' phrase that "there's probably some chicken left on the bone."

    But the Dodgers, while praising Loney as a person and teammate, sounded like they had seen enough.

    Manager Don Mattingly: "I always thought there was more there, we just couldn't get to it. At the end of the day, he just wasn't hitting with any power and for us he was kind of trending backward."

    Former manager Joe Torre: "The only thing that always puzzled me is, why can't this guy be a better player? It certainly wasn't from the lack of wanting to be and working at it. Sometimes he got in his own way. … Defensively he's a plus and offensively he's a mystery."

    Signing Loney, who obviously wanted the opportunity as he took a big cut from last year's $6.375 million salary, was the first in a series of somewhat related moves to fill out the roster as they still need a DH, frontline outfielder (and preferably a centerfielder, from what Maddon said) or middle infielder, a reliever or two, maybe another catcher.

    But the bigger guidepost is whether to trade a starter and, if so, which one (James Shields remains the hot rumor) and for which of multiple offers they are considering.

    Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said they talked Monday with teams about "different concepts, different structures" but wouldn't handicap the likelihood of a deal. They have been linked in assorted reports to a number of teams, some more realistic than others, such as the Royals (prospect Wil Myers), Rangers (Mike Olt), Dodgers (shortstop Dee Gordon), Marlins (shortstop Yunel Escobar) and Nationals (outfielder Michael Morse, infielder Danny Espinosa).

    "My job, my responsibility to the fans, the organization, the people in the clubhouse is to put together as good of a team as we can to have a chance to win championships. So that's the goal, that's what we're trying to do," Friedman said. "We have to be willing to make bold moves and not always take the safe route to give us the best possible opportunity of sustaining this level of success."

    Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com.


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    By Seth Leto, Times Correspondent
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    What's hot: The shallow water grouper bite is very good in 10- to 30-foot depths off North Pinellas and Pasco counties. Though grouper season is closed to recreational anglers, fishing for these hard-fighting fish in water as shallow as 6-8 feet makes for an exciting trip. As grouper move into shallow water, anglers can use conventional tactics or a more inshore style.

    Tactics: The most common techniques for grouper are trolling and bottom fishing. Trolling is done using a deep diving plug or a jig attached to a planer. Troll using a figure-eight pattern over the structure. Bottom fishing is best done by anchoring upcurrent and presenting live and dead baits downcurrent. Start by chumming both live and dead baits. Present baits to the bottom using weight, while free-lining baits so they stay higher in the water column.

    Tackle: I like to use lighter 3000 and 4000 spin outfits when using live bait. Chumming will entice the grouper to rise in the water column away from the structure, which will aid you. When trolling I usually stick with the 20- to 50-pound conventional gear to handle the load produced by an explosive strike.

    Seth Leto runs Pristine Fishing Charters out of Tarpon Springs. Call (727) 385-0382.


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    By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    NASHVILLE — Rays AL Cy Young Award winner David Price said he would be honored to be chosen for Team USA but will not be able to pitch in the upcoming World Baseball Classic.

    "No chance I would play in that," he said via text message. "It would be a huge honor though."

    Asked about the possibility, Price responded, "Don't think I'm allowed" to by the Rays.

    Further, he said, for him it was "way too early for a pitcher to be game ready like they are."

    The WBC is during the spring, with the U.S. team, on a schedule released Monday, opening play March 7-10. Rays 3B Evan Longoria, recovering from hamstring surgery, already said he can't play.

    RODNEY CHANGE-UP: Closer Fernando Rodney has changed agents, leaving the ACES agency and signing on with Dan Lozano. Rodney has a bargain-priced $2.5 million salary for 2013 and is then a free agent.

    RAYS MATTER: The Rays have some interest in now Marlins SS Yunel Escobar, he of the eye-black controversy. Oakland may, too. ... Executive VP Andrew Friedman said they "still definitely have interest" in non-tendered OF Ben Francisco, depending on the final makeup of the team. … Even with several holes to be filled, manager Joe Maddon said, "We're going to be good again next year. Trust me, we're going to be really good.'' … A meet-and-greet with Longoria, Maddon and Price and lessons from coaches Derek Shelton and Jim Hickey are among items in a special mlb.com auction, through Thursday, benefiting Stand Up To Cancer. ... The Yanks, who will be without 3B Alex Rodriguez until at least June, may go for Jeff Keppinger.

    NAPOLI, OTHER MOVES: Mike Napoli joined the Red Sox, agreeing to a three-year, $39 million deal with plans to split time between catcher and first base. … CF Angel Pagan returned to the Giants, agreeing to a four-year, $40 million deal. … RHP Joakim Soria agreed to a deal with Texas, which also retained C Geovany Soto for a $2.75 million, one-year deal. . … Umpire Hank O'Day, former Yankees owner Jacob Ruppert and 19th century C/1B Deacon White were voted into the Hall of Fame by the Pre-Integration Era committee.

    ELSEWHERE: Former All-Star OF Lenny Dykstra was sentenced to 6½ months in prison for hiding baseball gloves and other heirlooms from his playing days that were supposed to be part of his bankruptcy filing. … Former pitcher Jim Deshaies agreed to a four-year contract to serve as a Cubs TV analyst.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    GAINESVILLE — Joker Phillips was born in Kentucky and spent more than two decades at the University of Kentucky as a former player, grad assistant, assistant and head coach. Beginning Friday, he'll shed the blue and white for orange and blue.

    Monday, Phillips was hired as Florida's wide receivers coach and recruiting coordinator, replacing Aubrey Hill, who abruptly resigned in August just before the start of fall camp.

    "We are excited to have Joker join our staff," UF coach Will Muschamp said. "His background as a head coach and the number of years he has coached wide receivers will be a tremendous asset to our coaching staff and players. Joker is obviously very familiar with the Southeastern Conference and has always done a great job in recruiting."

    Phillips, 49, joins the staff after three seasons as Kentucky's head coach. He was Kentucky's first African-American football head coach and the first coach to take the Wildcats to a bowl game in his first season. He won more games (six) than any first-year UK coach since Blanton Collier in 1954. His teams broke long-time skids with wins over South Carolina and Tennessee. He was fired in November in the midst of a 2-10 season.

    Before being named head coach, Phillips was on Rich Brooks staff from 2003-09, including the last five seasons as offensive coordinator during which time UK had a 3,000-yard passer (Andre Woodson, twice), two 1,000-yard receivers (Keenan Burton and Steve Johnson) and a 1,000-yard rusher (Rafael Little, twice).

    "I'm looking forward to the opportunity to compete and win at the highest level," Phillips said.

    ALL-SEC FOOTBALL: Before the season began, you could barely find a Gator on any preseason honors list, with the exception of K Caleb Sturgis. Things have certainly changed. Monday, seven Gators were named to the AP All-SEC teams, including six first-team selections. Senior RB Mike Gillislee, Sturgis and junior TE Jordan Reed were first-team selections on offense. Junior DL Sharrif Floyd, junior DB Matt Elam and sophomore P Kyle Christy were first-team defensive selections. Sophomore DB Marcus Roberson was a second-team selection. Sturgis is the only Gator to repeat this season. Complete All-SEC teams, 2C.

    MUSCHAMP A FINALIST: After leading the Gators to an 11-1 regular season, Muschamp is one of nine finalists for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award.

    FRAZIER HONORED: G Michael Frazier, the Montverde Academy grad who is also a former Tampa Plant standout, is this week's SEC basketball freshman of the week. Frazier had a career- and team-high 17 points off the bench in a rout of Marquette and was 5-for-8 from 3-point range. It was the first time a freshman led the Gators in scoring since Bradley Beal in the NCAA Tournament region finals against Louisville on March 24.

    MURPHY INJURED: Senior F Erik Murphy has not practiced since he suffered a hip pointer in Thursday's win over Marquette and is questionable when the Gators play at Florida State on Wednesday night.

    "What his status will be, I'm not sure," UF coach Billy Donovan said. "I don't know what's going to happen with the starting lineup right now, I really don't."

    SWEET 16: With two wins to open the NCAA Tournament last week, the No. 14-seed volleyball team (27-4) advanced to the school's 21st Sweet 16 in 22 seasons under Mary Wise. The Gators will play No. 3 seed Texas (25-4) in Austin at 8 p.m. Friday. The winner advances to the region final against either No. 6 seed USC or Wichita State at 9 p.m. Saturday.

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com. Follow her on Twitter: @TBTimes_Gators.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    TAMPA — Lavonte David isn't sure where he will display the ball that was his first professional interception.

    "Probably in a trophy room or something," he said.

    No question, though, he will cling to the memory.

    Not only because the interception Sunday against the Broncos came off Future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning — as if that wasn't enough — but because the play reinforced his no-stone-unturned approach to game preparation.

    "During practice and film study we saw they really liked the seam routes down the middle to the tight ends," David said Monday at One Buc Place. "So, it starts in practice, working on my technique, and it carried over into the game."

    "It makes you work harder," he added, "because you know a lot more good things can happen."

    To say David was good against Denver is to undervalue his performance: a game-best 10 tackles, three for loss, a pass defensed and the interception at a time Tampa Bay really needed a stop.

    "A great game," coach Greg Schiano said, "very, very high production."

    Not a bad way to follow up being named the league's defensive rookie of the month for November.

    David's performance would be easy to overlook given the emotional 31-23 loss that crimped the Bucs' playoff push. Still, it was an addition to an impressive body of work.

    The second-round pick out of Nebraska is tied for fifth in the league with 108 total tackles and tied for second with 87 solos. He leads the team with 17 tackles for loss. He rarely misses a down and is responsible for relaying defensive calls from sideline.

    "I just tried to execute, do my job and have faith that everybody else would do their job and things would take care of themselves," David, 22, said. "I don't want to try to do too much. It's about everybody doing their job. That's what we thrive on around here. I'm just trying to keep up."

    To do so, David, 6 feet 1, 233 pounds, said he has embraced the advice of veteran teammates to refine his eating habits: stick with grilled foods and vegetables as opposed to fast foods full of empty calories.

    They have him on protein shakes to add lean muscle weight and explained the value of postgame treatment even if you feel okay. That is important for a rookie with four games left in the NFL's 16-game, meat-grinder of a regular season, and who in his busiest year at Nebraska played 14 games.

    "It's not like college anymore," fellow linebacker Adam Hayward said. "He has to get into the cold tub for rehab even though he might feel like he's okay because he's young. But it's going to take a toll on your body from OTAs all the way up to the playoffs. You have to get your massages and stretch, so we stay in him for that."

    Nobody need remind David how to prepare for games.

    "He approaches it like a true professional, which is rare for a rookie to be on point with his preparation," Schiano said. "He truly has bought into the way we do things here."

    The biggest payoff Sunday came late in the third quarter. Denver was up 28-10 and threatening at the Tampa Bay 40-yard line with 2:16 remaining. Manning looked for tight end Jacob Tamme on the seam route David instantly recognized.

    He glided into the passing lane, intercepted at the 25 and ran 27 yards to the Broncos 48.

    "It was awesome," Hayward said. "He was talking about how he wanted one because Mason (Foster) has an interception and I had a (return of a blocked punt) for a touchdown. He was like, 'I feel like I'm left out.' "

    Asked if he requested Manning sign the ball, David laughed.

    "No," he said, "I didn't."

    Damian Cristodero can be reached at cristodero@tampabay.com.


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  • 12/03/12--19:01: Meet new Ray James Loney
  • By Marc Topkin, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    James Anthony Loney

    Age: 28

    Bats/throws: Left

    Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 220

    Born: Houston

    Lives: Missouri City, Texas

    High school: Elkins, Missouri City

    Drafted: 1st round, 19th overall, by Dodgers in 2002

    2012 stats: .249, 6 HRs, 41 RBIs, .630 OPS

    2008-11 averages: .281, 12 HRs, 83 RBIs, 752 OPS

    2012 salary: $6.375 million

    Twitter: @jamesloney_7


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    Just a couple of days removed from USF firing Skip Holtz as its head football coach, the rumor mill keeps churning out the names of who could become the third coach in the program's 16-year history.

    We're hearing about hotshot coordinators and small-school sensations. We're hearing about up-and-comers or down-and-outers. We're hearing about coaches with hopeful futures and those with mediocre pasts.

    Don't expect a sexy hire here, folks. At the moment, USF is a lousy job.

    Put it this way: the Skip Holtz of three years ago would not be interested in the current USF opening.

    Part of that is Holtz's fault. He took a decent — not nearly as good as USF fans like to think, but still decent — program and ran it into a smelly mess.

    USF's bigger issue is college football played a giant game of "Musical Chairs" and the Bulls ended up without a seat in a major conference. They are stuck in the ever-weakening Big East, a crummy team in a cruddy conference. What sounds enticing about that?

    Here are some more of the issues USF is dealing with and where it might have to go in its search for a new coach:

    Jobs are plentiful in college football

    There used to be a time when head coaching jobs in college were hard to come by. Coaches would line up for any opening because who knew when, or if, the next offer would come? Not anymore. Impatience has taken over the sport. Jobs open up all the time. Really good ones.

    There have been 16 openings in the past few weeks alone, including big-boy jobs such as Auburn, Tennessee, Arkansas, Cal, Boston College, Colorado, Kentucky, North Carolina State and Purdue.

    Remember when the big programs would go decades without a coaching change? In just the past few years, we've seen coaching changes at some of college football's most storied programs, including Florida, FSU, Miami, Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State, Southern Cal, Notre Dame and UCLA. Such openings led to other openings as dominoes fell.

    A young candidate such as Florida defensive coordinator Dan Quinn or Western Kentucky coach Willie Taggart or Florida International coach Mario Cristobal might be better off waiting to see if a better opening comes along than settling for USF.

    USF is too risky for a non-destination job

    Coaches see USF as a stepping stone to a bigger and better job. Heck, back when the Big East was still a big deal, coaches at programs better than USF didn't stay put. Brian Kelly went from Cincinnati to Notre Dame. Rich Rodriguez went from West Virginia to Michigan. Greg Schiano left Rutgers and Bobby Petrino left Louisville, both for the NFL.

    When Holtz took the USF job, it was in good shape. Now that the program needs a major overhaul, it might be too much of a risk. If your goal is to end up at, say, Auburn or Nebraska or Oklahoma someday, USF might have just gone from a stepping stone to a road block. Think about it, will Holtz's next job be better or worse than the one he just had?

    A candidate might worry that his inability to turn around a dilapidated program in a so-so conference could be a career-killer.

    The patience might be gone at USF

    If USF athletic director Doug Woolard offered me the job, I'd have two questions. The first would be about the future of the Big East and USF's conference plans. The second would be, "How much time do I have to turn this thing around?''

    Quite frankly, I'd be a little nervous about job security. Holtz didn't even get a team full of his own recruits before he was blown out of town. He took over a solid program and was dismissed after three years, as well as six months after he received the affirmation of a contract extension.

    Would the new coach have more than three years to fix a program in way worse shape than when Holtz took over?

    Final thought

    USF would argue that it remains a great job.

    The university is respected. The facilities are good. The market is big. The weather is superb. The local high school talent is outstanding. The pay is competitive. The conference situation could change. A weakened conference is ripe for the taking.

    But in the end, I think the only coaches interested in USF are those desperate for a head coaching job. That would be out-of-work has-beens looking to get back into the game, assistants who are tired of being assistants or a young coach simply bored and antsy in his current job.

    But an established coach with a solid resume? A really sharp coach with a bright future? A coach like the one Skip Holtz was three years ago?

    Don't bet on it.

    That seems a little out of USF's league.

    tom jones' two cents


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

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    Times wires
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    COLUMBIA, S.C. — Steve Spurrier received a two-year contract extension on Monday that will keep him at South Carolina through 2017.

    The university's board of trustees unanimously approved the extension. There was no salary increase in the deal. Spurrier is scheduled to again earn $3.3 million in 2013.

    A year ago, trustees gave Spurrier two additional years on the contract after the football season, then voted him a raise of $475,000 this past February to his current salary.

    The former Florida coach, 67, has led the Gamecocks to consecutive seasons of double-digit victories, a first for the program. No. 11 South Carolina finished 6-2 in the SEC for a second straight year. Spurrier became the school's all-time leader with his 65th win Nov. 24.

    South Carolina faces No. 19 Michigan in the Outback Bowl in Tampa on Jan. 1. Should the Gamecocks win, it would give Spurrier his third bowl victory at the school, also tops in the program.

    University president Harris Pastides said South Carolina was "delighted in the success we've been having."

    Athletic director Ray Tanner said Spurrier wasn't concerned about his financial package but thought adding two more years would help with recruiting.

    Spurrier was grateful to the school's leaders for the contract extension.

    "We have achieved a lot of goals, but we have not yet won the SEC championship," he said. "Hopefully, we can do that within the next couple of years."

    NATIONAL AWARDS: Kansas State's Collin Klein won the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, given to the nation's top upperclassman quarterback. Klein passed for 2,490 yards, ran for 890 and accounted for 37 touchdowns (22 rushing and 15 passing) for the No. 7 Wildcats. And fellow Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, Notre Dame's senior linebacker, won the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player and the Butkus Award as the nation's top linebacker. Te'o led the nation's top-ranked defense with 103 tackles and seven interceptions.

    SEC HONORS: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel was a unanimous choice for Associated Press SEC offensive player of the year after a dynamic debut season. The redshirt freshman passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns, rushed for 1,181 yards and an SEC-leading 19 TDs and guided the Aggies to a surprising 10-2 mark in their first SEC season.

    ACADEMIC REPORT: A study of the 70 schools selected for bowl games this season showed teams maintained high recent academic progress, but the gap between African-American and white players persists. The annual report by UCF's Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport showed overall graduation success rate improvement from 68 to 69 percent for players at the bowl-bound schools.

    MISSOURI: Offensive coordinator David Yost resigned, effective immediately. The university said Yost cited personal reasons.

    NOTRE DAME: An anonymous alumnus donated enough money to cut the price of BCS championship game tickets to students from $300 to $150.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    TAMPA — The Bucs just cannot catch a break in the secondary as coach Greg Schiano on Monday was not encouraging about backup CB LeQuan Lewis' apparent knee injury.

    "We're waiting for some test results," Schiano said. "We will know better (today)."

    The irony is the depleted secondary is about to get some help as CB Anthony Gaitor, out all season with a hamstring injury, should be available Sunday against the Eagles, Schiano said.

    Gaitor practiced the past two weeks, Schiano said, and this week will take reps against the simulated Philadelphia offense.

    Lewis was hurt late in Sunday's fourth quarter and was carted off from the sideline. He was seen Monday walking through the locker room stiff-legged and limping.

    His injury also creates a hole on special teams, as for the past few weeks Lewis was the Bucs' primary kickoff returner. Speculation is RB Michael Smith could move into that role.

    It is the secondary, though, that has been a continuing minefield, and Lewis' injury depletes its depth even more. Ronde Barber, who this season moved from cornerback to safety, took turns Sunday as a slot corner.

    "We don't have a choice," Schiano said when asked if the secondary could absorb another injury. "We just line up and play with who we have."

    MARTIN is FINE: Since gaining 138 yards Nov. 18 against the Panthers, RB Doug Martin has 106 yards on 39 carries in two games.

    His 56 yards on 18 carries against the Broncos included just 8 yards on three carries in the second half. But Schiano said Martin, whose 1,106 rushing yards are third in the league, is not wearing down. Against Denver it was only game circumstances.

    "I thought he was right on stride to have a really good rushing production day, but then we go down the three scores," Schiano said. "From 18 minutes left in the game on it was purely passing. So, you take away, really, the prime real estate for rushing the football and that's in the forth quarter when people are worn out. Overall, I thought Doug ran the ball well."

    DEEP THOUGHTS: A deep zone coverage and a defensive front that seriously harassed Bucs QB Josh Freeman. If you wondered why Tampa Bay's deep passing game mostly sputtered until the fourth quarter, there is your answer.

    "When you have corners playing 15 yards off the ball and bailing, it's hard to connect on those," WR Mike Williams said. "They're just bailing out there and then there's a linebacker underneath you, so you can't say, 'I'll just hit the short pass.'

    "I mean, they game-planned, too. Maybe they've seen us hit the deep ball and said, 'We're not giving up the deep ball today.' They don't ever bail like that, but they did Sunday."

    Entering the fourth quarter, Freeman was just 11 of 26 passing for 147 yards. Forty yards came on a first-quarter strike to Williams. After that play, which set up a touchdown, the Broncos adjusted.

    "It's no excuse but you're going against a really good defense," Williams said. "Their corners really stepped up."

    FLAGGED: The Bucs and Broncos combined for 19 penalties, which indicated to Schiano the refs called a tight game. But Tampa Bay's 11 penalties for 80 yards raised concerns that he hopes will be ironed out in practice.

    "We have to avoid shooting ourselves in the foot," Schiano said, and added, "I think there's things that can be done. A lot of times if you get yourself in a little bit better football position, a lot of those holds and (defensive pass interference calls) don't happen. We just got to make sure we're paying attention to the fundamentals."

    Times staff writer Stephen F. Holder contributed to this report.


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  • 12/03/12--19:47: Sloppy win irritates Boeheim
  • Times wires
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    SYRACUSE, N.Y. — His team is unbeaten and ranked fourth in the nation and has won 48 straight nonconference games and 26 in a row at home.

    Just don't tell Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim his Orange is ready for the challenges of the rugged Big East.

    "We're trying to get ready for conference play," Boeheim said Monday night after Syracuse beat Eastern Michigan 84-48 in a sloppy game. "We'll have some tough games, more than enough to get you ready.

    "To just assume we're going to win games is the most arrogant thing I have ever seen in my life."

    On this night the Orange (6-0) pulled it out despite 18 turnovers as Michael Carter-Williams had 11 points to lead five players in double figures and added 11 assists.

    NO. 17 SAN DIEGO ST. 74, TEXAS SO. 62: Jamaal Franklin had 18 points and 15 rebounds for host the Aztecs (6-1), who won their sixth straight game.

    B-CU 86, STETSON 63: Adrien Coleman hit 13 of 14 shots and finished with 29 points and eight rebounds for host Bethune-Cookman (3-6).

    ARKANSAS: Coach Mike Anderson said his son, Michael Anderson, was suspended indefinitely from his job as video coordinator after his third arrest on alcohol-related charges and second while with the Razorbacks.

    AP POLL: Kentucky fell out of the poll for the first time since John Calipari became coach in 2009. The Wildcats had been ranked for 61 straight weeks. Colorado also fell out. Notre Dame moved back in at No. 22 and Wichita State entered at No. 24. Indiana, Duke and Michigan remained the top three.

    Women

    NO. 2 UCONN 63, NO. 9 MARYLAND 48: Stefanie Dolson gad 14 points and Breanna Stewart 13 for the host Huskies (7-0), who forced the Terrapins (4-2) into a season-high 26 turnovers at the Jimmy V Classic.

    NO. 23 MIAMI 68, ALCORN ST. 53: Suriya McGuire scored a career-high 13 and Stefanie Yderstrom added 10 to help the host Hurricanes (6-1) pull away.

    AP POLL: Miami re-entered at No. 23, and Florida State came in at No. 24, replacing St. John's and West Virginia. Stanford remained No.  1, narrowly ahead of Connecticut.


    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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  • 12/03/12--19:47: Down 18 late, Blazers rally
  • Times wires
    Monday, December 3, 2012

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — LaMarcus Aldridge had 25 points and 13 rebounds, Luke Babbitt hit two clutch 3-pointers and the Trail Blazers overcame an 18-point fourth-quarter deficit to beat the Bobcats 118-112 in overtime Monday night.

    The Blazers trailed 97-79 with 5:17 left in regulation, but sent it into overtime on Babbitt's 3 with 22 seconds left.

    Portland never trailed in OT.

    Damian Lillard scored 24 and Nicolas Batum had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Blazers, who finished a road trip with two straight wins.

    Ben Gordon set a franchise record with eight 3-pointers — all after halftime — for the Bobcats, who dropped their fourth straight. Gordon finished with 29 points to surpass 10,000 for his career.

    Charlotte had a chance to win at the end of regulation but Kemba Walker's drive and fallaway jumper from the baseline missed. The Bobcats wanted to get the ball to Gordon, but he was well covered.

    muted howard reaction: Lakers center Dwight Howard's usual jovial personality was missing after Sunday night's 113-103 home loss to the Magic, his first game against the team that traded him to end a contentious relationship.

    Howard was often fouled intentionally and shot 9-for-21 from the line. He left without shaking hands or talking to his old teammates ("If he wants to walk off the court, it's cool," said Magic center Glen Davis. "I'm not here to be buddies."), and ignored questions from an Orlando reporter afterward.

    Questions from other reporters that he answered:

    What were his thoughts on being fouled intentionally?

    "I don't have any thoughts.''

    Did he feel like a chapter was closed by playing his old team?

    "That chapter was closed when I got traded."

    Is he happy in L.A.?

    "Obviously, I'm enjoying myself.''

    Howard added that all he could do to improve from the line was practice. Toward the end of the interview a Lakers publicist stepped in, telling the Orlando reporter to "quit antagonizing him."

    sad time for Karl: Nuggets coach George Karl said he is having a tough time dealing with the death of his friend, former Utah and Saint Louis coach Rick Majerus.

    Karl spoke about his friendship with Majerus, who died of heart failure Saturday night after being hospitalized for several months.

    "It's still very hard for me," Karl said. "He's one of my best friends and I think most people in basketball know that. I'm mad at him, I'm angry he's gone, there's a lot of emotions going on in my head. Most of it is I've got to figure out how to celebrate our friendship for the rest of my life even though he's not going to be with us."

    The two became friends while working at the Pete Newell Big Man camp at Stanford University in 1986 and the friendship grew over the years. The camaraderie extended to Karl's family, who considered Majerus one of them.

    "Incredible friend. He treated me like I was his brother," Karl said. "My son called me and said he was part of our family. He's been with Coby since he was in sixth grade. A lot of roots, a lot of stories and a lot of love."

    Blazers 118, Bobcats 112, OT

    PORTLAND (118): Batum 5-14 4-4 17, Aldridge 12-17 1-1 25, Hickson 1-5 0-0 2, Lillard 6-16 11-14 24, Matthews 6-15 4-4 19, Leonard 2-4 0-1 4, Barton 3-5 0-2 7, Smith 1-4 0-0 2, Babbitt 3-5 0-0 9, Pavlovic 1-3 0-0 3, Freeland 3-4 0-0 6. Totals 43-92 20-26 118.

    CHARLOTTE (112): Kidd-Gilchrist 4-8 0-0 8, Mullens 5-14 0-1 12, Haywood 3-4 2-2 8, Walker 9-19 3-5 22, Taylor 4-10 2-2 11, Gordon 9-16 3-3 29, Sessions 2-9 7-9 11, Henderson 2-4 0-0 5, Biyombo 3-4 0-0 6, Diop 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 41-88 17-22 112.

    Portland 26 25 19 32 16— 118

    Charlotte 34 20 21 27 10— 112

    3-Point GoalsPortland 12-35 (Babbitt 3-4, Matthews 3-9, Batum 3-9, Barton 1-2, Pavlovic 1-2, Lillard 1-8, Smith 0-1), Charlotte 13-27 (Gordon 8-12, Mullens 2-6, Henderson 1-1, Walker 1-3, Taylor 1-4, Sessions 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsPortland 58 (Aldridge, Batum 13), Charlotte 49 (Mullens 12). AssistsPortland 28 (Lillard 9), Charlotte 28 (Sessions 9). Total FoulsPortland 20, Charlotte 19. TechnicalsCharlotte defensive three second 2. A12,640 (19,077).

    Pistons 89, Cavs 79

    CLEVELAND (79): Casspi 4-11 0-0 10, Thompson 4-13 2-2 10, Varejao 7-18 3-6 17, Pargo 4-13 2-4 10, Gee 2-10 2-2 6, Miles 3-6 2-2 8, Zeller 4-8 0-0 8, Samuels 0-2 0-0 0, Gibson 1-6 0-0 3, Sloan 3-8 1-1 7. Totals 32-95 12-17 79.

    DETROIT (89): Prince 6-10 2-2 15, Maxiell 6-12 0-0 12, Monroe 4-10 1-3 9, Knight 5-13 7-7 17, Singler 6-14 0-0 15, Stuckey 4-9 0-1 8, Drummond 3-8 1-4 7, Maggette 1-2 2-2 4, Villanueva 1-6 0-0 2. Totals 36-84 13-19 89.

    Cleveland 17 22 24 16— 79

    Detroit 30 26 19 14— 89

    3-Point GoalsCleveland 3-20 (Casspi 2-5, Gibson 1-6, Sloan 0-1, Varejao 0-1, Miles 0-2, Pargo 0-2, Gee 0-3), Detroit 4-18 (Singler 3-6, Prince 1-2, Stuckey 0-2, Villanueva 0-4, Knight 0-4). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsCleveland 64 (Varejao 18), Detroit 58 (Monroe 14). AssistsCleveland 19 (Pargo 8), Detroit 21 (Stuckey 6). Total FoulsCleveland 20, Detroit 16. A11,352 (22,076).

    Hornets 102, Bucks 81

    MILWAUKEE (81): Daniels 1-3 0-0 2, Henson 1-5 0-2 2, Udoh 2-7 3-3 7, Jennings 10-23 0-2 25, Ellis 5-12 5-6 17, Ilyasova 0-2 2-2 2, Mbah a Moute 3-9 1-2 7, Sanders 3-8 2-2 8, Lamb 2-3 0-0 4, Dunleavy 2-4 1-2 6, Harris 0-0 1-2 1, Przybilla 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 29-76 15-23 81.

    NEW ORLEANS (102): Aminu 4-7 0-0 9, Anderson 9-14 2-2 22, Lopez 8-10 5-5 21, Vasquez 5-9 0-0 11, Mason 2-6 0-0 5, Smith 5-12 2-2 12, Henry 1-6 0-0 2, Rivers 0-5 0-0 0, Thomas 4-5 2-2 10, Roberts 5-7 0-0 10, Miller 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 43-82 11-11 102.

    Milwaukee 28 22 17 14— 81

    New Orleans 30 23 24 25— 102

    3-Point GoalsMilwaukee 8-19 (Jennings 5-10, Ellis 2-3, Dunleavy 1-2, Ilyasova 0-1, Mbah a Moute 0-1, Sanders 0-1, Daniels 0-1), New Orleans 5-12 (Anderson 2-6, Vasquez 1-1, Aminu 1-1, Mason 1-3, Miller 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsMilwaukee 48 (Mbah a Moute 8), New Orleans 46 (Anderson 7). AssistsMilwaukee 20 (Ellis 6), New Orleans 29 (Vasquez 9). Total FoulsMilwaukee 16, New Orleans 23. A12,321 (17,188).


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