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Kentucky overwhelms West Virginia 78-39 in NCAA Sweet 16

CLEVELAND (AP) Perfect and pulverizing. Kentucky made West Virginia's press look pathetic. Trey Lyles scored 14 points, Andrew Harrison added 13 and the unbeaten Wildcats, chasing history and a ninth national title, rolled to a 78-39 victory over the Mountaineers on Thursday night in the Midwest Regional semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. The tourney's top seed and an overwhelming favorite to cut down the nets next month in Indianapolis, Kentucky (37-0) advanced to Saturday's regional final to play third-seeded Notre Dame, an 81-70 winner over Wichita State in the other semifinal. The Fighting Irish may need to call Rudy, consult with Digger Phelps and wake up the echoes from some of those stunning upsets in football and hoops they have pulled off in the past. Kentucky is a monster this March. With stunning ease, the Wildcats built a 26-point lead in the first half over the Mountaineers (25-10), who led the nation in steals and figured their full-court press would at least bother Kentucky into some turnovers. Not only did the press not work, West Virginia shot only 24.1 percent (13 of 54), including 2 of 15 from 3-point range, against the Wildcats, who resemble a forest of blue-tinted redwoods inside the paint. West Virginia didn't eclipse 20 points until the 11:41 mark of the second half. It was over long before then. At halftime, the Mountaineers had nearly as many fouls (14) as points (18) and there was no hint they would be able to cut into Kentucky's lead. The Wildcats, seeking to become the first team to go undefeated since Indiana in 1976, seemed to be sending a message to the rest of the tournament that everyone else is playing for second place. Five years ago in the Elite Eight, West Virginia stunned a top-seeded Kentucky team that's a lot like this one, loaded with high school All-Americas and future NBA players. But the Wildcats weren't going to let that happen again, and they blistered the Mountaineers in the opening 20 minutes, leaving the court with superfan/actress Ashley Judd dancing along with the thousands who made the trip north to Cleveland. Judd then tweeted she's staying around for a few more days. "I think it's okay to extend my hotel room," she wrote. Aaron Harrison scored 12 points in the first half, Devin Booker dropped two 3-pointers and Marcus Lee and Willie Cauley-Stein took turns soaring to convert alley-oop passes into dunks that had West Virginia fans longing to take the country road back home. Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins could only sit on his sideline stool and shrug. His good friend John Calipari has quite a team. Dakari Johnson scored 12 points and Cauley-Stein added 10 rebounds for Kentucky, which hasn't faced Notre Dame in the tournament since 1970. Juwan Staten scored 14 points to lead West Virginia. West Virginia's players promised they wouldn't be intimidated by Kentucky's spotless record, the school's blue-in-the-face fans or championship pedigree. In fact Mountaineers freshman guard Daxter Miles Jr. predicted he and his teammates would take down a squad SMU coach Larry Brown believes could make the NBA playoffs. "They're gonna be 36-1," Miles Jr. said Wednesday, a comment the Wildcats shrugged off like so many other challenges they have encountered this season. Miles didn't score. Kentucky's fans came prepared for a tougher matchup after easy wins over Hampton and Cincinnati to start the tourney. At "The Corner Alley," a restaurant bar where UK's faithful gathered before tip-off, a T-shirt was being sold that said: "They Hate Us Because They Ain't Us." No, there is no one quite like Kentucky. For West Virginia to pull off the upset, the Mountaineers needed all hands on deck. But Devin Williams, the team's leading rebounder, picked up two fouls in the first 1:14 and Huggins had no choice but to sit him. That left West Virginia vulnerable underneath but Kentucky did its early damage from outside as Harrison dropped two 3s and Booker scored on a layup to give Kentucky a 16-2 lead, forcing Huggins to call a timeout. He should have asked for mercy. TIP-INS West Virginia: The Mountaineers have made the Sweet 16 in six of their last nine NCAA Tournament appearances. ... The Mountaineers came in 5-0 all-time in Cleveland, including 2-0 in NCAA games - both in 2005 at Cleveland's Wolstein Center. ... Huggins has 765 career wins, 12th most in history and third among active coaches, trailing only Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim. Kentucky: Aaron Harrison left briefly after injuring a finger on his left hand in the second half. He returned with it taped. ... The Wildcats aren't just tall, but long. Kentucky's 13 scholarship players have an average wing span of 6-foot-10 and freshman Karl-Anthony Towns stretches 7-foot-3 from tip to tip. ... The Wildcats improved to 22-3 in NCAA Tournament games under Calipari, seeking his fourth Final Four appearance and second national title. UP NEXT West Virginia: Season over. Kentucky: Faces Notre Dame on Saturday in the Elite Eight.

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 04:16:00 +0000
Arizona outlasts Xavier 68-60 to reach West region finals

LOS ANGELES (AP) T.J. McConnell scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half, freshman Stanley Johnson added 12 points, and second-seeded Arizona made a dominant late rally for a 68-60 victory over sixth-seeded Xavier in the West Regional semifinals on Thursday night. Kaleb Tarczewski had 12 points and 12 rebounds as the Wildcats (34-3) weathered a major scare from the underdog Musketeers (23-14) and clamped down defensively during a game-ending 19-7 run. Arizona is again on the brink of its first Final Four under coach Sean Miller, who led Xavier for five years until 2009. Arizona will face top-seeded Wisconsin (34-3) on Saturday at Staples Center in a rematch of last season's West final. Matt Stainbrook had 17 points and 10 rebounds in his final game for Xavier.

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 04:57:00 +0000
Top-seeded Wisconsin hangs to beat North Carolina 79-72

LOS ANGELES (AP) Sam Dekker scored a career-high 23 points, Frank Kaminsky added 19 and top-seeded Wisconsin rallied in the final 10 minutes to hold off North Carolina 79-72 Thursday night and advance to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament. Zak Showalter came off the bench to score six points in the Badgers' 19-7 comeback run that sent them into the West Regional final Saturday against either No. 2 seed Arizona or sixth-seeded Xavier. Brice Johnson and Justin Jackson scored 15 points each for the fourth-seeded Tar Heels (26-12), who got within one with 4:21 remaining but couldn't retake the lead they owned for much of the second half. Marcus Paige hit consecutive 3-pointers that again drew Carolina within one with 54 seconds to go, but Wisconsin (34-3) made all eight of its free throws over the closing seconds.

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 02:03:00 +0000
Notre Dame races by Wichita State 81-70 for Elite Eight spot

CLEVELAND (AP) Notre Dame's march through March is picking up speed. Demetrius Jackson scored 20 points and the third-seeded Irish dominated Wichita State 81-70 in the Midwest regional semifinals on Thursday night to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in 36 years. The Irish (32-5) shot 75 percent (18 of 24) in the second half, easily pulling away from the seventh-seeded Shockers (30-5) after Wichita State took its first and only lead on a layup by Darius Carter early in the second half. Pat Connaughton added 16 points and 10 rebounds for Notre Dame and Jerian Grant had nine points and 11 assists. Notre Dame will play either unbeaten Kentucky or West Virginia on Saturday night with a Final Four spot on the line. Fred VanVleet led Wichita State with 25 points but the Shockers simply couldn't keep up with the sharp-shooting Irish.

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 01:27:00 +0000
Ex-Husker DE Randy Gregory to NFL Media: I failed drug tests

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) Defensive end Randy Gregory said he tested positive for marijuana at the NFL scouting combine last month and that he failed two drug tests at Nebraska last year. Gregory disclosed his marijuana use in an interview with NFL Media on Wednesday. Gregory went into February's scouting combine projected to be among the top 10 picks in the draft. He declared for the draft after his junior season at Nebraska, where he recorded 17 1/2 sacks in two seasons. He said he tested positive for marijuana at Nebraska in January 2014 and April 2014. Gregory said he hadn't smoked marijuana since December. "I blame myself," Gregory told NFL Media. "And I know it sounds cliche, but there's really no one else I can blame." Eddie Rhodman Jr., one of Gregory's handlers, said on Thursday that Gregory would not comment further. Gregory said he knows the failed drug tests could hurt his draft position. "Am I worried? Yeah, I'm worried," he said. "At the same time, I'm confident. I know I'm going to be all right in the end." Gregory, from Fishers, Indiana, played his freshman season at Arizona Western Community College in 2011 and missed 2012 because of a broken leg. He transferred to Nebraska in 2013. Gregory missed two games because of injury last year but was not suspended for any after testing positive twice at Nebraska. The school's drug policy was revised last October and now requires an athlete to be suspended for 10 percent of his team's contests after a second positive test. "I was worse at Nebraska than I've ever been at any other time of my life," Gregory said of his marijuana use. "But I know how I am now. I think if teams really look at how I am now more so than the past, they'll see I'm making strides to get better, as a person and as a player."

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 18:18:00 +0000
Rangers clinch playoff spot with 5-1 win over Senators

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) Chris Kreider had two goals and an assist and the New York Rangers clinched a playoff spot with a 5-1 win over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday night. Dan Boyle, Mats Zuccarello and Tanner Glass also scored for the Rangers, who have 101 points. Cam Talbot made 23 saves for New York, which handed Ottawa's Andrew Hammond his first regulation-time loss. Hammond allowed five goals on 22 shots and is 14-1-1 to start his NHL career. The Rangers also ended Ottawa's seven-game winning streak. Curtis Lazar scored for the Senators as they failed to collect at least one point for just the second time in their past 18 games. New York's fifth goal knocked Hammond out of the game late in the second period. He was replaced by Chris Driedger, who was making his NHL debut. Driedger finished with 10 saves. The Rangers took a 3-1 lead into the second period on two goals from Kreider and one from Boyle. Kreider opened the scoring at 12:38 of the first after a fantastic pass from Derek Stepan. The Senators tied the game just 19 seconds later when Lazar gained control of a bouncing puck in the Rangers end and beat Talbot with a quick shot from the faceoff circle. Boyle gave the Rangers the lead at 16:40, and with one minute left in the period Kreider got his second goal of the game off a Stepan rebound that bounced straight up after Hammond made the initial save. At 1:42 of the second period, Zuccarello scored on a one-timer for a 4-1 lead before Glass scored at 16:02 just five seconds after emerging from the penalty box. The Senators had a 5-on-3 advantage for 34 seconds, but didn't register a shot. They had just one shot over the final 86 seconds of the Glass minor. Notes: Jared Cowen, Milan Michalek, Matt Puempel and Craig Anderson were scratches for the Senators. While Kevin Klein and Martin St. Louis were scratches for the Rangers.

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 02:56:00 +0000
NCAA says it will monitor impacts of Indiana religious law

With the Final Four a week away from shining a spotlight on Indianapolis, NCAA President Mark Emmert said Thursday that the governing body for college sports is concerned about an Indiana law that could allow businesses to discriminate against gay people. The law would prohibit state and local laws that "substantially burden" the ability of people - including businesses and associations - to follow their religious beliefs. The NCAA offices are located in Indianapolis, and Emmert said the organization was concerned about how it might impact student athletes and employees. His terse statement also suggested the NCAA might consider moving future events out of Indianapolis. "We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill," Emmert said, hours after Gov. Mark Pence signed the measure into law. "Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce." The conflict arises as thousands of college basketball fans prepare to converge on the city for the conclusion of the NCAA Tournament, an economic behemoth in college sports. The 14-year television contract alone for the event is worth $10.8 billion. The NCAA has been a mainstay in downtown Indianapolis since 1999, when it relocated from its Kansas location in part because of a rich public-private investment deal from the city to establish the headquarters. But the new law could put the association in a difficult position. While it has a close relationship with Indiana's capital city, college sports have been at the forefront of several breakthroughs for gay rights in the last two years, and the young adults and college students the NCAA represents have generally been supportive of those changes. Last year, former University of Missouri football player Michael Sam came out as gay as he prepared for the NFL draft. Sam had told his teammates and coaches months early and said he found nothing but support among them and on campus. When Sam and his teammates were honored at halftime of a Missouri basketball game, hundreds of students lined up outside the arena to block a handful of anti-gay demonstrators. This past season Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay men's Division I basketball player at the University of Massachusetts. Gordon, who has said he plans to transfer, has had nothing but good things to say about how his teammates and coaches reacted to his coming out last year. And he said not once was he hassled at opposing arenas for his sexuality. An online push for the NCAA to react to the bill began a couple of days ago with the hashtag (hash)Final4Fairness. Former professional basketball player Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in the NBA, tweeted: "(at)GovPenceIN, is it going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come to the (hash)FinalFour?" The LGBT Sports Coalition also called for the NCAA, the Big Ten, the NFL and USA Diving and USA Gymnastics to pull events from Indianapolis over the next 16 months. A spokesman for Pence reiterated that the governor does not believe the bill "in any way legalize discrimination in Indiana." "For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation's anti-discrimination laws, and this law will not do so in Indiana either," he said. Indianapolis, a hub for major sporting events, is booked for several over the next decade. The Big Ten has held its football championship game at Lucas Oil Field since 2011 and has contracted to remain there until 2021. The conference also is scheduled to hold its men's basketball tournament at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis in 2020 and 2022. The Big Ten women's basketball tournament is set to be held in Indianapolis from 2017-22. This year's U.S. national gymnastics championships and next year's Olympic diving team trials will be held in Indianapolis. The Final Four is scheduled to return to Indianapolis in 2021 and the women's Final Four is set to be there next year. The city is also hoping to land the 2019 Super Bowl. The NCAA has stepped into social debates before, and there is precedent for it taking events elsewhere. The association in 2001 imposed a ban on holding championship events in South Carolina and Mississippi because Confederate battle flags fly at state capitols. The ban does not prevent schools from earning the right to host a regional event, as with postseason baseball and women's basketball tournaments. In 2005, the NCAA banned schools that had what it deemed to be hostile or abusive mascots from hosting championship events. That ban mostly targeted schools with Native American mascots. --- Follow Ralph D. Russo at www.Twitter.com/ralphDrussoAP

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 23:21:00 +0000
49ers waive OL Jonathan Martin after 1 season with team

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) The San Francisco 49ers have waived offensive lineman Jonathan Martin. The team announced the move on Thursday to end Martin's one-year trial run with the team. The Niners acquired Martin last March in a deal with Miami. Martin had left the Dolphins in October 2013 after accusing teammate Richie Incognito of bullying. An NFL investigation determined Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Martin. Martin started seven games at right tackle last season in place of injured Anthony Davis. He struggled in that role and allowed 7 1/2 sacks, according to STATS. Martin was picked in the second round out of Stanford in 2012. --- Online: AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL

Thu, 26 Mar 2015 21:18:00 +0000
Kings win 3rd straight on trip, top Islanders 3-2

UNIONDALE, N.Y. (AP) Anze Kopitar scored with 4:23 left, defenseman Alec Martinez had two assists, and the Los Angeles Kings won their third straight on their road trip by beating the slumping New York Islanders 3-2 on Thursday night. Kopitar, who had a goal and five assists in his previous three games, got to a deflected puck off a drive by defenseman Andrej Sekera and fired it past Jaroslav Halak for his 16th goal. Jonathan Quick made 25 saves in his 400th NHL game. He has won at New Jersey, the New York Rangers, and the Islanders on this trip that has two games left. Nick Shore netted his first career goal in his 28th game, and Tyler Toffoli also scored for the playoff-hopeful Kings. Quick has won in his 100th, 200th, 300th and 400th NHL games. Frans Nielsen and Johnny Boychuk had goals, and Halak stopped 34 shots, but the Islanders fell to 2-5-2 in their past nine. Both teams scored during Los Angeles defenseman Matt Greene's holding penalty just 1:43 into the third period. The Kings took their first lead of the night on Toffoli's 22nd goal - his fifth short-handed - 12 seconds after Greene was sent to the box. Jeff Carter fired a drive during a 2-on-1 rush that Halak stopped, but Toffoli converted the rebound at the left post. New York wasn't shaken, and forged the second tie of the game when Boychuk ripped a shot from the blue line, with Josh Bailey in front at 3:31. The tide turned in the second period as the Islanders found their game and started taking the play to the Kings. Nielsen gave New York a 1-0 lead 5:31 into the period when Travis Hamonic's clearing pass sent Nikolay Kulemin streaking ahead on an Islanders' 3-on-1 rush. Kulemin dropped the puck back to Nielsen above the right circle for a hard wrist shot that beat Quick inside the right post for his 13th goal. It was the Islanders' fifth shot of the second period, compared to only one for Los Angeles. New York gained even more momentum when it killed a Kings' 5-on-3 power play that lasted 1:34. The Islanders even had the best scoring chance of the advantage when Bailey sprung Nick Leddy right out of the penalty box, but Quick turned him aside on the short-handed breakaway. That perhaps gave the Kings a lift because just 24 seconds after the teams returned to full strength, Dustin Brown curled with the puck behind the Islanders net, came out into the right circle and snapped a shot that caromed in off Shore's skate at the top of the crease at 10:37. New York outshot Los Angeles 16-8 in the second to trail 22-21 entering the third. The Kings carried much of the play in the scoreless first, but they couldn't get anything past Halak. Los Angeles held a 14-5 advantage in shots, but its best scoring chance was an attempt by Jordan Nolan that sailed to Halak's right and struck the left post at 6:20. The Islanders didn't put their first puck on Quick until Kyle Okposo's drive 6:53 into the game. NOTES: Quick is 10-1-1 in his past 12 road starts. ... The Islanders have gone 11 games without allowing a power-play goal. They have killed 25 straight short-handed situations, including two against the Kings. ... An adhesive ad began peeling off the boards in the third period. A linesman pulled it off completely and it was later replaced. ... Halak took a shot directly off his mask in the third period, and didn't appear to be injured. ... The Kings have won seven of their last 11 at Nassau Coliseum.

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 01:57:00 +0000
Unsigned No. 1 pick Aiken announces Tommy John surgery

Brady Aiken, the hard-throwing lefty who didn't sign after being last year's No. 1 draft pick by the Houston Astros, announced Thursday he had Tommy John elbow surgery. The 18-year-old Aiken was pitching for the IMG Academy, a private training institute in Florida, to prepare for this year's draft after a contract dispute with the Astros left him unsigned. In an essay published Thursday for The Players' Tribune, the website created by Derek Jeter, Aiken broke the news himself. "I'm obviously extremely disappointed," Aiken wrote. "I wanted to let my pitching speak for itself, but now there are going to be new distractions. For that reason, I wanted to be the one to tell people what's happened and make this a fresh start." The surgery was performed by Dr. David Altchek on Wednesday. Aiken, who attended Cathedral Catholic High School in San Diego, went first overall last June despite some concerns about his elbow. Aiken, perhaps the most polished high school pitcher in the draft whose impeccable control mesmerized the Astros, downplayed any issues. But he and Houston failed to agree to terms on a contract - making him the first No. 1 pick to not sign since Tim Belcher in 1983, and third overall, also joining Danny Goodwin (1971). Aiken, who initially committed to UCLA before going to IMG, wrote about knowing there were skeptics then - and surely will be more now. "I can honestly say I don't regret not signing," he said. "It was a very difficult decision, but it also was an informed decision based on circumstances only a few people know the truth about. My family and I planned for all the possible outcomes. We weighed the pros and cons, talked with friends and mentors and doctors whose opinions we value and discussed it over a number of family dinners. This wasn't a decision we made lightly." Aiken insisted money wasn't the only factor in not signing with the Astros, but also cited being able to play somewhere he felt "comfortable" and establishing "a support system I felt would lay the groundwork for a successful and long career." The left-hander wrote that the decision "made the most sense for my future," and he didn't dwell on it the last few months. Instead, he was preparing for this year's draft - in which he was expected to be a first-round pick again. And, he still could be, despite the injury. Aiken noted that two other pitchers were drafted after him in the first round last year despite still recovering from Tommy John surgery. East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman went ninth to Toronto, and UNLV righty Erick Fedde was taken No. 18 overall by Washington. Arizona has the No. 1 selection this year, while Houston holds the second pick as compensation for Aiken not signing, as well as the No. 5 pick. The Astros can't draft Aiken again without his consent. Aiken realized something was wrong with his elbow during his first start last week at IMG. He wrestled with his emotions after he received the diagnosis that he tore the ligament. "I can't even begin to express how I felt," he wrote. "I was - and still am - overwhelmed with a lot of different feelings, but mostly it's disappointment. I won't be able to pitch this season, and this is going to keep me from doing what I love most of all: competing." Aiken mentioned that it's "frustrating" that he won't be able to pitch - or surf at home in California this summer. But, he also insisted that this "is just a temporary setback" for him. "I already have a plan in place to rehab my arm, and I plan to come back better than ever," he said. "I also know God has a plan for me. Injuries are part of the job, but so is coming back. I can't wait to get back on the mound. I can't wait to compete again." --- The Players' Tribune: http://www.theplayerstribune.com/brady-aiken-a-fresh-start

Fri, 27 Mar 2015 05:06:00 +0000