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    By Greg Auman, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013


    USF women at Villanova

    When/where: 2 p.m. today; The Pavilion, Villanova, Pa.

    Radio: 1010 AM

    Records: USF 12-4, 1-2 Big East; Villanova 14-2, 3-0

    Notable: Villanova is unranked but 10th in the RPI, so a road win would be huge for USF's NCAA Tournament resume. It's a battle of extremes — Villanova holds opponents to 48.6 points per game while USF's three high-scoring guards, twins Andrea and Andrell Smith and Inga Orekhova, help the Bulls average 74.1 points. One huge advantage for USF is rebounding — the Bulls lead the Big East with 46.7 per game and Villanova (35.1) is last. USF's pressure defense forced 25 turnovers in a win against Cincinnati.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer

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    Greg Auman, Times staff writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013


    USF vs. Georgetown

    When/where: 6 tonight; Sun Dome, Tampa

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

    Records: USF 9-7, 0-4 Big East; Georgetown 12-3, 2-2

    Notable: The Bulls are the only Big East team without a conference win. Thursday's 70-67 loss at Rutgers saw USF shoot much better without the stifling defense it has had in most games. Georgetown beat the Bulls by 30 last season and has won the past three meetings. Coach John Thompson III has a young, promising team that was ranked No. 19 before taking a one-point loss at Marquette on Jan. 5 and a 28-point shellacking Jan. 8 against Pittsburgh. Sophomore forward Otto Porter leads the Hoyas at 13.8 points and 7.7 rebounds a game; junior Victor Rudd leads USF with 11.4 and 7.6, but he hasn't found his shot in Big East play. USF freshmen JaVontae Hawkins and Zach LeDay, who combined for 15 points in the first half Thursday, are seeing their minutes increase as the season progresses.

    Greg Auman, Times staff writer

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    Antonya English, Times staff writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013


    No. 10 Florida vs. No. 17 Missouri

    When/where: 2 p.m. today; O'Connell Center, Gainesville

    TV/radio: ESPN; 1250-AM

    Records: Florida 13-2, 3-0 SEC; Missouri 13-3, 2-1

    Notable: Missouri makes its first appearance in Gainesville, and first in the state since 1977. This is the first meeting between the programs. Missouri coach Frank Haith is familiar with playing in Florida, having spent seven seasons as Miami's coach. The Gators are third nationally in scoring defense, holding opponents to 51.7 points, while the Tigers are averaging 79.4 over the past seven games.

    Antonya English, Times staff writer

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    . fast facts

    Florida State at Virginia

    When/where: 4 p.m. today; John Paul Jones Arena, Charlottesville, Va.

    TV/radio: Ch. 44; 1040-AM

    Records: FSU 10-6, 2-1 ACC; Virginia 11-5, 1-2

    Notable: The Seminoles have won both of their conference road games, against Maryland and Clemson. FSU has defeated Virginia seven consecutive times. Junior guard Joe Harris leads the Cavaliers in scoring at 15.1 points a game; junior forward Akil Mitchell is tops in rebounding (9.3 a game, fourth in the ACC) and second in scoring (12.3) for the Cavaliers, who are last in the 12-team league in scoring at 62.4 points a game.

    Times wires

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    MILWAUKEE — The heavy-hitting Brewers offense is going to be missing a big bat when the season begins.

    First baseman Corey Hart will miss three to four months with an injured right knee that requires surgery, the team announced Friday.

    Hart's knee swelled during offseason workouts, and an MRI exam revealed a torn meniscus and other damage that will be surgically repaired Tuesday.

    The two-time All-Star is entering the final year of his contract. He hit .270 with 30 homers and 83 RBIs last year to help the Brewers lead the NL in home runs and runs scored.

    Hart also had surgery on his right knee last spring to repair damaged cartilage. He returned sooner than expected to be in the lineup on opening day. If Hart needs the full estimated recovery time this time, he may not be in games until late May.

    Making deals: NL MVP Buster Posey agreed to an $8 million, one-year contract with the Giants, teammate Hunter Pence got a $13.4 million deal and Jacoby Ellsbury settled with the Red Sox for $9 million on a busy day as players and teams swapped figures in salary arbitration.

    Eighty-one players reached agreements, leaving 36 headed toward hearings next month in Phoenix from among the 133 who filed Tuesday. Most of the cases are expected to settle.

    Padres third baseman Chase Headley had the largest request and the biggest spread, asking for $10.3 million while the team offered $7,075,000.

    Teams won five of seven cases decided by three-arbitrator panels last winter, their 14th winning record in 16 years. Overall, owners lead 291-214 since arbitration began in 1974.

    Right-hander Matt Garza and the Cubs agreed to a $10.25 million, one-year deal. The former Ray avoided arbitration a year ago as well, agreeing to a $9.5 million deal but was derailed by an injury to his pitching elbow July 21.

    Other notable names (with reported new salary) agreeing to one-year deals:

    Indians closer Chris Perez ($7.3 million), Padres right-hander Edinson Volquez ($5.725 million), Orioles catcher Matt Wieters ($5.5 million), Mariners first baseman Kendrys Morales ($5.25 million), Royals right-hander Luke Hochevar ($4.65 million), Diamondbacks right-hander Ian Kennedy ($4.265 million), Tigers right-hander Doug Fister ($4 million), Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ ($3.7 million), Braves outfielder Jason Heyward ($3.65 million), Tigers outfielder Austin Jackson ($3.5 million), Orioles infielder Chris Davis ($3.3 million) and Yankees left-hander Boone Logan ($3.15 million).

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    GAINESVILLE — The last time the SEC added two new basketball teams to the league, Florida went 1-1 in its first meeting with the schools (Arkansas and South Carolina in 1991). This afternoon, the Gators have a chance to do a little better.

    Fresh off a 68-47 win at Texas A&M in their inaugural meeting as SEC foes, Florida returns home today to host new SEC member Missouri, hoping to maintain its undefeated conference record.

    The No. 10 Gators will play in front of their first home sellout this season, but with a veteran lineup, the mantra is to keep it in perspective.

    "That's cool," senior guard Mike Rosario said about the expected crowd. "It's going to be a great atmosphere, and we're going to be ready. But it's also another game, the next one, so we have to move on."

    No. 17 Missouri is in search of its second win over a top-10 team this season but will have to earn that upset without senior forward Laurence Bowers, who sprained the MCL in his right knee on Jan. 8. Bowers scored in double figures in 13 of 14 games and leads the Tigers in scoring this season at 16.8 points a game, so his presence will be missed.

    But even without Bowers, the Tigers are No. 1 nationally in rebounding (43.8 per game) and play an aggressive style that the banged-up Gators need to match.

    "They are a big, strong physical team, and they rebound the ball very, very well," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I think a lot of times teams that are good rebounding teams are teams that get you into a lot of rotation. … Collectively you've got to do a really good job against them to rotationally block out and get to the inside of people."

    Florida is playing primarily with seven players, four of which are nursing ongoing injuries and one, junior forward Casey Prather, who will miss today's game with a high ankle sprain. And the Gators are playing after a Thursday night game, which gives them one day of preparation.

    "We have a lot of veteran guys who are used to it," said junior center Patric Young, who had 18 points and seven rebounds Thursday. "We'll take care of our bodies and make sure we get our rest.

    "When the ball is tipped, we'll be ready. There won't be any excuses."

    Donovan said while UF won't be able to cover everything it would like to in just one day, one area of concern is Missouri junior guard Phil Pressey, who is averaging 13.8 points, 9.8 assists and 3.0 rebounds over the past six games.

    "He's terrific at what he does," Donovan said. "I've always said the sign of a great player is they make other people around them better, and certainly he does that as well as anybody in the country."

    "He's a very, very smart point guard, especially on the middle of the pick-and-rolls," Rosario added. "Pressey is so fast, so the one thing we're going to work on is containing the pick and roll and making him feel uncomfortable. And we have to get prepared for Missouri's pressure. They're similar to us. They want to play up-tempo. So we have to bring the same mind-set on the defensive end."

    The Gators expect Missouri to be prepared to battle this afternoon.

    "They're going to come in fired up," Young said. "They believe they have a chance to win the conference just like we believe we have a chance to win the conference."

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

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    TAMPA — Bucs coach Greg Schiano finally has his man, and Josh Freeman has a new quarterbacks coach. John McNulty, who coached quarterbacks and receivers for the Cardinals for the past four years, has agreed to terms with the Buccaneers.

    McNulty replaces Ron Turner, who took the head coaching job at Florida International University.

    Mike Sullivan will remain as offensive coordinator, and Randy Melvin will stay as defensive line coach, general manager Mark Dominik said.

    "(McNulty) will come in here and work closely with Mike Sullivan, obviously work with Josh Freeman, and bring another really great mind to this offense to continue to develop our Buccaneer offense,'' Dominik said. "Sullivan was able to interview him. He felt just as comfortable and as confident as Greg did in terms of his ability, so that's why it was an exciting hire.''

    McNulty served on Schiano's staff at Rutgers from 2004-08 and was offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach during his last three seasons with the Scarlet Knights.

    After being hired by the Bucs on Jan. 26, Schiano tried to pry McNulty from Arizona to make him offensive coordinator. But the Cardinals would not grant permission for an interview.

    "He had been promoted,'' Dominik said. "He got promoted from the wide receivers coach to the quarterbacks coach last year.''

    This offseason, McNulty was fired along with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt and his staff.

    Under McNulty, Rutgers set school records for total offense (5,841 yards), points (421) and first downs (295). They also became the first team in NCAA history to have a 3,000-yard passer (Mike Teal, 3,147), a 2,000-yard rusher (Ray Rice, 2,069), and two 1,000-yard receivers (Kenny Britt, 1,232, and Tiquan Underwood, 1,100).

    The Bucs still have to hire a wide receivers and defensive backs coach.

    Around the league: Cards turn to Arians

    TEMPE, Ariz. — After nearly 38 years in the business, at age 60, Bruce Arians finally is an NFL head coach.

    Arians was introduced as coach of the Cardinals, promising to build a team that's "smart, disciplined, fast and physical — accountable, no excuses."

    He went 9-3 as interim coach in Indianapolis this season after Chuck Pagano left to be treated for leukemia.

    Bengal arrested: Bengals offensive tackle Andre Smith, 25, was free on bond after his arrest Thursday on a charge of carrying a loaded gun at Atlanta's Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. A .38-caliber handgun was found in his carry-on, Atlanta police Sgt. Greg Lyon said.

    CRABTREE QUESTIONED: Police in San Francisco said they're investigating a sexual assault allegation involving 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree. The statement said Crabtree hasn't been detained or arrested.

    PANTHERS tab mike shula: Former Bucs offensive coordinator Mike Shula was named to the same post with Carolina. He had been quarterbacks coach with the Panthers, who also promoted Richard Rodgers (special teams coordinator) and Ricky Proehl (receivers).

    PRO BOWL: Cowboys linebacker Anthony Spencer will replace injured Packer Clay Matthews.

    BEARS: Jacksonville's Mel Tucker was named defensive coordinator, replacing Rod Marinelli. Matt Cavanaugh (quarterbacks) and Skip Peete (running backs) were named assistants.

    BROWNS: Michael Lombardi was named vice president of player personnel. Lombardi, who spent the past five years on the NFL Network, was with the original Browns from 1987-95 as pro personnel director. Also, former Cardinals assistant Ray Horton was named defensive coordinator.

    CHARGERS: New coach Mike McCoy retained John Pagano as defensive coordinator.

    COLTS: Stanford offensive coordinator Pep Hamilton will accept the same position with Indianapolis, the Associated Press reported. He will be reunited with QB Andrew Luck.

    EAGLES: The club released defensive coordinator Todd Bowles from his contract to let him interview with other teams, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

    JETS: John Idzik, who spent 11 seasons in the Bucs' front office, was named GM. He had been Seattle's vice president of football administration. Also, Marty Mornhinweg was named offensive coordinator.

    Information from Times wires was used in this report.

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. — When Todd McClure was drafted by the Falcons, they had just made the Super Bowl for the first time.

    "You think it's going to be easy," he remembered.

    Fourteen years later, McClure is still waiting for his first trip to the big game.

    "I tell the young guys on this team that we have to take advantage of this opportunity," he said, "because it's not a given that you'll be in this position again next year."

    When the Falcons host the 49ers on Sunday for the NFC title, McClure will be right in the middle of things.

    McClure snaps the ball, then fades into the background while players such as Matt Ryan, Julio Jones and Tony Gonzalez grab the headlines for Atlanta's high-octane offense.

    But ask around the locker room, and everyone will say that McClure is the glue that holds the unit together.

    "Todd has been huge for my career here in Atlanta," Ryan said. "He's a guy who doesn't get enough recognition. In all honesty, my first two years here, in terms of pass protection, Todd carried me. … He helped me out immensely."

    As the longest-running member of the Falcons by far, McClure has gone through his share of ups and downs.

    A seventh-round pick out of LSU in 1999, McClure went on to set a franchise record with 148 consecutive starts. Over the past dozen seasons, he's missed only four out of 192 games.

    McClure has gotten this close to the Super Bowl only once. In the 2004 season, with QB Michael Vick, the Falcons came up one win short, losing at Philadelphia in the conference championship game.

    "This is why we play the game," said McClure, who turns 36 next month. "That's why I'm still playing this game."

    49ERS CUT CUNDIFF: The 49ers released Billy Cundiff, making David Akers the only kicker on the roster heading into Sunday. San Francisco signed Cundiff Jan. 1 to compete with Akers, who missed 13 of 42 field-goal tries this season.

    ABRAHAM STILL LIMITED: The Falcons plan on having DE John Abraham ready, though he was limited in practice for the third straight day. He expects to start Sunday.

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    ST. LOUIS — The Blues agreed to a one-year, $800,000 deal with defenseman Wade Redden on Friday. A physical is set for Sunday, after which the deal will become official.

    Redden, 35, was waived this week by the Ran­gers, who bought out the final two years of his contract on Thursday.

    He spent the past two seasons with Connecticut of the AHL after recording five goals and 35 assists with the Ran­gers over two seasons. That came after he signed a six-year deal worth $39 million to leave Ottawa. Over 13 seasons, he has 106 goals and 344 assists.

    Under the new labor deal, the Rangers will pay Redden a prorated $3.341 million this season plus two-thirds of the $5 million he was set to earn next season. Only this season's salary will count against the cap.

    "Wade is a solid two-way defenseman," Blues general manager Doug Armstrong said. "We believe his experience will complement and add stability to our defensive core."

    Canucks: Defenseman Alex Edler signed a six-year extension. Financial terms were not disclosed. Edler, 26, who could have become a free agent after this season, had 11 goals and 38 assists in 2011-12.

    Capitals: Defenseman Tom Poti, who hasn't played in the NHL since Jan. 12, 2011, because of a groin injury, was called up from the AHL. It hasn't been determined if he will play tonight against the Lightning.

    Islanders: The team suspended defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky for failing to report. Visnovsky, acquired in June from the Ducks, attempted to have the trade overruled. But an arbitrator ruled in December the deal was valid. Since the lockout started, he has been playing in Russia's KHL. Visnovsky's agent wrote in an email he hasn't reported because of "personal reasons."

    Panthers: Right wing Alex Kovalev signed a one-year deal after making the team on a tryout contract. Kovalev, 39, who has 428 career goals, spent last season in the KHL.

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The Patriots have cut down on the long passes they allowed early in the season. The Ravens keep completing them.

    New England's progress will be tested Sunday against Baltimore's strong-armed Joe Flacco and his speedy receivers in the AFC Championship Game.

    CB Aqib Talib, acquired by the Patriots from the Bucs for the final seven games, saw how dangerous the Ravens' deep passing attack can be in their 38-35, double-overtime win over the Broncos in last weekend's division-round game.

    "That game summed it up, man," he said. "They started the game taking shots, and they ended the game taking shots. So that's what you're going to do against guys like that, play that deep ball."

    On Baltimore's second series in that game. Flacco threw a 59-yard touchdown to Torrey Smith. On his last series of regulation, Flacco heaved a 70-yard score to Jacoby Jones with 31 seconds left.

    That was the longest completion this season for the Ravens, but Flacco has completed passes to receivers 13 times on gains of 40 yards or more. The Patriots had just five completions to receivers that picked up that distance.

    "We can't allow them to just throw the ball over our heads," S Devin McCourty said. "The biggest thing is understanding how strong Flacco's arm is because I think we already know how fast some of the receivers are over there."

    They Patriots (13-4) allowed 21 completions of at least 25 yards in their first eight games, including five in a 31-30 loss to the Ravens in Week 3. They allowed 15 in their last eight regular-season games, mostly after getting Talib from Tampa Bay for a future draft pick.

    NOTHING NEW: The fast-paced Patriots offense, behind QB Tom Brady, often forgoes a huddle, racing to the line to exploit reeling defenses. But coach Bill Belichick, who grew up in Annapolis, Md., watching Hall of Fame QB Johnny Unitas lead the Colts in an early version of a two-minute drill, denies any notion of New England's offense being pioneering. "It's not like that's something brand new to football," Belichick said.

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Bill Belichick has this nice habit. He coaches in Super Bowls.

    John Harbaugh has established an impressive trend, too: winning playoff games.

    When they face off Sunday for the second straight year in the AFC Championship Game, Belichick's Patriots and Harbaugh's Ravens will offer further proof of the value of stability.

    No coaching carousels in New England and Baltimore.

    Belichick, 60, has been on the job since 2000 and has gone to five Super Bowls, winning the first three. One more trip and he ties Don Shula for most Super Bowl coaching assignments.

    "He never changes," veteran guard Logan Mankins said. "It's always the same way from him. He coaches the same way. He demands the same things. So, when you have that leader in that role, I think it's easy for everyone else to fall in line."

    Harbaugh, 50, has managed something Belichick, Shula and every other NFL coach has not: winning in the postseason in each of his first five years. He also has been to seven conference title games, four as an assistant in Philadelphia.

    "There's nothing like the playoffs in the National Football League," Harbaugh said. "I've never been in any other sport, so it's hard to compare it to a seven-game series or something like that. But, it would be hard to imagine, for me, a more exciting thing than being in the NFL playoffs and getting to championship games and ultimately the Super Bowl. That's what it's all about. To me, it's the pinnacle of sport."

    Belichick and Harbaugh remain true to their philosophies and personas.

    For Belichick, that means a high level of secrecy, never providing any bulletin board material or real insight when asked about how the Patriots have been so triumphant under him. Belichick flopped in Cleveland in his first stint as a head coach, but his work in New England is the envy of his peers.

    Of course, it helped a tiny bit to have Tom Brady on his side.

    Brady emphasizes Belichick's steadiness as a key.

    "Coach talks about doing your job," Brady said. "Whatever your role may be — third receiver, third running back — you have to perform your role. You know whenever your number is called … everyone is counting on you. The expectation is you will play at a championship level."

    When Harbaugh came to Baltimore, it had a shutdown defense. Recently, the Ravens have become more dependent on their offense. Harbaugh is 6-3 in the playoffs, including a 33-14 victory at Gillette Stadium three years ago. He has lost both trips to the title game, including 23-20 to New England last January.

    And he approaches the job in the same way: tirelessly.

    "We get after it in practices and games. We try to bring a physicality and toughness to everything we do," veteran center Matt Birk said. "We have a willingness to work hard, and we do, and that comes from Coach Harbs."

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A plane carrying two Oklahoma State women's coaches and a couple ferrying them to Arkansas for a recruiting trip was inspected and its muffler repaired about a week before it crashed, killing all four people on board, according to a report released this week.

    The single-engine plane had an annual inspection on Nov. 8, 2011 — a little more than a week before it crashed on Nov. 17, near Perryville, Ark., according to a National Transportation Safety Board report dated Thursday and released Friday.

    "During the annual inspection, the mechanic noted that the muffler was inspected, removed, weld repaired, and reinstalled," the report said.

    OSU women's coach Kurt Budke and assistant Miranda Serna died in the crash on their way from Still­water, Okla., to Little Rock, along with the pilot, Olin Branstetter, and his wife, Paula Branstetter.

    The report did little to answer questions about why the plane crashed but instead provided details about the plane and pilot's log books. A probable cause report is expected to come out in about three months.

    Weather was ruled out as a factor, but it's still not clear whether the pilot, at 82, had any medical issues that could have contributed.

    Friday's women's games

    NO. 15 L'VILLE 72, CINCINNATI 33: The host Cardinals forced 31 turnovers (15-4, 3-2 Big East) led by Antonita Slaughter and Sara Hammond with four steals each. Slaughter had 13 points and Hammond 12.

    NO. 21 COLORADO 57, ARIZ. ST. 43: Chucky Jeffery had 19 points and 16 rebounds for the host Buffaloes (14-2, 3-2 Pac-12).

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    Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    MELBOURNE, Australia — Title favorite Serena Williams and defending champion Victoria Azarenka advanced in contrasting styles to the fourth round of the Australian Open.

    Williams, aiming for a third consecutive major title, recovered from a breakdown in the second set early today to win six straight games and finish off a 6-1, 6-3 win over Japan's Ayumi Morita in 66 minutes.

    The 15-time major winner surprised herself with another serve at 128 mph, matching her career fastest serve she hit earlier in the tournament.

    "I tried to hit it really hard. I hit 207 (kilometers per hour) the other day and I thought it was luck," she said. "But I did it again and I was like, 'Whew!' I'm going to try to go for 210."

    Meanwhile, top-ranked Azarenka struggled to hold off injured American Jamie Hampton 6-4, 4-6, 6-2.

    Hampton needed a medical timeout for a lower back problem before she served out the second set and winced in pain throughout the third. She managed to hit 41 winners and fluster Azarenka, who didn't help herself with six double faults and 28 unforced errors.

    "She played incredible, went for every single shot," Azarenka said. "I felt it was touching every single line. She took a medical timeout, but she rips winners all over the place. And I was like, 'Can I have a back problem?' I'm feeling great, but I'm missing every shot."

    The women's No. 1 overcame an early break and fended off triple break point in the seventh game of the deciding set before clinching the match.

    Second-seeded Maria Sharapova ousted Venus Williams 6-1, 6-3 late Friday for her first victory over the seven-time major winner in a Grand Slam.

    After 6-0, 6-0 wins in the first two rounds — the first time that happened at a major since 1985 — Sharapova has conceded the fewest number of games en route to the fourth round at the Australian Open since Steffi Graf 24 years ago. Graf also lost only four games in her first three matches.

    "Definitely not my best day," said Venus Williams, now 32 and ranked 26th. She spent much of the match lunging after Sharapova's returns and groundstrokes instead of attacking.

    On the men's side, top-ranked Novak Djokovic took another step toward a third consecutive title, beating Radek Stepanek 6-4, 6-3, 7-5.

    Djokovic did not have an easy time against the 31st seed, who used his serve-and-volley game to win 36 of the 67 points at the net, forcing Djokovic out of his comfort zone.

    But Djokovic embraced his foe afterward, saying: "Great match and great fun. It's always tricky to play Radek."

    Obituary: Gertrude "Gussie" Moran, who shocked the tennis world in 1949 when she took the court at Wimbledon with a short skirt and ruffled underwear, died at age 89 in Los Angeles. She had recently been hospitalized with cancer.

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  • 01/18/13--20:22: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Friday, January 18, 2013



    Muhammad Ali had a knockout of a 71st birthday, celebrating with friends and family and watching a video of his "Rumble in the Jungle" win over George Foreman in Africa.

    Ali's former business manager, Gene Kilroy, said the fighter — who has long suffered from Parkinson's — particularly enjoyed a big cake in the celebration Thursday at his home just outside Phoenix.

    "It was good to see him in great spirits and looking so good," Kilroy said. "He's very comfortable in his Parkinson's body. As he said many times, it could be worse."

    The birthday was in contrast to Ali's 70th, which was marked with a series of lavish events, including a party in Las Vegas that raised money for Parkinson's research.


    R. Gordon takes stage in rally

    American Robby Gordon won the 13th stage of the Dakar Rally, finishing in La Serena, Chile. Gordon, a veteran of NASCAR and Indy cars, was 22 seconds ahead of Guerlain Chicherit. Frenchman Stephane Peterhansel kept the overall lead in the event, which finishes today in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Due to security threats, the rally, which kept the name of Senegal's capital, hasn't taken place in Africa since 2007 and has run in South America since 2009.


    State stars dot new league draft

    Florida State forward Tiffany McCarty was the No. 2 overall pick by Washington and Seminoles teammate Casey Short went No. 5 to Boston in the inaugural entry draft for the National Women's Soccer League. Florida defender Kathryn Williamson also went in the first round, No. 8 to Portland. Also selected: Florida's Erika Tymrak (11th overall, Kansas City), Holly King (18th, Washington), Jo Dragotta, a former Gaither High standout (21st, Boston); FSU's Taylor Vancil (17th, Chicago); and UCF's Nicolette Radovic (16th, Portland). The eight-team league begins play in the spring.


    SKIING: France's Alexis Pinturault won a World Cup super-combined in Wengen, Switzerland, as American Ted Ligety did not finish after a ski slipped free.

    FIGURE SKATING: Olympic champion Evan Lysacek withdrew from next weekend's U.S. Championships because of a slow recovery from sports hernia surgery.

    BOWLING: Doug Kent, winner of 10 PBA Tour titles, including four majors, and Danny Wiseman, a 12-time tour winner with one major, were selected for the PBA Hall of Fame. The induction is March 30 in Indianapolis.

    Times wires

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    Associated Press
    Friday, January 18, 2013

    CHICAGO — Lance Armstrong finally cracked.

    Not while expressing deep remorse or regrets, though there was plenty of that in Friday night's second part of Armstrong's interview with Oprah Winfrey.

    It wasn't over the $75 million in sponsorship deals that evaporated over the course of two days, or having to walk away from the Livestrong cancer charity he founded and called his "sixth child." It wasn't even about his lifetime ban from competition, though he said that was more than he deserved.

    It was another bit of collateral damage that Armstrong said he wasn't prepared to deal with.

    "I saw my son defending me and saying, 'That's not true. What you're saying about my dad is not true,' " Armstrong recalled.

    "That's when I knew I had to tell him."

    Armstrong was near tears at that point, referring to 13-year-old Luke, the oldest of his five children. He blinked, looked away from Winfrey, and with his lip trembling, struggled to compose himself.

    It came just past the midpoint of the hourlong program on Winfrey's OWN. In the first part, broadcast Thursday, the disgraced cycling champion admitted using performance-enhancing drugs when he won seven straight Tour de France titles from 1999 to 2005.

    Critics said he hadn't been contrite enough in the first half of the interview, which was taped Monday in Austin, Texas, but Armstrong seemed to lose his composure when Winfrey zeroed in on the emotional drama involving his personal life.

    "What did you say?" Winfrey asked.

    "I said, 'Listen, there's been a lot of questions about your dad. My career. Whether I doped or did not dope. I've always denied that and I've always been ruthless and defiant about that. You guys have seen that. That's probably why you trusted me on it.' Which makes it even sicker," Armstrong said.

    "And uh, I told Luke, I said" — and here Armstrong paused for a long time to collect himself — "I said, 'Don't defend me anymore. Don't.'

    "He said okay. He just said, 'Look, I love you. You're my dad. This won't change that.' "

    Winfrey also drew Armstrong out on his ex-wife, Kristin, whom he claimed knew just enough about both the doping and lying to ask him to stop. He credited her with making him promise that his comeback in 2009 would be drug-free.

    "She said to me, 'You can do it under one condition: that you never cross that line again,' " Armstrong recalled.

    "The line of drugs?" Winfrey asked.

    "Yes. And I said, 'You've got a deal,' " he replied. "And I never would have betrayed that with her."

    A U.S. Anti-Doping Agency report that exposed Armstrong as the leader of an elaborate doping scheme on his U.S. Postal Service cycling team included witness statements from at least three former teammates who said Kristin Armstrong participated in or at least knew about doping on the teams.

    Associated Press (2005)Associated Press (2005)

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    BY DAVID RICE, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    NEW PORT RICHEY — Ja'mil Jones' college basketball career has been far from typical.

    The 6-foot, left-handed guard first applied his skills with Francis Marion University in his native South Carolina where he played a red-shirt season, but the death of his father from complications of diabetes, which included a heart attack, stroke and a pair of brain surgeries, quickly derailed his career there.

    "When my father died, I went through a little adversity, and that's when I feel my relationship with God got a lot stronger," Jones said. "It was a hard process, but that was a lesson in 'he gives and takes.' Luckily, I've always had the opportunity since I was 4 years old to get between those four lines and focus just on basketball, which helped me get through that."

    Basketball wasn't his only priority, however. As he struggled to deal with the loss of his father and the pressures of student athlete life, Jones' grades slipped, leading him to seek out a fresh start at a junior college. He would find it at Pasco-Hernando Community College in New Port Richey.

    "I was recruited by a former coach here and since coming the environment has been really good for me," Jones said. "I've kind of realized that it's not just about me being an athlete. I have to be a student athlete, and student comes first. I'm enjoying my basketball here, and I think this team has a really good chemistry."

    Jones is a versatile player who can play either guard position on the basketball court. PHCC head coach James Johnson thinks his quick-footed, smooth-shooting guard who can run the offense with efficiency will be missed most after his sophomore season for his leadership than anything else.

    "He came here, and after everything he'd been through had to sit out for a lot of his freshman year which is challenging for a guy of his caliber," Johnson said. "He handled it well and really got his focus back academically and has been a great part of this team. This year we have a young team; he's one of just three sophomores and he's leading these guys both on and off the court. Now he has some teams looking at him so that he can go on from here."

    The time on PHCC's bench was a lesson in making the most of the situation for Jones. Instead of stewing over his lack of playing time, Jones refocused on and off the court, learning from the mistakes and successes of the players in front of him to propel him to his current status as a team captain.

    "I spent a lot of time watching our point guard last year, Alvin Satram, and saw the way he was a leader at all times," Jones said. "It was a lesson that I was able to take into this year because I just sort of naturally fell into a leadership role with this team, and now I actually prefer to play point guard because I want the ball in my hands and the ability to make plays or decisions in the game, to get my teammates involved and to take charge of the floor."

    Jones lives with fellow out-of-state transplant, power forward Larry Rivers from Syracuse, N.Y. The two met while being recruited and hit if off immediately. Texting back and forth over the summer before moving to PHCC and eventually becoming roommates, the pair of sophomores have a relationship that has also bred success on the court as they are the second and third leading scorers on the team.

    "He's the floor general, and he knows how to reward us big men for our hard work," Rivers says of Jones. "He can score, but his ability to pass is something I haven't had in a guard before. We get along on and off the court, he's like a brother for me. We just clicked since day one."

    Note: Jones is averaging 16 points and 5.5 assists per game for the Conquistadors who are 5-12 this season having endured an injury riddled rough start. In January, however, the team has recovered, winning five of its last six games heading into Saturday's matchup with Trinity College.

    Photos by DAVID RICE   |   Special to the TimesPhotos by DAVID RICE | Special to the Times

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    By Gary Shelton, Times Sports Columnist
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    Foxborough, Mass

    With every dance step, another skeptic forgets. With every tackle, another critic forgives.

    Ray Lewis is once again an untarnished star, and doesn't America love him for it? No one takes the field with such oversized passion. No one has a better smile in victory. No one does a grander job of playing the role of aging veteran. At 37, Lewis is admired, respected, even beloved.

    Ah, but what about the murders?

    You remember those, right?

    Once, Lewis was in handcuffs. Once, he was in jail, charged with the deaths of two men after a brawl outside an Atlanta nightclub. Once, he sat on a podium at the Super Bowl, staring straight ahead, suggesting he was a victim in the proceedings.

    Back then, the world seemed suspicious of what Lewis knew, of what he did, of what he felt. Answers were hard to find, and Lewis wasn't giving any himself.

    In some ways, this is the most amazing part of the Ray Lewis story, the way he went from there to here, from scandal to stardom. Has another athlete ever cleaned up his image so thoroughly? Lewis has been great enough for long enough, it is almost as if the suspicion … disappeared. He is such an entertaining football player that it has become inconvenient to think of him as anything else.

    How does this happen? We are such a suspicious nation, and we have no problem disagreeing with the jury or the drug test. How many people do you know who still believe O.J. Simpson was guilty, or Lizzie Borden, or Robert Blake? How many people are still angry at Pete Rose, at Barry Bonds, at Tiger Woods for the headlines that featured them?

    As for Lewis? Evidently, he has hit so many running backs that everyone else seems to have developed amnesia.

    These days, analysts seem to line up to pat Lewis on the back. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell bear-hugs him. His jersey sales are among the best in the NFL. And as the playoffs have turned into Lewis' farewell tour, anyone who brings up a 13-year-old scandal is quickly dismissed.

    Since that night, Lewis has made 10 of his 13 Pro Bowls, and he has been defensive player of the year twice, and he has been the Super Bowl MVP. He is assured of the Hall of Fame.

    Still, as we look at a player's legacy, shouldn't we remember it all? As Lewis takes the field for what might be the final time tonight in the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, shouldn't we spare a thought for the two men who died?

    Let's be honest here. No one knows what happened outside a nightclub called Cobalt in the wee hours of Jan. 31, 2000. Only that two men — Richard Lollar, 24, and Jacinth "Shorty" Baker, 21 — died after being stabbed repeatedly during a melee with Lewis' group. And that no one has ever been found guilty of the crime.

    Looking back, the Atlanta prosecutors looked clownish in their attempts to go after Lewis. The whole case seemed rushed and reckless, and there never seemed to be any real evidence against the former University of Miami star from Bartow. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge — obstruction of justice — in exchange for his testimony about two other suspects, but they were found not guilty.

    Even so, should the deaths of two men be so easily dismissed? What happened to the white suit that Lewis was wearing? What did he say in his testimony? In the end, was Lewis more concerned with helping his friends than with helping to solve the murders? How much were his settlements with the two families?

    Did America simply get tired of wondering? Or, in the end, was watching Lewis play just too much fun to care?

    Lewis is a wonderful player. One of the most mesmerizing linebackers who has ever played. You can debate his name with Mike Singletary, or with Dick Butkus, or with Jack Lambert or anyone else. Those who have played with him rave about his leadership skills. In Baltimore, he will be remembered as the finest Raven of them all.

    Today, against Tom Brady and the Patriots, you will hear much about that. You will hear about his leadership skills. You will hear about his force, his power, his enthusiasm.

    Somewhere along the line, maybe someone will wonder what happened that night. Shouldn't someone remember? Shouldn't someone care?

    After all, isn't that part of the Ray Lewis story, too?

    Listen to Gary Shelton weekdays from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. on 98.7-FM the Fan.

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, January 19, 2013


    You have to wonder if all the stories about coach Greg Schiano — including the "toes on the line" rant by TE Kellen Winslow, the kneel-down defense debate and his exhaustive training camp — will affect the decision of any free agents when they weigh signing with the Bucs.

    Players tend to go where they believe the money — not the grass — is greener.

    But if there is one shining example for the Bucs to hold up to other players, it is WR Vincent Jackson.

    The former Charger signed a five-year, $55.5 million contract in March and lived up to the enormous expectations that come with so many zeros. Jackson caught 72 passes for 1,384 yards and eight touchdowns. His 19.2 yards-per-catch average topped the league. He took the heat off WR Mike Williams, who rebounded from a sophomore slump with 996 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.

    Last week Jackson was added to the NFC Pro Bowl roster, replacing injured Lion Calvin Johnson.

    What would Jackson tell a free agent about playing under the Bucs' ubercontrolling coach?

    "I couldn't be more impressed with Schiano and his staff, the way they were able to come in here in one year, coming from the collegiate level to dealing with professionals," Jackson said. "I know (Schiano) has some background in the NFL. But as a head coach, to take the reins the way he did, get his message across, get guys to buy in the way he did under totally different circumstances from years prior, he did an excellent job with that. He's a lot of fun to play for. He's a competitive guy, and he's going to make sure you're as well prepared as you can possibly be.

    "I would tell (free agents) it's a top-notch organization; it's a top-notch structure. We have a great coaching staff here. They've built a system and a feeling of family and continuity, not only with the team itself, but I think they've done a great job in the community as well."

    Making the new-players task easier for Schiano is he has a locker room full of players who know the way he wants things done and have bought in.

    They will set the tone for the new players.

    "His way of doing things was, to us, unorthodox," DT Gerald McCoy said. "And with any new thing, change is not going to be easy. It's going to be hard, and there are going to be growing pains. You make adjustments in the offseason, and you tweak things."

    Heading west: Jackson might be among three Bucs headed to Hawaii. McCoy was an original choice. And if the 49ers win today's NFC title game, rookie RB Doug Martin would replace Frank Gore.

    "Am I pleased with it? Absolutely," Jackson said of his Pro Bowl chance. "It was a great year for me, personally. But obviously, I would definitely take some postseason action and some more wins instead of the postseason accolades."

    BARBER WATCH: The Bucs have 10 unrestricted free agents to deal with this offseason, a list that begins with S Ronde Barber.

    It likely will be a few more weeks before Barber and the Bucs meet to determine if he will be back for a 17th season. But Redskins defensive backs coach and former Bucs coach Raheem Morris, who remains a close friend of Barber's, believes Barber, 37, should return. "I told him he should play until the wheels fall off," Morris said. "And from what I've seen on tape from last year, he played really well."

    Among the other free agents the Bucs must decide whether to attempt to re-sign are DE Michael Bennett, TE Dallas Clark, NT Roy Miller and CB E.J. Biggers.

    USF HOPEFULS: Among the former Bucs submitting resumes to become part of Willie Taggart's coaching staff at USF were WR Michael Clayton and S Dexter Jackson, the MVP of Super Bowl XXXVII. Neither was hired.

    Rick Stroud can be reached at stroud@tampabay.com and heard from 6 to 9 a.m. weekdays on WDAE-620. Follow him on Twitter at @NFLStroud.


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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    When Dave Andreychuk recalls the start of the 48-game season after the 1994-95 lockout, he speaks of sloppy play — "Nobody could make a pass" — and players who did not pay as much attention to conditioning as today's bent over their sticks in cardiovascular agony.

    "We were dropping like flies," said the former Lightning captain, who at the time played for the Maple Leafs. "It was really tough for us."

    What Andreychuk recalls most vividly, though, is coach Pat Burns managing players even more than he did before, from using rest as a weapon to reminding them that in a short season, losing streaks and bad habits cannot take hold.

    Andreychuk, now the Lightning's vice president of fans and business development, even spoke about it to Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher.

    "Not letting a snowball roll down the hill to where you lose four or five in a row," Andreychuk said. "That to me is the biggest thing. You really have to shake off a loss and forget about it by the time you get in your car."

    "It relies on the coaching staff a lot. Really, a lot of it is on (the coach), to how he practices the team, how he gets them to rest, and then mentally how you handle wins and losses."

    Boucher said he began that process during the six-day training camp. For example, he allowed Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone to skip Thursday's 20-minute scrimmage.

    As for managing emotions during a 48-game season everyone expects will be a sprint to the playoffs, Boucher said, "For me, the big word is 'compensate.' You have to compensate from doing extremely well. We have to be calm and demand more from ourselves, and when we don't do well, be very positive and compensate for the negative and build on the small victories we have during losses and bad moments."

    Consider the message he relayed to players before Saturday's opener against the Capitals:

    "We're actually in a better position now than we were the last two seasons," with 48 games remaining, Boucher said. "That is positive. We decide the perception we're going to get, and right now, we like it."

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    By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, January 19, 2013

    Colin Kaepernick grew up watching some of the more entertaining quarterbacks of the past couple of decades, probably never envisioning he'd one day join their ranks.

    "When I got into high school and college, I watched Vince Young and Michael Vick a lot, (Donovan) McNabb, (Randall) Cunningham," the 49ers' phenomenon said last week in Santa Clara, Calif. "They were all quarterbacks who were mobile and could make plays."

    But none of them truly changed the way quarterback was played in the NFL. Instead, it's the 25-year old Kaepernick, who leads the 49ers into today's NFC title game against the Falcons, who could be among the trailblazers to usher in a new era of signal callers.

    The success of dual-threat quarterbacks this season is undeniable. The Redskins' Robert Griffin III, the Seahawks' Russell Wilson, Kaepernick — quarterbacks with athleticism are gaining a foothold in the NFL, the only level of football in which the traditional, drop-back style of playing the position remains the status quo.

    Can a second-year quarterback who was on the bench two months ago really contribute to changing that?


    "People need to understand, it's not going away," ESPN analyst and former Bucs quarterback Trent Dilfer said. "It's never going away."

    Dilfer has long been involved with ESPN's annual "Elite 11" quarterback competition, which brings together the nation's top high school signal callers, most of whom have gone on to become pros. He has observed a shift.

    "For years I've been kind of seeing this coming," Dilfer said. "The biggest, baddest dude is now playing quarterback. Now they take the 6-5, 250-pound great athlete who is the biggest, baddest kid on the block, and they make him a quarterback. And then he gets this great training growing up.

    "It's a natural progression that the quarterback run game is going to enter the NFL. Purists are going to continue to say (defenses) are going to figure it out. That's just not true. They've never had to deal with a Colin Kaepernick, (Griffin), the next generation of quarterbacks who are pass-first but also have this physicality."

    Among that group, which includes the Panthers' Cam Newton, Kaepernick stands out — literally. For one, he's massive. Listed at 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, the second-round draft pick out of Nevada is bigger than that by most accounts. And his speed is impressive for a man his size. It takes a certain breed of player to rush for a quarterback postseason-record 181 yards against the Packers last weekend, complementing it with 263 passing yards.

    "He may be the fastest of all the quarterbacks that we've faced," said Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, whose team faced Newton twice and Griffin once during the regular season and Wilson last weekend in a division playoff game.

    "He finds a crease and not even defensive backs can catch him. He can turn a play that looks like a broken play and turn it into a 70-yard touchdown run."

    The NFL still is dominated by pocket passers, and its most accomplished quarterbacks, including Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, aren't considered runners. But several factors could bring more open-mindedness about the position from coaches: the kinds of players coming out of college, the influence of the college game on the pros (see new Eagles coach Chip Kelly) and the success of the NFL's athletic, young quarterbacks.

    Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez, 36, recognizes the evolution: "I was telling (Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan), 'You're going to be a dinosaur here pretty soon.' "

    Change must be done in moderation, however. In a league in which some linebackers can run step for step with receivers, exposing quarterbacks to too many hits has consequences. The concussion (against the Falcons) and knee injury Griffin sustained this season are proof.

    But when deployed smartly, the read-option plays being used by the 49ers and other teams can have maximum impact. Kaepernick averaged 6.3 rushes in the eight regular-season games he started or in which he took the majority of the snaps (he had 16 against the Packers).

    "(Kaepernick) is not a passing quarterback who can run a little bit," 49ers offensive tackle Joe Staley said. "He's not a running quarterback who can pass a little bit. He's equally good at both. I think that creates a little bit of hesitation with defenses, and we're trying to attack that."

    With coach and renowned quarterback tutor Jim Harbaugh at the helm, the 49ers seem to have found balance.

    "It puts a lot of pressure on the play caller to not go to the well too often," Dilfer said. "It's not going to be where the quarterback's running tendency is 10 or 12 times a game, because he'll never last. But when the play caller is judicious about it, there are some huge plays to be made."

    Huge plays such as Kaepernick's 56-yard touchdown run against Green Bay.

    With each play of that sort, Kaepernick helps his team get closer to the Super Bowl while contributing to changing the game.

    Stephen F. Holder can be reached at sholder@tampabay.com.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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