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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    tom jones' two cents

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones looks back at the best and worst from a weekend of televised sports.

    Strongest comments

    The horrific shootings at an elementary school Friday in Connecticut were very much a part of the sports world over the weekend. Moments of silence were held before the start of NFL games. In addition, in a memo obtained by Deadspin.com, ESPN brass told its staff not to use Twitter over the weekend to tweet about sports and to refrain from using the word "shooter" at all. ESPN sent out a follow-up memo at noon Sunday telling employees they could begin tweeting about sports again.

    New York Daily News columnist Mike Lupica used his portion of the "Parting Shots" segment on ESPN's Sports Reporters on Sunday to speak out against guns.

    "In the aftermath of these tragedies we always hear about our right to bear arms and a Second Amendment written for muskets," Lupica said. "But what rights did these children and their teachers have in small-town Connecticut? In a country fast-becoming a shooting gallery? We also hear that we should have a national conversation about gun control, when the truth is there's no such thing in America."

    Best analysis

    You might think that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has been cut off at the knees because former commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently vacated the player suspensions Goodell handed out for the Saints bounty scandal. In addition, Goodell's suspension of Ravens safety Ed Reed was reduced to a fine.

    But Fox NFL Sunday analyst Howie Long, left, said: "I was with Roger up in Oakland and you would think that given Tagliabue's decision and the overturning of the Ed Reed suspension, he might be on his heels. He's dug in, folks. As a matter of fact, he's been given the responsibility of taking care of the game both on and off the field.

    "Fines aren't getting it done according to Roger Goodell. It's now going to move to suspensions, and if you think it's controversial now, wait until people start losing 200, 300, or 400 thousand dollars a week in a check and losing a game."

    This is outstanding work by Long. He took information picked up in a conversation with Goodell and then passed that information along to the viewer. Long showed he's always on the clock, and the show benefited from that.

    Worst ratings

    Canada's Globe & Mail reported last week that the number of Canadians watching television at home on Saturday nights is down about 800,000 — that's roughly the population of Edmonton. Hmm, wonder why such a drop. Oh yeah, there's no Hockey Night in Canada. The Canadian Broadcasting Corp., which airs Hockey Night in Canada, was showing classic games during the Saturday night time slot, but only about 10 percent of the normal HNiC audience was tuning in.

    Saddest news

    Larry Merchant called his final fight card for HBO on Saturday after a 35-year career with the network. Merchant, 81, did some work on shows such as Inside the NFL, Real Sports and the old Inside Boxing, but he was best known for sitting ringside for HBO's boxing coverage.

    The network did a cool retrospective of Merchant's career, then let Merchant say goodbye with a brief monologue.

    I'm sad to see Merchant go. Sometimes I disagreed vehemently with his opinions. Sometimes, his style was holier-than-thou. Sometimes he acted like he was the smartest guy in the room.

    But, always, he was straight-forward. He said what he believed and made no apologies for it. And he was as intelligent of a broadcaster as you could find.

    Reports are that Merchant and HBO are parting on good terms, so, hopefully, HBO will have him back from time to time.

    Best comeback

    A few weeks ago, CBS's NFL Today stumbled badly by not leading off its pregame show with the news of Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher killing his girlfriend and then himself. But the next week, the show led off with the disturbing news that the Cowboys' Josh Brent was allegedly driving while impaired and had a crash that killed passenger and teammate Jerry Brown.

    Then Sunday, the show appropriately and respectfully looked around the NFL to see how teams and players were paying respect to the victims of Friday's school shootings in Connecticut.

    Best counter argument

    I love Jeff Van Gundy's work. The ABC/ESPN NBA analyst will say anything, and he doesn't care who he tweaks, upsets or snubs. Take last week when he tore into the Lakers and blamed the players, not the coaches.

    "Mike Brown, unjustly blamed," Van Gundy said. "They were actually good on offense, percentage-wise, when he was fired. He was a terrific coach. Then Bernie Bickerstaff took over. Now they're on their third coach (Mike D'Antoni). It's not a coaching issue for L.A., and it never has been. It's a players issue."

    Know who has been saying just the opposite, that it is a coaching issue? None other than Magic Johnson, a co-host on ESPN/ABC's pregame show. Van Gundy hardly cared that he was contradicting an analyst on his own network.

    That's why I love Van Gundy's work.

    Three things that popped into my head

    1. Hey, did you see the two college football bowl games over the weekend? Yeah, me neither.

    2. Speaking of bowls, did you realize there are six bowls that have something to do with food, and that does not count the Fight Hunger Bowl?

    3. Every time I see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Don Fehr, I want to clank their heads together Three Stooges style.

    Three things that popped into my head

    1. Hey, did you see the two college football bowl games over the weekend? Yeah, me either.

    2. Speaking of bowls, did you realize there are six bowls that have something to do with food, and that does not count the Fight Hunger Bowl?

    3. Every time I see NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and union chief Don Fehr, I want to clank their heads together Three Stooges style.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/16/12--18:55: 39 good minutes ruined
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    TUCSON, Ariz. — Florida had a signature road win in its grasp, leading by six with a minute left.

    Instead, the Gators left the desert with a disheartening loss.

    Mark Lyons scored on a contested layup with 7.1 seconds left and No. 5 Florida blew a six-point lead in the final 56 seconds to lose 65-64 to eighth-ranked Arizona late Saturday night.

    "I think we outplayed them most of the game, but that doesn't matter," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "It's a 40-minute game and they outplayed us at the end, when it mattered most."

    The Wildcats (8-0) had been struggling against Florida's mix of zone and man defenses to fall behind by 11 in the second half. They still appeared to be in trouble heading into the final minute, trailing 64-58.

    That changed in a hurry.

    Arizona cut the lead to four by hitting two free throws, and the Wildcats forced a turnover on an inbounds play, setting up Solomon Hill's layup. The Wildcats used their press to create another turnover and Grant Jerrett hit one free throw to make it 64-63.

    Arizona fouled Kenny Boynton with 21 seconds left, but the 90 percent free-throw shooter missed a 1-and-1 and Arizona grabbed the rebound.

    Scrambling to get a final play set up, Lyons saw that Patric Young, Florida's 6-foot-9 center, was guarding him and put his head down toward the basket. Leaning away from the defense and flipping the ball with his right hand, Lyons sent the ball high off the glass and in.

    Florida (7-1) botched its final possession, fumbling the ball away before taking a wild 3-pointer.

    The Gators hit 12 of 19 shots in the second half, including 6 of 9 3-pointers, yet couldn't score over the game's final 2:35.

    "We couldn't quite handle the pressure, and I think that's what cost us the game," Young said.

    GOING FOR 900: Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim gets his first shot at his 900th victory tonight at home against Detroit. Boeheim would join Mike Krzyzewski (936) and Bob Knight (902) as the only men's coaches in Division I history to win that many. The game is at 7 p.m. on ESPN2.

    Sunday's games

    NO. 10 ILL. 66, E. KENTUCKY 53: Brandon Paul scored 17 for the host Illini, who needed a late 12-2 run to gain control and help John Groce become the second coach in school history to win his first 12 games.

    NO. 24 OKLA. ST. 91, CENTRAL ARK. 63: Le'Bryan Nash scored 19 and Markel Brown had 14 points and eight rebounds for the host Cowboys (8-1), who fell behind by 11 within eight minutes but responded with 13 straight points to take the lead for good.

    TAMPA 69, P.R.-BAYAMON 67: Da'Markco Foster had 18 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the visiting Spartans (8-0), who led all game but had to hold off a late rally.


    NEBRASKA 62, USF 52: The host Bulls (8-1) fell a win shy of their best start ever thanks to a cold start to the second half. With the score tied at 36, the Cornhuskers went on a 12-0 run, holding USF without a basket for nearly seven minutes. "We didn't stick to what coach was saying —box out, rebounding, talking on defense. I think we shied away from what we know how to do," said Andrell Smith, who had 22 points and 11 rebounds.

    UF 74, Lasalle 50: Jennifer George had 19 points on 9-of-12 shooting and added 11 rebounds to help the Gators (8-3) to their first road win of the season.

    RUTGERS 42, NO. 21 MIAMI 34: Monique Oliver scored 13 for the host Scarlet Knights, who held the Hurricanes (7-2) to a season-worst 19.1 percent shooting (9-of-47) from the field.

    NO. 6 GEORGIA 93, LIPSCOMB 42: Jasmine James and Tiaria Griffin scored 18 each to lead the host Bulldogs (11-0).

    NO. 11 PENN ST. 60, SOUTH DAKOTA ST. 50: Alex Bentley had five assists for the host Lions (9-2) to give her 503 for her career, making her the sixth Penn State player to top 500.

    VANDY 76, NO. 12 OKLAHOMA 63: Christina Foggie scored 17, leading four players in double figures, as the visiting Commodores upset the Sooners (8-2).

    NO. 13 TENNESSEE 94, NO. 18 TEXAS 75: Meighan Simmons had 18 points to lead six players in double figures for the visiting Vols (7-1), who shot 46.8 percent from the floor and held the Longhorns (6-2) to 34.3 percent.

    NO. 14 UCLA 53, ST. JOHN'S 52: Jasmine Dixon's layup with 1.2 seconds left lifted the Bruins (7-1) to the championship of the St. John's Holiday Classic in New York.

    NO. 15 PURDUE 77, OAKLAND (MICH.) 46: Drey Mingo scored 19 for the visiting Boilermakers (10-1), who shot 56 percent from the field and won their fifth straight.

    NO. 16 OKLA. ST. 83, VERMONT 30: Tiffany Bias scored 18, leading five players in double figures for the host Cowgirls, 8-0 for the third straight season.

    NO. 19 UNC 75, COASTAL CAROLINA 49: Antoinette Bannister came off the bench to score 13 for the visiting Tar Heels (10-1), who found some offense after Wednesday's 49-21 victory over North Carolina Central.

    NO. 22 KANSAS 72, PRAIRIE VIEW A&M 60: Angel Goodrich scored 19 and Tania Jackson had 13 points and 10 rebounds to lead the host Jayhawks (9-1).

    NO. 25 W. VA. 90, YOUNGSTOWN ST. 57: Taylor Palmer scored 15 to lead five players in double figures for the host Mountaineers (7-2), who made 38 of 59 shots from the field (64.4 percent).

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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  • 12/16/12--19:04: Panthers 31, Chargers 7
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Panthers officially oust Chargers

    SAN DIEGO — Cam Newton passed for 231 yards and two touchdowns as the Panthers won two straight for the first time since beating Houston and the Bucs last December.

    The Chargers were eliminated from the playoffs for the third straight season, playing in front of thousands of empty seats. San Diego clinched its first losing season since 2003.

    Mike Tolbert capped Carolina's first two drives with 1-yard TD runs, the first on a leap over a pile. "They don't think a little fat man can jump, but I can definitely get up," Tolbert said.

    His second TD was set up when Chargers QB Philip Rivers lost a fumble. Rivers lost another fumble in the fourth quarter, his 22nd turnover this season and 47th in less than two full seasons.

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  • 12/16/12--19:08: Seahawks 50, Bills 17
  • Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Seahawks keep piling up points

    TORONTO — A week after a 58-0 Seattle win over Arizona, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson ran for three touchdowns and threw for one in a rout of the Bills in Buffalo's annual game in Toronto. Fans cheered for Seattle as the game went on, and a late chant started: "Let's go Blue Jays!"

    The 108 combined points over two weeks matched the NFL's third-highest total. The Patriots scored 108 last month. And the Seahawks are the third team to score 50 in consecutive weeks, joining the Los Angeles Rams and New York Giants, both in 1950.

    Wilson has 21 TD passes, tied for second all time with Cam Newton among NFL rookies. Peyton Manning had 26 in 1998. "The kid is destined to be great," Seattle receiver Golden Tate said.

    The Bills were eliminated from the playoffs for a 13th season, the NFL's longest active drought.

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    Times staff, wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Greg Schiano, Bucs coach, on his team's first loss by more than eight points this year:

    "I didn't get this team ready to go today, for whatever the reason is. It got out hand."

    Schiano, on the disconnect between QB Josh Freeman and the receivers:

    "There was some miscommunication. They didn't see some things the same way, and you need to be able to do that. That led to one or two of the turnovers (four interceptions)."

    Freeman, on the turnovers:

    "Today things just didn't click as good as they should have. It's kind of odd because the preparation leading up to these last few games have been on point. But then you get into the game and little things start happening, whereby earlier in the season things were going our way but now they aren't."

    Joe Vitt, Saints interim coach, on winning despite having little to play for:

    "We've got a team that's full of a lot of guys with pride and a lot of guys with want-to. They're accountable to one another."

    Curtis Lofton, Saints LB:

    "Walking off the field, I was like, 'Man, this is how it should feel. We should've done this the entire season.' It's so frustrating, because to come out here and play the way we did today, it's like, 'Why couldn't we come play like that all season?' "

    Jimmy Graham, Saints TE:

    "It's tough to see the potential you have as a team but you find it this late."

    Mike Triplett, New Orleans Times-Picayune:

    The best thing about Sunday's win was that it proved the Saints have some serious pride still bursting inside — unlike the Buccaneers, who had nothing left Sunday after their own playoff hopes were crushed last week.

    Pat Yasinskas, ESPN.com NFC South blogger:

    For most of the season, I've been saying the Bucs would be wise to sign quarterback Josh Freeman to a contract extension as soon as possible. Now I'm starting to think they might be smarter to wait. Freeman threw four interceptions against the Saints and completed less than 50 percent of his passes in the two previous games. I still think Freeman, who is under contract through the end of the 2013 season, can be a franchise quarterback, but the Bucs might want to wait until he shows he can play well consistently.

    Guerry Smith, CBSSports.com:

    Tampa Bay was the team with realistic playoff hopes entering the game, but the Bucs were lifeless from the start, clearly unable to recover from blowing a 12-point lead at home to hapless Philadelphia in the final four minutes last Sunday and giving up the winning TD with no time left. …

    Losers of four in a row, Tampa Bay will try to show signs of a pulse at home in its home finale against the Rams (on Sunday). Coach Greg Schiano's first season isn't ending well.

    Michael David Smith, Profootballtalk.com:

    An even bigger difference (between the teams) was simply that the Saints came out looking like this game mattered, while the Buccaneers came out looking like they didn't care. This game has to be a huge disappointment to first-year Bucs coach Greg Schiano. After taking over a team that gave up on the 2011 season, Schiano had his team playing tough, competitive football for most of this season, and although the Bucs didn't look like a playoff team, they didn't look very far away, either. But a game like this calls into question whether Schiano's Bucs have much fight left in them.

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    Stephen F. Holder, Times staff writer
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    Veterans: finish strong

    After four straight losses that have undermined the Bucs' midseason momentum, the veterans will have to play a central role in helping focus a wayward team that has two games remaining

    The process was already under way in the locker room after Sunday's 41-0 loss to the Saints, with some of the more prominent players formulating the message of the week to come.

    "You'll see a lot of the character of this team and how everyone handles it and what they're going to do this week to prepare and stay focused," veteran TE Dallas Clark, bottom left, said. "No matter what the season holds and no matter what happens throughout the year, we signed up to play 16 (games), and you have to be a professional and play each one like it's the most important game you've played.

    I think we have a lot of class on this team, and I think that's what we'll see. But it's going to take everyone to really focus in and take it personally and bring the professionalism onto the field."

    Said S Ronde Barber, top left: "I'm going to try and lead them. The record doesn't matter. We are all privileged to play this game. I say it all the time: At the beginning of the year, you signed up for 16 weeks, so you have no choice but to see it through."

    Said coach Greg Schiano said, "I haven't been here in a while, but I've been here before. We'll fight back."

    Running game sidelined

    With the Saints entering the game with statistically the second-worst rushing defense in the NFL, a prime opportunity existed for the Bucs to get rookie rushing leader Doug Martin going.

    But the way Sunday's game unfolded made running the ball prohibitive. With the Bucs trailing 24-0 at halftime, Martin was used sparingly, carrying nine times total for 16 yards, the least-productive day of his young career.

    "The game just got away from us," Martin said. "The turnovers and us just not being able to get anything going on offense — we all thought it was going to be a back-and-forth battle with the Saints, but with the early turnovers, we just got out of rhythm.

    (The Saints) really made it a one-dimensional game for us. We had to pass instead of focus on the run, and that led us to keep getting behind and not doing what we normally do on offense. That's not how we've played this year, and it was really tough out there for us."

    Martin is averaging 19.5 carries in 2012, and his nine rushing attempts in New Orleans were his second fewest of the season.

    It's too bad the game played out as it did for Martin. The Saints have allowed some huge rushing games this season, including a 233-yard performance by the Chiefs' Jamaal Charles.

    "When you quickly fall behind, I don't know if the running game ever gets a shot," coach Greg Schiano said.

    Lack of turnovers hurting defense

    The Bucs overcame many of their defensive shortcomings earlier in the season because they played better on offense, but also because the defense did a fundamental thing: produce turnovers.

    When the Bucs had their four-game win streak in October and November, they thrived on turnovers, producing nine in that span. The Bucs have been among the league's leaders in interceptions for most of the season and produced 20 turnovers through their first 10 games.

    But in recent weeks, the turnovers haven't come with as much regularity. And the result has been obvious.

    "It's a big difference," S Ronde Barber said. "It's the biggest correlation to winning. Coach (Greg Schiano) says it all the time. We lost the turnover battle very handily (Sunday, five made to the Saints' zero). It definitely sustained us for sure earlier in the year. You want to be able to count on it. That's what wins football games. But if we play more sound, maybe it won't be as much of an issue."

    Sunday was a day in which the Bucs couldn't get key stops against Saints QB Drew Brees, allowing him and his offense to get into a rhythm that was tough to break.

    "When an offense gets on a roll like that, you have to bow your neck and get a stop," DT Gerald McCoy said. "We didn't. Being one of the defensive captains, it's very disappointing. Something has to change."

    Forcing turnovers is one of the best ways to disrupt an offense's rhythm. The Bucs have produced two in their past three games, all losses.

    "We take real pride in getting turnovers," LB Lavonte David said. "It's something we haven't taken advantage of, and at times when we did have chances, we didn't get (turnovers). We have to keep working at that."

    Opportunity wasted

    Safety Keith Tandy was an accomplished high school quarterback in Kentucky, rushing for more than 1,000 yards as a senior.

    He had a flashback to that Sunday when he was tabbed to handle a fake punt that resulted in an 18-yard gain.

    On the first possession of the third quarter, with the Bucs trailing 24-0 and looking for a spark, Tandy lined up as the up-man in front of punter Michael Koenen, took a direct snap and ran around the right side. Then things got weird.

    "All I know is when I took off running, it got so quiet in the stadium," Tandy said. "Then I remembered, 'Wait, we're on the road. That's why they're quiet.' It's like it didn't really seem real. It's the first time I've touched the ball in the NFL."

    Tandy didn't have to do much to make any would-be tackler miss him before he was knocked out of bounds by LB Will Herring.

    "It didn't go the way we drew it up, but it was wide open," Tandy said.

    How was it supposed to work?

    "Well, we might run it again, so maybe I shouldn't say."

    The downer for the Bucs: The move ultimately didn't pay off. Josh Freeman was intercepted on the next play.

    Teammates back Freeman

    Josh Freeman has played his worst football of the season recently at the most inopportune time, helping to undermine the team's playoff hopes. But even after his five turnovers Sunday — he was intercepted four times against the Saints and lost a fumble, accounting for all the Bucs' turnovers — the Bucs quarterback has a great deal of support. In the locker room, where Freeman is well liked and respected, teammates came to his defense.

    "We all have to play better," TE Dallas Clark said. "I think we have the people here that will make it happen. But certainly no one should take the brunt of any of this. It's a team thing right now, and we have to get it fixed."

    G Jeremy Zuttah, who is close to Freeman, said, "It's not all on Josh. It's on the offensive line, too. He's getting hit a lot. We have to do a better job as a team. As the quarterback, obviously a lot of times people are going to point at him, but it's a whole offensive effort. We've been off as an offense."

    Freeman finished Sunday's game 26-of-47 for 279 yards and a quarterback rating of 37.5, one of the lowest of his career. He was peppered with tough questions after the game and will continue to come under much scrutiny as the team ponders whether he deserves a contract extension. He has to have the fortitude to work through it, Zuttah said.

    "Josh has been through a lot of adversity with a lot of people telling him what he can't do and what he's doing wrong," Zuttah said. "He gets stronger, and he fights back every time. He just goes out and gets better."

    Sideline scuffle

    As if the Bucs didn't have enough to deal with on the field in the 41-0 loss to the Saints, they had an issue on the sideline when linebacker Adam Hayward and assistant coach Bryan Cox got into a physical exchange.

    With 8:27 left in the second quarter, Cox was barking at either a player or the officials when Hayward stepped in as if to restrain him. The 44-year-old coach apparently took exception, pushing Hayward away, prompting Hayward to shove Cox, a former standout linebacker, in the chest with both hands. Linebacker Jacob Cutrera stepped in to separate them, pulling Hayward away as he continued to berate the coach.

    Both player and coach said after the game the matter had been dealt with, but it was not overlooked.

    "I'm not happy about it, but I do know it's been resolved," coach Greg Schiano said. "I think you chalk it up to heat of the moment. Guys are very passionate. Adam is a very passionate player. Coach Cox is a passionate coach. I know they're very close. I think it's more of a family spat in a frustrating time than anything that I'm deeply concerned about.

    "I know they've already smoothed that over. But again, it's not what a football team that I'm the head coach of (does). … It need not happen again."

    Hayward didn't comment specifically, saying, "It's always an emotional game. Definitely. This is your job. This is what you feed your family with. This is what you do for a living." He later added: "We're fine. Everything's good. Anything else, that's just among a player and coach who have been together for a long time."

    Schiano's assessment of the relationship between Cox and his players of being close is true. That is obvious each day at One Buc Place, so no lingering issues are expected.

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    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    NEW YORK — Jeremy Lin authored one of the NBA's most unforgettable and improbable performances for two weeks in February. He dominated the headlines and had Madison Square Garden rocking.

    As Lin returns tonight for the first time since leaving the Knicks as a free agent in the offseason, his old team has been dominating the NBA, and the Garden has become louder.

    When the Knicks chose not to match Houston's three-year, $25.1 million offer for Lin, many fans were outraged. But the Knicks have moved on and are out to prove they have created something more sustainable than Linsanity.

    "He came in, and what he did was amazing," said Lin's successor, Raymond Felton. "I was watching every game. He hit game-winners; he was doing all that. … But it's time to move on. We're 18-5. … We're 10-0 at home. There's no need to talk about that no more."

    The Knicks own the NBA's second-best record, behind the defending Western Conference champion Thunder. Felton, Jason Kidd and Pablo Prigioni have formed a strong point guard trio.

    There remain questions as to whether this veteran group led by Carmelo Anthony (questionable for tonight with a sprained left ankle) would have followed Lin's lead if Lin had returned this season, and if the Knicks would have been as good.

    Lin, 24, is averaging 10.8 points and 6.0 assists, and shooting 39.5 percent. He described his play coming into this game as "terrible." But the point guard is looking forward to tonight and putting the past behind him.

    "I'm definitely ready to get it over just because I think, in some sense, there will be some closure," Lin told reporters after the Rockets lost to the Raptors 103-96 in Toronto on Sunday.

    "There probably would be a little bit of nostalgia and reminiscing and thankful for those times, because those were some great times. But at the same time, it's the next chapter."

    GAME HIGHLIGHTS: Kobe Bryant scored 34, Metta World Peace added 19 and a career-high 16 rebounds, and the visiting Lakers won consecutive games for the first time in nearly a month, 111-98 over the 76ers.

    AROUND THE LEAGUE: Bucks center Joel Przybilla was suspended one game without pay for throwing a basketball that hit a referee during Saturday's game against the Clippers. … The Hornets signed forward Dominic McGuire to shore up their frontcourt with Jason Smith out with a right shoulder injury.

    Lakers 111, 76ers 98

    L.A. LAKERS (111): World Peace 6-10 4-6 19, Ebanks 0-4 0-0 0, Howard 7-13 3-3 17, Duhon 5-11 0-0 14, Bryant 12-21 8-9 34, Meeks 4-10 2-2 12, Morris 5-8 2-2 15, Sacre 0-1 0-0 0, Jamison 0-2 0-2 0, Clark 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 39-80 19-24 111.

    PHILADELPHIA (98): N.Young 12-23 0-1 30, T.Young 7-10 0-1 14, Brown 1-2 0-0 2, Turner 6-16 4-4 16, Richardson 3-8 1-3 9, Wright 3-9 0-0 6, Hawes 7-12 0-0 16, Wilkins 1-2 1-2 3, Ivey 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 1-1 0-0 2, Wayns 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 41-83 6-11 98.

    L.A. Lakers 28 32 27 24— 111

    Philadelphia 24 26 23 25— 98

    3-Point GoalsL.A. Lakers 14-34 (Duhon 4-10, World Peace 3-4, Morris 3-5, Bryant 2-6, Meeks 2-8, Jamison 0-1), Philadelphia 10-25 (N.Young 6-12, Hawes 2-3, Richardson 2-6, Wilkins 0-1, Turner 0-1, Wright 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsL.A. Lakers 47 (World Peace 16), Philadelphia 46 (Brown 8). AssistsL.A. Lakers 22 (Bryant 6), Philadelphia 23 (Wright 9). Total FoulsL.A. Lakers 9, Philadelphia 17. TechnicalsBrown. A20,338 (20,328).

    Raptors 103, Rockets 96

    HOUSTON (96): Parsons 4-11 3-5 12, Morris 6-11 5-6 19, Asik 3-7 1-4 7, Lin 3-9 0-0 7, Harden 7-18 14-15 28, Smith 4-7 0-0 8, Douglas 1-3 2-2 5, Delfino 4-11 0-0 10, Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 32-78 25-32 96.

    TORONTO (103): Pietrus 1-3 0-0 2, Davis 6-9 1-1 13, Valanciunas 1-2 0-0 2, Calderon 6-12 5-6 18, DeRozan 8-19 2-2 19, Johnson 4-6 0-0 8, Kleiza 1-6 0-0 2, Anderson 6-12 9-9 24, Ross 4-10 0-2 9, Lucas 2-6 0-0 6. Totals 39-85 17-20 103.

    Houston 28 21 22 25— 96

    Toronto 26 23 28 26— 103

    3-Point GoalsHouston 7-23 (Morris 2-4, Delfino 2-7, Douglas 1-2, Lin 1-2, Parsons 1-4, Jones 0-1, Harden 0-3), Toronto 8-30 (Anderson 3-7, Lucas 2-4, DeRozan 1-3, Ross 1-5, Calderon 1-5, Pietrus 0-2, Kleiza 0-4). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsHouston 53 (Asik 13), Toronto 49 (Calderon 10). AssistsHouston 14 (Harden, Parsons 4), Toronto 29 (Calderon 14). Total FoulsHouston 19, Toronto 24. A17,863 (19,800).

    Nuggets 122, Kings 97

    DENVER (122): Gallinari 6-9 5-5 18, Faried 3-8 0-0 6, Koufos 6-10 0-2 12, Lawson 4-7 2-2 11, Iguodala 4-7 3-4 11, A.Miller 0-1 4-4 4, Brewer 2-9 0-0 6, McGee 7-9 5-8 19, Hamilton 6-11 0-0 15, Fournier 3-5 0-0 7, Mozgov 2-4 2-2 6, Randolph 3-4 0-0 6, Q.Miller 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 46-85 22-29 122.

    SACRAMENTO (97): Salmons 1-8 2-2 4, Thompson 7-14 2-2 16, Cousins 5-14 9-11 19, Brooks 3-10 1-2 9, Evans 0-4 2-2 2, Thomas 3-10 13-15 20, Garcia 3-5 0-0 7, Johnson 3-7 0-0 6, Hayes 1-1 0-0 2, Outlaw 0-4 0-0 0, Fredette 4-9 0-0 10, Robinson 1-5 0-0 2. Totals 31-91 29-34 97.

    Denver 32 32 33 25— 122

    Sacramento 23 23 21 30— 97

    3-Point GoalsDenver 8-18 (Hamilton 3-5, Brewer 2-5, Fournier 1-1, Lawson 1-2, Gallinari 1-3, Iguodala 0-1, Randolph 0-1), Sacramento 6-24 (Brooks 2-4, Fredette 2-5, Garcia 1-3, Thomas 1-3, Johnson 0-1, Outlaw 0-2, Evans 0-2, Salmons 0-4). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsDenver 61 (Faried, Iguodala 8), Sacramento 50 (Cousins 11). AssistsDenver 27 (Iguodala 8), Sacramento 13 (Thomas 4). Total FoulsDenver 25, Sacramento 19. TechnicalsFaried, A.Miller, Brooks, Cousins, Sacramento Coach Smart. A13,327 (17,317).

    Trail Blazers 95, Hornets 94

    NEW ORLEANS (94): Aminu 0-1 0-0 0, Anderson 9-16 1-2 26, Lopez 4-8 0-0 8, Vasquez 9-20 3-3 23, Rivers 3-8 1-2 8, Davis 5-10 5-6 15, Henry 0-2 0-0 0, Mason 1-4 0-0 3, Thomas 4-5 0-0 8, Roberts 0-1 0-0 0, McGuire 1-5 1-2 3. Totals 36-80 11-15 94.

    PORTLAND (95): Batum 4-11 0-0 11, Aldridge 8-17 4-4 20, Hickson 10-14 4-6 24, Lillard 5-14 2-2 16, Matthews 1-1 0-0 3, Claver 1-2 0-0 3, Babbitt 4-7 0-0 10, Barton 1-6 0-0 2, Price 1-2 0-0 2, Leonard 0-0 0-0 0, Pavlovic 2-6 0-0 4, Jeffries 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 37-80 10-12 95.

    New Orleans 19 24 20 31— 94

    Portland 25 29 21 20— 95

    3-Point GoalsNew Orleans 11-20 (Anderson 7-10, Vasquez 2-7, Rivers 1-1, Mason 1-2), Portland 11-29 (Lillard 4-10, Batum 3-9, Babbitt 2-5, Matthews 1-1, Claver 1-2, Barton 0-1, Pavlovic 0-1). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsNew Orleans 51 (Vasquez 8), Portland 42 (Hickson 16). AssistsNew Orleans 21 (Vasquez 11), Portland 25 (Batum 10). Total FoulsNew Orleans 15, Portland 12. Flagrant Fouls—Lopez, Batum. A18,772 (19,980).

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Sunday, December 16, 2012

    ARLINGTON, Texas — Tony Romo has the surging Cowboys tied for first in the NFC East.

    Brandon Carr intercepted a pass by Ben Roethlisberger and returned it 36 yards to the Steelers' 1-yard line in overtime, and Dan Bailey's 21-yard field goal gave the Cowboys a 27-24 win in front of thousands of Terrible Towel-waving Steelers fans at Cowboys Stadium on Sunday.

    The kick came after Romo, who surpassed 25,000 yards passing in the game, took a knee to put Bailey in better position.

    The Cowboys moved into a three-way tie for the East lead with the Giants and Redskins. Dallas has won three straight and five of six.

    "Those are the plays you dream about in the back yard, making the game-winning interception or touchdown," Carr said.

    Carr said he was anticipating Roethlisberger's throw to Mike Wallace because Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was his coach in Kansas City.

    Dallas was playing without six injured defensive starters.

    "It's something destined about this team," Cowboys defensive end Jason Hatcher said. "You look back there and you don't know anybody back there behind you."

    The Steelers have lost four of five and trail AFC North rival Cincinnati by a game for the second wild-card spot. They host the Bengals next week.

    Roethlisberger was sacked four times and finished 24-of-40 for 339 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception.

    "There won't be any quit from us, especially from me," Roethlisberger said. "This one is going to sting real bad."

    Roethlisberger put the Steelers ahead 24-17 with a 7-yard scoring pass to Antonio Brown. Later, Brown was about to put Pittsburgh in control with a long punt return. But he fumbled when Victor Butler knocked the ball loose at the end of a 22-yard return. Dallas recovered, setting up DeMarco Murray's 3-yard run that tied it.

    "Really, it's simple, man," Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin said. " Just not enough of the critical plays in the waning moments to seize opportunities."

    Dallas receiver Dez Bryant extended his touchdown streak to six games while playing with a broken left index finger.

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    When Rays third baseman Evan Longoria signed his six-year, $100 million extension last month, he talked a lot about wanting to "put roots down" and raise a family in the Tampa Bay area.

    Apparently, Longoria will get a start on that soon.

    Longoria's girlfriend, Jaime Edmondson (@jaimeedmondson), announced on Twitter over the weekend that the couple is expecting a child, "due spring training "13."

    "Evan & I really appreciate all of the kind words & well wishes we have gotten today...we look forward to being parents," Edmondson tweeted.

    Edmondson posted a photo, with the title, "We're starting a league of our own," with a small No. 3 Longoria jersey hung up next to one of the All-Star third baseman.

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    By Jim Huddleston, Times Correspondent
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    What's hot: With the holiday season, many will get new fishing gear. New artificials have outproduced live bait lately. Soft plastics and crankbaits have topped the list. The speckled sea trout bite has been phenomenal throughout St. Joseph Sound.

    Tips: Lower water in the mornings has pushed fish way off the flats into deeper dropoffs. It has been a good rule to start in at least 4 feet of water and work back to shallower grassflats while fan-casting the area. In cooler conditions, trout will school up tightly. Work the jigs very slowly. Darker jigs, especially turtlegrass green, are the ticket over gin-clear waters from Dunedin north. Lighter colors are attracting bluefish.

    Technique: Weighted shrimp have attracted sheepshead and flounder off sandy potholes around spoil islands. Back-country canals and creeks have snook attacking crankbaits worked along seawalls. Use plugs that run right to the bottom and kick up the mud, which stirs up attention as well as predators waiting to ambush easy meals.

    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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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    Normally, it is not appropriate for Lightning employees to mock coach Guy Boucher with what assistant equipment manager Rob Kennedy laughingly called "a few sweet nothings."

    But this was a competition, and Boucher and team massage therapist Christian Rivas were thumping all comers in what had turned into a five-hour marathon of Washers, a game best described as a combination of horseshoes and Cornhole.

    "Nothing derogatory, nothing to get you in trouble," Kennedy said of the taunts aimed at Boucher, "just a little something to get him off his game."

    "At one point," video coach Nigel Kirwan added, "somebody even said to him, 'You're not our boss out here.' "

    "Out here" was at Fort De Soto Park where on Wednesday and Thursday Boucher, Kirwan and assistant coaches Dan Lacroix and Marty Raymond joined five members of the team's training and equipment staffs on a two-night camping trip that was both bonding exercise and morale booster.

    The group has organized weekly gatherings during the NHL lockout to maintain the personal relationships they believe essential to the efficient workings of what Kennedy called their "team within a team." That efficiency will be tested if the lockout ends in the next month or so and a compressed 48-game schedule turns a usually hectic pace manic.

    So, "we have to stay connected," Raymond said. "We have to build relationships."

    Golf is the default activity, but simply shooting the breeze at the Tampa Bay Times Forum works too. The idea of a camping trip had percolated for a while.

    "When you're camping there's teamwork involved as far as getting meals made, getting the bedding, tents," Kennedy said. "It's similar to a road trip."

    The group took over two water-side campsites at Fort De Soto and marked them with a large blue Lightning banner.

    Bold, food-stealing raccoons were a problem, and high winds made fishing miserable. But talk around the campfire was jovial and food was plentiful.

    And then there was Boucher, who apparently took Washers as seriously as he did the Eastern Conference final.

    • • •

    The campsite was fairly secluded with three tents and Kennedy's pop-up camper. Kennedy, an Eagle Scout growing up in Chicago, arrived Tuesday with Kirwan to set things up and create what Kennedy called a "campy feel."

    Equipment manager Ray Thill showed up Wednesday in his 22-foot boat he guided across the bay from Tampa. The vessel was beached for a while when the tide went out, which delayed some fishing plans. But Thill said his first cross-bay trip was "really cool, something I really wanted to do."

    They ate grilled burgers Wednesday night; eggs, sausage and bacon Thursday morning; steaks and chops Thursday night with Boucher footing what was about a $400 food bill.

    They threw around a football and fished, unsuccessfully, off Thill's boat and on the flats.

    "It was just a bunch of guys hanging around a campfire, sharing stories and laughs," Kirwan said. "We laughed our butts off the whole time."

    Especially at the raccoons which Thill called "nosy little buggers" that "got into everything."

    One, ignoring Kirwan and assistant athletic trainer Mike Poirier just inches away, jumped on a chair and stole a bag of marshmallows that were supposed to be for S'mores.

    Another snuck into Raymond's empty tent and stole a bag of croissants meant for Thursday breakfast.

    "I start yelling, 'The raccoon stole something out of the tent,' " Kirwan said. "So we chased after him, but we couldn't catch him in the woods."

    Probably for the best given how nasty raccoons can be, though the half-eaten bag of croissants was recovered.

    "The raccoons had a lot of fun; good for them," Raymond said, laughing. "At least it wasn't just us having fun."

    • • •

    Because he does not golf, Boucher only intermittently is part of the group's weekly gatherings, so getting him to Fort De Soto seemed special.

    What also was cool, Kirwan said, was how among everyone "the titles melted away."

    That was clear during the Washers tournament as Boucher and Rivas won their first 10 games. That made them targets, especially Boucher whom Kirwan said "is just as competitive (at Washers) as anything else. He did not like losing."

    "We were all giving it to him," Kirwan added. "The jokes were flying every which way. It wasn't a situation where people were on guard about what they said to each other. He dished it and took it and he was a man about it. It was really good."

    There was no corroboration from Boucher, who left Friday to visit a friend in Vienna. But before the outing he praised the lengths to which his staff has gone to stay bonded during the lockout, which is in its 94th day.

    "The only thing we can do is control what we can control," he said, "and that's the staff working to make sure we're tight and we're a family-type atmosphere."

    "Hopefully this makes us stronger as a staff," Raymond added, "and that will help us down the road."

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

    Photo courtesy of Dan LacroixPhoto courtesy of Dan Lacroix

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    Times wires
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    NEW YORK — Eager for a new challenge and certainly a better chance to win, R.A. Dickey broke the news of his trade even before the Blue Jays and Mets did.

    A few minutes ahead of the teams announcing the seven-player swap Monday that sent the NL Cy Young winner to Toronto, he tweeted his thanks to Mets fans and added he was all set to pitch for Toronto.

    "Now that its official, I want to say that I don't have the words to express how grateful I am to you for the steadfast support," Dickey posted on Twitter. "Thank you for making me feel wanted.

    "Looking forward to a new chapter with the Jays."

    Toronto acquired the knuckleballer and catchers Josh Thole and Mike Nickeas. The Mets got top catching prospect Travis d'Arnaud and catcher John Buck, plus minor-league right-hander Noah Syndergaard and outfielder Wuilmer Becerra.

    "It was an extraordinary privilege for us to be part of his career," Mets general manager Sandy Alderson said of Dickey. "The final chapter has not been written."

    Earlier in the day, Dickey, 38, and the Blue Jays agreed to a contract, clearing the way for the deal. Toronto is spending a lot of money trying to join baseball's elite, acquiring All-Stars Jose Reyes, Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Melky Cabrera and Dickey since the season ended.

    Dickey was already signed for $5.25 million next year. His new contract adds two more seasons for $25 million. He will get $12 million in both 2014 and 2015, plus there's a club option for 2016 at $12 million with a $1 million buyout.

    Others to win the Cy Young and be traded before the next season were David Cone, Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens.

    Dickey was 20-6 with a 2.73 ERA last season, capping his rapid rise from the majors' scrap heap to an ace. He perfected a way to throw his floater faster than previous knuckleballers, and with exceptional control.

    What should be a stellar rotation also has Johnson, Buehrle and returning starters Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow.

    D'Arnaud, who turns 24 in February, hit .333 at Triple-A Las Vegas with a .380 on-base percentage and a .595 slugging percentage before tearing a knee ligament in June. He was rated Toronto's best prospect by Baseball America.

    RAYS FARMHAND SUSPENDED: Rays minor-league outfielder Cody Rogers has received a 50-game suspension without pay for refusing to take an offseason drug test, MLB announced. Rogers, a seventh-round pick in 2009, hit .244 in 112 games for Class A Charlotte last season. His suspension will be effective at the beginning of next season.

    PEÑA JOINS ASTROS: Former Rays first baseman Carlos Peña signed with the Astros to be their DH. Peña, 34, batted .197 with a .330 on-base percentage and a .354 slugging percentage last season, his second stint with Tampa Bay. He had his best seasons from 2007-10 with the Rays and is the franchise career leader with 163 home runs. He said he liked joining a rebuilding team: "I've been on teams where we were thought to be the worst in baseball at one point and very quickly, sooner than anyone expected, we were in a World Series.''

    DETROIT RE-SIGNS PITCHER: The Tigers agreed to a five-year contract with right-hander Anibal Sanchez worth a reported $80 million. Sanchez, 28, helped Detroit reach the World Series after being acquired from the Marlins in July.

    A'S: The team agreed to a $6.5 million, two-year deal with shortstop Hiroyuki Nakajima of Japan's Seibu Lions. Nakajima, 30, is a seven-time Pacific League All-Star.

    CUBS: Third baseman Ian Stewart agreed to a one-year contract that includes a guaranteed $2 million if he makes the opening-day roster and $500,000 in incentives.

    INDIANS: Free-agent outfielder Nick Swisher visited with the team. Swisher, 32, spent the past four seasons with the Yankees.

    RED SOX: Shortstop Stephen Drew agreed to a one-year, $9.5 million deal.

    Times staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.

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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    TAMPA — Feels like trouble over at One Buc Place.

    Not the trouble that gets a coach fired or a quarterback replaced. Not the trouble that requires ripping up the team and starting over.

    But the kind of trouble that eventually leads to firings and replacements and new blueprints if things don't get straightened out.

    Just a month ago, the Bucs had won four in a row. We were talking playoffs. We were talking about Greg Schiano's skilled leadership as a rookie coach. And someone — okay, that would be me — even mentioned something about giving quarterback Josh Freeman a $100 million contract extension.

    Now we're talking about a four-game losing streak. We're talking about the possibility of another losing season. We're wondering if Schiano has lost control of his locker room, as well as his sidelines. And most would rather stuff that $100 million in a suitcase and toss it off the Howard Frankland before giving a single penny to Freeman.

    This Bucs season has turned into one of those cartoons where the train is headed toward a track that ends on the middle of a bridge.

    The trouble can be seen through the three R's:


    Halfway through this four-game losing streak, the Bucs were 6-6, but it was a "good" 6-6. They had some last-second losses, they let a couple of games get away, they had a comeback or two fall a bit short. But, all in all, the Bucs were in every game.

    Then came Dec. 9 when the Bucs lost to an Eagles team that had lost eight in a row, a team that was playing a backup rookie quarterback and an organization that can't wait to get to the end of the season so they can start firing people.

    The Bucs followed that up with Sunday's 41-0 clunker in New Orleans. Clunker is a good word. It was Schiano's.

    "Well, I think our team is disappointed in what we did (Sunday)," Schiano said. "We go out and throw our first clunker. We've been together now for 11 months and we threw a clunker. Now, the sky is not falling."

    Maybe not. But you can see a few cracks.


    Normally, you don't make too much out of a disagreement on an NFL sideline, even if it turns physical. We've seen teammates go at it in baseball dugouts and on hockey benches and in football — in huddles, at practice, on the sidelines. That's why, at first take, you shouldn't blow Sunday's shoving match between assistant coach Bryan Cox and linebacker Adam Hayward out of proportion. It's tackle football. Tensions are high.

    Also, you normally don't make too much out of an anonymous quote like the one that came out Monday on profootballtalk.com. An unidentified Bucs player supposedly said, "Can we send these coaches back to college?"

    Without a name to attach to the quote, we have no clue as to if we're talking about a meaningful player, a player with an ax to grind or, quite frankly, if the player is even real.

    Rub these two incidents together and maybe you don't have a fire, but you certainly have a little smoke.

    Ultimately, a coach and a player pushing on a sideline just cannot happen, not if you have an environment of respect. And the college crack, if it really did happen, was a direct slap at Schiano. Even if no one said such a thing, the feeling always has been that Schiano's college ways would work as long as the team was winning, but could present a problem if the season started heading south.

    "The reality is I don't sense any of that," Schiano said Monday. "I feel like we got a group of men in that locker room who are together."

    For the record, Freeman called the team "unified."


    You hate to bring up last year's 4-12 debacle, but it can't be helped. The Bucs started just fine at 4-2, then the season crumbled. Ten straight losses, including a suggestion that the players stopped playing at the end. If you go back, it's hard to find more than one or two wins against decent opponents.

    Now it's 2012 and here comes another losing streak, here come a couple of bad losses and you really can't find more than one, maybe, really good win. The eye test suggests that the 2012 Bucs are way better than the 2011 Bucs, but the two seasons, especially of late, are looking just a tad too familiar.

    That leaves one R.


    It's not too late to fix this thing.

    "We dropped the ball," Freeman said Monday. "But it's how do we respond to adversity?"

    A victory Sunday against the Rams would be a good start, and a solid season finale against the Falcons would go a long way to giving hope for next season and restoring a bit of the confidence that has been lost in the past month.

    "We just need to do a better job of teaching and they need to do a better job of doing and we need to end this thing the right way," Schiano said.

    Then he smiled and repeated it:

    "End this thing the right way."

    Schiano has two games to end this the right way. Or else there could be big trouble.

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    Times staff
    Monday, December 17, 2012


    USF vs. Youngstown State

    When/where: 7; Sun Dome, Tampa

    TV/radio: BHSN; 98.7-FM, 1010-AM

    Records: Youngstown State 6-4, USF 5-3

    Notable: The Bulls haven't played since a 61-49 loss at Oklahoma State on Dec. 5 that snapped a three-game winning streak. USF shot a season-worst 34 percent (17-of-50) in that game. … The Penguins have won three in a row. They opened the season with road wins over George Washington and Georgia. … Senior guard Blake Allen played at Brandon High and had 2,006 career points.

    Times staff

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    Times wires
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Notre Dame's athletic director said the recently announced split between the Big East and seven schools that don't play major college football could complicate the Fighting Irish's exit from the conference.

    "Those two parties have to divide assets," Jack Swarbrick told reporters Monday. "It poses a question about who you're even talking to. Who is the Big East? Which of the two sides of that has the Big East name and rights, and who might lay claim to the Notre Dame affiliation going forward? It's an interesting dynamic to try and figure out where all that's headed. One of the real challenges we have right now is trying to assess when that might settle out."

    Notre Dame announced in September it is leaving to join the Atlantic Coast Conference, though its football program will remain independent.

    Big East bylaws require 27 months' notice from departing members, which would put Notre Dame's arrival in the ACC at 2015. The Irish would like to get out sooner and the Big East has been willing to discuss an early exit.

    Swarbrick said that Notre Dame, like the seven Catholic schools, is not on the hook to pay an exit fee to the Big East. He said Big East rules that allow groups of schools to leave without financial penalty apply to the Fighting Irish. But an early exit might require compensation.

    In other Notre Dame news, nose guard Louis Nix III and offensive tackle Zack Martin said they will return to school next year and skip the NFL draft.

    COACH INTRODUCED: Ron Caragher was introduced as coach at San Jose State. He has family in nearby Morgan Hill and plans to be in the area before flying out to watch the Spartans in the Military Bowl in Washington, D.C., two days later. "This is a homecoming for me," he said. "I used to attend Spartan camps in the summer and as a high school player I watched games and played in games at Spartan Stadium."

    LOU HOLTZ HONORED: Longtime former college football coach and ESPN broadcaster Lou Holtz received an honorary doctorate of education as featured speaker at the University of South Carolina's commencement ceremonies. Holtz coached the Gamecocks from 1999-2004.

    PLAYER TOSSED FOR TWEET: The University of North Alabama said walk-on Bradley Patterson is off the team after sending a racist tweet about President Barack Obama. The third-string long snapper used a racial slur while complaining that the president's speech about the Connecticut school massacre pre-empted an NFL game Sunday night.

    CAL DAVIS: Former California running game coordinator Ron Gould was hired as head coach. Gould, 47, will replace Bob Biggs, who retired after the season.

    CINCINNATI: The NCAA granted senior quarterback Brendon Kay an extra season of eligibility, giving the Bearcats a proven passer heading into their first year under coach Tommy Tuberville.

    N.C. STATE: New coach Dave Doeren hired Wisconsin assistant Eddie Faulkner to coach tight ends and fullback and serve as special teams coordinator.

    WEST VIRGINIA: Record-setting receiver Stedman Bailey will forgo his senior year and enter the NFL draft.

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  • 12/17/12--18:46: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Monday, December 17, 2012



    ALTA BADIA, Italy — Lindsey Vonn is heading back to the United States for an unexpected break in the middle of the World Cup ski season and is unlikely to return to Europe until January.

    After a weekend of disappointing results at a World Cup meet in France, the four-time overall champion said Monday in a statement on her Facebook page that she needs to regain full strength before returning to the slopes after Jan. 1.

    Vonn stayed two nights in a hospital in Vail, Colo., in November after suffering severe intestinal pain.

    "After talking with my family and consulting with my coaches and trainers, I have decided to take a break from the World Cup circuit," Vonn said. "Since my intestinal infection last month, I have been struggling with my energy and strength."

    U.S. women's coach Alex Hoedlmoser said Vonn's heavy schedule has not let her recover from her illness. Vonn will miss this week's slalom and giant slalom races in Are, Sweden, and possibly races Dec. 28-29 in Semmering, Austria.

    She is fourth in the standings, behind Tina Maze, Maria Hoefl-Riesch and Kathrin Zettel.


    USF hosting NCAA golf events in 2015

    USF was picked to host the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Golf Championships, the NCAA announced Monday. The tournaments will be played at The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, with dates to be determined. Also, the Golf Channel announced that it will televise the NCAA Division I golf championships starting in 2014 and including both the men's and women's '15 tournament. That will mark the first time since 1997 that the women's championship is televised live.


    High-ranking FIFA figure calls it quits

    Mohamed bin Hammam resigned from all soccer-related posts and received a new lifetime ban from FIFA, perhaps closing one of the most damaging corruption scandals to hit the sport's world governing body. Bin Hammam, a FIFA executive committee member from Qatar who challenged incumbent Sepp Blatter for the presidency last year, gave up his long-running dispute with the organization after being found guilty by FIFA of "repeated violations" of its code of ethics while head of the Asian confederation.

    MLS: New York signed midfielder Juninho, 37, who played on Brazil's World Cup team in 2006, from Brazilian club Vasco da Gama.

    ENGLAND: Santi Cazorla had a hat trick to help Arsenal win 5-2 at last-place Reading in the Premier League.

    SOUTH AFRICA: The country's association suspended president Kirsten Nematandani and four other officials after a FIFA report into match-fixing ahead of the 2010 World Cup found "compelling evidence" that betting syndicates fixed one or more games.


    TENNIS: The ATP said it opposes the U.S. Open's switch to a Monday final in 2013 and is not satisfied with the prize money increase for the tournament.

    OLYMPICS: Baseball and softball leaders agreed on a name for the new unified international body seeking a place in the 2020 Games. The World Baseball Softball Confederation will govern both sports in their joint bid for a return to the games. The sports, voted out by the IOC in 2005, were last played at the 2008 Beijing Games.

    Times staff, wires

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    TAMPA — Bucs receivers coach P.J. Fleck, a bright, up-and-coming member of the staff, will end his brief tenure when he leaves to become the coach at Western Michigan.

    The school confirmed the hire Monday and plans to introduce Fleck today in Kalamazoo, Mich. Fleck, 32, will be the youngest coach in Division I-A.

    Fleck has employed his enthusiastic hands-on coaching style to help Vincent Jackson (1,226 yards) to a career year, while pushing third-year player Mike Williams to resurrect his career after his struggles of 2011. Also, under Fleck's tutelage, journeyman Tiquan Underwood has had his most productive season as a pro after three years of struggling to stay on rosters.

    Coach Greg Schiano declined to confirm the news Monday, but underscored Fleck's importance to the staff.

    "Let me just say that P.J.'s an excellent football coach," Schiano said. "And like a lot of guys on our staff, in years to come, people are going to come after them to be head coaches, whether it be in the NFL or in major college. We'll deal with each one as it comes down the pipe."

    Fleck, a former standout receiver at Northern Illinois (also a member of the Mid-American Conference) and a member of the 49ers for two seasons, takes over a program formerly led Bill Cubit, who was fired last month.

    Before joining the Bucs, Fleck's coaching experience had come entirely at the college level. He was a grad assistant at Ohio State and receivers coach at Northern Illinois and Rutgers. Fleck was named offensive coordinator at Northern Illinois in February, resigning after one day when Schiano offered Fleck his current post with the Bucs.

    INTO THE DEEP: TE Dallas Clark didn't take a bow for catching a game-high eight passes in Sunday's 41-0 loss to the Saints.

    It wasn't anything to celebrate, he said.

    He seemed the go-to target for QB Josh Freeman because that's all the Saints gave Tampa Bay's offense. With the score 24-0 by halftime, the Saints predictably went to a deep zone coverage, keeping everything in front of the defense and preventing the deep shots the Bucs have executed well this season.

    "You had to take a lot of checkdowns and a lot of things underneath," Clark said. "That's exactly what they wanted: to keep me inbounds and milk the clock. It just got lopsided in such a hurry that that was our only shot."

    The Bucs' longest completion of the game was a 24-yard hookup between Freeman and Williams.

    OVERSHADOWED: Eclipsed by the loss in New Orleans was what the Bucs hope is the start of good things to come from rookie SS Mark Barron.

    Schiano, speaking on his weekly radio call-in show, said Barron had his best game "in a while," notching a career-best 10 tackles — eight solo.

    Barron, who added a pass deflection, has been under some scrutiny for a lack of splash plays despite his status as the seventh overall pick in April's draft. The Bucs say Barron has had a solid season, though he clearly has had some sporadic issues when in coverage.

    TIDBITS: With many reserves playing late in Sunday's game, WR Chris Owusu and QB Dan Orlovsky saw action. Owusu made his first career catch, gaining 24 yards, and Orlovsky played for the first time this season. He was 4 of 7 for 51 yards.

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    TAMPA — Since Sunday's 41-0 loss to the New Orleans Saints, the Bucs talk has been about sideline clashes with coaches, an anonymous player suggesting the staff should head back to college and fans ready to toss quarterback Josh Freeman overboard.

    Coach Greg Schiano responded Monday by giving players the day off, then dismissed many of the swirling issues.

    "The team is disappointed in what we did," he said of the Bucs' fourth straight defeat, the first by more than one score this season. "Whether it was all pretty or perfect, but 13 games, either we won or it came down to a one possession game where we could've won the game … and that's competitive football. Then we go out and we throw our first clunker.

    "…We've got a lot of good young players and we have some experienced really good players. Now, we've got to get over it."

    Shortly after the Bucs (6-8) were eliminated from playoff contention, Schiano said he addressed the team Sunday night and acknowledged it might benefit from consecutive days off heading into the final games, Sunday at home against the Rams and Dec. 30 at Atlanta.

    "Why the day off? Look, you'd be naive to say the dynamics of things haven't changed now that we're no longer in the playoff hunt," Schiano said. "We have two, one-game seasons coming up. We got everything discussed that we had to discuss and we need to get better Wednesday getting ready for St. Louis."

    Schiano fielded questions about a sideline spat between assistant Bryan Cox and linebacker Adam Hayward during the game and a report on profootballtalk,com quoting an anonymous player saying, "Can we send these coaches back to college?''

    As for the Cox-Hayward feud, Schiano said, "That is a heat of the moment deal that's behind us. We are moving forward. It is kind of like in your own family. It is never perfect, right? You really don't need everybody to see it on (TV). That is not the best thing either, but it is behind us."

    Schiano was dismissive of possible rancor developing between some players and coaches, many of whom came from Rutgers.

    "Well, I already graduated, so I do not need to go back to college," Schiano said. "I wasn't a great student, but I got the degree so that I don't need.

    "I don't sense any of that. Anonymous sources are anonymous sources. So, I feel we've got a group of men in that locker room that are together, understand where we're going, know this is going to be a championship organization again and we're all working hard."

    Freeman said players are sticking together with the staff.

    "We are unified," Freeman said. "I think that we still have a lot of young components, we still have a first-year system. We had some success. But at the same time, we've got to find a way to take it to the next level.

    "Judging by the number of guys that are in the building on this off day, I think that mentally guys are not only unified, but heading in the right direction."

    Freeman blamed one of the worst games of his career, with four interceptions and a lost fumble, on ''miscommunication'' with receivers.

    Schiano said he's not concerned about Freeman because of Freeman's work ethic.

    "If Josh Freeman wasn't coming in and just spending all kinds of time here and if I wasn't getting texts and our coaches asking questions at 10 o'clock at night asking about coverages and things like that, then yeah, I'd have reason to be concerned," Schiano said. "But I know everybody goes through better times, lesser times. But I also know those who persevere, those who work, tend to their knitting, they're going to fine. Josh is tending to his knitting, so we're going to be fine."

    Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com.

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    Times wires
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots claim they don't think about playoff seeding. They say the only games they focus on are the next one or two. Win and their postseason position will take care of itself.

    Winning their remaining two regular-season games, though, may not help this time around. Not after Sunday night's 41-34 loss to San Francisco.

    The Patriots went into it in second place in the AFC and in strong position to snare one of two conference byes. They came out the No. 3 seed with the likely prospect of a wild-card game. After that — should they win — a road game in the division round. Not easy.

    "I'm not even thinking about the playoffs right now," linebacker Rob Ninkovich said Monday. "I'm just focusing on the next two games."

    It was a day-after-game reality the Patriots don't face very often — coping with a loss.

    They had won seven straight since a 24-23 loss Oct. 14 at Seattle. New England saw the end of two streaks: 20 straight home wins in December, dating to 2002, and 21 straight wins in the second half of a schedule.

    But for coach Bill Belichick Monday was another day to wrap up the latest effort and look ahead to the next, Sunday against the Jaguars.

    "I'd say we pretty much do the same thing we always do," he said. "…We'll talk about the things that we did right and reinforce those. We'll talk about the things we did wrong and correct those. Once that's over with, we'll put this game to rest and move on to Jacksonville."

    Report: Steroids in system of Reid's son

    PHILADELPHIA — The oldest son of Eagles coach Andy Reid had illegal anabolic steroids in his Lehigh University dormitory room when he died of a heroin overdose Aug. 5 during training camp, Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli said.

    Tests showed that 19 vials found in Garrett Reid's gym bag contained four types of anabolic steroids used for bodybuilding, Morganelli said. The steroids did not contribute to Reid's death, the district attorney said. Garrett Reid, 29, was an assistant on the Eagles' strength and conditioning staff.

    "There is no evidence that he was selling steroids or heroin," Morganelli said. Authorities also found 47 syringes and 64 needles, which "could have been all for his personal use," Morganelli said.

    In a statement, Andy Reid said he was confident that his son's decisions "did not affect our football team in any way."

    BRENT SURPRISED TEAM: Josh Brent, free on bond while facing an intoxication manslaughter charge for the wreck that killed Cowboys teammate Jerry Brown, surprised coach Jason Garrett and owner Jerry Jones by appearing on the sideline on Sunday, ESPN reported. Brent is on the reserve non-football injury list. ESPN said Garrett didn't know Brent would be on the sideline until pregame warmups. The team was criticized during the TV broadcast for allowing Brent on the sideline.

    REDSKINS: Coach Mike Shanahan said he's waiting for word from doctors before declaring quarterback Robert Griffin III ready to return. The rookie missed Sunday's game with a sprained ligament in his right knee. … The league suspended tackle Jordan Black four games for violating its policy on performance-enhancing substances.

    SEAHAWKS: ESPN reported cornerback Richard Sherman will have an appeal Friday regarding his positive test for a banned substance. … Rookie safety Winston Guy was reinstated from the suspended list after missing four games.

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Monday, December 17, 2012

    TALLAHASSEE — Playing without leading scorer Michael Snaer, Florida State shook off a sluggish start and rallied behind season-best performances from Okaro White and Snaer's fill-in, Aaron Thomas.

    White, the former Clearwater High standout, had 19 points and 11 rebounds and Thomas, a freshman, added a career-high 17 points in his first college start as the Seminoles defeated Louisiana-Monroe 63-48 Monday night.

    FSU (6-4) played without Snaer, a senior guard who averages 14.2 points but sat out as part of what coach Leonard Hamilton called a "discipline issue."

    "I kind of felt like I had to step up a little bit more because he wasn't out there," White said. "It was a little bit more pressure."

    White scored 11 of the first 17 for FSU, which turned the ball over 13 times in the first half. The junior forward made 12 of 13 free throws and finished one point shy of his career high, set against Charleston Southern in December 2011.

    "Okaro gave us pretty good leadership on the floor," Hamilton said. "He hit some big free throws. He's been shooting the ball extremely well."

    Hamilton said Snaer would return to his "regular role" Saturday at Charlotte.

    FSU, who also played without guard Ian Miller (foot) and forward Robert Gilchrist (groin), got a breakout performance from Thomas. The freshman had six rebounds and shot 6-of-12 from the floor and 5-of-5 from the free-throw line. He also played a season-high 32 minutes.

    "His game is unbelievable," White said of Thomas. "I think he'll be a pro. His game is very skilled."

    Trent Mackey had 22 points and hit six 3-pointers, and Jayon James added six points and 12 rebounds for Louisiana-Monroe (1-6).

    The Warhawks led 18-11 with 8:54 left in the first half, but FSU went on a 15-2 run to pull ahead for good.

    Louisiana-Monroe shot 38 percent (19-of-50) from the floor. Other than Mackey, the Warhawks made 1 of 9 3-pointers.

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