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    By Matt Santiago, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Artificial intelligence: Winter is a great time to hone your artificial skills. While whitebait is on its way out and fishing with shrimp might not excite you, using artificials can be a great change of pace.

    Controlling your speed: One of the best reasons to fish artificials is you control the speed and action of your bait. Slowing your bait is key to enticing lethargic winter fish to bite. Experiment with the action and retrieval rate until you find the pattern the fish react best to that day.

    Getting jiggy: My favorite winter artificial is a 1/8- to 1/16-ounce jig head with a light-colored body. Light-colored paddletails are usually a good bet, but you also can't go wrong with stinky shrimp-style bodies. Clear water is a blessing and a curse when targeting flats game fish on artificials. Though the great visibility we have right now is great for spotting fish and sight casting, the fish can see you and your offering much better. Going down to 10- to 15-pound test fluorocarbon and a 1/16-ounce jig head could be the difference between catching and fishing.

    Matt Santiago can be reached at (813) 205-2327, CaptainMattSantiago@gmail.com and FishingGuideTampa.com.


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    Times staff
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Josh Freeman vs. other young quarterbacks

    Comparing quarterbacks drafted since 2002 in their first three seasons as a full-time starter, including their age during the first year:

    Name Team Rnd (overall) Years (Age) Att. Com. Pct. Yds.Yds./Gm Yds./Att TD INT Rating

    1. Aaron Rodgers Packers 1st (24th) 2008-10 (24) 1,552 1,003 64.6 12,394 263.7 7.99 86 31 99.4

    2. Matt Schaub Texans 3rd (90th) 2007-09 (26) 1,252 839 67.0 10,054 264.68.03 53 34 94.2

    3. Philip Rivers Chargers 1st (4th) 2006-08 (24) 1,398 873 62.4 10,549 219.87.55 77 35 93.5

    4. Carson Palmer Bengals 1st (1st) 2004-06 (24) 1,461 932 63.8 10,768 236.37.37 78 43 91.5

    5. Ben Roethlisberger Steelers 1st (11th) 2004-06 (22) 1,012 632 62.5 8,343 208.68.24 50 41 88.1

    6. Joe Flacco Ravens 1st (18th) 2008-10 (23) 1,416 878 62.0 10,206 212.67.21 60 34 87.9

    7. Matt Ryan Falcons 1st (3rd) 2008-10 (23) 1,456 885 60.8 10,061 218.76.91 66 34 86.9

    8. Josh Freeman Bucs 1st (17th) 2010-12 (22) 1,494 894 59.8 10,514 233.67.04 66 40 84.8

    9. Jay Cutler Broncos 1st (11th) 2007-09 (24) 1,638 1,017 62.1 11,689 243.57.14 72 58 83.5

    10. Jason Campbell Redskins 1st (25th) 2007-09 (25) 1,430 892 62.4 9,563 212.56.69 45 32 83.1

    11. Drew Brees Chargers 2nd (32nd) 2002-04 (23) 1,282 787 61.4 8,551 203.6 6.67 55 38 83.0

    12. Matt Stafford * Lions 1st (1st) 2009-12 (21) 1,765 1,053 59.7 12,092 281.26.85 77 52 82.6

    * Stats do not include Saturday's game, do include his only three games of 2010 because of injury


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  • 12/22/12--15:57: NFL Week 16
  • By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Raiders (4-10) at Panthers (5-9)

    1 p.m.

    Panthers by 9, 46½

    It might be time to lay off Cam Newton a bit. Check out his past five games: 10 touchdowns, no interceptions and a passer rating of 109.8. And did we mention he's still the Panthers' leading rusher? Hard to argue he hasn't acquitted himself well after that tough start. He's even pouting less. The Panthers have won three of four, and if management can get its act together and get Newton some more playmakers in 2013, it might get interesting.

    Panthers 30, Raiders 24

    Patriots (10-4) at Jaguars (2-12)

    1 p.m.

    Patriots by 14½, 50

    As unbelievable as this might be, the Jaguars will finish 2012 with a worse record than in 2011, when they went 5-11. We would like to offer some optimism, but they face an angry Patriots team looking to regain its form after a home loss to the 49ers a week ago. It's just not gonna happen. New England is 29-4 after a loss under coach Bill Belichick dropping consecutive regular-season games only four times during his tenure.

    Patriots 35, Jaguars 17

    Vikings (8-6) at Texans (12-2)

    1 p.m.

    Texans by 8, 44½

    We're all eager to see if Adrian Peterson, above, can break Eric Dickerson's rushing record. But there's another story line playing out for Minnesota: If this team is going to be in the postseason, it's going to have to earn it against some of the best the NFL has to offer. Today, it's the Texans. Next week the Packers. With the offensive balance of the Texans, who have their own star running back in Arian Foster, it's difficult to predict an upset.

    Texans 30, Vikings 21

    Browns (5-9) at Broncos (11-3)

    4 p.m., Ch. 10

    Broncos by 12½, 44

    Memo to the rest of the AFC: The Broncos haven't lost since Oct. 7. The reminder seems necessary only because it seems more buzz surrounds the Patriots and Texans. What has kept Denver going — besides all-time great QB Peyton Manning, above — is RB Knowshon Moreno. The first-round pick has revived his career since Willis McGahee's injury, averaging 121.8 yards from scrimmage over his past four games. Not bad for a backup.

    Broncos 31, Browns 16

    Bears (8-6) at Cardinals (5-9)

    4:25 p.m.

    Bears by 5½, 36½

    You want to believe this will be the week the Bears get back on track after three losses that might cost them the playoffs. But how can they be trusted to do anything right? Here's what we do know: Chicago had better get on track or a lot of things in the Windy City could change, not the least of which is coach Lovie Smith. Would ownership be willing to accept two straight late-season collapses? Given their talent, the answer might be no.

    Bears 24, Cardinals 21

    49ers (10-3-1) at Seahawks (9-5)

    8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

    Pick 'em, 39

    Here's the biggest test for Colin Kaepernick, above, the second-year 49ers quarterback who gutted the Patriots on the road last week with four touchdown passes. This is a tall order: a ferocious defense at a venue most unkind to visitors. Seattle has six interceptions over its past two games — scoring 50-plus in both — and two were returned for scores. If CB Richard Sherman plays (he's appealing a suspension), it only gets tougher.

    49ers 24, S'hawks 21

    Giants (8-6) at Ravens (9-5)

    4:25 p.m., Ch. 13

    Giants by 2½, 47½

    The Ravens are without an identity. Always known for defense, they've given up 29.3 points over their past three games (all losses). Offensively, they've fallen to pieces after starting the season with fireworks. The Giants are in a funk, too. Last week's 34-0 loss to Atlanta was uncharacteristic. And the struggles of QB Eli Manning are disconcerting. But in this game of wayward teams, we'll lean on the QB with two Super Bowl rings.

    Giants 23, Ravens 21

    Saints (6-8) at Cowboys (8-6)

    1 p.m.

    Cowboys by 2½, 52

    The Cowboys, predictably, started 3-5, but if they could ever get off to a fast start, just think of the record they might put together. As it is, they have a chance to get to 10-6 and make the playoffs (although Dallas has won only one playoff game since its titles in the '90s). The Saints' 41-0 thrashing of the Bucs last week is an aberration. Their defense will be overrun by the Cowboys, particularly WR Dez Bryant, who has caught 10 touchdowns.

    Cowboys 28, Saints 24

    Titans (5-9) at Packers (10-4)

    1 p.m.

    Packers by 12½, 44½

    It seems the Packers aren't at the forefront of most people's minds with the playoffs approaching. And who knows if they will stick around the postseason for long? But ask yourself: If the Packers earn a first-round bye, would you want to travel to Lambeau in January? That's why these last two games are essential for Green Bay, which is trying to leapfrog the 49ers. Today, QB Aaron Rodgers looks to continue his MVP campaign.

    Packers 31, Titans 20

    Colts (9-5) at Chiefs (2-12)

    1 p.m.

    Colts by 7, 41½

    The Colts clinch a playoff spot with a win, which adds another remarkable piece to their story. Meanwhile, coach Chuck Pagano, above, who is battling leukemia, is preparing to return for next week's finale. The Colts can become just the fourth team to win 10 games after notching two or fewer the previous season. It's hard not to be happy for the veterans, including WR Reggie Wayne and DEs Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis.

    Colts 27, Chiefs 17

    Bills (5-9) at Dolphins (6-8)

    1 p.m.

    Dolphins by 4½, 41½

    The Dolphins had every opportunity to beat the Bills in the first meeting, but their offensive execution was lacking. It was better last week in a 24-3 win against the Jaguars. Meanwhile, the Bills fell apart in a 50-17 loss to Seattle. Bills RB C.J. Spiller, above, is a handful for most teams, but Dolphins LBs Karlos Dansby and Kevin Burnett are good against the run. It helps that Cameron Wake and Randy Starks are playing well on the line.

    Dolphins 24, Bills 23

    Chargers (5-9) at Jets (6-8)

    1 p.m.

    Jets by 2, 37½

    Talk about two teams that deserve each other. Are there any more disappointing teams than them? Greg McElroy, above, gets the call at quarterback after the Jets finally decided the performance of Mark Sanchez is unsustainable. The Chargers, meanwhile, are coming off a blowout loss at home to the 5-9 Panthers. There's a lot of dysfunction between these teams. Might give a slight edge to the Chargers against a young QB.

    Chargers 24, Jets 17

    Bengals (8-6) at Steelers (7-7)

    1 p.m., Ch. 10

    Steelers by 3½, 42

    I realize it still has QB Ben Roethlisberger and boasts the NFL's No. 1 defense, but Pittsburgh — for the second season in a row — just isn't scaring people the way it used to. Is this permanent? Maybe this game will offer some answers. It also, however, will tell us something about the Bengals. Can they win a big game on the road? Can QB Andy Dalton, above, handle the pass rush? In a game this big, it's just too hard to pick against the Steelers.

    Steelers 23, Bengals 20

    Redskins (8-6) at Eagles (4-10)

    1 p.m.

    Redskins by 6½, 45

    What a comforting feeling for the Redskins to know backup QB Kirk Cousins can win as he did emphatically last week against the Browns. An even better feeling is knowing Robert Griffin III, above, will play, as it appears after missing a game with a knee injury. RG3 had a day in the teams' previous meeting: 14-of-15, 200 yards, four touchdowns, no interceptions. This time, with help, he can do something bigger: clinch a playoff spot.

    Redskins 27, Eagles 20


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  • 12/22/12--16:34: Around the NFL
  • By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    Colts quarterback Andrew Luck pulled off some Tom Brady-like comebacks. • Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III stole the show on highlight reels. • As the Nos. 1 and 2 picks in the draft, respectively, the rookies have led their franchises to turnaround seasons and potential playoff berths. • But you can make a strong case for another QB when it comes to the rookie of the year. • That would be Seattle's Russell Wilson, the lesser-known third-round pick out of Wisconsin who leads the red-hot Seahawks into a prime-time Puget Sound showdown tonight with the 49ers. • Wilson, who had to beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn in the preseason, has impressed with his mobility and intangibles. He has thrown for more touchdowns — and has a better quarterback rating — than Luck. And though he has fewer rushing yards than Griffin, unlike Griffin, he has avoided injuries. • "If it wasn't for RG3, Russell Wilson would actually have played the best out of any rookie quarterback: completion percentage, passer rating, touchdown-to-interception ratio," NFL Network analyst LaDainian Tomlinson said on SiriusXM radio. "What he has done in getting this team to this point is really remarkable. And so really and truly, at this time, I think Russell Wilson is your rookie of the year." • Said CBS analyst Rich Gannon: "He has been very special." • Tonight could be a major showcase for Wilson and the Seahawks, who have won five of six and scored a combined 108 points over the past two weeks. Seattle is 6-0 at home, and with a win tonight, it clinches a playoff berth and keeps its division title hopes alive. It's an intriguing matchup with two coaches, Jim Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, who feuded in college (Stanford and USC, respectively). There are two talented young quarterbacks, Wilson and Colin Kaepernick, and two top-five defenses. • "We're fighting for a championship," Carroll said. "That's all I could ever ask for. We've got a chance to do something special."

    Fab five

    1. Broncos 2. 49ers

    3. Patriots 4. Texans

    5. Falcons

    Fighting for Flacco

    You think Bucs quarterback Josh Freeman is under fire? Just look at Ravens QB Joe Flacco, left. Not long ago, it seemed like a slam dunk that Flacco, who can become a free agent after this season, would get a long-term deal. Coach John Harbaugh said after the opener, when Flacco threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns in a 44-13 win over the Bengals: "Pay him whatever he asks for." But with the Ravens on a three-game losing streak, Flacco has become a target for criticism and doubters (despite his six touchdowns and three interceptions). Clark Judge of cbssports.com, however, says the Ravens will keep him for one reason: He wins. Flacco has led Baltimore to the playoffs in each of his first five season as well as two AFC title games. Writes Judge: "The Ravens ran a lot of guys through the door at quarterback, and only one stuck. You're looking at him, people, and you should be looking at him for a long, long time."

    Boo birds

    The Bears, apparently, aren't too high on the home crowd booing them after last week's loss to the Packers. "I know there are a lot of experts in the media, a bunch of smart guys out there who know exactly what they're talking about all the time," linebacker Brian Urlacher, above, said. "They don't know what they're talking about. The only team in our division that gets booed at home is us. It's incredible to me. Believe it. Don't believe it. We don't care." Said linebacker Lance Briggs: "I've been here for a long time, too, and I've seen a lot of boos; for a lot of the wrong reasons. Nobody on any team that I've ever been on gets booed more at home than here in Chicago."

    Times wires contributed to this report. Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com

    Best bet

    Giants (8-6) over Ravens (9-5)

    The defending champions looked bad in a blowout loss at Atlanta last week but are in a must-win situation in a crowded NFC East.

    Tough luck Tebow

    Remember all the back-page headlines and nonstop ESPN coverage Tim Tebow received during training camp? Well, with the Jets benching struggling quarterback Mark Sanchez and bypassing the ex-Gator for Greg McElroy, there are reports they will trade or release Tebow after the season. Acquired from Denver as the league's most popular backup and a wildcat threat, the Tebow trade "hasn't panned out to my expectations and, maybe, to Tim's either," coach Rex Ryan said. Tebow has won a Heisman, spurred several fourth-quarter rallies in the NFL and led the Broncos to an unforgettable playoff win. But some believe he will never again be an NFL starting quarterback.

    Best news of the week

    Colts coach Chuck Pagano, left, who has inspired many during his battle with leukemia, is expected to return to work Monday, according to the Indianapolis Star. With his leukemia in remission, Pagano, 52, can resume full duties, and he'll likely take over a playoff team. (The Colts can clinch a berth with a win over the Chiefs today.) Buoyed by Pagano's "ChuckStrong" movement, Indianapolis has been one of the league's biggest surprises, going 8-3 under interim coach Bruce Arians. Said Arians: "Hopefully, we can get this victory and secure our playoff spot and turn it back over to Chuck."


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    By Tom Jones, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    tom jones' two cents

    Another chance. That's all they want. One more chance.

    For some, it's a chance to reclaim past glory. For others, it's a chance to get back to the winner's circle. For one in particular, he just wants to be able to play.

    Today we look at those athletes who want one more chance.

    Marty St. Louis

    If there's one guy you should feel sorry for when it comes to the NHL lockout, it's Lightning forward St. Louis. Let's say this season is lost to a lockout. What kind of rust builds up on a 37-year-old body if he sits out an entire NHL season? In fact, at the start of next season, St. Louis will be 38.

    St. Louis keeps himself in incredible shape and one could argue that the year off could do his bones some good. But your skills do not sharpen in your late 30s when you're a professional athlete.

    But here's the really sad part for St. Louis: When he retires, he will be a borderline Hall of Famer. Imagine the numbers he would have put up had it not been for, potentially, two lost seasons. We're talking, perhaps, 60 or 70 goals and as many as 200 points. Hopefully future Hall of Fame voters will keep that in mind.

    Kobe Bryant

    Manny Pacquiao

    Peyton Manning

    I have to be honest here. I still think Manning needs another Super Bowl ring before I put him among the truly elite quarterbacks of all-time. He has a ton of regular-season records and he does have a Super Bowl championship. You can probably find plenty of people who consider him the best QB who ever played the game. But Manning has been surrounded by as much skill as anyone over his career and he still has only one title — that's fewer than Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger and little brother Eli. And that's just of the active quarterbacks.

    All-time, he doesn't match up with Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Troy Aikman, Bart Starr, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, John Elway and Jim Plunkett. Then there are guys who won the old NFL (pre-Super Bowl) championships, such as Johnny Unitas.

    The bottom line is Manning is 9-10 in the postseason and four victories came in one postseason. Throw out that one Super Bowl run — and, sure, I realize that's not totally fair — and his postseason record would be 5-10. Sorry, that doesn't equate to elite, particularly when he has been on teams more than good enough to win it all.

    His comeback this season with the Broncos has been remarkable and a championship would elevate his career alongside the best QBs ever.

    Alex Rodriguez

    It's interesting to follow the arc of the Yankees slugger's career. Once upon a time he seemed on his way to being the greatest baseball player who ever lived. These days, his reputation is in tatters. A steroid scandal has tainted his numbers. His need for attention and acceptance, as well as his postseason failures, have tainted his legacy. And, no matter what he does, he always will be seen as the opposite of longtime teammate Derek Jeter, who will go into history as a classy and dependable leader and winner.

    A-Rod's past few years have been marked by injuries. The third baseman hasn't played more than 138 games in six years. Now a major hip surgery will keep him out of the lineup for half of next season. He turns 38 in July, and you wonder if he will ever be the same player again.

    Can he stay healthy enough for one more whack at repairing his image?

    Roger Federer

    The Swiss tennis star is 31 years old. In tennis years, that's like 76, isn't it? Rarely, anymore, do you see a male player over 30 continue to be so relevant. It appeared his time of winning majors was just about over, then he showed he had another punch left in him when he beat Andy Murray to win Wimbledon back in July. But Murray rebounded to beat Federer for the Olympic gold in London.

    Now it would appear that Federer is starting to lose ground to Murray, and he's probably already behind Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal, as long as Nadal is healthy. Even one more major would be quite the accomplishment. After all, Federer only won one of the past 11 majors.

    Tiger Woods

    I still find the story of Woods — from his phenomenal success as a teenager to becoming the best golfer on the planet to his fall from grace — to be the most fascinating sports story of our generation. And now we are getting into the later chapters.

    Will he ever win another major? Will he win five more to break Jack Nicklaus' all-time record of 18 majors? Will he go down as the no-doubt-about-it greatest golfer who ever lived?

    Hard to believe that he hasn't won a major since the 2008 U.S. Open. He turns 37 a week from today. Time is getting short for Woods to make his move.

    Will he get there? Who knows, but it sure will be fun to watch.



    This is in no way to suggest that Bryant can no longer play the game of basketball. He remains an elite player, averaging nearly 30 points a game to lead the league and still fully capable of going off for 50 anytime he takes the floor.

    But here's the thing about Bryant: He's 34 years old, and it's an old 34. Incredibly, this is his 17th season in the league. Throw in another 220 postseason games and it's like he has played nearly 20 NBA seasons. Think of the wear and tear physically.

    Meantime, with the Lakers struggling to find a winning recipe, Bryant says this is the most mentally gruelling season he has endured.

    Does he have the energy to withstand what it will take to get the Lakers back in the NBA Finals?

    When the Pac-man was punching his way through Sugar Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Ricky Hatton and Oscar De La Hoya over the past few years, he not only was considered the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but one of the best fighters the sweet science has ever seen.

    But now he has lost two fights in a row, including just two weeks ago when he was knocked out cold by Juan Manuel Marquez. Certainly, Pacquaio has enough cache and probably just enough skills left to get back in the ring for a fifth fight against Marquez. Then again, you have to wonder if a 34-year-old can ever be the same fighter after the type of knockout he suffered.


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    By Derek J. LaRiviere, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Clay, the runnerup team at the Class A state meet last season, was dominant in emerging from a 23-team field with the 10th annual Gulf Holiday Duals championship, winning its finals dual 62-6 over Dunedin on Saturday.

    "Clay stood out amongst all the teams," Gulf coach Travis DeWalt said. "They always have a high-caliber team with a quality product. I'm very pleased they traveled this far to compete."

    Dunedin, which came out of Pool A with Clay during Friday's pool competition, fell to the Blue Devils for the second time in the tournament after the Falcons posted a 51-27 victory over Pool B champ Countryside in the semifinals.

    Clay knocked off Pool D champ Nature Coast 60-18 in the semifinals but the Sharks won their consolation final over Countryside 39-30 to finish third.

    "That was just a really tough team," Nature Coast coach Mike Lastra said. "I was really happy with the level of competition we saw this weekend. It was our best finish at this tournament."

    State placer Sean Nguyen (112 pounds) went undefeated in Nature Coast's eight matches during the two-day event, pushing his season record to 20-1. Nguyen is expected to be back competing at 106 pounds for the Springstead Invitational on Jan. 4. Brandon Vovan (160) suffered his first loss of the season due to blood time allowance and moved to 18-1 overall by going 7-1 over the weekend.

    Defending event champion Fivay did not get out of the quarterfinals after losing to Clay 54-22. The Falcons advanced out of Pool B with solid efforts from Andrew Scherer (145) and Kelly Meus (285). Both went 8-0.

    "We've had a problem with consistency, and this was a good wakeup call for us right before Christmas break," Fivay coach Andy Medders said. "Everyone needs that wakeup call to find out they're not untouchable."

    Colin Hahn (182), who came into the weekend with a 24-0 record, suffered his first loss when Gulf's Jarred Kruse pinned him in the first period.

    Gulf also fell in the quarterfinal round, to Dunedin 40-36. Anthony Agazarm (120) had a solid tournament, going 7-1, but he fell to Dunedin's Clarence Arrington in the tight quarterfinal.

    "We have a lot of work to do," DeWalt said. "We have to move some kids around and make some adjustments. We will be a much better team in the second half (of the season)."


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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG

    Roberto Hernandez hasn't thrown a big-league pitch in more than five years and, at age 48, is admittedly in no shape to toe the rubber.

    But the ex-Rays closer received his fair share of text messages and emails in the past week from puzzled friends who had heard Tampa Bay signed the other pitcher named Roberto Hernandez (formerly Fausto Carmona).

    "They'd ask me, 'Weren't you retired? I see your name popping up,' " Hernandez said. "I'm like, 'Remember, Fausto is Roberto.' "

    The elder Hernandez is very familiar with the former Fausto, 32. They were teammates in Cleveland in 2007 when the younger man burst onto the scene, going 19-8 with a 3.06 ERA and finishing fourth in the AL Cy Young Award voting.

    And Hernandez believes the former Indians star can be the Rays' next reclamation success story: "If he even gets half of what he was back then, it'd be a great pickup."

    The Rays signed Hernandez last week to a one-year, $3.25 million deal (with $1.85 million in incentives) with the idea he will compete for a spot in the back end of the rotation. Executive vice president Andrew Friedman said Hernandez could end up in the bullpen, too. But having traded workhorse right-hander James Shields and right-hander Wade Davis to the Royals this month, the Rays lost a lot of innings, with left-hander David Price the only returning starter to have thrown 200-plus in a big-league season.

    Hernandez, a right-hander, has done it twice.

    "He's an inning-eating guy, a 200-inning type of guy that probably ought to be a starter," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "He's a big-time sinkerball guy, and with (3B Evan) Longoria and (SS Yunel) Escobar over there, it's pretty attractive to have that guy in the rotation."

    Hernandez comes with risks. He has been inconsistent in a seven-year career and missed most of last season due to a false identity arrest in his native Dominican Republic. He had used the Carmona name and listed an age 3 years younger than his actual one when he signed with the Indians as a teenager.

    That didn't scare the Rays. Hernandez isn't the first, and won't be the last, player from the Dominican to use a different age to become a better prospect to sign. Rays RHP Joel Peralta has admitted to doing a similar thing.

    Said Hickey: "It's a common practice."

    Ross Atkins, Indians vice president of player development, said Hernandez handled the situation "as well as you can ask" and was very remorseful when he returned to the team in July. He made just three starts after a three-week suspension (0-3, 7.04 ERA), but the saga had taken its toll.

    "He's been through a very stressful situation, and I think he's been carrying that burden for some time," Atkins said. "But I can tell you … he loves to compete, he loves to pitch, and (he) was very well-received by teammates."

    As puzzling as Hernandez's identity was his uneven production. Hernandez flourished in 2007 in a league that didn't know much about him but sustained a hip injury the next year that affected his delivery and sparked struggles. Hernandez was sent down to Class A in 2009 to fix his mechanics, and he bounced back with an All-Star season in 2010 that led him to be Cleveland's 2011 opening day starter.

    Though Hernandez has "absolutely no fear" of competition, the extremely quiet, private pitcher doesn't enjoy being front and center, Atkins said. That's why the elder Hernandez believes the younger one could thrive with the Rays. He can be a complementary piece behind Price, right-hander Jeremy Hellickson and left-hander Matt Moore.

    "The Rays have been a haven of rejuvenating pitchers," the elder Hernandez said. "They know how to get the best out of people, and best out of him."

    RAYS RUMBLINGS: The team is still looking for one or two relievers and a "bat or two," Friedman said. Free agent RHP Kyle Farnsworth and LHP J.P. Howell are still in the mix. … Touted OF prospect Wil Myers, the key chip in the Shields trade, is profiled in this week's Sports Illustrated. … According to betting website bovada.com, the Blue Jays are the early favorite to win the World Series at 15-2 odds. … One DH option, free agent Lance Berkman, told Fox-Sports' Ken Rosenthal he is not sure he will play next year. … This has been a busy month for team president Matt Silverman, who bought a $1.5 million house in St. Petersburg and is getting married before the new year. … An, um, interesting list by David Brown of Yahoo Sports' baseball blog, Big League Stew, ranked the "sexiest" general managers. Friedman finished 18th out of 30.


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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    TAMPA — Creighton found a solution for USF's tough defense.

    Sarah Nelson had 29 points and made 12 of 14 shots from the field, including all four of her 3-point tries, and the Bluejays routed the Bulls 91-74 Saturday at the Caribbean Classic in Cancun, Mexico.

    USF (9-2), which went in giving up an average 50.8 points per game, allowed 18 more than its next-most this season. Creighton (8-2) shot 55.9 percent from the floor and made 16 of 29 3-pointers.

    "They shot a huge number, and we got beat by a very good team," USF coach Jose Fernandez said.

    Andrell Smith posted a career-high 27 points and 12 steals, twin Andrea Smith scored 22 and Inga Orekhova added 12 a day after USF started its Classic run with a 71-46 victory over Nevada.

    "We have to move forward, get through Christmas and get ready for Florida A&M and Detroit Mercy," Fernandez said.

    USF hosts the Rattlers at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 before Detroit Mercy visits the Sun Dome at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31.

    NO. 23 FSU 93, UNC-GREENSBORO 63: Chasity Clayton scored 21 to lead the visiting Seminoles (10-1). Clayton, who made 8 of 10 shots, scored 10 during a 23-0 Florida State run after the Spartans had taken a 9-7 lead.

    Top 25

    NO. 1 STANFORD 73, NO. 10 TENNESSEE 60: Cardinal forward Chiney Ogwumike has at least one career achievement that eluded her older sister.

    Ogwumike had 21 points and a career-high 19 rebounds as Stanford (11-0) won in Knoxville for only the second time in 13 attempts.

    The Cardinal won at Tennessee for the first time since an 82-65 victory on Dec. 15, 1996.

    Ogwumike's older sister, Nneka Ogwumike of the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks, scored 42 in Stanford's 97-80 win over Tennessee last season. But the No. 1 pick in this year's WNBA draft never won at Tennessee during her college career.

    "One thing Nneka didn't do was get a win here at Tennessee, so I wanted to one-up her," Ogwumike said. "It was a great game."

    Vols coach Holly Warlick questioned her team's effort and said she was more disappointed in this performance than she was after a 76-53 loss at No. 3 Baylor on Tuesday.

    "This will change," Warlick said. "As coaches, we'll make some changes, too. It's time to grow up."

    Bashaara Graves had 15 points and 12 rebounds for Tennessee (7-3). Meighan Simmons added 12 points.

    NO. 2 UCONN 102, HARTFORD 45: Breanna Stewart scored a season-high 27 to lead five players in double figures for the host Huskies (10-0), who held a pregame ceremony honoring the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.

    NO. 4 DUKE 75, USC 60: Chelsea Gray led five players in double figures with 18 points for the Blue Devils (10-0) in the Women of Troy Classic in Los Angeles.

    NO. 15 OKLA. ST. 90, TEXAS-ARLINGTON 54: Brittney Martin had a triple double with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 10 assists as the visiting Cowgirls improved to 9-0 for the third time in school history.

    NO. 16 DAYTON 91, SIENA 53: Ally Malott led six players in double figures with 19 points for the visiting Flyers (12-0), who are off to the best start in school history.

    NO. 25 COLORADO 81, UTAH VALLEY 45: Jen Reese scored a career-high 16 for the host Buffaloes (10-0), who earned the program's 700th victory.


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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Michael Snaer is a senior on an otherwise freshman-laden Florida State team, and he takes the responsibility that brings seriously.

    Snaer rose to the occasion Saturday, scoring a career-high 30 as the Seminoles held on to beat Charlotte 79-76. He hit five 3-pointers and made 9 of 10 free throws as the Seminoles rallied after trailing by five at halftime.

    "I've said it before. I don't care what I have to do, if I have to drag this team kicking and screaming, I can't afford to let us lose any more games," Snaer said. "I know I'm going to have to put the ball up. I know I'm going to have to force us to win. My attitude, my swagger on the court, I've got to let it feed over to the other guys."

    Snaer, a 6-foot-5 guard and FSU's leader with an average 14.2 points per game, had missed the previous game, a 63-48 win over Louisiana-Monroe on Monday, for disciplinary reasons.

    "He didn't get to play the last game, so he came out with a lot of emotion and focus," said forward Okaro White, a former Clearwater High standout, who had 10 points, five rebounds and three blocks. "He always plays with a lot of emotion, but I thought he was a little more vocal this game. When he gets off to a good start like he did this game, it gets us going and gets us behind him."

    The Seminoles (7-4) trailed 40-35 at halftime but came out strong after the break and took the lead for good at 47-45. They led by as many as nine but could never put the 49ers away.

    Ultimately, it took six free throws in the final minute — including two by Snaer with 11.8 seconds left and one by Aaron Thomas with 3.4 seconds left — for the Seminoles to hold on. Charlotte (11-2) had a chance to tie in the closing seconds, but Ivan Benkovic's 3-point attempt at the buzzer didn't fall.

    "These are the type of games this team needs at this time of year because of where we are at this stage of our development," FSU coach Leonard Hamilton said.

    "I looked out there and at times we had four freshmen on the floor, and I was a little concerned. But I thought they stepped up, and obviously Michael stepped up and was very focused, and I thought he gave the young guys a lot of confidence. Unfortunately, we need our veteran guys to step up right now while the young guys are growing."

    Thomas had 17 points, 15 in the second half.

    The Seminoles held a decided edge at the line, hitting 26-of-34 to Charlotte's 11-of-17.

    Chris Braswell led Charlotte with 20 points, and DeMario Mayfield scored 16.

    The 49ers suffered their second loss of the season to an ACC team. The other came at Miami.

    "I thought Florida State came out in the second half and kind of set the tone, and we got away from our blueprint," Charlotte coach Alan Major said. "So the lesson to these kids in the locker room was, 'Always be who you are.' "


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/22/12--17:59: Red Sox bid for a closer
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    PITTSBURGH — The Pirates and Red Sox were close Saturday to completing a trade that would send All-Star closer Joel Hanrahan to Boston for four prospects.

    Pittsburgh would ship Hanrahan and another player to the Red Sox in exchange for players including outfielder/first baseman Jerry Sands and minor-league right-hander Stolmy Pimentel.

    Hanrahan, 31, has 76 saves the past two seasons and made the NL All-Star team in both.

    This is the second straight offseason Boston has traded for a closer, after picking up right-hander Andrew Bailey from the A's for a package that included outfielder Josh Reddick, who hit 32 homers for Oakland this year. Bailey missed most of the season with a right thumb injury and posted a 7.04 ERA in 19 games.

    EX-PLAYER COMMITS SUICIDE: Former utilityman Ryan Freel was found dead in his Jacksonville home from what authorities said was a self-inflicted shotgun blast. Freel, 36, played for five teams from 2001-09 and spent the 2002 season with the Rays' Triple-A Durham team. He was married and had a daughter.

    D'BACKS ADD ROSS: Outfielder Cody Ross agreed to a three-year contract with the Diamondbacks, the Associated Press reported. Ross, who turns 32 today, batted .267 with a .326 on-base percentage and a .481 slugging percentage in 130 games last season with the Red Sox.

    ANOTHER CHANCE: Adam Greenberg, 31, who returned to the majors for one at-bat in October more than seven years after he was beaned in his debut, agreed to a minor-league contract with the Orioles.

    IBANEZ RETURNS: Outfielder/DH Raul Ibanez and the Mariners agreed to a $2.75 million, one-year contract. Ibanez, 40, spent his first five seasons with Seattle.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    The NHL has won its labor war with the players. It's over.

    Owners have gotten what some estimates say is $1 billion in concessions from players, assuming a 10-year collective bargaining agreement. Contract rules will be tightened. Players aren't even arguing existing contracts should be honored.

    So why are we in Day 99 of the lockout with no end in sight and the fight making its way, perhaps, toward the courts?

    Because the league wants even more, a position that frustrates Lightning star Marty St. Louis.

    "The truth is hockey players, our whole life, we're groomed to stick together and fight; when it gets tough, to dig in," he recently said at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. "I think we're being more than reasonable.

    "I think we've done our part."

    • Players have agreed to reduce their share of league revenue from 57 to 50 percent. That after agreeing to a salary cap and taking a 24 percent salary cut after the 2004-05 lockout.

    • Players have accepted a "make whole" provision of $300 million that is not enough to guarantee all current contracts.

    • Players have accepted a limit on contract lengths and agreed that deals that circumvent the cap should be discouraged.

    • Players will have a pension plan, but they must pay for it.

    All that is left is for owners to do a sack dance.

    "We've tried to get stuff back," St. Louis said about the league, after seeking changes, agreeing to keep the same rules on entry-level contracts, salary arbitration and unrestricted free agency. "It's not like we're asking for more. If you look back eight years ago, you want a (salary) cap? We gave them a cap. You want 50 percent (of revenue)? We give 50 percent. What are you giving me?"

    In fact, the league is digging in on things that seem negotiable.

    • Owners want a 10-year CBA that can be reopened after eight years. Players want an eight-year deal and a six-year re-opener.

    • Owners want contracts limited to five years though teams could sign their own free agents for seven. Players suggest maximum eight-year deals.

    • To stop contracts that circumvent the cap, owners want no more than a 5 percent difference in salary from year to year. Players would rather see a 25 percent high-low range.

    • Players want amnesty contract buyouts that would not count against the cap. The league says no. That would be "money outside the system."

    That last issue is sticky, but other than that, there has to be middle ground.

    "Everybody I talk to shakes their head," Lightning right wing Adam Hall said. "It seems like (a deal) is right there."

    And yet here we are with the league saying mid January is the drop-dead date to get a new CBA and save a shortened season, the union, perhaps, about to decertify, and St. Louis taking his family to its Greenwich, Conn., home at least for the holi­days.

    "Expect the worst and hope for the best," he said. "I have a flight back (to Tampa), but who knows? I might just stay up there. A change of scenery might be good."

    IN TOWN: Hall, who had been playing for Ravensburg in Germany, is back in Tampa with what he said is an option to return to Europe.


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  • 12/22/12--18:28: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    SOCCER

    91: MESSI ADDS ONE MORE GOAL TO END 2012

    VALLADOLID, Spain — Lionel Messi polished off his record year with his 91st and final goal of 2012 in Barcelona's 3-1 win against Valladolid on Saturday.

    Messi scored in the 59th minute by dribbling between a defender's legs before making it 2-0. Xavi Hernandez opened the scoring two minutes before halftime, in a victory the team dedicated to ailing coach Tito Vilanova. Players from both teams wore T-shirts before the game with messages of support for Vilanova, who had throat surgery Thursday to remove a second tumor in two years from a saliva gland.

    Vilanova, 44, was released from the hospital moments before the game and is expected to have about six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

    Messi, 25, finished 2012 with 79 goals for Barcelona (59 in the Spanish league) and 12 for Argentina (five in World Cup qualifiers). He broke German great Gerd Mueller's 40-year-old milestone of 85 goals in a calendar year.

    ENGLAND: Gareth Barry scored in the third minute of second-half stoppage time to give defending Premier League champion Manchester City a 1-0 win at home over last-place Reading. City is in second place, three points behind rival Manchester United, which plays today at Swansea City.

    MLS: Toronto acquired the rights to American defender Gale Agbossoumonde in a weighted lottery. He spent last season with Carolina of the NASL.

    GAMBLING

    Leagues, NCAA fight N.J. plans

    Four major professional leagues and the NCAA are poised to move forward with their legal fight over New Jersey's plans to allow sports gambling. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Michael Shipp rejected arguments that the leagues couldn't prove they would be harmed if the state proceeds with the plans. He denied the state's request to dismiss the lawsuit by the NBA, NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball and the NCAA.

    ET CETERA

    BOXING: Tomasz Adamek, his nose swollen and eyes circled with a little purple, beat Steve Cunningham by split decision in an IBF heavyweight title eliminator in Bethlehem, Pa. Adamek is 48-2.

    NHL: On Day 98 of the lockout, deputy commissioner Bill Daly and players association special counsel Steve Fehr spoke on the telephone but still haven't made plans to meet face to face.

    WINTER SPORTS: American freestyle skiers Bryon Wilson and Heather McPhie won a World Cup dual moguls event in Kreischberg, Austria. … JR Celski won the overall men's championship and Lana Gehring took the women's title at the U.S. short-track speed skating championships in Kearns, Utah.

    SQUASH: Nicol David of Malaysia won her seventh Women's World Open title and fifth in a row, beating first-time finalist Laura Massaro of England 11-6, 11-8, 11-6 in Camana Bay, Cayman Islands.

    Times wires


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    DETROIT — Matt Ryan got what he wanted, helping the Falcons clinch homefield for the NFC playoffs. Calvin Johnson had to settle for a record-breaking night in another Lions loss.

    Ryan matched a career high with four touchdown passes, two to Roddy White, and Atlanta rolled 31-18 Saturday.

    Detroit dropped its seventh straight, but Johnson surpassed Jerry Rice's record for yards in a season with his 10th catch. Johnson, who entered needing 182 to surpass Rice's 1,848 for the 49ers in 1995, finished with 11 catches for 225 yards. He now sits at 1,892, 108 shy of 2,000.

    He also surpassed 100 yards for the eighth straight game, breaking the record of Charley Hennigan for the AFL's Oilers in 1961 and Michael Irvin for the Cowboys in 1995. (His 11th 100-yard game of the season ties Irvin's record set in 1995.) And he became the first to catch 10 passes in four straight games.

    "When Matt (Stafford) and I are on the field together, some special things can happen," Johnson said of his quarterback.

    Ryan and Atlanta hope playing at home throughout the playoffs helps more than it did in the 2010 season, when the Packers routed them. Atlanta reached its only Super Bowl, in the 1998 season, by winning at the Vikings.

    Tebow reportedly eyes move to Jags

    It is a "virtual certainty" Tim Tebow will play for the Jaguars next season, espn.com reported.

    The Jets previously indicated they will trade or release the former Florida quarterback, who was passed over by Greg McElroy when Mark Sanchez was benched for today's game. But the website reported that New York likely will honor Tebow's request to be released.

    In March, Jacksonville tried to acquire Tebow from Denver, but Tebow chose New York because it offered a better chance to play. Jacksonville still had Blaine Gabbert, a 2011 first-round pick, but Gabbert struggled again this season before going on injured reserve, and Jacksonville owner Shad Khan still wants Tebow.

    Bucs move: Defensive end Aaron Morgan (shoulder) went on injured reserve. Defensive end and former FSU standout Markus White was promoted from the practice squad.

    Ravens: Linebacker Ray Lewis, who tore a triceps Oct. 14 against Dallas, won't play today or in Week 17, nfl.com reported. He is possible for the playoffs.

    Coaching: Oregon coach Chip Kelly will have "multiple suitors," the NFL Network reported. Kelly, who turned down an offer from the Bucs last offseason, could be contacted by the Eagles, Panthers and others, the report said.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/22/12--19:06: Temple solves 'Cuse zone
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    NEW YORK — Khalif Wyatt had never been in Madison Square Garden, let alone played there.

    The Philadelphia native left the building Saturday after scoring a career-high 33 and being the key to Temple beating No. 3 Syracuse 83-79 in the first Gotham Classic.

    "I always wanted to play here because all the great players had a chance to play here," Wyatt, a 6-foot-4 senior, said. "This was a chance for us to show everyone that Temple is a real program."

    Anthony Lee had a career-high 21 points for the Owls (9-2), who were coming off a 10-point home loss to Canisius.

    "I don't think we would have won (Saturday) without the loss in the last game," Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. "Our guys did a great job (Saturday). I wish it was worth more than one victory."

    Temple beat a top 10 team while being unranked for the fifth straight season. This one came with the combination of Wyatt from the outside and Lee inside.

    "We wanted to go inside and out, and that meant me going up strong and fighting for rebounds," said Lee, who had nine rebounds, five offensive, and worked the baseline again and again against Syracuse's vaunted zone. "That's playing the Temple game."

    Wyatt challenged himself after a poor game against Canisius, Dunphy said.

    "He made some really good plays when we were struggling to score and had to stay in the game," Dunphy said.

    The Orange led by two at halftime but never took a lead in the second half even though there were four ties, the last at 59 with 10:23 to play.

    C.J. Fair had a career-high 25 points for Syracuse (10-1), which had its 52-game regular-season nonconference winning streak snapped. Jim Boeheim remained at 900 wins, two behind Bob Knight for second place among Division I men's coaches. Duke's Mike Krzyzewski has 938.

    Wyatt made all 15 of his free throws and Lee made 11-of-14 as the Owls were 29-of-36 overall.

    Syracuse was 19-of-34 from the line, missing four in the final six minutes, when it was mostly a one-possession game. Point guard Michael Carter-Williams finished 7-of-15.

    "They made free throws, we didn't," Boeheim said. "You don't like to say it comes down to that, but when you miss 15 free throws, it's tough to win any game."

    NO. 5 LOUISVILLE 78, W. KENTUCKY 55: Russ Smith scored 20 for the visiting Cardinals (11-1), who have won six straight overall and four straight in this series against their in-state rival.

    NO. 9 KANSAS 74, NO. 7 OHIO ST. 66: Redshirt freshman Ben McLemore scored 22 as the Jayhawks (10-1) beat the host Buckeyes (9-2) for the third time in little more than a year. Kansas won 64-62 in last season's NCAA semifinals. The Jayhawks, who had yet to play a true road game, held Ohio State without a field goal for more than 10 minutes of the second half.

    NO. 12 MISSOURI 82, NO. 10 ILLINOIS 73: Laurence Bowers had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Tigers (10-1) to their fourth straight win over the Illini (12-1) in the annual Braggin' Rights game in St. Louis.

    NO. 11 CINCY 68, WRIGHT ST. 58: JaQuon Parker scored 16 of his 21 in the second half, and the host Bearcats overcame another poor start to improve to 12-0 for the eighth time in school history and the second time in three seasons.

    NO. 13 MINN. 75, LAFAYETTE 50: Starting guard Joe Coleman had 12 points and reserves scored 42 to lead the host Gophers (12-1) to their eighth straight win.

    NO. 15 G'TOWN 65, AMERICAN 48: Otto Porter had 16 points and 13 rebounds as the host Hoyas (10-1) earned their ninth straight win over their D.C. neighbor.

    S. DAKOTA ST. 70, NO. 16 NEW MEXICO 65: Nate Wolters had 28 points and seven assists as the Jackrabbits held off the host Lobos (12-1), who made just 7 of 12 free throws in the final minutes to help thwart their comeback.

    NO. 18 San Diego St. 80, SAN FRANCISCO 58: Chase Tapley made six 3-pointers on his way to a career-high 33 points for the Aztecs (10-1) in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu. San Diego State won its 10th straight game since a season-opening loss to Syracuse.

    NO. 19 BUTLER 75, EVANSVILLE 67: Rotnei Clarke and Andrew Smith scored 20 each for the host Bulldogs (9-2), who won their sixth straight and completed a sweep of the five Indiana schools they play this season in nonconference action.

    NO. 20 MICH. ST. 67, TEXAS 56: Derrick Nix had 25 points and 11 rebounds and shot 7-of-10 from the field and 11-of-13 at the free-throw line for the host Spartans (11-2), who improved to 6-0 in December.

    NO. 21 UNLV 89, CANISIUS 74: Anthony Bennett had 21 points and seven rebounds, and reserve Khem Birch scored 20 for the host Runnin' Rebels (11-1).

    NO. 23 UNC 97, MCNEESE ST. 63: P.J. Hairston scored a career-high 20 for the host Tar Heels (9-3), who made 13 of 28 3-pointers and never trailed.

    NO. 24 OKLA. ST. 78, TENN. TECH 42: Freshman Phil Forte scored 22 and made 6 of 11 3-pointers for the host Cowboys (10-1), who hit a season-high 11 3s.

    NO. 25 N.C. ST. 92, ST. BONAVENTURE 73: C.J. Leslie scored a career-high 33 for the host Wolfpack (9-2), which shot 57 percent, never trailed and heads into its weeklong holiday break on a five-game winning streak.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    ATLANTA — Center Al Horford had 20 points and 10 rebounds, and every Atlanta starter scored in double figures in a 92-75 win Saturday over Chicago on Saturday.

    Atlanta native Lou Williams added 16 points in his first start of the season for the Hawks, who ended a two-game skid by outscoring the Bulls 61-33 over the second and third quarters.

    Both teams played Friday, but only the Bulls looked tired.

    Luol Deng paced Chicago with 11 points, but it couldn't build on its 110-106 victory at New York. Atlanta bounced back from a poor fourth quarter in a 99-80 loss at Philadelphia.

    Williams started at shooting guard but began the second quarter at point in place of starter Jeff Teague. Williams had 11 points in the quarter and Horford, a former Gator, 10 as the Hawks outscored the Bulls 25-6 over the final 6:58.

    The third quarter was much of the same as Atlanta built a 72-47 lead. The most interesting moment came when Bulls rookie guard Marquis Teague entered with 4:13 left to match up against his brother Jeff for the first time as a professional.

    Marquis had eight points and three assists as Bulls coach Tom Thibodeux sat his starters during the final quarter.

    It was the sixth time this season Horford reached at least 20 points and 10 rebounds. The league leader is Warriors forward David Lee with 11.

    Game highlights: LeBron James scored 30 to lead the host Heat past the Jazz 105-89. Miami opened the second half with a 22-6 run to go up 69-49. … Charlie Villanueva scored 19 and Rodney Stuckey 18 as the visiting Pistons beat the Wizards 96-87 to take both games of a home-and-home. It's just the second time this season Detroit has won consecutive games.

    Kings ban Cousins

    The Kings suspended center DeMarcus Cousins indefinitely for "unprofessional behavior and conduct detrimental to the team."

    Cousins, averaging team highs of 16.6 points and 9.5 rebounds, and coach Keith Smart exchanged words in the locker room at halftime of Friday's 97-85 loss at the Clippers. Smart then ordered him to remain in the locker room.

    "We're trying to set a standard here," Smart said. "And when guys move below that standard, things are going to take place."

    Cousins, 22, was suspended one game by the league for striking the Mavs' O.J. Mayo in the groin Dec. 10 and two games for confronting Spurs announcer Sean Elliott after a Nov. 9 game. Last season, coach Paul Westphal was fired shortly after criticizing Cousins' commitment and excusing him for a game.

    "What happens in the locker room stays in the locker room, but I was wrong," Cousins said. "I'm a player that definitely wants to win every night, and I'm an emotional player. But I shouldn't have responded back."

    Nash returns: Lakers point guard Steve Nash started against the Warriors after missing 24 games with a small fracture in his lower left leg. Coach Mike D'Antoni said that Nash, 38, will have no minutes limit.

    Around the league: The Mavs granted point guard Derek Fisher's request to be released. "My family is my priority," Fisher, 38, said. "I won't close the possibility that I will play again." … Knicks center Rasheed Wallace is out indefinitely with a stress reaction and chronic condition in his left foot. He already has missed four games. Also, Knicks forward Amar'e Stoudemire, out since offseason surgery on his left knee, will join the team on this week's road trip. … Timberwolves forward Kevin Love won't play today. He was poked in the left eye while getting a rebound Thursday. … Heat forward Chris Bosh sat out because of a cold. … Hornets guard Eric Gordon, out since offseason knee surgery, was cleared for contact.

    Hawks 92, Bulls 75

    CHICAGO (75): Deng 5-14 1-1 11, Boozer 2-6 4-4 8, Noah 5-9 0-0 10, Hinrich 3-11 0-0 7, Belinelli 2-5 0-0 4, Butler 4-5 0-0 9, Gibson 2-5 0-0 4, Robinson 3-8 1-1 9, M.Teague 4-8 0-2 8, Mohammed 1-3 0-0 2, Radmanovic 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 32-76 6-8 75.

    ATLANTA (92): Korver 4-8 2-2 13, Smith 6-12 0-0 12, Horford 9-12 2-2 20, J.Teague 5-12 0-0 11, Williams 6-12 1-1 16, Morrow 3-7 1-1 7, Tolliver 0-1 1-2 1, Pachulia 2-6 2-2 6, Johnson 3-4 0-0 6, Scott 0-1 0-0 0, Jenkins 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 38-77 9-10 92.

    Chicago 21 16 17 21— 75

    Atlanta 17 36 25 14— 92

    3-Point GoalsChicago 5-14 (Robinson 2-4, Butler 1-1, Radmanovic 1-2, Hinrich 1-4, Belinelli 0-1, M.Teague 0-1, Deng 0-1), Atlanta 7-19 (Williams 3-6, Korver 3-6, J.Teague 1-2, Smith 0-1, Tolliver 0-1, Morrow 0-1, Jenkins 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsChicago 38 (Noah 9), Atlanta 48 (Horford 10). AssistsChicago 20 (Robinson 5), Atlanta 24 (J.Teague 8). Total FoulsChicago 14, Atlanta 9. TechnicalsM.Teague, Morrow. A17,782 (18,729).

    Heat 105, Jazz 89

    UTAH (89): Ma.Williams 7-12 0-0 16, Millsap 3-9 5-6 11, Jefferson 2-8 2-2 6, M. Williams 2-3 0-0 5, Foye 1-9 0-0 2, Favors 2-8 6-6 10, Hayward 5-8 3-3 15, Watson 1-3 0-0 2, Carroll 1-4 1-2 3, Kanter 2-2 0-0 4, Tinsley 2-3 2-2 8, Burks 2-3 1-3 5, Evans 0-1 2-2 2. Totals 30-73 22-26 89.

    MIAMI (105): James 11-20 7-10 30, Battier 4-8 3-3 15, Haslem 3-6 0-0 6, Chalmers 2-5 0-0 5, Wade 8-14 5-6 21, Allen 4-5 3-3 13, Miller 2-3 0-0 6, Cole 2-6 0-0 5, Anthony 2-4 0-0 4, Harris 0-1 0-0 0, Pittman 0-0 0-0 0, Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 38-73 18-22 105.

    Utah 25 18 20 26— 89

    Miami 28 19 26 32— 105

    3-Point GoalsUtah 7-16 (Hayward 2-2, Tinsley 2-3, Ma.Williams 2-5, M. Williams 1-1, Carroll 0-1, Foye 0-4), Miami 11-24 (Battier 4-8, Allen 2-2, Miller 2-3, James 1-1, Cole 1-3, Chalmers 1-4, Jones 0-1, Wade 0-2). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsUtah 40 (Jefferson 11), Miami 46 (Haslem, James 9). AssistsUtah 18 (M. Williams, Watson 4), Miami 23 (Wade, James 7). Total FoulsUtah 18, Miami 19. TechnicalsUtah Coach Corbin, James, Miami delay of game. A20,087 (19,600).

    Pistons 96, Wizards 87

    DETROIT (96): Prince 3-6 1-2 7, Maxiell 5-10 2-2 12, Monroe 6-11 1-3 13, Knight 3-12 3-3 10, Singler 1-6 0-0 2, Stuckey 4-12 9-10 18, Drummond 2-8 0-0 4, Daye 2-6 0-0 6, Villanueva 8-13 0-0 19, Bynum 2-4 0-0 5. Totals 36-88 16-20 96.

    WASHINGTON (87): Webster 1-6 2-2 4, Nene 2-8 6-6 10, Okafor 5-9 4-6 14, Crawford 4-13 11-12 21, Beal 7-17 0-0 14, Seraphin 3-8 0-2 6, Martin 4-9 0-2 10, Vesely 2-5 2-2 6, Livingston 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 29-77 25-32 87.

    Detroit 22 32 20 22— 96

    Washington 13 22 29 23— 87

    3-Point GoalsDetroit 8-19 (Villanueva 3-6, Daye 2-2, Bynum 1-1, Stuckey 1-3, Knight 1-4, Singler 0-3), Washington 4-21 (Martin 2-5, Crawford 2-8, Webster 0-3, Beal 0-5). Fouled OutNone. ReboundsDetroit 64 (Drummond 11), Washington 47 (Okafor 14). AssistsDetroit 22 (Stuckey 8), Washington 20 (Crawford 6). Total FoulsDetroit 25, Washington 18. TechnicalsWashington defensive three second. A13,104 (20,308).


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    By Andy Warrener, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    CLEARWATER — Berkeley Prep knew the Strawberry Crest boys basketball team likes to play an uptempo game, but the Bucs decided to set the pace against the Chargers even faster.

    As a result, Berkeley Prep routed Strawberry Crest 75-49 in Saturday's final of the Bright House tournament hosted by Clearwater as event MVP Marshall Holmes scored a game-high 23 points.

    The Chargers stayed close, trailing just 13-12 going into the second period, but the Bucs pulled away as the offense started to find its rhythm and the defense clamped down.

    "We actually had a small lineup in there (in the second quarter), and we ran some three-quarter court traps," Bucs coach Bobby Reinhart said. "They (Strawberry Crest) like to play fast, but I think we got them playing faster than they were comfortable with."

    The Bucs went on a 5-0 run to start the second period, and then the 3-pointers started falling through. Senior Aaron Hannon hit one, sophomore Eric Reintgen hit another and junior Marshall Holmes hit two more. The Bucs ended the second period on a 12-4 run and led 38-24.

    Berkeley Prep picked up right where it left off in the second half. Holmes caught fire in the third period, scoring 12, including two more 3-pointers. Holmes was 4-for-5 from behind the arc.

    "You could tell he (Holmes) was feeling it (Saturday night)," Reinhart said. "He's been our most consistent offensive player; he played really well."

    By the end of the third period, the Bucs had stretched the lead to 24, and they refused to let the Chargers back in the game. When Reinhart sent in substitutes in the fourth and the Chargers went on a 4-0 run, Reinhart quickly put the starters back in and they finished strong.

    Strawberry Crest got a gritty effort from senior Karel Hamilton, who led the Chargers in scoring with 13 and battled for every rebound and inbound pass until he fouled out with three minutes left to play. Senior Devin Diggs scored 12 for the Chargers.

    In the tournament's consolation game, host Clearwater fell to Gainesville 60-53. Sophomore Rasim Avmet led the Tornadoes with 16 points and senior Ryan Ramirez had 12.

    The all-tournament team also included Strawberry Crest's Diggs, Hamilton and Dominik Trigg, and Berkeley's N'Namdi Green, Justin Gray and Chris McWilliams.

    Wrestling: Dunedin beat Countryside 51-27 in the semifinals but then the Falcons fell to Class A state runnerup Clay 62-6 to finish second in the Gulf Holiday Duals in New Port Richey. Countryside settled for fourth when it lost to Nature Coast 39-30 in the consolation final.


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  • 12/22/12--19:44: Report: Boise seeks deal
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    The race for television dollars in college sports continued Saturday with Boise State apparently becoming a player in the future of two conferences.

    The Mountain West and CBS Sports Network (CBSSN) restructured their contract to let the conference sell to other networks football and basketball games CBSSN doesn't air. The conference confirmed the deal. No terms were released.

    But espn.com reported that Boise State — which agreed to leave the Mountain West for the Big East in football next year — was trying to negotiate a deal to keep its home television rights. Which conference Boise State settles on might depend on which one, if either, lets it set its TV deal, the website said.

    The Mountain West and CBSSN reworked their deal to accommodate changes in league membership and the end of the league's network, the Mtn., which shut down this year. The deal still runs through the 2015-16 seasons. CBSSN will air 15 football games a year and can choose most of them. The league can cut deals with other networks for the rights to other games. Men's basketball rights would work similarly.

    LAS VEGAS BOWL: The past two times Boise State played in this bowl, there were other places the Broncos wanted to be. Not so Saturday, when the smallest player on the team came up big in a 28-26 victory over Washington.

    After two straight blowouts in the Las Vegas Bowl, the No. 20 Broncos won this one on a 27-yard field goal by 5-foot-5 Michael Frisina with 1:16 left. Unlike the previous two years, there was hardly any wistful talk about missing out on the Bowl Championship Series.

    "These guys, they don't go through the motions," Broncos coach Chris Petersen said. "They have a chip on their shoulder."

    Bishop Sankey had 205 yards rushing and 74 receiving, giving him 279 of 447 yards from scrimmage by Washington (7-6).

    Boise State defensive end Demarcus Lawrence was sent home for an unspecified violation of team rules.

    NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Sophomore quarterback Terrance Broadway passed for 316 yards and ran for 108 as Louisiana-Lafayette beat East Carolina 43-34. Broadway opened the season backing up senior Blaine Gautier, who broke a bone in his throwing hand in late September, for the Ragin' Cajuns (9-4). East Carolina (8-5) rallied from a 28-7 deficit to tie it at 31, but Broadway hit Javone Lawson for a 14-yard TD to give Louisiana-Lafayette the lead for good.

    OREGON: Senior offensive lineman Nick Cody and junior defensive lineman Axel McQuaw will miss the Jan. 3 Fiesta Bowl for academic reasons, collegefootballtalk.com reported.

    SYRACUSE: Starting linebacker Marquis Spruill will sit out "a significant portion" of the Dec. 29 Pinstripe Bowl after his misdemeanor arrest Dec. 2, said coach Doug Marrone.

    UCLA: Safety Tevin McDonald will miss Thursday's Holiday Bowl after violating a team policy, coach Jim Mora said. McDonald tested positive for marijuana for a third time, the Los Angeles Times reported.


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas State kept chasing down loose balls, kept taking away passing lanes on defense and generally made life miserable for Mike Rosario and the rest of the No. 8 Gators.

    One of the nation's best defensive teams was out-defended, and Florida coach Billy Donovan knew it.

    "I thought they were just a step ahead of us, a step quicker," Donovan said after Saturday night's 67-61 loss. "We gave up some offensive rebounds. We had just a couple plays there where we were just late on some things, particularly our guards getting over screens."

    Florida's Patric Young had 19 points and 10 rebounds despite foul trouble, but he didn't get a lot of help against Kansas State's in-your-shorts defense.

    Rosario, the Gators' leading scorer, had five points on 1 for 9 shooting. Scott Wilbekin scored 11 but made 0 of 3 3-pointers; the Gators were 5-of-19 as a team beyond the arc.

    "When a guy like (Rosario) goes 1-for-9, probably a third of his shots were blocked," Donovan said. "When you're getting your shot blocked, it's not a good night.

    "Our guards made some very poor plays in the first half in terms of our ball movement. We were very insistent on driving the ball and taking runners and floaters in the lane. … We had guys open all over the place. All we had to do was make the extra pass."

    Will Spradling had 17 points, six rebounds and five assists to lead the Wildcats.

    "Whenever you're shooting it well — you see the ball go through the net — it brings confidence to you and for your team as well," said Spradling, a sophomore guard who didn't have a turnover in 39 minutes. "This is probably my best all-around performance that I've had."

    Rodney McGruder added 13 points, and Jordan Henriquez had nine points and five blocks for the Wildcats (9-2), who watched a 10-point halftime lead evaporate before clamping down on the Gators and pulling away in the final minutes.

    "We were in tune with one another. We wanted this game," McGruder said. "Our preparation for Florida was great, tremendous. The past couple practices guys were getting after one another."

    Young's two free throws with just more than 2 minutes left got Florida (8-2) within 58-53, but Spradling found Shane Southwell in the corner for an open 3-pointer and the Wildcats put the game away from the line down the stretch. They ended up shooting 21 free throws in the second half.

    "If you're looking at the game, I'd think everyone would say Kansas State's energy was much better than ours," Donovan said. "The reason they got the lead they did, it was because their energy was much better."

    The Wildcats have been struggling in new coach Bruce Weber's motion offense, and it showed in sloppy, lackluster losses to No. 2 Michigan and No. 14 Gonzaga. But they finally managed to get it clicking just enough.

    "Just a heck of an effort by our guys," Weber said. "The thing I challenged them with is, we had to compete for 40 minutes just to give ourselves a chance. Against Michigan, against Gonzaga, we only competed for 20."


    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Joey Knight, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 22, 2012

    TAMPA — On a night when 6-foot-9 Tampa Prep freshman Juwan Durham was sidelined with the flu, the undefeated Terrapins' other key cogs were downright sick.

    Point guard Josh Heath handled the pressure, 6-8 Furman signee Adonis Rwabigwi handled the paint, and 6-4 senior Ephraim "Fri" Lavey handled the catalyst on the other team.

    The collaborative effort lifted Tampa Prep (11-0) to a 69-59 win against Tampa Catholic (8-2) in Saturday's final of the eight-team City of Tampa Championship. The Terrapins, reigning Class 3A state champs, have won the tournament five of the last six years.

    "It's huge," said Heath, who finished with 18 points and was presented the Winston C. Davis Award as tournament MVP. "(Durham) happens to be our leading scorer right now. So to come out here and win a championship without him shows we're really good as a team."

    Assuming the low-post slack was Rwabigwi, who finished with a double double (25 points, 18 rebounds, three blocks) and scored nine during a 27-4 run spanning the second and third periods.

    After a mostly tight outset that included seven lead changes, the Terrapins finished with a 7-0 run for a 31-25 halftime lead. They capped a 20-4 run to open the second half with Andy Fullerton's 3-pointer.

    Lavey, meantime, mostly neutralized Crusaders scoring leader Chivarsky Corbett. One night after scoring a TC-record 50 points against Sarasota Cardinal Mooney, Corbett scored 18 while being guarded by Lavey.

    "Fri really kind of revels on big matchups like that," Terrapins coach Joe Fenlon said. "He embraces challenges, and I think he did a great job (Saturday), especially with Chivarsky coming off that 50-point performance. I think that probably helped him hunker down a little bit more."

    In the third-place game, Sarasota Cardinal Mooney beat Robinson 65-47.

    Chamberlain fell to Plant 69-58 in the fifth-place contest. The Panthers got double doubles from junior Andrew Sanders (20 points, 10 rebounds) and senior Sam Flagg (13 points, 10 assists).

    Hillsborough topped Blake 52-46 in the seventh-place game.

    Berkeley too quick for Strawberry Crest

    CLEARWATER — Berkeley Prep knew the Strawberry Crest boys basketball team likes to play an uptempo game, but the Bucs decided to set the pace against the Chargers even faster.

    As a result, Berkeley Prep routed Strawberry Crest 75-49 in Saturday's final of the Bright House tournament hosted by Clearwater as event MVP Marshall Holmes scored a game-high 23 points.

    The Chargers stayed close, trailing just 13-12 going into the second period, but the Bucs pulled away as the offense started to find its rhythm and the defense clamped down.

    "We actually had a small lineup in there (in the second quarter), and we ran some three-quarter court traps," Bucs coach Bobby Reinhart said. "They (Strawberry Crest) like to play fast, but I think we got them playing faster than they were comfortable with."

    The Bucs went on a 5-0 run to start the second period, and then the 3-pointers started falling through. Senior Aaron Hannon hit one, sophomore Eric Reintgen hit another and junior Marshall Holmes hit two more. The Bucs ended the second period on a 12-4 run and led 38-24.

    Berkeley Prep picked up right where it left off in the second half. Holmes caught fire in the third period, scoring 12, including two more 3-pointers. Holmes was 4-for-5 from behind the arc.

    "You could tell he (Holmes) was feeling it (Saturday night)," Reinhart said.

    Strawberry Crest got a gritty effort from senior Karel Hamilton, who led the Chargers with 13 before he fouled out. Senior Devin Diggs scored 12 for the Chargers.

    The all-tournament team included Strawberry Crest's Diggs, Hamilton and Dominik Trigg, and Berkeley's N'Namdi Green, Justin Gray and Chris McWilliams.

    Times correspondent Andy Warrener contributed to this report.


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    Times staff
    Sunday, December 23, 2012

    Sports on TV for Dec. 24, 2012

    College football

    Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State vs. SMU, 8 p.m., ESPN; 620-AM


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