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High school sports remain on hold in Illinois

Still waiting on “return to play” for high school sports in Illinois. Monticello football coach Cully Welter hoping there can be a season, but understands there are some challenges with the calendar.


 

The IHSA was hoping to meet with reps from IDPH and the Governor’s office before the New Year, but that’s not happening. The next regularly scheduled IHSA board meeting is Jan. 13.

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Illinois QB Peters Announces Intention to Return for Another Season

Illinois quarterback Brandon Peters will return for a third season with the Illini and play for new coach Bret Bielema, the team announced Tuesday.

 

Peters spent three years at Michigan before joining Illinois in 2019 and made a big impact that season, throwing for 1,884 yards and 18 touchdowns while running for 213 yards and three scores. The Illini stunned then-No. 6 Wisconsin on the way to a 6-7 record and their first bowl appearance since 2014.

 

But they took a step back this season, going 2-6.

 

Peters missed three games as a senior because of a positive COVID-19 test. He made five starts, throwing for 429 yards and three touchdowns and running for 136 yards and a score.

 

The Illini fired Lovie Smith with one game remaining in their ninth consecutive losing season and his fifth year coaching them. Bielema, who led Wisconsin to three Rose Bowls before a disappointing run at Arkansas, was hired on Dec. 19.

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Coach Bielema Hires Offensive Coordinator, O-Line Coach

Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema made his first coaching staff hire Monday with the announcement of Tony Petersen as offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach.

 

Petersen has directed some of the nation's most exciting and prolific offenses during his 30-year college coaching career, serving as an offensive coordinator in the Big Ten, MAC, Conference USA, American and Sun Belt prior to taking the reins of the Fighting Illini offense.

 

Bielema said quote - "After competing against Tony and his offensive style and game plan I have had tremendous respect for him as a coach. Throughout his career he has blended the roster and skill sets of the players to maximize the results. Here at Illinois, we will build an offensive identity that will provide balance, use tempo, and play with a physicality that will make Illini Nation smile. No matter from playing on the road in a hostile environment or here at Memorial Stadium, we will execute and maximize our players' talents to build a sustained winning culture."

 

Petersen spent the 2020 season as offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Appalachian State, when the Mountaineers finished 9-3 overall with a Myrtle Beach Bowl victory over North Texas on December 21. App State averaged 452 yards in total offense (26th nationally), including 264.9 rushing yards (7th nationally), on the season.

 

He earned his bachelor's degree in sports management and marketing in 1990 and master's degree in administration in 1995, both from Marshall.
 
Petersen and his wife, Beth, have three children: Andy, Nikki Nelson and Taylor.

 

Bielema Tuesday named offensive line coach Bart Miller as the second member of his Illini football coaching staff. Miller joins a Bielema coaching staff for the second time and comes to Champaign-Urbana after two successful seasons as offensive line coach and Offensive Run-Game Coordinator at Wyoming.

 

Miller's first full-time coaching position came as the offensive line coach at Wisconsin under Bielema in 2012. He took over the offensive line unit in September of 2012 after serving as a graduate assistant coach the previous season at Wisconsin. The Badgers ranked No. 13 in the nation in rushing offense in 2012, averaging 236.36 rushing yards per game. Wisconsin won its third straight Big Ten Championship that season, defeating Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten Championship Game, and played in a third consecutive Rose Bowl. 

 

At Wisconsin, Miller coached First Team All-Big Ten selections Travis Frederick (center) and Rick Wagner (left tackle) in 2012. Frederick earned First Team All-America honors from Pro Football Weekly and went on to be the first-round selection of the Dallas Cowboys in the NFL Draft. Wagner received Second Team All-America recognition from CBS and was a fifth-round selection by the Baltimore Ravens. A junior on that offensive line, guard Ryan Groy, went on to earn First Team All-Big Ten honors in 2013 and was a Third Team Associated Press All-American in 2013. He also went on to play in the NFL. Wisconsin's offensive line unit blocked for running back Montee Ball, who was the 2012 Doak Walker Award Winner, a two-time (2011 and '12) consensus All-American, the 2012 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and a 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist.

 

Bielema said quote - "Bart was able to show early in his career how effective he is as a teacher and motivator of young men. As a young coach I hired him as an offensive line coach and he helped us capture our third consecutive Big Ten title. Bart has Midwest roots and will help us recruit and keep Illinois players at home wearing the Orange and Blue. We are very excited to have Bart join our Illini family."

 

Miller played football and graduated from Elk Grove High School in the Chicago area prior to completing his bachelor's degree in organizational communication from New Mexico in 2007. He obtained a master's degree in education from New Mexico State in 2011. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska, Miller and his wife, Amy, have two sons, Barrett and Gunner. 

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Celtics Rally Past Pacers

The Boston Celtics regrouped in a hurry to erase a 4th quarter 17-point deficit for a 116-111 road win on Tuesday.

 

Jayson Tatum stepped up with 14 of his 27 points in the final quarter, when the Celtics had a 33-18 advantage.

 

Tatum atoned for missing a 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds remaining that could have provided the Celtics with a win over the Pacers two nights ago on the same floor. In that game, the Pacers also had a huge third quarter before the Celtics rallied to take the lead. However, the Pacers won 108-107 on Domantas Sabonis' layup with 8.4 seconds remaining.

 

Victor Oladipo, who sat out the previous game after scoring 22 points in each of his other starts, had 20 of his 24 through three quarters for the Pacers. T.J. Warren scored 15 of his 17 points in the third quarter.

 

Celtics reserve guard Jeff Teague sank a 3-pointer in the second quarter to snap a streak of 15 consecutive missed shots dating back to the season opener. The Indianapolis native played one season for his hometown Pacers in 2016-17.

 

The Pacers host Cleveland on Thursday.

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Bulls Down Wizards

Zach LaVine scored 23 points, including nine straight in the third quarter, and Coby White added 18 to lead the Chicago Bulls to their first victory of the season, 115-107 over the winless Washington Wizards on Tuesday night.

 

Chicago improved to 1-4 while Washington fell to 0-4, its worst start since beginning the 2012-13 season with 12 straight losses.

 

Russell Westbrook, who sat out Sunday's game, had his third straight triple-double with 21 points, 15 rebounds and 11 assists for Washington.

 

Bradley Beal scored 29 points and Davis Bertans added 20 for the Wizards, who shot just 10 for 37 (27%) from 3-point range. They missed 10 of 11 in the second quarter, when Chicago took the lead.

 

The Bulls had seven players in double figures. Otto Porter scored 16 points, Garrett Temple and Patrick Williams had 12 apiece, and Tomas Satoransky and Wendell Carter each added 10.

 

The Bulls and Wizards play again in Washington on Thursday afternoon.

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Blackhawks C Toews Sidelined Indefinitely With Illness

Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews will miss the start of training camp because of an illness, and there is no timetable for his return.

 

The 32-year-old Toews said Tuesday he has been experiencing symptoms that have left him feeling “drained and lethargic.”

 

The loss of Toews is the biggest blow in a tough stretch for Chicago heading into the 56-game season, which begins on Jan. 13. The veteran center, a three-time Stanley Cup winner with the Blackhawks, had 18 goals and 42 assists in 70 games last season, but he also is one of the team’s best defensive forwards and face-off options.

 

The announcement of Toews’ illness comes in the wake of injuries for Kirby Dach and Alex Nylander that could sidelined the young forwards for the entire season. Dach had surgery Monday after he fractured his right wrist while playing for Canada’s world junior team during an exhibition last week. Nylander had surgery on Dec. 21 for a meniscus tear in his left knee.

 

The Blackhawks made the playoffs last season for the first time since 2017, but they were eliminated by Vegas in the first round. Veteran goaltender Corey Crawford then left in free agency as part of the team’s increased commitment to rebuilding, and Brandon Saad was traded to Colorado.

 

The additions of Mattias Janmark, Lucas Wallmark and Carl Soderberg — all responsible, two-way forwards — should help Chicago stay in games, but the loss of Toews for any extended period would be tough for the team to overcome.

 

Toews was selected by Chicago with the No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 entry draft. He has 345 goals and 470 assists in 943 regular-season games. He won the Conn Smythe Trophy for playoff MVP when he led the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup championship in 2010. He captained the team to the title again in 2013 and 2015.

 

There was no word from Toews or the team on what might be causing his symptoms, and he asked for privacy while he focuses on his health and recovery.

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Illinois' Dosunmu Named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week

Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu was named Big Ten Co-Player of the Week on Monday, the conference office announced. He shares this week's award with Minnesota's Marcus Carr.

 

It is Dosunmu's second weekly conference honor of the season, and third of his career.

 

Averaged 30.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.0 assists in wins at Penn State and vs. Indiana last week. 

His game high 30 points and game-high 5 assists vs. Indiana helped Illinois pull away late and his game high 30 points with 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals at Penn State allowed the Illini to hold off the Nittany Lions.

 

Dosunmu is the first Illini player in the last 23 seasons with back-to-back 30-point performances.

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Loyola-Chicago Rolls ISU Again

Cameron Krutwig had 22 points on 11-of-15 shooting and grabbed nine rebounds with seven assists and Loyola of Chicago routed Illinois State 86-55 on Monday night.

 

Tate Hall had 16 points for Loyola of Chicago (6-2, 2-0 Missouri Valley Conference), which earned its fifth straight home victory. Marquise Kennedy added 11 points and six rebounds.

 

Josiah Strong tied a career-high with 21 points for the Redbirds (3-5, 0-2). DJ Horne added 15 points and six rebounds.

 

The Ramblers defeated Illinois State 90-60 on Sunday.

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Illinois Up in Latest College Basketball Polls

The Gonzaga Bulldogs remained the clear-cut No. 1 on Monday, earning 62 of 64 first-place votes in The Associated Press poll after their latest win over a Top 25 foe, while the Big Ten placed nine teams in the poll, with Wisconsin and Iowa in the top 10.

 

The sixth-ranked Wisconsin Badgers began a run of Top 25 teams from the league, jumping three spots after wins over Nebraska and then-No. 12 Michigan State. The Hawkeyes dropped from fourth to 10th while surprising Rutgers began a run of four more Big Ten teams at No. 14 — Illinois, Michigan and the Spartans were right behind the Scarlet Knights.

 

No. 19 Northwestern and No. 21 Minnesota were newcomers to the poll and Ohio State rounded out the Top 25.

 

Second-ranked Baylor received the other two first-place votes, and the Jayhawks remained No. 3 after their rout of then-No. 7 West Virginia. Villanova and Houston each moved up a spot after Iowa’s overtime loss to Minnesota.

 

The Big Ten's newcomers to the polls will have their hands full over the next couple of weeks.

Northwestern’s next five games begin with trips to Iowa and Michigan, a home game against Illinois, a trip to Ohio State and the return game against the Hawkeyes. In fact, eight of their next nine are against ranked opponents.

 

Minnesota, whose lone loss came to Illinois and which was last ranked on Dec. 4, 2017, plays its next six against Top 25 teams: Michigan State, at Wisconsin, Ohio State, at Michigan, at Iowa and the Wolverines at home.

 

Florida State was the best-ranked team from the ACC at No. 18. Duke held steady at No. 20, and Virginia tumbled to No. 23 with Virginia Tech right behind, giving the conference four teams squeezed into the Top 25.

 

No. 21 Oregon was the only team from the Pac-12. The Ducks climbed four spots after pushing their winning streak to six.

 

Xavier was the first team outside the Top 25, falling four places after its loss to Creighton. North Carolina was the biggest loser, tumbling from No. 17 out of the poll after the Tar Heels lost a close game at North Carolina State.

 

 


The Illini check-in at No. 16 in this week's coaches poll. Rival Mizzou has jumped all the way to No. 12. Rutgers, who beat Illinois almost two weeks ago in New Jersey, continues their climb up the polls, at No. 13 this week. 

 

Gonzaga, Baylor, Villanova, Kansas and Houston make up the top 5 followed by Tennessee, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Texas and Creighton. 

 

Iowa (No. 11), Texas Tech (No. 14) and Michigan (No. 15) join Mizzou and Rutgers to round out the 11-15. 

 

Oregon is No. 17 in this week's coaches poll. Other Big Ten team's in the top-25 include Michigan State (No. 18), Ohio State (No. 20), Northwestern (No. 22), and Minnesota, who tied with Virginia for No. 24.

 

A tumultuous start to the season for Duke (3-2) has culminated with the program dropping out entirely of the latest USA Today Coaches Poll rankings. The Blue Devils were 25th in last week's poll but haven't played a game in nearly two weeks, which triggered the fall. They are one of three teams to drop out of the rankings this week along with North Carolina and Richmond.

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Illinois LB Jake Hansen Declares for NFL Draft

Illinois linebacker Jake Hansen has declared for the NFL Draft, he announced Monday. Hansen leaves Champaign-Urbana as one of the top defenders in takeaways in program history. 

 

Hansen said in a statement, quote - "Thank you to my family, coaches, friends, and fans for an unbelievable five seasons at the University of Illinois. It has been an honor to wear the Orange & Blue at Memorial Stadium in front of the best fans in the nation. I have made memories and friends that will last a lifetime. I know I will miss my time in Champaign!"

 

Hansen has 14 takeaways in the last two seasons, the most of any player in the nation. His 10 career forced fumbles are tied for third-most in program history, behind only Illinois legends Simeon Rice (13) and Whitney Mercilus (11). 

 

After leading the nation in forced fumbles (7) and forced fumbles per game (0.78) in 2019, Hansen had another big season during the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He is eighth in the Big Ten in tackles this season with the #4 tackling grade in the nation (min. 300 snaps) and had four straight Big Ten games with either a forced fumble, fumble recovery or interception. 

 

In his statement, he addressed incoming coach Bret Bielema, saying quote - "I know the program is in great hands with the players in that locker room, Josh Whitman, and Coach Bielema. I look forward to watching their success for years to come. Nothing but love for Illini Nation!"

 

Hansen finishes his Fighting Illini career with 235 tackles, 26.0 TFLs, 7.0 sacks, 10 forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and three interceptions. 

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Cubs, Padres Have Deal in Place for RHP Darvish

The San Diego Padres have made another offseason splash, as they're set to acquire ace right-hander Yu Darvish from the Cubs as part of a seven-player trade, MLB.com's Mark Feinsand reports. Jon Heyman adds that the deal is agreed to pending the customary review of medical records of the players involved and should soon be finalized. CBS Sports' R.J. Anderson was first to report that the two sides were close, and, according to Feinsand, the Cubs will receive veteran right-hander Zach Davies and a package of four prospects in a deal that was agreed to Monday night.

 

The Padres will also get catcher Victor Caratini in the trade. 

 

The Darvish trade comes not long after the Padres, coming off a playoff season in 2020, swung a deal with the Rays for left-hander Blake Snell and reportedly came to terms with Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim. 

 

Darvish, 34, is coming off a season in which he posted the best strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.64) of his career, albeit in only 12 starts. Darvish's performance was such that it earned him a second-place finish in National League Cy Young Award voting, behind then-Cincinnati Reds righty Trevor Bauer.

 

(Bauer is now a free agent.) In three seasons with the Cubs, Darvish has compiled a 3.60 ERA (121 ERA+) with a 4.08 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Darvish has three years and $59 million remaining on his contract. 

 

The 27-year-old Caratini served as Darvish's personal catcher in 2020 and for much of 2019. He's a switch-hitter who's batted .250/.327/.372 across parts of four major-league seasons. 

 

Davies, who turns 28 in February, will give the Cubs some sorely needed rotation help. The right-hander owns a career ERA+ of 114 and a K/BB ratio of 2.50 in 123 career starts. He's in line to be eligible for free agency following the upcoming season. 

 

The prospects the Cubs get back are shortstop Reginald Preciado, outfielder Owen Caissie, outfielder Ismael Mena, and shortstop Yeison Santana. Preciado, 17, is a switch-hitting potential five-tool infielder whose $1.3 million signing bonus set a record for a prospect out of Panama. From the Cubs' standpoint, Preciado appears to be the most promising addition. 

 

Caissie, 18, was a second-round pick out of Canada, and he boasts projectable power and enough arm for right field. Mena, 18, has a solid offensive toolkit, excellent speed, and promising range in the outfield. He's also got the potential to develop more power from the left side. Santana, 20, has put up strong numbers across two lower levels. He's got the arm to stick on the left side of the infield and good bat-to-ball skills with the promise of more power once he fills out. 

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Loyola-Chicago Rolls Illinois State

Lucas Williamson posted 18 points and six rebounds as Loyola of Chicago routed Illinois State 90-60 on Sunday in the Missouri Valley Conference opener for both teams.

 

Cameron Krutwig added 15 points (5-2), and Tom Welch chipped in 10 points.

 

DJ Horne had 18 points for the Redbirds (3-4). Dedric Boyd added 17 points. Dusan Mahorcic had eight rebounds.

 

The teams meet again on Monday.

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Bears Roll Lowly Jaguars, Stay in Playoff Hunt

Mitchell Trubisky accounted for three scores, including two TD passes to Graham, and the Bears pounded Jacksonville 41-17 Sunday in a game that meant as much to the Jaguars' long-term future as it did to Chicago's short-term fate.

 

The Bears (8-7), who gained control of their postseason path when Arizona lost to San Francisco on Saturday, can make the playoffs for the second time in three years by beating Green Bay at home next week.

 

The Jaguars (1-14), meanwhile, set a franchise record by losing their 14th consecutive game and locked up the top pick for the first time in franchise history when the New York Jets beat Cleveland 23-16 a few minutes later.

 

The Bears' playoff chances appeared to be a long shot following a sixth straight loss. But they responded by winning three in a row, thanks mostly to a suddenly potent offense.

 

Chicago scored 30 or more points for the fourth consecutive week, the first time the Bears have accomplished the feat since 1965. This one came courtesy of a strong second half. Trubisky started the scoring spree with a 6-yard run and later connected with Graham for the second time.

 

David Montgomery and rookie Artavis Pierce also scored on the ground.

 

Trubisky completed 24 of 35 passes for 265 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception. His performance was far from perfect. His interception came in the end zone late in the first half - he inexplicably scrambled and threw into a crowd - with the Bears in field-goal range, and he nearly had another early in the third.

 

But safety Jarrod Wilson dropped the ball and then dropped to the ground to do 10 pushups.

 

Allen Robinson finished with 10 catches for 103 yards against his former team. Robinson spent the first four years of his NFL career with the Jaguars.

 

TE Jimmy Graham had four receptions for 69 yards.

 

The Bears can clinch a playoff berth by beating Green Bay in Chicago next Sunday.

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Adams, Rodgers Lead Packers to Trouncing of Titans

Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes as the Packers trounced the Tennessee Titans 40-14 for their fifth consecutive victory Sunday night.

 

Rodgers and Davante Adams created a picturesque atmosphere as they connected for three touchdown passes on a snow-covered Lambeau Field.

 

The Packers (12-3) already have clinched the NFC North title and can earn the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs if they win at Chicago (8-7) or Seattle (11-4) loses at San Francisco (6-9) next week.

 

Green Bay ran wild behind 124 yards and two touchdowns from A.J. Dillon and 94 yards from Aaron Jones. Dillon, a second-round pick from Boston College, had run for just 115 yards all season during a rookie year in which he spent over a month on the COVID-19 reserve list.

 

Tennessee (10-5) squandered an opportunity to clinch its first AFC South championship since 2008. The Titans still can clinch a division title by winning at Houston (4-11) next week.

 

Adams’ three touchdown catches gave him 17 this season, one off the Packers’ single-season record that Sterling Sharpe set in 1994. Adams, who caught 11 passes for 142 yards Sunday, leads the NFL in touchdown receptions despite missing two games with a hamstring injury.

 

The Packers’ defense also played well while picking off two passes from Ryan Tannehill, who went 11 of 24 for 121 yards. Tennessee’s Derrick Henry rushed for 98 yards on 23 carries, ending his streak of nine consecutive road games in which he’d run for at least 100 yards.

 

Green Bay pulled ahead 19-0 when Rodgers threw touchdown passes on each of their first three possessions. Mason Crosby missed an extra-point attempt after the first touchdown and the Packers failed on a two-point conversion attempt after the second one.

 

Adams capped Green Bay’s first drive by catching a pass behind the line of scrimmage, slipping out of Adoree Jackson’s grasp and diving into the right corner of the end zone.

 

Green Bay’s second series resulted in Equanimeous St. Brown’s first career touchdown on a 21-yard pass.

 

After Darnell Savage picked off Tannehill’s pass to give the Packers the ball in Green Bay territory, Adams beat Jackson again on a 7-yard touchdown early in the second quarter.

 

Tennessee got back in the game by scoring two touchdowns in a 3 ½-minute span midway through the game

 

Tannehill’s 12-yard touchdown pass to Jonnu Smith with 43 seconds left in the second quarter made it 19-7. On the opening series of the second half, Tannehill faked a handoff and raced 45 yards untouched to cut Tennessee’s lead to 19-14.

 

The Packers then capitalized on good fortune.

 

Aaron Jones bounced off someone around the line of scrimmage and then raced down the left sideline for a 59-yard gain that set up Rodgers’ 8-yard touchdown pass to Adams. The Packers snapped the ball just after a replay showed Jones stepped out of bounds during that run and gained well over 30 yards afterward.

 

The Packers are at Chicago to finish the regular season next week.

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Warriors Get By Bulls

Damion Lee hit a 3-pointer with 1.7 seconds remaining and Curry scored 36 points, sending Golden State to a 129-128 victory over the Chicago Bulls for the Warriors' first win of the season.

 

With the Chicago defense focused on the sharp-shooting Curry, Lee inbounded the ball to Kevon Looney with 5 seconds left and then ran over to receive a handoff with Steph Curry drawing a crowd on the left wing. Lee fired from a few feet beyond the top of the 3-point arc for the game-winner.

 

Lee was the third option on the play behind Curry and Andrew Wiggins.

 

Lee finished with 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting on 3s.

 

Curry was 11 for 25 from the field, including 5 of 15 on 3-pointers - a day after making 105 straight 3s to finish practice at the Bulls' facility.

 

Zach LaVine had 33 points and appeared to hit the game-winner for winless Chicago with a 10-foot pullup with 5 seconds to play.

 

Wendell Carter Jr. had 22 points and 13 rebounds, and Lauri Markkanen added 22 for the Bulls (0-3). Chicago committed 24 turnovers. Markkanen sat out the final few minutes with a calf contusion.

With his first 3 late in the first quarter, Curry became the third NBA player to amass 2,500 career made 3-pointers. Ray Allen (2,973) and Reggie Miller (2,560) are the others.


Sunday's game was Curry's 702nd in the NBA. Allen played in 1,300 games and Miller 1,389.

Late in the third quarter, Curry set a Warriors record for most consecutive made free throws with his 61st dating to last season. He finished 9 for 9 for the game to run his streak to 64.

 

Rick Barry, who shot underhand from the line, held the previous record with 60 straight in 1976.

Golden State led 60-56 at halftime, but Chicago started quickly in the third and grabbed an 83-73 advantage with 4 1/2 minutes left in the quarter. The Bulls led 97-93 entering the fourth.

 

With the score tied at 100, the Bulls went on a 10-2 spurt for a 110-102 lead with under eight minutes to play. LaVine scored the final seven points, capping the run with a dunk.

 

The Bulls maintained the multi-possession margin until Curry hit a 3 with 2:02 left to pull Golden State to 123-121. Otto Porter Jr. then made a 3 for the Bulls with 54 seconds to go, but Curry answered with a three-point play.

 

After a miss by LaVine, Looney tied it on a putback with 16.9 seconds remaining, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.

 

Draymond Green (right foot) missed his third straight game, but scrimmaged on Saturday and is close to returning. 

 

Bulls F Thaddeus Young (lower left leg infection) missed his third consecutive game.

 

The Bulls are at the Washington Wizards on Tuesday night. The teams also play Thursday in the nation's capital.

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Pacers Edge Celtics

Domantis Sabontis put the ball on the floor, drove hard toward the basket, muscled in the go-ahead layup and drew a foul with 8.4 seconds to play.

 

After he missed the free throw, Indiana's defense forced an errant 3-pointer with 1.8 seconds left and held on for a 108-107 victory over the Boston Celtics.

 

Sabonis followed Saturday's triple-double, with 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists - his third double-double in three games and No. 100 in his career.

 

Malcolm Brogdon scored a season-high 25 points and T.J. Warren added 17 as the Pacers improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2013-14, sweeping their first back-to-back of the season - barely.

 

The Celtics spent most of the second half playing catch up before finally taking a 107-106 lead when Robert Williams III stole an inbound pass and found Marcus Smart for a breakaway layup with 11.8 seconds to go.

 

After a missed free throw Sabonis, Boston called timeout to set up a play and Jayson Tatum's long 3 was off the mark. Tatum finished with 25 points and Jaylen Brown had 18 as the Celtics lost their second straight.

 

Tatum also had 11 rebounds and five assists. Payton Pritchard added 13 points off the bench. Smart finished with 11 points and six assists. Robert Williams III had 12 points. Boston had 18 turnovers and got outrebounded 37-34.

 

Brogdon had five rebounds and five assists. T.J. Warren had 17 points and Doug McDermott added 16 off the bench. McDermott has had three straight double-figure games and went 3 of 7 on 3s. 

 

Myles Turner had 10 points, seven rebounds and five blocks and now has 17 blocks in three games. 

 

Indiana had 23 assists on 45 baskets - it's only the seventh time in the Pacers NBA history they've started 3-0.

 

Pacers will try to win their fourth straight under first year coach Nate Bjorkgren against Boston on Tuesday.

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Padres to Acquire Cy Young Award Winning LHP Snell from Rays

Two months ago, Blake Snell got yanked off the mound with a two-hit shutout going in the final game of the World Series.

 

Now, the Tampa Bay Rays are ready to ship him out of town.

 

The San Diego Padres are close to completing a blockbuster trade to acquire Snell from the defending AL champions. The teams have an agreement in place and the star pitcher was told he’ll be sent to the Padres — subject to the review of medical records, according to a person familiar with the deal. 

 

According to The Athletic and ESPN, the Rays would receive 21-year-old pitcher Luis Patiño, catcher Francisco Mejía, pitching prospect Cole Wilcox and catching prospect Blake Hunt in return. The Athletic was first to report the players headed from San Diego to Tampa Bay if the trade is finalized.

 

Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, was 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season. He had 63 strikeouts in 50 innings.

 

Snell went 2-2 in the American League playoffs, then racked up 18 strikeouts in 10 innings and compiled a 2.70 ERA during the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers. He was pulled from Game 6 by Rays manager Kevin Cash in favor of reliever Nick Anderson after throwing only 73 pitches in 5 1/3 dominant innings — a heavily criticized move that backfired when the Dodgers came back to clinch the title with a 3-1 victory.

 

Snell has three years and $39 million remaining on a $50 million, five-year contract he signed with the small-budget Rays in March 2019. He’s owed $10.5 million next year, $12.5 million in 2022 and $16 million in 2023.

 

The 28-year-old lefty would give the ascending Padres an established ace at the front of the rotation as they attempt to catch the Dodgers in the NL West.

 

With a young and talented team that features shortstop Fernando Tatís Jr. and third baseman Manny Machado, the Padres finished with the second-best record in the National League this year at 37-23 — six games behind Los Angeles — and made the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

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Dosunmu scores 30 to lead No. 18 Illinois past Indiana 69-60

Ayo Dosunmu scored 30 points, Kofi Cockburn added 15 points and 15 rebounds, and No. 18 Illinois beat Indiana 69-60 on Saturday.

 

The game was close until about midway through the second half, when Dosunmu hit three consecutive 3-pointers to fuel Illinois’ 14-0 run. Andre Curbelo added five assists for Illinois (7-3, 3-1 Big Ten).

 

It was Cockburn’s sixth double-double in ten games.

 

“I’m proud of our guys today,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “It’s been a trying and difficult week for us, coming off of three games since Sunday and the Christmas holiday tucked in between. But we did what we had to do.”

 

Armaan Franklin led Indiana (5-4, 0-2) with 23 points, and big man Trayce Jackson-Davis added 11.

“We got great looks,” Jackson-Davis said. “We had a couple easy looks. They just didn’t go down for us.”

 

Neither team could find the basket in the first three minutes of the game, and the Hoosiers went on a 7-0 run while Illinois went 0 for 7 from the field. Following a 6-0 Illini run, both teams settled in and traded baskets for most of the opening frame. Indiana led 15-9 before Curbelo and Dosunmu took control for Illinois.

 

Dosunmu scored 10 points in the first half, many of those coming off circus passes by Curbelo. Illinois led 29-27 at the half.

 

Dosunmu scored 30 points or more for the third time this season.

 

“Coach said go out there and be the best player in the country today,” Dosunmu said. “I like to make the game come to me. That’s how I play. I like to get my teammates involved early and ease myself into the game. When it’s time to win the game, I take my shots.”

 

“He’s the best player in the country,” Cockburn said.

 

Indiana coach Archie Miller seemed to agree.

 

“Really in the last six to four to two minutes of the game, Ayo really stepped up and made the winning plays,” Miller said. “The bottom line is, Ayo played MVP level tonight, made every big play for them. It makes a lot of problems for everyone else.”

 

Indiana is known for its tough defense and Saturday’s game was no exception.

 

“Indiana was as good as advertised on defense,” Underwood said. “You to get wins a lot of different ways in this league. We played slow against one of the best defenses in the country today. Thank goodness we had one of the best players in the country on the floor for us in Ayo Dosunmu.”

 

Miller had little to say, other than “I thought for the majority of the game, the defense played well.”

Illinois closed the game strong, going on a 21-11 run in which Dosumu contributed 14 points. The game was fairly close, statistically. The Illini shot 24 of 54 from the field for 44% and the Hoosiers shot 23-58 (40%). Dosunmu’s offensive output and a 14-of-18 showing at the foul line sealed the win.

 

Illinois was heavily favored against unranked Indiana and did what it had to do. The Illini might move up a notch or two, but the win, hard-fought as it was, is unlikely to move the needle much.

 

Indiana: Hosts Penn. State on Wednesday.

 

Illinois: After a week off, the Illini host Purdue on Jan. 2.

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Illini Beat Writer Talks Bielema's Path To Immediate Success at Illinois

A three-time Big Ten championship-caliber coach, Bret Bielema knows what it takes to win on the field.

Starting at a program that is coming up on a decade of futility on the field is going to be quite the challenge for the newly hired Illini football coach but Illini beat writer Bob Asmussen says there are a few keys to immediate success for the former Wisconsin and Arkansas head man. According to Asmussen, it all starts with keeping as many seniors around as possible going into 2021.

 

 

Former Coach Lovie Smith took full advantage of the transfer portal in his time at Illinois, scoring starting quarterbacks Brandon Peters and AJ Bush, along with highly touted front-seven players Milo Eifler and Oluwole Betiku and wideout Josh Imatorbhebhe, among others. With transfer eligibility being waived for the 2021 season, Asmussen believes Bielema will be aggressive in seeking out transfers.

 

 

Asmussen believes Bielema has a great plan for getting Illinois back on track and becoming a winning program again.

 

 

If Bielema can build the program, in three to four years the issue will quickly become how does Illinois keep him around - something Asmussen calls a good problem to have. 

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Dosunmu, Cockburn lead No. 18 Illinois past Penn State 98-81

Ayo Dosunmu scored 21 of his 30 points in the second half to lead the No. 18 Fighting Illini past Penn State 98-81 on Wednesday night.

 

The Illini (6-3, 2-1 Big Ten) didn’t need nearly as much from Dosunmu on the defensive end after withstanding an early push from Penn State. Kofi Cockburn scored 23 points and Andre Curbelo had 15 points and eight assists for the Illini.

 

It was also their second straight win at the Bryce Jordan Center, where Penn State (3-3, 0-2) opened up a 19-4 lead over the first five minutes.

 

Myreon Jones scored 11 points during the Nittany Lions’ opening run and finished with 21. Izaiah Brockington also scored 21 points, Sam Sessoms had 12 and Myles Dread added 10 for Penn State.

 

While Dosunmu and Cockburn were slow to start, the Illini used the remainder of the half to claw back, tying the game at 43 at halftime. Illinois took over midway through the second half, outrebounding Penn State 24-11 after the break. Dosunmu and Cockburn combined for 28 second-half points.

 

They started to find their rhythm midway through the first when Dosunmu sank a pair of wide-open 3-pointers from the same spot two minutes apart. The first was his first basket of the game, and the second sparked a 15-5 run.

 

Cockburn capped the run and put Illinois up 40-37 with his eighth basket of the half.

 

The Illini took the lead for good when Dosunmu hit a pair of free throws that made it 56-54 with 13:38 left.

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Young scores 37 as Hawks pound Bulls 124-104 in opener

Trae Young scored 37 points and the revamped Atlanta Hawks pounded Chicago 124-104 on Wednesday night, spoiling Billy Donovan's debut as Bulls coach.

 

Atlanta shot 54% (43 for 80) from the field and had seven players score in double figures. Cam Reddish had 15 points and John Collins finished with 14.

 

Looking for their first playoff berth since 2017, the Hawks signed Bogdan Bogdanovic, Danilo Gallinari, Rajon Rondo and Kris Dunn during free agency. Rondo and Dunn were held out on opening night, but Bogdanovic had 15 points and seven rebounds, and Gallinari scored 13.

 

While the newcomers could give Atlanta a big lift, the dynamic Young remains the engine that drives the Hawks. He seemingly scored at will against the Bulls, going 10 for 12 from the field, 5 for 6 from 3-point range and 12 for 14 at the line. He also had seven assists and six rebounds in just 26 minutes.

 

Zach LaVine scored 22 points and Lauri Markkanen had 21 points and seven rebounds in a solid start to an important season for the 23-year-old forward. But the Bulls struggled defensively and were careless with the ball at times, finishing with 17 turnovers.

 

Patrick Williams, the No. 4 overall pick in this year's draft, had 16 points for Chicago in his NBA debut. The 19-year-old Williams became the youngest player in Bulls history to start their first game of the season.

 

Young led the way as Atlanta grabbed control in the first half. He found Collins for an alley-oop jam that made it 66-46 with 4:49 left. He had 27 points on 7-for-9 shooting at the break, helping the Hawks to an 83-59 halftime lead.

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Sabonis, Oladipo lead Pacers past Knicks on opening night

Victor Oladipo drove to the basket, made shots and wound up scoring 16 of his 22 points in the final 24 minutes to lead the Indiana Pacers past the New York Knicks 121-107 on opening night.

 

Domantas Sabonis finished with a career-high 32 points, along with 13 rebounds and five assists to help Indiana win its fourth opener in five years.

 

RJ Barrett finished with 26 points and Alec Burks had 22 for New York, which lost on opening night for the fourth time in five years and the first time in coach Tom Thibodeau's tenure.

 

Oladipo scored the Pacers' first 11 points in the third quarter then found T.J. Warren for a breakaway layup to give the Pacers a 78-77 lead with 5:50 left in the quarter. Indiana never trailed again.

 

The Pacers extended the margin to 83-77 after three, made it a double-digit game early in the fourth and pulled away midway through the fourth.

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Bradley Falls in Final Seconds at No. 14 Missouri

The Bradley men's basketball team fought with nationally-ranked Missouri for 40 minutes but it was a final-second three-point play by the No 14 Tigers that lifted the hosts to a 54-53 victory on Tuesday night. The Braves are now 6-3 on the year, while Missouri improves to 6-0.
 
Senior Elijah Childs led the Braves with his second double-double of the season, scoring a team-leading 13 points to go with 10 rebounds and three blocks. Freshman Jayson Kent also added a career-best 11 points in 15 minutes of action off the bench.

Bradley shot 36.5 percent on the night and held a 48-43 edge on the glass. The Braves also held the Tigers to just 25.4 percent shooting but a 26-10 advantage in free throw attempts proved to be too much for BU on the night.
 
The Braves are off until Sunday, Jan. 3, beginning a two-game series with Loyola.

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Illini Beat Writer Breaks Down New Illinois Football Coach

The 30-plus year's around the Illinois football program and recently hired Illinois football coach Bret Bielema had the best first day of anyone Bob Asmussen has seen.

 

'A great hire' and 'young enough to be here for a long time' is how Asmussen described his initial thoughts on the hiring of the former Wisconsin Badgers and Arkansas Razorbacks coach.

 

 

After not having the success at Arkansas he had hoped, many wonder if Bielema was riding the coattails of Barry Alvarez but Asmussen doesn't see it that way. He says Bielema's success and handprint were all over the program well after Alvarez departed.

 

 

Perhaps Asmussen's biggest compliment of Bielema though is the fact his introductory press conference was one of the best Asmussen has seen in his 30-plus years being around the Illinois football program. He points to Bielema's plans to recruit the state's top players and his aspirations of developing a winner right away.

 

 

Bielema, 50, in seven seasons as Wisconsin’s head coach (2006-12) won three straight Big Ten titles under his direction (2010-12), sporting a 68-24 record while playing in six bowl games.

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Former Illinois Coach Lou Henson, Illinois State Star Doug Collins Among First Time Naismith Hall of Fame Candidates

Boston Celtics star Paul Pierce and longtime player, coach, and broadcaster Doug Collins lead the first-time nominees announced Tuesday for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Class of 2021.

 

Also making their debut as candidates are Michael Cooper, Howard Garfinkel, Lou Henson, Val Ackerman, Yolanda Griffith, and Lauren Jackson. Finalists are scheduled to be announced at NBA All-Star Weekend and those elected would be unveiled at the NCAA Final Four.

 

The Class of 2021 Enshrinement ceremony is scheduled to take place in Springfield next September. The Class of 2020 ceremony, headlined by Lakers star Kobe Bryant, was postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic and has been rescheduled for May 13-15 in Uncasville, Conn.

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Bret Bielema Introduced as Illinois Head Football Coach

The University of Illinois introduced new Head Football Coach Bret Bielema to the public earlier this afternoon. Athletic Director Josh Whitman worked fast in his hiring of Bielema and he said they went into the search not with an individual in mind, but a profile.  


 

Coach Bielema says that they will build the Illini football program to be successful in the long run. 

 

 

Bielema, 50, has 24 years of college coaching experience, including seven seasons as Wisconsin’s head coach (2006-12). The Badgers won three straight Big Ten titles under his direction (2010-12), sporting a 68-24 record while playing in six bowl games. He was less successful at Arkansas, going 29-34 over five seasons.

 

Bielema, a native of tiny Prophetstown in northwestern Illinois, replaces Lovie Smith, who went 17-39 overall in his five-year tenure and posted a 10-33 Big Ten record. Bielema’s initial contract is for six years beginning with an annual salary of $4.2 million.

 

Declined to say whether he plans on retaining any assistants, Bielema called putting together his own coaching staff “a work in progress.” Offensive coordinator Rod Smith coached the team in its season finale Saturday, a 56-21 loss at Penn State.

 

Bielema played for and coached under Hall of Famer Hayden Fry, helping Iowa share the 1990 Big Ten title with Illinois. After two years as a graduate assistant and six seasons as linebacker coach at Iowa, Bielema spent two years at Kansas State under another Hall of Famer, Bill Snyder, helping the Wildcats win the 2003 Big 12 championship. Two seasons later, he was named defensive coordinator at Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez and moved into the head coaching role in 2006.

 

Bielema has spent the last three seasons in the NFL, his first two with the New England Patriots. This season, he was the outside linebackers coach for the New York Giants.

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No. 19 Rutgers beats No. 13 Illinois to remain unbeaten

Ron Harper Jr. scored 28 points, Jacob Young added 24, and No. 19 Rutgers (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) overcame a double-digit first-half deficit to beat No. 13 Illinois 91-88 on Sunday.

 

Rutgers trailed by 11 points in the first half and didn’t take it’s first lead until the final 20 minutes.

 

Ayo Dosunmu led Illinois with 22 points, 11 rebounds, and six assists. Kofi Cockburn had 17 points and 12 rebounds for the Illini, while Trent Frazier added 19 points and five assists.

 

Rutgers put the game away with a 12-1 run that sparked by a technical foul on Da’monte Williams for an elbow while trying to box out after a free throw.

 

Myles Johson added nine points and 13 rebounds for Rutgers. Montez Mathis chipped in with 15 points.

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Bears beat Vikings 33-27 to stay in stride in playoff race

David Montgomery rushed 32 times for a career-high 146 yards as Chicago trampled Minnesota's depleted defense and hung on for a 33-27 victory on Sunday to stay in the hunt for the expanded playoffs.

 

The Bears (7-7), who entered the afternoon one game behind Arizona for the new third wild-card spot in the NFC, never trailed in winning at Minnesota for a third straight year.

 

Nagy improved to 5-1 against the Vikings (6-8), whose postseason chances all but vanished.

 

Chicago punted only once, on the opening possession. Cameron Dantzler intercepted Trubisky's third-and-goal pass into a crowd in the end zone with 2:57 left and a 30-27 lead, finally giving the Vikings the break they needed.

 

the Bears delivered their second fourth-and-1 stop in Minnesota territory to get the ball right back for a field goal.

 

Dalvin Cook rushed for 132 yards and a score, but he was stuffed on third-and-1. The Vikings called a bootleg on the next play, but the Bears swarmed the edge and forced Kirk Cousins to scramble and throw errantly off his back foot. Cairo Santos, who converted all four of his kicks, stretched his streak to 22 straight field goals made.

 

The Bears then intercepted a last-snap heave by Cousins into the end zone. The Vikings had four goal-to-go situations that yielded only two touchdowns.

 

Justin Jefferson had eight receptions for 104 yards. Cousins connected with tight end Tyler Conklin for his first career touchdown catch, a 20-yard score off a play-action rollout that pulled the Vikings within three points with 8:05 remaining.

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Packers outlast Panthers 24-16 for 4th straight victory

Aaron Jones rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown as the Green Bay Packers reached the end zone on their first three series before hanging on to beat the Carolina Panthers 24-16 on Saturday night.

 

Aaron Rodgers threw for a season-low 143 yards but produced a touchdown pass and a touchdown run for the Packers. 

 

Green Bay (11-3) won its fourth straight despite getting outscored 13-3 and outgained 214-49 in the second half.

 

The Packers built a 21-3 halftime lead before withstanding a comeback attempt from a gritty Carolina team playing without injured 2019 All-Pro running back Christian McCaffrey and left tackle Russell Okung.

 

Carolina had a chance to force overtime when it got the ball at its 20-yard line with 55 seconds and no timeouts remaining. But the Panthers only got to the 26 before losing the ball on downs.

 

The Panthers (4-10) have lost eight of their last nine games.

 

Carolina's Teddy Bridgewater was 21 of 35 for 258 yards with a touchdown run, but he also had a critical fumble. D.J. Moore caught six passes for 131 yards, and Joey Slye kicked three field goals.

 

Rodgers capped Green Bay's first series with a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Robert Tonyan, who has scored in five consecutive games. After Carolina cut the lead to 7-3 on Slye's 36-yard field goal, Green Bay reached the end zone again as Rodgers ran it in on third-and-goal from the 6.

 

Trailing 14-3 in the second quarter, Carolina had first-and-goal at the 1 when Bridgewater tried leaping over the line and Green Bay's Krys Barnes knocked the ball loose. Kevin King recovered the fumble and raced 48 yards before Moore brought him down.

 

Jones capped the Packers' ensuing drive by high-stepping untouched for an 8-yard touchdown around the left end.

 

Carolina scored the first 10 points of the second half on Bridgewater's 13-yard scramble and Slye's 22-yard field goal. That made it 21-13 with 8:39 left. The Panthers settled for the field goal after John Miller's holding penalty nullified a touchdown.

 

Mason Crosby gave the Packers some breathing room with a 51-yard field goal with 3:39 left, but the Panthers wouldn't go away. After Bridgewater threw a 40-yard completion to Moore, the Panthers sent their field-goal unit on for Slye's 33-yarder, which cut the lead to 24-16 with 2:04 left.

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Late Run Leads Bradley Past Miami

The Bradley men's basketball team scored the final nine points of the contest, capped by a game-winning field goal with 18.7 seconds remaining by Terry Nolan Jr., as the Braves earned a 69-68 victory against Miami (Ohio) on Saturday night. The Braves improve to 6-2 with the victory, while the RedHawks see their record evened at 3-3.
 
Trailing by eight points, 68-60, with four minutes remaining in the game, the Braves rallied to earn their third-straight victory. Sophomore Ville Tahvanainen started the run by hitting his second 3-pointer of the contest with 3:18 remaining before sophomore Sean East II sunk a jumper with 1:51 left to bring Bradley within three, 68-65.

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Dotson paces Penn State in win over Illinois

The Penn State Nittany Lions beat Illinois 56-21 Saturday night to close out the regular season.

 

Jahan Dotson caught six passes, scored twice, and racked up 239 all-purpose yards to help Penn State turn a 21-all first-quarter duel into a blowout.

 

The junior wideout opened the game with a 75-yard touchdown catch, added a 70-yarder in the second quarter, and returned a punt 50 yards, taking it deep into Illinois territory to set up Penn State's go-ahead touchdown before halftime.

 

Sean Clifford tossed both touchdowns and added 285 yards on 16-for-22 passing. Will Levis threw a touchdown pass to Brenton Strange and ran for one while Caziah Holmes and Keyvone Lee combined for three rushing scores to help the Nittany Lions (4-5) to a fourth straight win.

 

It looked like it would be a high-powered shootout from the get-go as neither defense showed up for the first quarter when the teams combined for 355 yards and 42 points. After Dotson's opening score, Illinois turned a Clifford fumble into its first points when Isaiah Williams found Brian Hightower for a 5-yard touchdown pass.

 

A minute later it was 14-all as Lamont Wade returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards and Illinois's Chase Brown scored on a 12-yard touchdown run to cap a three-play drive that opened with Williams' 64-yard run deep into Penn State territory.

 

The Illini (2-6) jumped ahead 21-14 when Williams tossed a 38-yard touchdown to Daniel Barker on their next possession. Will Levis added a 4-yard touchdown run that tied it at 21.

 

Penn State's special teams seized momentum moments later when Dotson opened the second quarter with a 50-yard punt return to the Illinois 10. It set up a 3-yard run from Holmes two plays later that put Penn State up 28-21.

 

The Nittany Lions tightened up on defense with the lead. They forced three-straight punts and their offense put the game out of reach with back-to-back scores that made it 42-21 at halftime.

 

Lee capped a 15-play drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and Dotson flew through Illinois' defense again on a 70-yard catch-and-run to push his first-half receiving total to 183 yards.

 

The Illini wouldn't come close to scoring again and didn't cross midfield after the first quarter.

 

Williams finished with 120 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception on 8-of-18 passing. He added 102 yards rushing on 15 carries.

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Illinois hires Bielema as coach to lift struggling program

Bret Bielema, who led Wisconsin to three Rose Bowls before a disappointing run at Arkansas, is returning to the Big Ten Ten and his home state to coach Illinois.

 

The Illini hired Bielema to replace the fired Lovie Smith on Saturday, hoping he can turn around a program with nine consecutive losing seasons.

 

Illinois said Bielema will receive a six-year contract with an annual salary starting at $4.2 million, and begin work immediately.

 

He will be a guest of athletic director Josh Whitman’s when Illinois plays at Penn State on Staurday.

A native of western Illinois, the 50-year-old Bielema is 97-58 in 12 years at Wisconsin and Arkansas.

“Illinois and the Big Ten is home for me, and I can’t be any more excited about the opportunity in front of me with the Fighting Illini,” Bielema said in a statement. “We want to build a program that makes Illini Nation proud and regain the passion that I’ve seen when Illinois wins.

 

He took over for Barry Alvarez and went 68-24 with the Badgers from 2006 to 2012 before leaving to coach the Razorbacks. He finished with a 29-34 mark at Arkansas and was fired in November 2017.

He has spent the last three season as an assistant coach in the NFL, first with the Patriots and then the New York Giants.

 

Whitman called Bielema a proven winner.

 

“In our conversations, it became clear to me that he is a lifelong learner who is continually looking to grow and improve, and he has enjoyed unrivaled mentorship from some of the game’s most distinguished coaches, including Hayden Fry, Kirk Ferentz, Bill Snyder, Barry Alvarez, and Bill Belichick – all of them current or future Hall of Famers,” Whitman said.

 

Bielema was defensive coordinator at Wisconsin when he replaced Alavarez and had immediate success.

 

He became the third coach in NCAA history to win 12 games in his rookie season when Wisconsin went 12-1 in 2006. No other Big Ten coach had won 10 in his first year.

 

In 2010, the Badgers beat a No. 1 team for the first time since 1981 when they knocked off Ohio State. They won the Big Ten that year, losing to TCU in the Rose Bowl, and won the first two conference championship games— and trip to the Rose Bowl that went with them — in 2011 and 2012 by beating Michigan State and Nebraska. The Badgers lost all three of those high-profile bowl games.

 

His move to Arkansas was surprising, ultimately unsuccessful and the legal battle over how much contract buyout money he is still owed by the school’s athletic foundation is ongoing.

 

In July 2018, the New England Patriots hired Bielema as a consultant to coach Bill Belichick. He became the Patriots’ defensive line coach in the 2019 season. In January, the New York Giants and new head coach Joe Judge hired Bielema as outside linebackers coach and senior assistant.

 

Illinois was 2-5 heading into the Penn State game.

 

Bielema takes over a program that most recently had a winning when it went 7-6 in 2011. The Illini won their first six games that year, lost their next six and fired Ron Zook before finishing with a victory over UCLA in the Fight Hunger Bowl.

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Bradley Rolls By Jackson State

Ville Tahvanainen had 19 points and Bradley romped past Jackson State 83-60 on Thursday night.

 

Ja'Shon Henry and Terry Nolan Jr. added 16 points each for the Braves (5-2). Elijah Childs had 10 points and seven rebounds.

 

Tristan Jarrett had 22 points for the Tigers (0-4). Jayveous McKinnis scored a career-high 21 points and had nine rebounds.

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Packers Host Panthers on Saturday Night

The Green Bay Packers' path to the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs is straightforward - win their final three regular-season games, and the Packers (10-3) have the opportunity to earn a Super Bowl berth without leaving Lambeau Field. That's a tantalizing possibility for a franchise that has lost on the road in three of the past six NFC championship games.

 

The conference's top seed only has to win two playoff games at home to make it to the Super Bowl. The Packers, who already have clinched the NFC North title, will try to take one more step toward earning that No. 1 seed when they host the slumping Carolina Panthers (4-9) on Saturday night.

 

The Packers follow up the Carolina game by hosting Tennessee (9-4) and visiting Chicago (6-7). The Packers and Saints (10-3) share the same record, but Green Bay owns a tiebreaker advantage after winning at New Orleans on Sept. 27.

 

Green Bay has won three straight thanks in part to the potent passing combination of Adams and Aaron Rodgers. Adams has 14 touchdown catches to tie Kansas City's Tyreek Hill for first place among all NFL players. Rodgers has thrown an NFL-leading 39 touchdown passes.

 

The Panthers are coming off a 32-27 loss to Denver in which they allowed Drew Lock to throw for 280 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. Two weeks earlier, Carolina fell 28-27 to Minnesota as Kirk Cousins threw for 287 yards and three touchdowns without getting picked off.

 

Three of the Panthers' past four losses have been decided by a total of eight points. In seven of Carolina's losses, the Panthers had the ball late in the fourth quarter with a chance to win or send the game into overtime.

 

Adams has caught a touchdown pass in eight straight games. Only two players in the Super Bowl era have longer such streaks within the same season.

 

Hall of Famer Jerry Rice had a touchdown catch in 12 straight games in 1987. Cincinnati's A.J. Green caught a touchdown pass in nine consecutive games in 2012.

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Illinois Travels to Penn State to Close Out Pandemic Altered 2020 Season

Illinois’ coaching staff will be led by offensive coordinator Rod Smith when the Illini (2-5) visit Beaver Stadium on Saturday. Penn State Coach James Franklin is expecting a fired-up group after head coach Lovie Smith was let go on Sunday following four losing seasons.

 

The Nittany Lions (3-5) have generated their own with three straight wins and have shown promise for the future in the process.

 

Steadily, a handful of freshmen have risen to help out leading wideout Jahan Dotson and quarterback Sean Clifford on offense. Wideout Parker Washington, running back Keyvone Lee and tight end Brenton Strange have combined for 74 touches for 563 yards and four touchdowns over the last three weeks.

 

Meanwhile, Penn State’s defense has found its swagger. The Nittany Lions held Rutgers to just 83 rushing yards in a one-sided win and surrendered just 69 to spark a comeback win against Michigan State last week.

 

Illinois has lost two games in a row. Its offense has been inconsistent and its defense has allowed more than 424 total yards each of the last two weeks.

 

Rod Smith, who’s in his third year with Illinois, was still reeling from his boss’s firing earlier in the week when he met with reporters.

 

Illinois will also be without leading wide receiver Josh Imatorbhebhe, who declared for the NFL draft on Thursday. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound senior had a year of eligibility remaining and finishes his Illini career with 55 catches for 931 yards and 12 touchdowns. He led the team with 22 catches for 297 yards and three touchdowns this season.

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Bears Visit Vikings Sunday

The Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears will square off on Sunday in Week 15 with a long history of significant late-season matchups since the opening of US Bank Stadium. Plus, both teams are 6-7 and in must-win mode for the postseason race. Arizona leads them by one game for the third wild-card spot.

 

The Bears stopped a six-game losing streak last week with a 36-7 victory over Houstonk.

Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins, who has had plenty of trouble with Chicago's pass rush over the past two seasons, matched a career high by taking six sacks last week. The Bears are only 16th in the league in sacks per pass attempt this season, but they notched seven sacks last week.

 

In three games since returning as Chicago's starting quarterback following the injury to Nick Foles, Mitchell Trubisky has completed 67.3% of his passes with seven touchdowns, two interceptions and a 100-even passer rating in that span.

 

The second overall pick in the 2017 draft has improved enough that he's even thought about the possibility of re-signing with the team that declined his contract option for 2021 and benched him three games into the season.

 

The Bears have averaged 30.3 points over their past three games, with their revamped offensive line playing a part. Sam Mustipher was inserted at center, Cody Whitehair moved to left guard and Alex Bars and Germain Ifedi were tabbed as the right guard and right tackle.

 

Against Detroit and Houston the past two weeks, the Bears posted their second and third-highest yardage totals of the season.

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Blackhawks Continue to Stand Behind Team Name

The Chicago Blackhawks are going to remain the Blackhawks and there is no sign of a change coming anytime soon.

 

Speaking publicly for the first time since baseball’s Cleveland Indians announced Monday they plan to change their name, Blackhawks CEO Danny Wirtz reiterated the same message the team shared this summer after lingering questions about Native American team names returned to the forefront.

Wirtz said Thursday, quote - “Obviously respect the decision the Cleveland Indians made to go down that path, but we continue to deepen our commitment to upholding our namesake and our brand.”

 

In July, after Washington’s NFL team announced it was reviewing its name, the Blackhawks said they planned to continue with their name because it honors Black Hawk, a Native American leader from Illinois’ Sac & Fox Nation. Washington ended up dropping the “Redskins” name, logo and all Native American imagery. The Indians announced their decision this week, while the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs and baseball’s Atlanta Braves have said they have no plans to change their name.

 

The Blackhawks also said this summer they are committed “to raising the bar even higher” when it comes to expanding awareness of Black Hawk and all Native American people — and Wirtz, the son of Blackhawks owner Rocky Wirtz, made it sound as if that effort had only reinforced what the franchise felt about its name. The team announced later in July that they were banning headdresses at home games as part of their pledge to honor the Native American community.

 

Danny Wirtz, 43, made his remarks a day after the Blackhawks shuffled their front office. Wirtz was named chief executive officer after serving as interim president following the firing of John McDonough in April. General manager Stan Bowman was elevated to president of hockey operations, and Jaime Faulkner was hired as president of business operations.

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NHL Goalie Henrik Lundqvist To Miss 2020-2021 Season With Heart Condition

Calling it “a pretty tough and emotional day” in a video posted on social media by the Capitals, Henrik Lundqvist announced Thursday that he will sit out the upcoming NHL season because of a heart condition.

 

The man known as “King Henrik” said he has been undergoing various tests on his heart “for several weeks.” He joined the Capitals about two months ago, after 15 years with the Rangers.

 

The 38-year-old from Sweden was bought out by the Rangers and signed a $1.5 million, one-year deal with Washington in October to try to earn his first Stanley Cup — and try to help Alex Ovechkin win a second.

 

Lundqvist said Thursday he had been excited to play with the Capitals, a team he said “checked every box” when he agreed to go to Washington.

 

The plan had been for the longtime face of the Rangers to share goaltending duties for the Capitals with 23-year-old Ilya Samsonov. The Capitals added Lundqvist to take the spot of 2016 Vezina Trophy and 2018 Stanley Cup winner Braden Holtby, who left to sign an $8.6 million, two-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks.

 

Lundqvist has appeared in 887 NHL regular-season games, plus another 130 in the playoffs, and he came close to a championship in 2014, leading the Rangers to the Cup Final. He lost postseason series to the Capitals in 2009 and 2011, then eliminated them in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

 

But he hadn’t participated in the playoffs with New York since 2017 until two games in the qualifying round of the expanded, 24-team playoffs this past summer.

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Clinton Cross Country Runners Recognized by Champaign Area Newspaper

Clinton freshman cross country runner Makayla Koeppel was named to the Champaign News-Gazette's All-Area honorable mention team.

 

Coach Rachel Anderson-Lyons says it is a great honor for her.

 

 

The boy's all-area team has not been announced but Coach Anderson-Lyons would hope Ethan Black will receive much-deserved recognition when those come out.

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IHSA Hopes to Meet with Governor's Office, IDPH To Resume Sports in January

The IHSA still planning to have a winter, spring and summer sports season. They hope to be meeting with reps from the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Governor’s office before the new year.

 

 

Following the meeting with state officials, Anderson says the IHSA board will then convene to finalize a schedule, with hopes of beginning sometime in January.

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Eight Illini Recognized in All-League Awards

Three Illinois senior defenders garnered All-Big Ten honors, the conference announced Wednesday. DE Owen Carney was a consensus Second Team All-Big Ten, while LB Jake Hansen was named Second Team All-Big Ten by the media and Third Team by coaches. DT Rod Perry was an All-Big Ten honorable mention selection.

 

Carney, Jr. recorded 25 tackles, 7.0 TFL, 5.0 sacks, one forced fumble and 2 QB hits this season, was third in the Big Ten in sacks (5.0) and ranks 10th in TFLs (7.0), and is one of three Big Ten defenders with 3.0 sacks in a game.

 

This is Hansen's second career All-Big Ten honor (2019 honorable mentions by coaches and media). He has the #6 tackling grade in the nation according to PFF (min. 350 snaps) and only three missed tackles all season according to PFF. Hansen is tied for the B1G lead in forced fumbles, 2nd in fumble recoveries, sixth in tackles, seventh in interceptions, ninth in TFLs


and had four straight games with a forced fumble, fumble recovery or interception.

 

Perry, a 2020 Preseason FCS All-American before transferring, picked up his first career All-Big Ten honor with 17 tackles, 2.5 TFL including 2.0 sack for 20 yards and one pass breakup this season.


On Tuesday, five Illini offensive players were named All-Big Ten honorees. OL Kendrick Green was a consensus First Team All-Big Ten selection, while RB Chase Brown earned Third Team All-Big Ten by the media and honorable mention by the league's coaches. RB Mike Epstein, C Doug Kramer, and LT Vederian Lowe were named All-Big Ten honorable mention by the coaches and media.

 

Green is Illinois' first offensive player to earn First Team All-Big Ten since WR A.J. Jenkins in 2011and the Illini's first offensive lineman to earn First Team All-Big Ten since Martin O'Donnell in 2007. Green is the second-highest rated guard in the Big Ten by PFF and No. 16 offensive lineman in the nation (min. 450 snaps). He has made 32 straight starts and is on the Outland Trophy watch list.

 

Brown has 91 carries for 510 yards and two touchdowns and five receptions for 30 yards this season, ranking fourth in the Big Ten in rushing yards (510).

 

Epstein has 360 rushing yards on 61 carries and four touchdowns this season and ranks fifth in the Big Ten in yards per carry (5.9). After a serires of injuries significantly impacted his first three years on campus, he made the Mayo Clinic Comeback Player of the Year watch list.

 

Kramer was voted a team captain for a second straight year. 

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Olympia Leaves Illini Prairie Conference to Join Sangamo

The Illini Prairie Conference is going through some transition over the next few years.

 

The Conference voted to invite Paxton-Buckley-Loda (PBL) starting next school year and this week the Olympia School district has voted to leave the Illini Prairie Conference to join the Sangamo. Monticello Athletic Director Dan Sheehan says Olympia was one of three teams to receive an invite from the Sangamo Conference.

 

 

While finding an opponent for the 2022-2023 sports season seems like enough time, Sheehan says in his world, that isn't much time at all, similar to a situation Monticello faced this past winter when St. Thomas More High School abruptly went to 8-man football, leaving Illini Prairie Conference teams in a bind in a short amount of time.

 

 

It seems like ages ago, but it was just last February and March Monticello was scrambling to fill out their schedule for the football season this past fall. Sheehan put feelers out in Wisconsin, Kentucky and Iowa to find a football game for their team to have a 9-game schedule. 

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Illinois Rebounds from Slow Start, Clobbers Minnesota

Kofi Cockburn scored a career-high 33 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in only 25 minutes to lead No. 13 Illinois past Minnesota 92-65 in the Big Ten opener for both teams Tuesday night.

 

Freshman guard Adam Miller added 14 points, while Trent Frazier and Ayo Dosunmu each scored 10 for Illinois (5-2). Dosunmu also had seven rebounds and five assists.

 

The previous high for Cockburn was 26 points against North Carolina A&T last December. He became the first player to have at least 33 points and 13 rebounds in 25 minutes or less against a Division I opponent since Michael Beasley had 33 and 15 for Kansas State in 22 minutes versus Iowa State in January 2008, according to STATS.

 

Marcus Carr had 16 points for Minnesota (6-1). Carr, the Golden Gophers’ leading scorer, was just 3 of 13 from the field. He went 9 of 10 at the free throw line.

 

The Gophers jumped out to a 15-8 lead but finished the first half 3 for 26 from the field. They shot 23% percent before the break overall.

 

Illinois went on several runs, including a 22-5 spurt fueled by back-to-back 3s from Frazier to end the half.

 

Illinois led 40-29 at halftime and dominated the second period from start to finish.

 

The Gophers were 19 of 69 (28%) from the field, while the Illini shot 34 for 64 (53%).

 

Illinois has struggled with turnovers this season and committed 14 against Minnesota. The Gophers turned the ball over nine times.

 

Illinois gets another shot at a ranked team when it visits No. 19 Rutgers on Sunday.

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Illinois State Rolls Short-Handed Chicago State

DJ Horne had 22 points as Illinois State routed Chicago State 91-62 on Tuesday.

 

Josiah Strong had 17 points, six rebounds and six assists for Illinois State (3-3). Dedric Boyd added 13 points and Antonio Reeves had 11 points.

 

Xavier Johnson had 22 points for the Cougars (0-7). Carlo Marble added 17 points and Ke’Sean Davis had 12 rebounds.

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Giannis Signs Max-Extension With Bucks

Giannis Antetokounmpo has agreed to a supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks that takes the two-time reigning MVP off next summer’s free-agent market.

 

The 26-year-old Antetokounmpo had until Monday to sign the Bucks’ supermax extension offer. If he turned it down, Antetokounmpo could have become a free agent after the upcoming season.

 

The Athletic and Stadium reported that he agreed to a five-year extension worth $228 million that includes an opt-out clause in 2025.

 

His decision means the Bucks will hang on to their biggest star since Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who led Milwaukee to its lone NBA title in 1971, but demanded a trade and was dealt to the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975.

 

The Bucks paid a hefty price to revamp their roster this offseason in an attempt to persuade Antetokounmpo to stay. They dealt away guards Eric Bledsoe and George Hill, first-round draft pick R.J. Hampton and two more first-round selections as part of a package to acquire Jrue Holiday.

 

They also overhauled their bench by adding Bobby Portis, D.J. Augustin, Torrey Craig and Bryn Forbes. Antetokounmpo called those offseason moves “amazing” without indicating whether he planned to sign the extension.

 

Despite that regular-season success, the Antetokounmpo-led Bucks have yet to reach the NBA Finals. Milwaukee lost a second-round series in five games to Miami last season, with Antetokounmpo missing most of Game 4 and all of Game 5 with a sprained right ankle. In 2019, the Bucks reached the Eastern Conference finals and took a 2-0 lead over eventual NBA champion Toronto before dropping four straight.

 

Milwaukee selected Antetokounmpo out of Greece with the 15th overall pick in the 2013 draft. The 6-foot-11 “Greek Freak” has career averages of 20.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game.

 

Last season, he averaged 29.5 points, 13.6 rebounds and 5.6 assists while winning his second straight MVP award. He also was named the NBA Defensive Player of the Year.

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Clinton Alumna To Be Inducted Into Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame

A Clinton High School Alumna has been named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

 

Leslie Spencer was a standout girls basketball player at Clinton High School in the late 70s and later coached at Division III Dixon. Spencer is honored to be nominated this year and credits the work she put into the game to her success.

 

 

Spener holds school records, including most points in a game from a contest in 1979 against BCC as well most field goals in a game, which happened twice, also against BCC in '79 but earlier against Mt. Zion 1978.

 

 

After Spencer left Clinton High School, she played two years at Lincoln College, moving to William-Penn University and became an All American. She then joined the coaching ranks, coaching at Division III Dixon College.

 

 

Spencer came back to Clinton in 2017 and now works with the Clinton YMCA and Youth Program Director David Torbert teaching the community's youth about sports. She says she is glad to be back and involved at the Y.

 

 

Spencer says she is honored by the recognition and thanks current head girls basketball coach at Clinton High School, Josh Williams, for submitting her name to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association for consideration. 

 

Spencer was a guest on the WHOW Clinton Maroons player spotlight program on Friday night. You can hear her interview with Jared White in its entirety at dewittdailynews.com and clicking on the 'Player Spotlight Podcasts' tab at the top of the home page. 

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Loss to Mizzou Drops Illinois in Latest CBB Rankings

The No. 13 Illinois Fighting Illini dropped seven spots to fall out of the top 10 after losing to Missouri in the latest AP Top 25 men's college basketball polls.

 

Illinois knocked off No. 21 Blue Devils earlier in the week, who took the week’s longest tumble by falling 11 spots after losing at home to Illinois.

 

The top five teams remained in place in Monday’s latest Top 25, with Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs receiving 54 of 62 first-place votes to remain firmly in place at No. 1. The second-ranked Baylor Bears, who knocked off Illinois a few weeks ago, had seven first-place votes to remain 1-2 with Gonzaga in each of the season’s four polls so far.

 

The Iowa Hawkeyes received the remaining first-place vote to finish ahead of No. 4 Michigan State and No. 5 Kansas. Houston, Villanova, West Virginia, Creighton and Tennessee rounded out the top 10, with the Mountaineers rising three spots and the Volunteers climbing two.

 

Missouri cracked the poll at No. 16 after beating Illinois, the program’s AP ranking since midway through the 2013-14 season.

 

The Big Ten has a national-best seven teams in the Top 25, with No. 12 Wisconsin, No. 19 Rutgers and No. 20 Ohio State joining Iowa, Michigan State, Illinois and Michigan.

 

No. 18 San Diego State had the biggest jump, climbing six spots after beating then-No. 23 Arizona State. No. 15 Florida State jumped five spots, while No. 14 Texas Tech matched West Virginia’s rise of three spots.

 

No. 22 North Carolina fell six spots after losing a high-scoring game at Iowa in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge, while Creighton slid one spot as the only other team to fall this week.

 

 

 

Duke dropped 12 spots in the latest USA Today Coaches Poll, all the way from No. 11 last week to No. 23 Monday with the most precipitous fall among ranked teams. The tumble comes after it lost at home to Illinois last week and fell to 2-2 on the season with two home losses. Other notable fallers in the poll this week include Virginia Tech, which went from No. 15 to outside the rankings. No. 23 Arizona State and No. 25 Florida also dropped out. All three took losses in the last week.

 

Gonzaga did not play a game this past week because its program is on pause due to COVID-19 infections, but it held on to the No. 1 overall spot in the poll once again, garnering 24 of a possible 32 first-place votes. Baylor and Iowa earned six and two first-place votes, respectively, staying at Nos. 2 and 3 in the poll. Michigan State and Kansas held steady at Nos. 4 and 5.

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Illinois Opens Big Ten Play Tonight Hosting Minnesota

The nation's two most productive Power 5 guards will square off when Minnesota and No. 13 Illinois meet for a Big Ten opener Tuesday night in Champaign, Ill..

 

Illinois junior Ayo Dosunmu, a preseason All-American, enters conference play averaging 24.8 points, 7.7 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game. Minnesota junior Marcus Carr, a preseason all-league pick, shows up averaging 23.7 points, 6.2 assists and 3.7 rebounds.

 

But they're not necessarily required to post gaudy numbers for their teams to be successful.

 

Dosunmu poured in a career-high 36 points Saturday night at Missouri, but the Illini (4-2) fell, 81-78.

Illinois struggled to create anything within the structure of their offense -- as proven by managing just 10 assists on 29 baskets. If Dosunmu or freshman point guard Andre Curbelo wasn't attacking the basket, then little got done.

 

Carr, meanwhile, "settled" for 15 points and 7 assists in Minnesota's last outing. He took just seven shots as the Gophers (6-0) produced a 29-point thrashing of Kansas City.

 

Seven-foot junior Liam Robbins (12.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg) took the lead against Kansas City as he piled up 27 points, 9 rebounds and 5 blocks -- his finest effort since transferring from Drake shortly after last season ended.

 

Robbins' first Big Ten test figures to be one of his toughest of the year. Sophomore 7-footer Kofi Cockburn, a preseason all-league pick, averages 14 points and 8.8 rebounds per game but has struggled to secure the ball when on the receiving end of Dosunmu's and Curbelo's passes.

 

Robbins isn't Minnesota's only high-profile transfer off to a strong start. Minnesota native Both Gach, who spent his first two years at Utah, averages 15.3 points and 6.2 rebounds while shooting 56 percent from the floor.

 

Illinois doesn't have a perimeter player who can match Gach's numbers. But, to be fair, Illinois and Minnesota prepared for the Big Ten in markedly different ways and statistics can be skewed.

 

The Gophers never left Williams Arena for their six games -- and their overtime win over Boston College last Tuesday in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge served as their only Power 5 test.

 

Over the last two weeks, Illinois lost to No. 2 Baylor in Indianapolis, defeated then-No. 10 Duke at Cameron Indoor Stadium and fell at Missouri. Underwood even tried to play a rematch against Baylor when Illinois' Dec. 5 date against Tennessee-Martin was called due to COVID-19 concerns.

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Oregon to Replace Washington in PAC-12 Championship Game

Washington has pulled out of the Pac-12 football championship game due to COVID-19 issues in the Huskies program, and Oregon will now play No. 13 USC for the conference title on Friday instead.

 

Washington (3-1) announced Monday it is withdrawing from the championship game after determining the Huskies did not have at least 53 scholarship players available and did not meet the minimum number of scholarship athletes at specific positions.

 

Huskies coach Jimmy Lake said the entire team is isolating as a precaution and another round of testing for the entire team is scheduled for Tuesday. Lake said Washington did not expect to have any offensive linemen — scholarship players or walk-ons — available to play this week because of positive tests and contact tracing.

 

Washington’s protocol requires consecutive days of no new positive tests before the team can resume football activities.

 

Washington had to cancel its game last weekend against Oregon (3-2) that would have determined the Pac-12 North champion due to COVID-19 cases in the program. Rob Scheidegger, Washington’s associate athletic director for health and wellness, said that while the Huskies have dealt with sporadic positive cases for a couple of weeks, there was a spike last Tuesday that led to last week’s pause in practice.

 

Washington was named Pac-12 North champ by virtue of having a better winning percentage than Oregon. The Huskies had games against California and Oregon canceled due to COVID-19 issues, and their game with Washington State became a game against Utah due to the Cougars’ virus problems.

 

Now the Ducks, the preseason Pac-12 favorites, will take a two-game losing streak into the title game, and Colorado is left without an opponent this weekend.

 

The Pac-12 scheduled games for its teams not involved in the championship and had planned to have Oregon and Colorado (4-1, 3-1 Pac-12), second to USC in the South, meet Saturday at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

 

If USC had not been able to play, Colorado would have been its replacement.

 

Currently, there are no Pac-12 teams available for CU to play. On Sunday, just a few hours after the Pac-12 released its final-week matchups, the game between Arizona and California was canceled due to virus-related issues with both schools.

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Illinois, Lovie Smith Part Ways

Illinois fired coach Lovie Smith on Sunday with a game left in its ninth consecutive losing season.

 

Smith became Illinois’ first Black head football coach when he was hired by athletic director Josh Whitman in March 2016. The longtime NFL coach went 17-39 in five seasons at the school.

 

Smith’s original deal was for six years and $21 million, but he received a two-year extension through 2023 after Illinois went 4-8 in his third season.

 

Whitman said during a Zoom press conference, quote - “When we brought Lovie on board, we had a lot of needs; we needed a steady hand, an experienced voice, someone who would bring credibility to the program”

 

“At the end of the day, we weren’t able to win enough games or quite get over the hump despite the best efforts.”

 

The Illini made one postseason appearance under Smith, losing 35-20 to California in the Redbox Bowl in 2019. They were 6-4 last season after a thrilling comeback victory at Michigan State, but then dropped their last three games.

 

The slide continued into this year, with Illinois losing its first three by a combined 117-45 score. The Illini are 2-5 after they were pushed around in a 28-10 loss at Northwestern on Saturday, allowing 411 yards rushing in their sixth straight loss in the series against the in-state Wildcats.

 

The Illini close out the season at Penn State on Saturday. Offensive coordinator Rod Smith was elevated to acting head coach.

 

Smith spent nine seasons as the head coach of the Chicago Bears, leading them to three NFC North titles, a Super Bowl appearance and an 81-63 record. He also went 8-24 in two seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before he was hired by Illinois.

 

He coached linebackers for the Bucs from 1996-2000 and served as the Rams’ defensive coordinator from 2001-03.

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Packers Clinch NFC North

Aaron Rodgers ran for a tiebreaking score in the third quarter and threw three touchdown passes, lifting the Green Bay Packers to a 31-24 win over the the Detroit Lions to clinch the NFC North title.

 

The Packers (10-3) also moved into the top spot in the NFC. That gives them a shot to have home-field advantage on a potential path to the conference’s only bye in the NFL’s pandemic-altered postseason format — and maybe to the Super Bowl.

 

The Lions (5-8) lost Matthew Stafford in the fourth quarter with a rib injury, but their latest setback was tied to their inability to stop Rodgers.

 

The two-time MVP and one-time Super Bowl champion completed his first eight passes for 119 yards and two scores. Rodgers finished 26 of 33 for 290 yards, three TDs and did not throw an interception for a third straight game.

 

Rodgers ran 6 yards untouched to put the Packers ahead 21-14 for his 30th career rushing TD to break Tobin Rote’s team record for a quarterback.

 

Green Bay receiver Davante Adams also broke a franchise record.

 

He extended his touchdown reception streak to eight games, turning a short pass from Rodgers into a 56-yard touchdown to pull into a 7-7 tie in the first quarter. Adams broke the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Don Hutson, who had a pair of seven-game streaks in the 1940s. He finished with seven catches for 115 yards.

 

Rodgers also threw a 14-yard TD pass to Marquez Valdes-Scantling’s back shoulder to put the Packers ahead 14-7 in the opening minute of the second quarter. Tight end Robert Tonyan made his ninth TD reception early in the fourth quarter.

 

Stafford went toward the team’s locker room in the fourth period, returned to the field to throw some passes, then retreated out of view again. Lions interim coach Darrell Bevell said it was too early to know how significant Stafford’s injury was, adding the team would know more Monday after X-rays.

 

Stafford was 24 of 34 for 244 yards with a 1-yard TD pass to T.J. Hockenson to cap the opening drive.

 

Chase Daniel replaced Stafford and led a drive that ended with Matt Prater’s 32-yard field goal with 1:49 left to pull the Lions within seven points. The Lions’ comeback hopes were dashed when the ensuing onside kick didn’t go 10 yards and Rodgers completed a pass to convert a third down on his final possession.

 

Rodgers directed a 14-play, 8:49 possession and took advantage of penalties to open the second half and his 6-yard run gave Green Bay a 21-14 lead. The Packers ran 21 plays in the third period for 143 yards, while the Lions had just three snaps on offense and gained just 4 yards.

 

The Packers host the Carolina Panthers (4-9) on Saturday night.

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Bears Roll Past Texans

Mitchell Trubisky threw three touchdown passes to outplay Deshaun Watson in their first meeting since they entered the NFL, and the Bears snapped a six-game losing streak with a 36-7 victory over the Houston Texans on Sunday.

 

David Montgomery ran for an 80-yard touchdown on Chicago's first play from scrimmage, helping the Bears stop their worst skid since the 2002 team dropped eight in a row to match a franchise record. Chicago (6-7) sacked Watson seven times, including a safety by Khalil Mack, to tie a career-high for the Texans quarterback.

 

Trubisky buried the Texans (4-9) in the first half, throwing for three TDs as the Bears grabbed a 30-7 lead.

 

Facing one of the NFL's worst defenses, he completed 24 of 33 passes for 267 yards. He posted a 126.7 rating in his third start since returning to the lineup with Nick Foles (hip and glute) injured.

Montgomery tied the fourth-longest run in franchise history and finished with a season-high 113 yards on 11 carries.

 

Allen Robinson caught nine passes for 123 yards, matching a season-high and giving him 1,027 for the season. It's the second straight year he has reached 1,000 yards.

 

Mack went four games without a sack before he got Watson for a safety in the second quarter. He also recovered a fumble by Duke Johnson in the first period and deflected a pass in the second.

Roquan Smith had two sacks. And the Monsters of the Midway came away with their first win since they beat Carolina in Week 6.

 

Five-time All-Pro defensive end J.J. Watt called it ''embarrassing''.

 

Watson, the NFL's second-leading passer behind Mahomes, Watson was 21 of 30 for 219 yards after three straight games with more than 300.

 

Watson exited for a play after he was hit by Smith and Mack, throwing an incomplete pass on a third-down near the goal line late in the third. AJ McCarron got sacked, ending that threat. Watson returned on the next drive.

 

Montgomery wasted no time giving the Bears a lead when he broke through the line and burst up the left side. It matched Chicago's longest run of the Super Bowl era, with Neal Anderson going for 80 yards against Green Bay on Nov. 27, 1988.

 

Trubisky made it 14-0 early in the second quarter with a 5-yard touchdown to Jimmy Graham. But the Texans quickly answered. A 48-yard reception by Johnson set up Watson's 5-yard pass to Keke Coutee, making it a seven-point game.

 

Mack followed a 10-yard sack by Bilal Nichols by taking down Watson for a safety. The Bears went 66 yards on the next drive, with Darnell Mooney scoring from the 12 on a swing pass to make it 23-7 with 3:22 remaining in the half.

 

Trubisky added a 3-yard TD to Robinson in double coverage in the closing seconds, sending Chicago to the locker room with a 23-point lead.

 

The Bears visit Minnesota next Sunday.

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Mets Name Jared Porter GM, Sign Former Sox C McCann

The New York Mets are finalizing a deal to hire Arizona Diamondbacks assistant general manager Jared Porter as their general manager, according to a person familiar with the talks.

 

Porter won three World Series in the front office for the Boston Red Sox and another with the Chicago Cubs before joining Arizona as a senior vice president and assistant GM in 2017. He’s worked various roles in baseball operations, but his primary focus has been scouting. He was a director of pro scouting for Boston and Chicago.

 

The 41-year-old Porter will work under team president Sandy Alderson, who has taken charge of baseball operations under new owner Steve Cohen.

 

The Mets have already been aggressive following a 26-34 disappointment during the pandemic-shortened regular season. The club is closing in on a deal with free-agent catcher James McCann for $40 million over four years.

 

McCann was an All-Star with the White Sox in 2019 when he hit .273 with 18 home runs and 60 RBIs. He batted .289 with seven homers and 15 RBIs for Chicago this year in 31 games while splitting time with Yasmani Grandal during the pandemic-shortened season.

 

New York also signed free agent reliever Trevor May last week to a $15.5 million, two-year deal — the first major transaction for the club since Cohen bought the team for $2.42 billion last month.

 

Porter inherits a team featuring a number of star players, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, and All-Star hitters Pete Alonso, Jeff McNeil and Michael Conforto. Hard-throwing righty Noah Syndergaard had Tommy John surgery in March and is expected to return sometime during the 2021 season.

 

The 30-year-old McCann has improved behind the plate, as measured by defensive metrics, and is a steady presence with the bat. He played a key role in the development of White Sox ace Lucas Giolito.

 

McCann began his seven-year career in 2014 with Detroit and 118 games are the most he’s played in any season. He was regarded as the second-best catcher on the free agent market behind J.T. Realmuto.

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Florida's CFP Hopes Dashed With Loss to LSU in Latest Rankings

Things at the very top of the AP Top 25 and most college football rankings remain very much in place after Week 15 action. Alabama remains not only No. 1 but the unanimous choice for the top team in the country according to the AP voters, followed by Notre Dame at No. 2, Clemson at No. 3 and Ohio State at No. 4. Of those four teams only the Crimson Tide, the one with the least amount of debate regarding its ranking status, was in action on Saturday, and they left absolutely no doubt with a 52-3 win against Arkansas. 

 

But there are some notable changes just outside the top four following a Saturday that saw two top-10 teams lose. Florida was ranked No. 6 in the AP poll prior to a shocking home loss against unranked LSU. It's the only second loss of the season for the Gators, who had already locked up the SEC East title and a spot in the SEC Championship Game against Alabama, but it's one that comes with a sharp reaction from the AP voters. Florida was a 23-point favorite in the game and the mistakes -- including a penalty for throwing the shoe of an LSU player -- stood out as much if not more than the success of the shorthanded Tigers team in Gainesville. That disappointment has Florida down five spots to No. 11, one spot behind a Georgia team it beat earlier in the year and just ahead of two-loss Oklahoma and undefeated USC.  

 

Voter disappointment is extended to Miami, another team that had just one loss on the season coming into the day. The Hurricanes took an even steeper fall from No. 9 to No. 19 after a stunning 62-26 loss to North Carolina. Miami's high ranking was aided by its increasing collection of wins and its only loss coming to Clemson, so when the Tar Heels ran up the score in Hard Rock Stadium there was bound to be a sharp response from the AP voters. Of course there is also a boost for North Carolina, who jumped from No. 20 to No. 16 after the win. 

 

Other notable changes in the AP Top 25 include Coastal Carolina breaking into the top 10 at No. 9 and San Jose State making its first AP poll appearance since 2012, checking in at No. 25.  

 

 

 

As we enter conference championship week, the top of the college football rankings received some minor updates Sunday following defeats for a pair of top-10 teams in the Coaches Poll. 

 

Florida fell from No. 6 to No. 11 after a wild fog-filled loss to LSU has Gators fans pointing fingers and throwing shoes even as the team enters the SEC Championship Game with a division title. The loss, Florida's second on the season, does not eliminate the Gators from College Football Playoff contention but it does make the path more difficult than if Dan Mullen's team was making its argument as a one-loss conference champion. 

 

Elsewhere in the Sunshine State, Miami turned in one of its worst performances of the season in a 62-26 loss to North Carolina. The Hurricanes tumbled from No. 8 all the way to No. 19 after the loss, while the Tar Heels surged from No. 20 to No. 15 after the win. Miami will finish one game ahead in the ACC standings but the debate is now on for the third-best team in the conference in 2020 after not only the result, but the manner in which the game was decided, on Saturday afternoon in Hard Rock Stadium. That "third-best team in the ACC" actually carries even more weight this season with the potential of both Clemson and Notre Dame making the College Football Playoff, since that scenario opens up a third spot for the league in the New Year's Six. 

 

Other adjustments include Oklahoma State moving up four spots to No. 22 after a dominating win against Baylor and San Jose State making its first appearance in the Coaches Poll of the 2020 season after improving to 6-0 with a win against Nevada on Friday night. 

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Missouri holds off late charge, beats No. 6 Illinois 81-78

Missouri had no answer for Illinois star Ayo Dosunmu.

 

Luckily for the Tigers, there wasn’t much else from the Fighting Illini to worry about.

 

Missouri held off a late charge from No. 6 Illinois and overcame 36 points from Dosunmu for an 81-78 victory Saturday night.

 

Dru Smith had 17 points, Javon Pickett had 14 points and five rebounds and the Tigers held on in the annual “Braggin’ Rights” rivalry game.

 

Missouri (5-0) led 49-41 at halftime and held on for its third straight win in the series. Illinois (4-2) trailed by 13 with nine minutes left but rallied to tie it before the Tigers closed out the upset.

 

“They’re tough. They’re basketball players,” Missouri coach Cuonzo Martin said of his team.

 

“They’ve took some lumps. Injuries, tough losses and all of that, we’ve taken our lumps. ... I thought our guards did a great job blocking out and being physical.”

 

Dosunmu set a career high in scoring on 13-of-20 shooting, and Kofi Cockburn had 19 points with six rebounds for Illinois. Andre Curbelo added in 14 points off the bench.

 

“Our lack of energy, our lack of effort, is beyond explanation,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “Offensively, when one player has 36, we’re not going to win. That’s an imbalance that I don’t like.”

Missouri guard Xavier Pinson ended the Tigers’ seven-minute field goal drought on a spinning floater with 51 seconds left to make it 80-76. Cockburn threw down a dunk on the next possession, but that was waved off and he was given a Flagrant 1 foul after the 7-footer clipped Missouri’s Mitchell Smith.

The Tigers ran down the clock before Kobe Brown air-balled a 3-pointer. Dosunmu took the ensuing inbounds pass the other way and missed an off-balanced 3 that was grabbed by Brown, who missed two free throws. Dosunmu tried to get off another late heave, but couldn’t release in time.

 

“I heard their coach screaming, ‘Foul!’ so I got in my shooting motion,” Dosunmu said of the 3-pointer following the inbound. “I thought (the defender’s) hand got in there and I thought there was going to be some contact.”

 

The teams combined for 52 fouls. That meant plenty of trips to the foul line, where Missouri — which set a NCAA record for most consecutive foul shots made last season — vastly outperformed Illinois, shooting 84% to the Illini’s 61%.

 

The game was played in Columbia as challenges related to COVID-19 prevented the game from being held in its normal location of the Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Mizzou Arena was chosen as the game site via a coin flip between it and Champaign’s State Farm Center in a streamed event last month.

 

Dosunmu’s scoring barrage shattered his previous career high, a 28-point outing he had against North Carolina A&T in the Illini’s opener Nov. 25. However, with the exception of Curbelo, the preseason All-American didn’t get much help in the backcourt. Trent Frazier finished with four points, Da’Monte Williams with three points and Adam Miller with two points on a combined 3-of-12 shooting.

 

Mark Smith, who played his freshman year at Illinois before transferring to Missouri, was fairly quiet as he finished with five points before fouling out with 5:21 remaining. Jeremiah Tilmon, who initially committed to the Illini out of high school, also struggled in limited minutes due to foul trouble as he ended with three points and two rebounds as he also fouled out with 1:54 to play.

 

Missouri: The Tigers won a game against their highest-ranked foe since beating then-No. 5 Florida on Feb. 19, 2013. Picked to finish 10th in the SEC, the Tigers continued their surprising 5-0 start by snatching their second ranked win of the season, the first against then-No. 21 Oregon on Dec. 2 in Omaha, Nebraska.

 

Illinois: Brad Underwood is now 1-3 against Missouri as the Fighting Illini’s head coach, with Saturday marking a deflating end to a nonconference slate that featured a dominant 83-68 win at No. 10 Duke earlier in the week. The Illini shot 23% from 3-point range, a stark contrast to the 63.6% clip from deep they maintained against the Blue Devils.

 

Illinois: Starts Big Ten Conference play as it hosts Minnesota on Tuesday.

 

Missouri: Plays at home against Prairie View A&M on Friday.

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Wallace carries E. Illinois past W. Illinois 92-88

Josiah Wallace had 22 points as Eastern Illinois narrowly defeated Western Illinois 92-88 on Saturday.

 

Sammy Friday IV had 16 points for Eastern Illinois (3-4). Mack Smith added 13 points. Marvin Johnson had 11 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks.

 

Justin Brookens had 37 points for the Leathernecks (1-4). Ramean Hinton added 19 points and eight rebounds. Will Carius had 10 rebounds.

 

Tamell Pearson, who led the Leathernecks in scoring coming into the contest with 15.0 points per game, shot only 20% for the game (1 of 5).

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Porter leads way as No. 15 Northwestern runs over Illinois

Northwestern was at the bottom of the Big Ten West a year ago, a collapse the Wildcats didn’t see coming after winning the division in 2018.

 

It didn’t take them long to get back on top. Now that they’re finished with the regular season, they can turn their attention toward No. 3 Ohio State and the conference championship game.

 

Cam Porter ran for a career-high 142 yards and two touchdowns, Evan Hull added a season-best 149 yards on the ground, and No. 15 Northwestern tuned up for the Buckeyes by beating Illinois 28-10 on Saturday.

 

Northwestern rushed for 411 yards while outgaining Illinois 493-262. The Wildcats ran for a school-record 478 against Boston College in 1961.

 

Porter came in with just 32 yards and one TD. But the freshman broke out in a big way, leading the Wildcats (6-1, 6-1, No. 14 CFP) to an easy victory over the Illini (2-5, 2-5).

 

“It’s been a great season for us,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “We obviously stubbed our toe one time. But the rest of the year, those guys have been resilient. They’ve been through a ton.”

The Wildcats’ focus now shifts toward Ohio State. The schools will meet in the title game for the second time in three years.

 

Northwestern won the Big Ten West after finishing last in the division in 2019. The Buckeyes had their ticket to Indianapolis punched when conference administrators and athletic directors called an audible, voting to drop the six-game requirement for eligibility.

 

“I’m sure we’re gonna be underdogs by, like 70,” Fitzgerald said.


Porter scored from the 2 near the end of the second quarter. He added an 18-yarder on the opening drive of the second half.

 

Hull broke off a 32-yard TD late in the third to make it 28-3. He also had a 50-yard run and averaged 11.5 yards on 13 carries.

 

Peyton Ramsey threw for 82 yards and a touchdown, completing 7 of 12 passes against a short-handed defense, and the Wildcats bounced back from a loss at Michigan State two weeks earlier. They had an unexpected bye last week when Minnesota canceled their game because of a COVID-19 outbreak within its program.

 

As for Illinois?

 

“We’ve seen signs,” coach Lovie Smith said. “We saw signs today. We’ve got a chance to finish a lot better.”

 

Brandon Peters threw for a season-low 21 yards, completing 3 of 14 passes. The senior started the finale after Isaiah Williams replaced him in the fourth quarter of last week’s 35-21 loss to Iowa.

 

Williams threw a 46-yard TD to Brian Hightower in the fourth.

 

Safety Derrick Smith got ejected for targeting a receiver in the second quarter, another blow for an already thin defense. The Illini were down two free safeties with Tony Adams testing positive for COVID-19 and Nate Hobbs out because of contact tracing. Defensive linemen Jamal Woods and Roderick Perry II, linebackers Khalan Tolson and Delano Ware and safety Sydney Brown were out for reasons not explicitly tied to the coronavirus.

 

The Wildcats weren’t thrilled this week after Illinois linebacker Milo Eifler said the Illini got to “beat up on our little brothers.” He also called Northwestern an “awful school” and purple a “disgusting” color.

Fitzgerald said someone sent him the video. And the comments did not go over well with his players.

“We take it personal,” linebacker Paddy Fisher said. “We kinda looked at that as a sign of disrespect. We’re not gonna let anybody disrespect us.”

 

It’s not the first time in recent weeks Northwestern felt insulted. The team took issue with ESPN analyst Joey Galloway prior to their win over Wisconsin, when he told host Rece Davis the Wildcats have “a bunch of Rece Davises out there running around.”

 

Illinois: Not a good way to finish the year for the Illini. They are 17-39 since Smith took over in 2016 and have nine straight losing seasons with two bowl losses in that span.

 

Northwestern: The Wildcats got off to a somewhat shaky start, then dominated on the way to their sixth straight win against Illinois. That matches a six-game run against Wisconsin from 1929-37 as Northwestern’s second-longest against a Big Ten opponent.

 

Illinois: The Illini will try to regroup after another rough season.

 

Northwestern: The Wildcats will try to stop an eight-game losing streak to Ohio State when they meet Dec. 19 in Indianapolis. The Buckeyes lead the all-time series 63-14-1.

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Eastern Michigan holds on to beat Northern Illinois 41-33

Preston Hutchinson threw two touchdowns and scored on a 1-yard run for a 17-point, fourth-quarter lead, and Eastern Michigan held off Northern Illinois 41-33 in the season finale for both teams Saturday.

 

Eastern Michigan led 34-17 with 5:48 left in the third quarter.

 

Northern Illinois pulled within 41-26 after recording a safety with 3:29 left and on the Huskies next possession, Ross Bowers connected with Cole Tucker from 14-yards out for a one-possession game with 2:17 remaining. Eastern Michigan was forced to punt, but NIU couldn’t get past midfield as time expired.

 

Hutchinson was 21-of-29 passing for 242 yards and he added 26 yards rushing for Eastern Michigan (2-4, 2-4 Mid-American Conference).

 

Bowers threw for 221 yards and three touchdowns for NIU (0-6, 0-6).

 

With a 20-10 lead at the intermission, the Eagles added to it when Mark Lee Jr. returned a forced fumble 61 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter. Kempton Shine forced the fumble on Dennis Robinson after he caught a short pass from Bowers.
 

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Clinton Alumna Named to Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame

A Clinton High School Alumna has been named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

 

Lesli Spencer had a standout basketball career at Clinton High School and says she is honored to be the first alumni of Clinton High School to be named to the Hall of Fame.

 

 

Spencer will be a guest on tonight's Clinton Maroons Player Spotlight program on WHOW at 7 pm. You can catch in The Big 1520 AM/92.3 FM or at dewittdailynews.com, the WHOW mobile app, or at Amazon Alexa. The program will also be archived to the WHOW/WEZC player spotlight podcast tab at dewittdailynews.com early next week.

 

We'll also hear more from Spencer next week on Regional Radio News.

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Illinois Visits Northwestern for Season Finale Saturday

Illinois will visit No. 14 Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., on Saturday with the hopes of winning back the Land of Lincoln Trophy for the first time since 2014.

 

The Wildcats' five-game winning streak in the rivalry is the longest such streak Northwestern has ever held in the series. Last season, the Wildcats retained the trophy with a 29-10 victory on a rainy day in Champaign, Ill.

 

One year ago, the Wildcats entered the game winless in Big Ten play and at the bottom of the West Division standings. Now, Northwestern (5-1, 5-1) already has clinched the division and a spot in the Big Ten title game week against an opponent to be determined.

 

The Wildcats clinched on Saturday despite their game against Minnesota being canceled due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the Golden Gophers' program.

 

The division title is the second in three years for Northwestern, as the program will become one of four teams in the conference to make the championship game multiple times since its creation in 2011.

 

The hallmark of the Wildcats this season has been their defense -- they are sixth in the country in points allowed per game at an average of 15.3. They also have held opponents to 322.5 total yards per game, 15th-best in the country.

 

Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said he believes turnover margin has been a huge determiner of his team's success. The Wildcats have forced 18 turnovers this season.

 

The Fighting Illini (2-4, 2-4) are coming off a 35-21 loss to Iowa. Illinois jumped to a 14-point lead behind two touchdown passes from Brandon Peters, but Iowa responded by scoring 35 straight points.

 

At the end of the game, backup quarterback Isaiah Williams led the Fighting Illini to their final touchdown.

 

Smith said "there's a place" for Williams in the offense, although he also expressed his belief in Peters.

 

Before the Iowa game, Illinois was on a two-game winning streak after defeating Rutgers and Nebraska.

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No. 6 Illinois Battles Mizzou In New Venue for Braggin' Rights Game

The No. 6 Illinois Fighting Illini will try to regain their edge over the Missouri Tigers when the regional rivalry resumes on Saturday night.

 

Their annual Braggin' Rights game will be played in Columbia, Mo. instead of St. Louis due to the pandemic. The Tigers won the virtual coin flip to decide which campus got the game, but they will play it with no fans inside Mizzou Arena.

 

The Tigers have won the past two games in this series after Illinois had won 12 of the 18 previous meetings.

 

The Illini (4-1) are coming off a momentous 83-68 road victory over the No. 10 Duke Blue Devils Tuesday night as part of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. That was a nice rebound from the Illini's 82-69 loss to the No. 2 Baylor Bears last week.

 

Missouri (4-0) rallied past Liberty 69-60 Wednesday night. The Tigers are enjoying their best season start since they opened 10-0 in 2013.

 

The Illini should have a notable inside edge with the tag team of 7-foot, 285-pound Kofi Cockburn (13.0 points, 9.4 rebounds per game) and 6-9, 240-pound Giorgi Bezhanishvili (8.0, 4.2).

 

Missouri is a guard-driven team, led by Mark Smith (17.2 ppg), Dru Smith (13.8 ppg) and Xavier Pinson (13.5 ppg). But the speedy Pinson missed 12 of 13 attempts from the field at Wichita State, then he turned the ball over six times against Liberty.

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Bears Host Texans on Sunday

The Chicago Bears choice to take QB Mitchell Trubisky No. 2 overall over quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes or Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL draft is getting even more attention than usual with Trubisky and the freefalling Bears scheduled to host Watson and the Houston Texans on Sunday. It will be the first meeting as pros for the former ACC opponents - and another reminder of a decision gone wrong for Chicago.

 

General manager Ryan Pace traded up a spot to draft Trubisky out of North Carolina with the No. 2 overall pick. He passed on Mahomes and Watson, now two of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Trubisky has regressed the past two seasons and is likely on his way out of Chicago after the Bears did not exercise their fifth-year option for next season.

 

One lingering question about that draft is why the Bears didn't seem to show much interest in Watson coming out of Clemson.

 

Watson insisted he felt no extra motivation as he geared up to face the Bears, that there are no hard feelings. Fans in Chicago sure feel differently.

 

The Bears (5-7) are on a six-game losing streak, their worst since the 2002 team tied a franchise record by dropping eight in a row. Pace and coach Matt Nagy are feeling the heat, particularly after Chicago blew a 10-point lead in the closing minutes against Detroit last week.

 

The Texans (4-8), meanwhile, lost 26-20 to Indianapolis.

 

Trubisky got benched during a Week 3 comeback win at Atlanta. He did not return to the starting lineup until a lopsided loss at Green Bay two weeks ago.

 

Trubisky committed three turnovers in that game, with Nick Foles sidelined by a hip and glute injury. He played better against Detroit, though a strip-sack deep in Chicago territory led to the Lions' winning touchdown.

 

Watson is second to Mahomes in yards passing. The two-time Pro Bowler has thrown for more than 300 yards in three straight games, though he went without a touchdown pass for the first time this season as the Texans lost.

 

Houston's Keke Coutee had a career-high 141 yards receiving last week in the team's first game since top receiver Will Fuller was suspended for violating the league's policy on performance enhancers. The third-year player had fallen out of favor with former coach Bill O'Brien and rarely played earlier this season, but has gotten a second chance under interim coach Romeo Crennel.

 

The Texans also got a big game from Chad Hansen, who set a career mark with 101 yards receiving in his first game since 2017. Hansen, elevated from the practice squad on Dec. 5, was sent back this week despite his big game. 

 

The Bears ranked among the top 10 on defense for much of the season. They're now 15th overall.

Chicago got lit up for 460 yards by Detroit, with Matthew Stafford throwing for 402. And in Green Bay's romp the previous way, Aaron Rodgers threw for four TDs.

 

Chicago ran for 140 yards last week after gaining 121 against Green Bay. The Bears went seven straight games without reaching triple digits prior to that. David Montgomery had 72 yards and two touchdowns last week after running for a season-high 103 yards against the Packers.

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Packers Look To Keep Rolling in Detroit Sunday

Aaron Rodgers is having one of his best seasons for the Green Bay Packers as they close in on winning the NFC North for the seventh time since 2011 and the Packers (9-3) can repeat as division champions with a win on Sunday at Detroit (5-7) and a loss by Minnesota at Tampa Bay earlier in the day.

 

Rodgers is in a groove during his second season directing Matt LaFleur's offense, throwing seven touchdowns without an interception in his last two games. He has an NFL-high 36 touchdown passes, is completing 69% of his passes - his highest as a starter - and has been picked off on only 1% of his passes for a total of four times this season.

 

Last year, Rodgers had a quarterback rating of less than 100 for a third straight season and had his second-lowest completion percentage as a starter.

 

Davonte Adams has a touchdown reception in seven straight games, equaling the franchise record set by Hall of Famer Don Hutson, who had a pair of seven-game streaks in the 1940s.

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Monticello Winter Sports Coaches Disappointed They Will Have to Wait to Play

Athletes and coaches of winter sports have had several weeks now to digest the fact they will not be able to compete this winter and that is hitting differently for coaches at Monticello High School.

 

For Monticello High School wrestling coach Andy Moore, not having wrestling this winter was predictable for him given the high contact and physical nature of his sport. Even still, he's missing his athletes and the competition.

 

 

Monticello girls basketball coach Dave Beery was skeptical they would get to play this winter, which frustrates him because neighboring states successfully played their fall sports seasons and are moving forward with winter sports now.

 

 

The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association surveyed their coaches and Monticello Boys Basketball Coach Kevin Roy participated in the survey and it was the feeling of himself and his players they were willing to do whatever it took to play, and note they still are.

 

 

Most of the coaches at this point have had very little contact with their players as the IHSA shut down all sports activities a couple of weeks ago with plans to revisit the issue shortly after the first of the year. Unlike basketball, wrestling never really got off the ground with any practices or team activities.

 

 

Coach Roy says interaction with his student-athletes has also been limited although, unlike Coach Moore, there was a brief period they were able to see their kids before things shut-down.

 

 

Frustrating is how Coach Beery described the limited interaction he's been able to have with his girls and says he is starting to miss the kids. He notes he has kids that want to play and they have nowhere to go.

 

 

As of now, there are no plans for shifting basketball to a different season. Any effort to do so would conflict with a number of other sports that have shifted to other seasons, including football which has shifted to the spring, set to begin in February, and baseball which is now a summer sport. 

 

Coach Moore is concerned about plans to move wrestling to the spring and summer as he has a number of athletes that compete in other sports and that would force those students to make some tough decisions. 

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No. 6 Illinois Uses Balanced Attack Blows By No. 10 Duke

Ayo Dosunmu had 18 points and a career-high 12 rebounds while sixth-ranked Illinois shot 58% to beat No. 10 Duke 83-68 on Tuesday night in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

 

Kofi Cockburn added 13 points for the Fighting Illini (4-1), who jumped to a 14-2 lead and never looked back to regroup from last week’s loss to No. 2 Baylor.

 

The Fighting Illini led by 14 at halftime and didn’t let the margin slip below double figures, handing the Blue Devils their second nonconference home loss in a week while playing without their famously hostile Cameron Indoor Stadium crowd amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Illinois led by 19 points early in the second half, aided by an outside shooting effort that had the Illini make 7 of 11 3-pointers — including 6 of 8 in the first half as they took control.

 

Matthew Hurt scored 19 points to lead the Blue Devils (2-2), who shot 40% and made 5 of 22 3-pointers.

 

The Fighting Illini were coming off last week’s loss to Baylor in the Jimmy V Classic in Indianapolis, then had a game canceled against Tennessee-Martin. Illinois had lost 11 of 13 road matchups against top-10 opponents, with both wins coming in 1989 from the “Flyin’ Illini” team that reached the Final Four. But they had little trouble in this one, with freshman Adam Miller hitting three early 3s to help Illinois take over quickly on the way to having six players score in double figures.

 

Both of the Blue Devils’ home nonconference losses this year have come against a highly ranked Big Ten opponent, the first coming Dec. 1 against fourth-ranked Michigan State in the Champions Classic. The Blue Devils struggled to generate consistent offense Tuesday and missed their first 12 3-pointers, falling to 19-3 all time in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge.

 

Illinois visits Missouri on Saturday night.

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Jose Abreu Wins AL Hank Aaron Award

This year's Hank Aaron Award winners are Jose Abreu of the White Sox in the American League and Freddie Freeman of the Braves in the National League. The Hank Aaron Award was established by Major League Baseball in 1999 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record. The award is given annually to the most outstanding offensive player in each league.

 

Abreu and Freeman each took home their respective league's Most Valuable Player honors in 2020 as well. It's just the fourth time since the award's inception and the first time since 2017 (Jose Altuve and Giancarlo Stanton) that both MVPs won the Hank Aaron Award. Both Abreu and Freeman are first-time winners of the Hank Aaron Award.

 

Abreu, 33, played in all 60 regular-season games during the abbreviated 2020 season and over that span authored a slash line of .317/.370/.617 (166 OPS+) with 19 home runs and an AL-leading 76 hits. He also led the league in RBI (60) and total bases (148). 

 

Freeman, 31, hit .341/.462/.640 (186 OPS+) with 23 doubles, a triple, 13 home runs, 53 RBI, 51 runs, two steals and 2.9 WAR during the abbreviated 2020 campaign. He also led the league in runs scored (51) and ranked second in the NL for batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS (1.102) and wRC+ (187). Freeman joins Andruw Jones (2005) as the only Braves players to take home the honors.

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White Sox Reunite With OF Eaton

The Chicago White Sox have signed free-agent outfielder Adam Eaton to a one-year, $7 million deal, according to Chuck Garfien of NBC Sports Chicago. The deal includes a second-year team option for $8.5 million. The deal is pending a physical and the plan is for Eaton to become Chicago's everyday right fielder, The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal adds.

 

Eaton, 32, has spent the last four seasons with the Washington Nationals and helped the franchise win its first World Series title in 2019. Prior to that, he had a three-year stint with the White Sox.

The Nationals declined their $10.5 million option on Eaton, making him a free agent an offseason earlier than anticipated.

 

Eaton didn't put up big numbers in the abbreviated 2020 campaign, hitting .226/.285/.384 across 176 plate appearances. He then missed the final two weeks of the season with a fractured left index finger. Eaton's first half with Washington was derailed with injuries, but he managed to stay relatively healthy over the past two seasons.

 

For 2021, it appears it'll be Eaton will be in right, Luis Robert in center, and Eloy Jimenez in left for the White Sox.

 

Chicago traded Eaton to Washington in 2016 for Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, and Dane Dunning. The four-player trade was part of the massive rebuild the White Sox started four years ago, and that deal came shortly after the White Sox shipped off Chris Sale to the Red Sox.

 

Earlier this week, the club acquired right-handed starter Lance Lynn in a trade with the Texas Rangers. Dunning is reportedly heading to the Rangers as part of the deal. Lynn will join Giolito and former Cy Young-winning lefty Dallas Keuchel alongside Dylan Cease and possibly Michael Kopech in Chicago's rotation.

 

The club made the expanded playoffs this past October, snapping a 12-year postseason drought, before falling in the American League Wild Card Series (2-1) to the Oakland Athletics. 

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Illinois Falls One Spot in Latest College Basketball AP Poll After Mid-Week Loss to Baylor; Up One Spot in Coaches Poll

Illinois allowed the Big Ten Conference to keep three teams in the top six after then-No. 4 Wisconsin took a tumble with a last-second loss to Marquette. The Illini were followed by Houston, Creighton, Villanova and Duke.

 

Gonzaga and Baylor remained atop the AP Top 25 men’s basketball poll Monday after their hotly anticipated weekend game in Indianapolis was called off about 90 minutes before tipoff because of positive COVID-19 tests and contact tracing within the Bulldogs’ program.

 

Gonzaga received 54 of 61 first-place votes from a national media panel while the Bears had the other seven. Iowa remained third after Luka Garza’s monster week powered the Hawkeyes to a pair of easy victories, Michigan State climbed four spots to No. 4 and Kansas jumped two spots to round out the top 5.

 

The top 10 could get a shakeup this week. Iowa plays No. 16 North Carolina and Illinois faces the Blue Devils in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge on Tuesday night. The Jayhawks play the Bluejays in the Big East-Big 12 Battle.

 

There were plenty of high-impact matchups during college basketball’s second full week, but none as widely anticipated as Gonzaga-Baylor at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The ’Zags already had knocked off the Jayhawks and No. 11 West Virginia along with Auburn while the Bears were soaring after a win over Illinois.

 

But when two members of the Bulldogs’ traveling party, including one player, produced a positive coronavirus test before their game was to tip on Saturday, it forced public health officials and school officials to call it off.

 

Gonzaga jumped Baylor to take over the top spot in the USA Today Coaches Poll in the first in-season update of the rankings. The Bears edged out the Bulldogs in the preseason poll last month by garnering 12 first-place votes to Gonzaga's 10, but the Zags on Monday received 23 of a possible 32 first-place votes to wrest hold of No. 1.

 

Baylor dropped one spot to No. 2 while Iowa moved up three spots to No. 3, Michigan State jumped eight spots to No. 4 and Kansas held steady at No. 5 despite a season-opening loss to Gonzaga on Nov. 26. Rounding out the top 10 is Villanova, Creighton, Houston, Illinois and West Virginia.

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Illinois Takes on Duke in ACC/Big Ten Challenge

To gauge what the No. 6 Blue Devils (2-1) have learned since last week when they lost to Michigan State, they'll receive a test Tuesday night when No. 5 Illinois (3-1) visits for an ACC/Big Ten Challenge game in Durham, N.C.

 

There has been unexpected extra preparation time for both teams, which had weekend games called off because of coronavirus issues with scheduled opponents. Illinois was to play Tennessee Martin, while Duke was slated to face Elon.

 

Both teams lost last week, with Duke falling at home to No. 8 Michigan State and the Fighting Illinois losing to No. 2 Baylor, 82-69, in Indianapolis.

 

Duke freshman Jalen Johnson is second on the team in scoring at 13 points per game, but just fifth in minutes played (24 per game). He has been hurt by fouls, costing him playing time.

 

Illinois freshman Adam Miller averages 14.5 points per game, second on the team behind Ayo Dosunmu's 23.8.

 

Reserve forward Giorgi Bezhanishvili's 15 points in the Baylor game marked his highest total in more than a calendar year.

 

Matthew Hurt and Jaemyn Brakefield were Duke's only double-figure scorers Friday night against Bellarmine, combining to make 10 of 12 3-point attempts. The rest of the Blue Devils combined to make just 3 of 14 attempts from beyond the arc.

 

Hurt had 21 points against Michigan State, giving the sophomore back-to-back games with 20 or more points for the first time.

 

Brakefield is among Duke's newcomers, with his shooting touch distinguishing him so far.

 

Illinois and Duke haven't met since the 2007 Maui Invitational. This will be the third meeting as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, with Duke winning in 1999 in Chicago and in 2000 in Greensboro, N.C.

 

The Blue Devils hold the best record of any team in either league in ACC/Big Ten Challenge games at 19-2. They've won eight straight games as part of the series, while they're 9-0 at Cameron Indoor Stadium.

 

Duke leads the all-time series with the Illini, 5-2.

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Bradley Rolls Lewis

Ja'Shon Henry scored 19 points, Elijah Childs added 17 points and Bradley beat Lewis University 95-62 on Monday night.

 

Ville Tahvanainen had 14 points and Terry Nolan Jr. 10 for Bradley (4-2).

 

Dre Bell had 18 points and six rebounds for Lewis. Bruno Williams added 15 points with six assists, and Beau Frericks scored 13.

 

The Braves are scheduled to host Jackson State next Thursday night in Peoria. 

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White Sox Trade for Ranger RHP Lynn

The Chicago White Sox are set to acquire a big workhorse for their starting rotation.

 

Lance Lynn is being traded from the Texas Rangers to the White Sox, according to a person with direct knowledge of the deal. 

 

Lynn would be reunited in Chicago with new manager Tony La Russa. Lynn was a rookie pitcher for the 2011 World Series champion St. Louis Cardinals, who beat the Rangers in seven games in the last season La Russa managed in the big leagues before returning to the White Sox this offseason.

 

The 6-foot-5, 250-pound Lynn was 22-14 in 46 starts the past two seasons for the Rangers, with 335 strikeouts over 292 1/3 innings. The right-hander has an $8 million salary in 2021, the final season of a $30 million, three-year contract he signed with Texas two winters ago.

 

The on-the-rise White Sox are coming off their first playoff appearance since 2008, going 35-25 and finishing tied for second in the AL Central before losing to Oakland in their wild-card series. Lynn would be in the top three of a rotation that features right-hander Lucas Giolito and lefty Dallas Keuchel.

 

In nine big league seasons with the Cardinals, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Rangers, the 33-year-old Lynn is 104-71 with a 3.57 ERA in 260 games (236 starts).

 

Texas was an AL-worst 22-38 in the pandemic-shortened season and had three 22-year-old rookies in its starting lineup on the last day of the season.

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Cardinals' Wainwright Wins Roberto Clemente Award, Calls It 'Greatest Honor of My Career'

Longtime St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright has won the Roberto Clemente Award, given annually by Major League Baseball for community involvement and philanthropy.

 

Wainwright’s Big League Impact foundation and recording artist Garth Brooks’ Teammates for Kids Foundation teamed for a Home Plate Project with Texas pitcher Kyle Gibson, and raised money from more than 150 big leaguers that let to the donation of about $5.8 million donated to 94 charities. The effort provided more than 4 million meals to prevent childhood hunger during the coronavirus pandemic and nearly 8 million meals in all.

 

Wainwright also has built Haiti’s Ferrier Village Secondary School, which opened for the 2019-2020 school year while partnering with Water Mission to build a clean water system for the community; funded the construction of a clean water system servicing more than 15,000 people in Honduras; purchased 11 acres in Ethiopia for the site of a clinic and a dairy and crop farm; partnered with Crisis Aid International to feed children in Africa and aid sex trafficking victims; and works with Crisis Aid to provide weekly meals for 3,000 families, including 200 families annually in South St. Louis.

 

Wainwright said during a conference call, quote - “This is the greatest honor of my entire career and probably will be when I lay my head down to rest for the final time.”

 

A 39-year-old right-hander, Wainwright is a free agent after spending all 15 of his big league seasons with the Cardinals. He is a three-time All-Star with a 167-98 record and 3.38 ERA.

 

Previous winners on the Cardinals include Lou Brock (1975). Ozzie Smith (1995), Albert Pujols (2008), Carlos Beltrán (2013) and Yadier Molina (2018).

 

The award usually is announced during the World Series but was delayed this year until Monday because of the pandemic.

 

Wainwright thought back to gathering donors at the ballpark back in 2013 when the foundation was just starting.

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Former MLB All-Star Dick Allen Dies

Dick Allen, a seven-time All-Star slugger whose fight against racism during a tumultuous time with the Phillies in the 1960s cost him on and off the field, died Monday. He was 78.

 

The 1964 NL Rookie of Year and 1972 AL MVP had a lengthy illness while at home in Wampum, Pennsylvania.

 

Allen hit the ball so hard, fans in Philadelphia started showing up in batting practice during his rookie season just to watch him hammer shots over the Coca-Cola sign atop the left-center field roof at Connie Mack Stadium.

 

The rousing attention, he got that early. The rightful acclaim, sadly, he had to wait much longer.

Allen’s No. 15 was retired by the Phillies in September, an honor that was considered way overdue by many for one of the franchise’s greatest players.

 

Phillies managing partner John Middleton broke from the team’s longstanding “unwritten” policy of only retiring the number of players who are in the Hall of Fame to honor Allen. In 2014, Allen fell one vote short of Cooperstown in a Hall committee election.

 

Allen batted .292 with 351 home runs, 1,119 RBIs and .912 OPS in 15 seasons. He played first base, third base and left field.

 

After seven years in Philadelphia, Allen played a season each with the Cardinals and Dodgers.

In 1972, he joined the White Sox and was an immediate hit in winning the AL MVP. Allen led the AL in homers (37), RBIs (113), on-base average and slugging percentage.

 

His impact was felt on the diamond and in the stands. Chicago finished second in the AL West that year with 87 wins and drew nearly 1.2 million fans; two years earlier, the White Sox were 56-106 and only 495,000 people came out to Comiskey Park to see them.

 

Allen had the fifth-most home runs (319) over an 11-year span (1964-74) behind four Hall of Famers: Hank Aaron (391), Harmon Killebrew (336), Willie Stargell (335) and Willie McCovey (327). His .940 OPS during that time was second to Aaron’s .941. He finished his career with Oakland in 1977.

 

Allen wasn’t elected into the Hall of Fame by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and he fell one vote short in Golden Era Committee voting in 2014. The Golden Days Committee and the Early Days Committee did not vote this year because of COVID-19 and instead will meet during the winter of 2021.

 

In his only postseason appearance, Allen went 2 for 9 as the Phillies got swept in three games by Cincinnati in the 1976 NL Championship Series.

 

Allen nearly made it to the World Series as a rookie, but the ’64 Phillies notoriously blew a 6 1/2-game lead in the NL with just 12 games remaining. While Philadelphia lost 10 in a row and closed in a 2-10 slump, Allen hit .429 (21 for 49) in that span.

 

Two of Allen’s brothers played in the majors. Hank was an outfielder for seven seasons, mostly with the Washington Senators, and Ron had a total of seven games for the Cardinals.

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Packers Hold Off Eagles

Aaron Jones rushed for 130 yards and delivered a game-clinching 77-yard touchdown with 2:36 left as the Packers produced seven sacks and withstood a fourth-quarter comeback attempt to defeat Philadelphia 30-16 on Sunday.

 

Aaron Rodgers and Davonte Adams provided much of the highlights early in the game as Green Bay (9-3) built a 23-3 lead before the Eagles (3-8-1) scored two touchdowns in a span of just over a minute. Philadelphia’s comeback started after rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts took over for an ineffective Carson Wentz.

 

Rodgers connected with Adams on two of his three touchdown passes to increase his career total to 400, becoming the seventh player to join that fraternity.

 

The only other players with at least 400 touchdown passes are Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre, Dan Marino and Philip Rivers.

 

Rodgers got to No. 400 in his 193rd career game, faster than any other player. He has 36 touchdown passes this year and is the first player to throw at least 35 in five separate seasons. Rodgers also did it in 2011 (45), 2012 (39), 2014 (38) and 2016 (40).

 

Adams, who caught 10 passes for 121 yards, has scored in seven straight games to tie Hall of Famer Don Hutson’s franchise record. Hutson had a pair of seven-game TD reception streaks in 1941-42 and 1943-44.

 

Rodgers put the Packers ahead for good with a 1-yard pass to Adams on fourth down in the second quarter. He threw a 25-yarder to Robert Tonyan later in the second. His 400th touchdown pass was a 9-yarder to Adams that capped a 99-yard drive in the third period.

 

Philadelphia’s rally started with Hurts’ 32-yard touchdown pass to Greg Ward on fourth-and-18. Jalen Reagor’s 73-yard punt return cut the lead to 23-16 with 6:30 left, though Jake Elliott missed the extra point.

 

The Eagles forced a second straight three-and-out, but couldn’t move the ball and punted. That’s when Jones put away the game.

 

Jones ran through a big hole in the middle of the line, broke an attempted ankle tackle and headed downfield as a second defender made an unsuccessful diving attempt to stop him. He raced down the left sideline, eluded a defender inside Philadelphia’s 30-yard line and worked his way through traffic to reach the end zone.

 

Hurts was 5 of 12 for 109 yards with an interception to go along with his touchdown pass. Wentz was 6 of 15 for 79 yards. An offensive line using its 11th different starting combination in 12 games struggled to protect both of them.

 

Packers tight end Jace Sternberger (concussion), running back/kick returner Tyler Ervin (ankle) and defensive tackle Billy Winn (triceps) left the game. Defensive back Raven Greene injured his shoulder and wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was evaluated for a concussion.

 

The Packers visit the Detroit Lions next week. 

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Stafford Leads Lions Rally Over Bears

In his first game as an NFL coach, Darrell Bevell watched as the Detroit Lions wiped out a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, recovered a strip-sack in the closing minutes to set up the go-ahead touchdown, and squeezed out a 34-30 victory over the Chicago Bears.

 

Adrian Peterson scored from the 5 after Romeo Okwara strip-sacked Mitchell Trubisky with about two minutes left, capping the comeback. Matthew Stafford threw for 402 yards and three touchdowns, and the Lions (5-7) came away with a wild win following a major shakeup after a Thanksgiving loss to Houston. They fired general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia while elevating Bevell, their offensive coordinator, to interim coach.

 

Detroit trailed 30-20 early in the fourth period after Trubisky threw an 11-yard touchdown to Cole Kmet on a bootleg. Chicago’s Bilal Nichols then intercepted a short, sidearmed pass intended for Jesse James.

 

But the Lions turned things around down the stretch, sending the Bears (5-7) to their sixth straight loss.

 

Detroit cut it to 30-27 with 2:18 left on Stafford’s 25-yard pass to Marvin Jones Jr. Then, the Bears had a third down at their 17 when Okwara stripped Trubisky. John Penisini recovered and the Lions took over at the Chicago 7.

 

Peterson ran it in two plays later for his second touchdown of the game. The Lions came out on top after losing four of five.

 

Stafford completed 27 of 42 passes, and the Lions snapped a five-game losing streak to Chicago. The 12-year veteran has 3,278 yards, the ninth time he has surpassed the 3,000 mark. He has 31 fourth-quarter comebacks, the most in the NFL since 2009. His 38 winning drives during that span rank second in the league.

 

Jones had eight catches for 116 yards and a touchdown. Quintez Cephus caught a 49-yard touchdown pass. And Peterson ran for 57 yards.

 

The Bears are on their worst skid since eight in a row in 2002. And the latest loss figures to fuel more speculation about coach Matt Nagy’s future. He lit into his team following a blowout at Green Bay last week, then watched a 10-point lead disappear in the final moments.

 

Trubisky was 26 of 34 for 267 yards and a touchdown. The 2017 second overall draft pick played turnover-free ball until Okwara knocked the ball out of his hands after giving it away three times against the Packers in his first start since Week 3.

 

David Montgomery ran for 72 yards and two touchdowns. He had a 13-yard TD in the first quarter and a 4-yarder in the final minute of the half to make it 23-13.

 

Cordarrelle Patterson ran for 59 yards and a touchdown. He also returned the game’s opening kickoff 45 yards, leading to a field goal. Allen Robinson caught six passes for 75 yards.

 

The Bears host Houston on Sunday, Dec. 13.

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Len Kasper Joining White Sox Radio Booth

Len Kasper, the longtime TV play-by-play broadcaster for the Chicago Cubs, is joining the radio booth of the crosstown White Sox.

 

Kasper, who spent 16 seasons on the North Side, will call games alongside former major leaguer Darrin Jackson. He replaces Andy Masur, who took over after longtime announcer Ed Farmer died in April. Kasper also will work 20 to 25 games as a member of the TV broadcast team.

 

A Michigan native, Kasper cited the childhood influence of the late Ernie Harwell in making the move, as well as a desire to call a World Series.

 

Kasper had an up-close view in 2016 as the Cubs marched toward their first World Series championship since 1908. They’ve made the playoffs five of the past six years, but haven’t won a postseason series since 2017. The Cubs are also in transition, with Theo Epstein recently stepping down as president of baseball operations and general manager Jed Hoyer promoted to replace him.

 

Kasper previously called games for the Florida Marlins (2002-2004) and Milwaukee Brewers (1999-2001).

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Viktor Hovland Walks Off At Mayakoba Classic

Hovland saved par with a splendid 40-yard save from a waste area on the 16th hole, and then he delivered the winner with a 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole to beat Aaron Wise and win for the second time this year capturing another PGA Tour title with another big putt at the end at the Mayakoba Golf Classic.

 

It was the first time since the Mayakoba Classic began in 2007 that it was won with a birdie putt on the final hole. For the 23-year-old from Norway, it’s becoming old hat. Hovland won the Puerto Rico Open in February for his first PGA Tour title by holing a 30-foot birdie putt on the last hole.

 

Wise closed with a 63 and did everything right over the last two holes except make the birdie putts. Tied for the lead, he missed birdie putts from 12 feet on each of the last two holes at El Camaleon Golf Club.

 

The former NCAA champion at Oregon also was going for his second PGA Tour win, the first one coming at the AT&T Byron Nelson two years ago.

 

Hovland had four birdies in the opening six holes and built a two-shot lead going into the back nine on a course softened by rain that caused a two-hour delay in the morning.

 

But he made bogey on the 12th hole, and that seemed to create chances for a half-dozen players separated by one shot along the back nine.

 

Hovland responded with birdies on the next two holes, and he appeared to be in control with a tee shot to 4 feet on the par-3 15th. But he hit a tentative putt to remain tied with Wise, and Hovland thought he was in big trouble when his long iron on the 515-yard 16th hole sailed hard to the right toward trouble.

 

It came down in the waste area a few feet from the hazard, and he hit a superb sand shot to 4 feet to save par.

 

Hovland, starting his second season on the PGA Tour after a stellar college career at Oklahoma State, finished at 20-under 264 and moved to No. 15 in the world.

 

That makes three players in the top 15 who were still in college a year ago in May. The others are PGA champion Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff, a teammate of Hovland’s at Oklahoma State.

 

Adam Long (67) and Tom Hoge (69) tied for third at 17-under 267. Hoge holed a 20-foot birdie putt from the fringe on the 15th hole to get within one shot, but he three-putted from some 70 feet on the tough 16th to fall back. Long lost hope when he sent his tee shot into the vegetation on the 17th hole and took bogey.

 

Emiliano Grillo, who led after the second and third rounds, closed with a 72 and tied for eighth, five shots behind. Justin Thomas got back to the fringe of contention with a 62 on Saturday, and the world’s No. 3 player followed that with a 69, making double bogey on No. 10 to end his chances.

 

This was the final PGA Tour event of the year, one last chance for players who either qualify for the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua or lock up a spot in the Masters next year. Neither was an issue for Hovland, who qualified for Maui with his win in Puerto Rico and was set for Augusta National by reaching the Tour Championship his rookie season.

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Alabama Continues Run Atop Polls

Alabama was No. 1 for the fifth week in a row Sunday and extended its streak of consecutive poll appearances to 210, the third longest in the history of The Associated Press college football poll.

 

The Crimson Tide were the unanimous No. 1 for the third straight week and the top seven teams were unchanged for a fifth consecutive poll.

 

Notre Dame was No. 2, followed by Ohio State, Clemson and Texas A&M to round out the top five. No. 6 Florida and No. 7 Cincinnati also held their spots.

 

Alabama’s poll appearance streak passed Florida’s run of 209 under Steve Spurrier from 1990-2002. Up next is Florida State’s streak of 211 during the Bobby Bowden era from 1989-2001. The record belongs to Nebraska at 348 from 1981-2002.

 

BYU was the only top-10 team to lose, falling in a thriller at Coastal Carolina on Saturday. The Cougars dropped six spots to No. 14 and the Chanticleers jumped three spots to No. 11.

 

No. 24 Buffalo is ranked for the first time in school history, breaking into the Top 25 this week without playing a down. The Bulls had their game at Ohio called off on Friday while on their way to Athens because the Bobcats were having COVID-19 issues.

 

Buffalo is the first Mid-American Conference team to be ranked this season, giving every FBS league at least one ranked team during this pandemic-altered season.

 

While the top seven teams in the rankings remained in a holding pattern, the back half got a shake-up with Buffalo and the Colorado Buffaloes stampeding into poll.

 

Marshall, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Washington all fell out. For Oklahoma State, its third loss of the season knocked the Cowboys out of the rankings for the first time this season.

 

The Ducks’ and Huskies’ exits left the Pac-12 with two ranked teams: No. 16 Southern California and No. 21 Colorado..

 

Texas A&M keeps stating its case as a College Football Playoff contender. The Aggies pulled away from Auburn 31-20 on Saturday, moving to 7-1 on the season. As such, the voters in the latest USA Today Amway Coaches Poll have decided to put A&M in their top five. More notably, the Aggies jump Florida, a team they defeated earlier in the season. The Gators, meanwhile, secured the SEC East this weekend by taking care of Tennessee and will play No. 1 Alabama in Atlanta on Dec. 19. 

 

The top 10 in the Coaches Poll looked largely the same, though Indiana entered the top 10 after beating Wisconsin 14-6, and with the help of BYU and its close loss to Coastal Carolina. The Cougars dropped eight spots to No. 16 while the Chanticleers rose just one spot to No. 13. 

 

Four teams dropped out of the top 25: Marshall, following a devastating shutout loss to Rice, Oklahoma State, Oregon and Washington. Replacing them are No. 20 North Carolina, No. 22 Colorado, No. 23 Texas and No. 24 NC State. Wisconsin fell six spots after its loss to the Hoosiers to round out the top 25. 

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Brown scores 22 to lift Murray St. past Illinois St. 76-65

Tevin Brown had 22 points as Murray State topped Illinois State 76-65 on Saturday.

 

Justice Hill had 15 points and six assists for Murray State (2-1). KJ Williams added 15 points and 11 rebounds. Demond Robinson had 12 points and eight rebounds.

 

Antonio Reeves had 16 points for the Redbirds (2-2). Dusan Mahorcic added 15 points and nine rebounds. DJ Horne had 11 points.

 

Josiah Strong, whose 16 points per game entering the contest led the Redbirds, had four points (2 of 10).

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No. 24 Iowa scores 35 straight to beat Illinois 35-21

Spencer Petras threw three touchdown passes and No. 24 Iowa scored 35 straight points after trailing by two touchdowns early to beat Illinois 35-21 on Saturday.

 

Petras was 18 of 28 for 220 yards for Iowa (5-2) and Tyler Goodson had 19 rushes for 92 yards.

 

Brandon Peters started 8 for 8 for 101 yards and two touchdowns for Illinois (2-4), but went 2 for 10 for 15 yards before being pulled for backup Isaiah Williams midway through the fourth quarter. Williams was 7 of 16 for 83 yards and a touchdown.

 

Iowa's comeback started with a 22-yard pass from Petras to Sam LaPorta to cut the Illini lead to 14-7. It was the sophomore’s first career touchdown catch. Duncan Keith added two field goals to cut the Illinois lead to 14-13 at the half.

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Illinois Hosts Iowa Saturday

Teams coming off recent wins over Nebraska meet Saturday when Illinois hosts No. 19 Iowa in Champaign, Ill.

 

The Fighting Illini beat the Cornhuskers 41-23 two weeks ago in Lincoln, Neb., while the Hawkeyes posted a 26-20 home victory on Nov. 27.

 

Iowa is seeking its first five-game winning streak since opening 2015 with 12 straight wins, but coach Kirk Ferentz is not taking Illinois lightly.

 

Illini quarterback Brandon Peters, who played against Nebraska for the first time since the opener because of COVID-19 issues, threw for 205 yards and a touchdown to improve to 7-5 in his career in games he's able to complete. Four others took a crack at the position, with minimal success, while Peters was out.

 

The Hawkeyes have outscored their last four opponents by a combined 151-55 and averaged 37.8 points per game.

 

In the win over Nebraska, Tyler Goodson finished with 111 yards on a career-high 30 carries, while Spencer Petras completed 18-of-30 passes for 193 yards and a touchdown. He was intercepted once. The Hawkeyes scored the final 13 points of the game for their sixth straight win in the series.

 

Illinois (2-3) had last Saturday's game against No. 3 Ohio State canceled due to COVID concerns and is seeking its third straight win after knocking off Rutgers 23-20 and Nebraska for the first time in Lincoln since 1924.

 

Illinois has had five 100-yard rushing efforts in its last three games, including two each from Mike Epstein and Chase Brown. Against Nebraska, Epstein picked up 113 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries, and Brown carried 26 times for 110 yards and two scores.

 

The Illini average 222.4 yards per game on the ground, second only to Ohio State's 233.3 in the Big Ten.

 

For the second straight game, the Illini defense picked off three passes. Linebacker Jake Hansen has made one in each game.

 

Iowa leads the all-time series 38-35-2 and has won the last six games and 11 of 12. The last time the game was played in Champaign, Iowa posted a 63-0 victory in 2018 -- its largest margin of victory in the series.

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Bears Host Lions on Sunday

The Chicago Bears look to break a five-game losing streak when they host the Detroit Lions in a matchup of struggling teams on Sunday.

 

The Bears (5-6) are on their worst skid since they dropped five in a row in 2017 - former coach John Fox's final season.

 

Even when they were 5-1, there were big problems on offense. Lately, a defense that ranked among the top 10 for most of the season hasn't been able to carry them. And last week's blowout by Green Bay was particularly ugly.

 

Mitchell Trubisky committed three turnovers, the defense gave up four touchdown passes by Aaron Rodgers and the Bears lost 41-25 at Lambeau Field.

 

Chicago has switched quarterbacks, with Nick Foles replacing Trubisky in a Week 3 comeback at Atlanta. Trubisky returned to the lineup last week with Foles sidelined by a hip and glute injury. In between, Coach Matt Nagy handed play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Bill Lazor, but nothing has really worked. 

 

Detroit cleaned house last week, firing general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia following a 41-25 Thanksgiving loss to Houston. The Lions elevated offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to interim coach for the final five games.

 

Trubisky has three touchdown passes in each of his past four meetings with the Lions. That includes a season-opening 27-23 win in which he threw three TDs in the fourth quarter to rally Chicago from 17 points down.

 

Chicago's Khalil Mack looked like he was poised to hit double digits in sacks after getting 6 1-2 through the first eight games. With none in the past three, the three-time All-Pro needs to pick up the pace. He has just nine tackles in that span and no quarterback hits.

 

Mack had 8 1-2 sacks last season after four straight years in double digits. It was his lowest total since he had four as a rookie with Oakland in 2014.

 

Nagy raised a few eyebrows this week when he challenged the Bears in a way he never had, particularly since much of it was directed at the defense rather than his struggling offense.

 

Nagy said he is ''extremely close'' with those players and they were also frustrated. He has ''zero concern'' his comments would divide the locker room.

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Packers Host Reeling Eagles on Sunday

Even after losing each of the last three weeks to fall four games below .500, the Philadelphia Eagles somehow still have a legitimate shot to win the NFC East.

 

The Eagles (3-7-1) trail the New York Giants and Washington by half a game in the division as they head to Green Bay for a Sunday matchup with the NFC North-leading Packers (8-3).

 

While the Eagles are fighting for their playoff lives, the Packers are breezing toward a second straight division title. They own a three-game lead over Chicago and Minnesota in the NFC North and are coming off a 41-25 victory over the Bears.

 

Philadelphia still has cause for optimism. The Eagles won 34-27 at Green Bay last year, which marked the Packers' only home loss during a season in which they went 13-3 and reached the NFC championship game.

 

Quarterback Carson Wentz is struggling behind an offensive line that has gone through several different combinations this season. Even so, the Eagles still have a reliable defense and plenty of incentive.

The Eagles acquired three-time Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay to shut down the opposition's No. 1 receiver. In a 23-17 loss to Seattle, Slay allowed DK Metcalf 10 catches for 177 yards.

 

Davonte Adams has caught a touchdown pass in six straight games. He's tied for second in the NFL with 11 touchdown catches this season.

 

Green Bay has gone 19-3 in quarterback Aaron Rodgers' 22 December home starts. Rodgers has a 111.9 passer rating in December home games.

 

The Packers went 5-0 in December last year and outscored opponents by an average of 9.4 points.

 

Travis Fulgham was released by the Packers in August but has found a home in Philadelphia, where he now has 33 catches for a team-high 467 yards and four touchdowns.

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Russell Knox Leads Full Leaderboard at Mayakoba

Russell Knox shot a 6-under 65 on Thursday at breezy and wet El Camaleon Golf Club to take the first-round lead in the PGA Tour’s Mayakoba Golf Classic.

 

The 35-year-old Scot birdied five of the last six holes on his opening nine, then played the final nine in 1 under with a bogey on the par-4 second and birdies on the par-5 fifth and par-4 sixth.

 

Chile’s Joaquin Niemann was a stroke back with Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo and American Tom Hoge. Niemann is donating his entire prize money and $5,000 for every birdie and $10,000 for an eagle to help pay for a drug for his 2-month-old relative in Chile.

 

Niemann also finished on the front nine, making birdies on Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 7.

 

Knox has two victories on the PGA Tour and one on the European Tour. He lost in a playoff at Mayakoba in 2016.

 

Carlos Ortiz, the Mexican star playing for the first time as a PGA Tour winner, was two strokes back at 67. He won the Houston Open a week before the Masters and did not play at Sea Island.

 

Defending champion Brendon Todd also was at 67 with Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland, Aaron Wise, Nate Lashley, Akshay Bhatia and Michael Gligic.

 

Former U.S. Amateur champion Andy Ogletree, the low amateur at the Masters, had a 69 in his pro debut. Ryder Cup captain Steve Stricker also shot 69.

 

Rickie Fowler had a wild round of 70 with eight birdies and quadruple and double bogeys. He played the final six holes in 4 under to get under par.

 

Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka had a 71. Justin Thomas shot 72. At No. 3, he’s the only player from the top 10 in the world in the field.

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Big Second Half Separates No. 2 Baylor from No. 5 Illinois

Adam Flagler scored 18 points, three of his teammates also reached double figures and Baylor used its trademark defense to turn the game and pull away from No. 5 Illinois for an 82-69 victory in the Jimmy V Classic.

 

Baylor (3-0) outrebounded the Fighting Illini 20-10 and forced twice as many turnovers as it committed in the second half while also outscoring Illinois in the paint and off the bench in the school’s first non-conference top-five matchup.

 

The Bears did exactly what they needed to do. They drew fouls against Kofi Cockburn, turning him into a non-factor. And although Ayo Dosunmu led the Illini (3-1) with 18 points, he was just 6 of 18 from the field. Giorgi Beshanishvili finished with 15 points while filling in for Cockburn.

 

Baylor forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua started the decisive stretch by making two free throws with 12:51 left. That broke a 43-all tie and spurred the Bears to six straight points. After Illinois made a 3-pointer, Baylor scored five more points and then took control with another run, this time 9-0.

 

When it ended, Baylor led 65-51 with 7:31 left and the Illini never seriously challenged again.

 

After last week’s scare against Ohio, the Fighting Illini wanted to bounce back with a strong performance. Underwood’s team certainly accomplished that much. It just didn’t pull off the kind of signature win it envisioned — but that may be only a matter of time.

 

Andre Curbelo scored 11 points and was the only other Illini player in double figures. ... Cockburn had seven points and four rebounds. Illinois was outscored 24-7 in second-chance points and 38-30 in the paint.

 

Davion Mitchell had 15 points and seven assists, while Jared Butler scored 12.MaCio Teague added 11 points and Tchatchoua had nine points and nine rebounds.

 

Illinois hosts UT-Martin on Saturday.

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Illinois State Routes DIII Greenville With High Scoring Contest

Emon Washington had 30 points and Illinois State scored the fourth-most points in Division I history with a 177-108 victory over Greenville on Wednesday night.

 

Illinois State sits behind Loyola Marymount and LIU Brooklyn in the NCAA record book. LMU scored 186 points in 1991 and 181 in ’89, LIU Brooklyn totaled 179 in ’97 and Oklahoma had 173 in ’89.

On Sunday, Murray State beat Greenville 173-95.

 

Washington made 12 of 13 shots as Illinois State was 70 of 81 from the floor (86.4%). Greenville, Division III-member attempted 108 field goals, making 42.

 

Harouna Sissoko had 21 points and seven rebounds for Illinois State (2-1). Abdou Ndiaye added 18 points, seven rebounds and three blocks, and Josiah Strong had a career-high 11 assists plus 13 points and six rebounds.

 

Washington was outscored by the Panthers’ Kenneth Cooley, who had 31 points and six rebounds. Travis Dickey added 11 points, and Romello Ball and Kaidyn Johnson each added 10.

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Bears Sticking With Trubisky at QB

Mitchell Trubisky's return to Chicago's starting lineup was a primetime flop. That won't stop him from getting at least one more opportunity.

Coach Matt Nagy said Trubisky will make his second straight start when the Bears host the Detroit Lions on Sunday in a matchup of struggling teams.

 

Trubisky's return to the lineup last weekend at Green Bay didn't go as planned. He committed three turnovers in his first start since he was benched in Week 3 as the Bears lost 41-25 to the NFC North-leading Packers.

 

Nagy lit into Chicago (5-6) after its fifth straight loss, even calling out a defense that has carried the team in his three seasons. Trubisky said the team received the message “very well.”

 

The Bears are on their longest losing streak since they dropped five in a row in 2017 — former coach John Fox's final season. And beating Detroit seems like no sure thing, even though the Lions (4-7) just made sweeping changes. They fired general manager Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia, and elevated offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to interim coach.

 

Chicago obviously has big issues of its own, starting with a broken offense that ranks among the NFL's worst. And neither quarterback has played particularly well.

 

Trubisky has his lowest completion percentage (58.3) since the Bears drafted him with the No. 2 overall pick in 2017. In five games and four starts, he has five interceptions, including two on Sunday night.

 

Foles has almost as many interceptions (eight) and touchdowns (10) in eight games and is 2-5 as Chicago's starter. His injury late in a 19-13 loss to Minnesota on Nov. 16 created an opening.

 

Trubisky didn't exactly make the most of his opportunity against Green Bay. Though he threw for three touchdowns, two came in the fourth quarter after the Packers led by 31.

 

His deep pass intended for a well-covered Darnell Mooney in the end zone with Chicago trailing 13-3 early in the second quarter got picked off by Darnell Savage, who had another interception in the third.

 

Za’Darius Smith also forced a fumble when he sacked Trubisky late in the half, possibly getting away with a facemask. And Preston Smith returned the ball 14 yards for a touchdown to make it 27-3.

 

The good news for Chicago is some of Trubisky's best performances have come against Detroit.

 

He has four straight games with three touchdown passes facing the Lions, including a season-opening 27-23 victory. The Bears rallied from 17 down, with Trubisky throwing for three TDs in the fourth.

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Many of World's Top Players Return to Mayakoba Golf Classic This Weekend

Over Thanksgiving weekend, Dustin Johnson withdrew from the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which would have been his first PGA Tour event since winning the Masters two weeks ago. The two-time major winner has been vacationing in the Caribbean with his family -- as one does after major win No. 2 -- and has almost certainly played his last golf tournament of 2020.

 

The Mayakoba field is still loaded. Justin Thomas (No. 3 in Official World Golf Rankings) will try to end 2020 the way he started it: with a win. A victory here would mean 12 in the last four calendar years, which is pretty insane to think about.

 

Brooks Koepka (No. 12), the four-time major champ, needs to regain some of the momentum he grabbed at the Masters a few weeks ago. It's been a terrible year for Koepka, but he can salvage what's left of it with a win here. 

 

Tony Finau (No. 19), is somehow still trying to break the Puerto Rico Open Curse. Nobody who has won in Puerto Rico has immediately gone on to win a different tournament. Finau is the class player of that list of winners. 

 

Viktor Hovland (No. 26) is in the Finau crowd of trying to break the Puerto Rico Open Curse.

 

Rickie Fowler (No. 49) is playing to get into the 2021 Masters. With a bad showing here, he could fall out of the top 50 in the world by the end of 2020 and begin 2021 with no status for the April Masters. There will still be ample opportunity to play his way in at the beginning of next year, but he undoubtedly wants to lock that up before the calendar flips.

 

D.J. is absolutely destroying the golf world right now -- the gap in OWGR points between him and No. 4 Rory McIlroy is greater than it is between McIlroy and No. 50 Mackenzie Hughes -- and the void he leaves at this tournament will likely be filled by one of these golfers to touch off an improbable but great golf season.

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Cubs Non-Tender Schwarber, Almora

Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. became free agents Wednesday when the Chicago Cubs declined to offer contracts to two key players from their historic 2016 World Series championship.

While Schwarber, Almora, slugger José Martínez and pitcher Ryan Tepera were non-tendered, the Cubs offered 2021 contracts to infielders Kris Bryant and Javier Báez, catchers Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini, and outfielder Ian Happ. They agreed to one-year deals with relievers Kyle Ryan, Colin Rea ($702,500) and Dan Winkler, avoiding arbitration with all three.

Chicago also announced it had claimed reliever Robert Stock off waivers from the Boston Red Sox. The 31-year-old right-hander was designated for assignment last week.

Wednesday’s non-tender deadline was the first major look at the state of the Cubs since Jed Hoyer was promoted to president of baseball operations last month, replacing Theo Epstein. While the Cubs held onto All-Star sluggers Bryant, Báez, and Contreras, those players could still be on the move this winter via trade if the club looks to cut more payroll.

 

Schwarber quickly became a fan favorite in Chicago upon arrival, flashing tape-measure power at the plate. He also played in the 2016 World Series after missing most of the season with a left knee injury. The slugger served as the designated hitter for the games in Cleveland and hit .412 (7 for 17) with two RBIs as the Cubs won their first championship since 1908.

 

Almora made a key play in Game 7 against Cleveland, running for Schwarber in the 10th inning and advancing to second on Bryant’s fly ball to center. Almora then scored the go-ahead run on Ben Zobrist’s double in the Cubs’ 8-7 victory over the Indians.

 

Almora was selected by Chicago with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2012 amateur draft, and Schwarber went fourth overall in 2014. While Almora has struggled at the plate, Schwarber’s lefty power bat could attract significant interest on the open market — especially at designated hitter — despite his shortcomings in left field.

 

The 27-year-old Schwarber, a converted catcher, stumbled during the pandemic-shortened season, batting .188 with 11 homers in 59 games for the NL Central champions. But he set career highs with 38 homers, 92 RBIs and a .250 batting average in 155 games in 2019.

 

Almora, 26, is a solid defender in center field and a .271 hitter in 489 career games. But he batted just .167 in 28 games last season.

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Bradley Rolls NAIA Judson College

Ville Tahvanainen, Ja'Shon Henry, Elijah Childs and Terry Nolan Jr. each scored 12 points to carry Bradley to a 105-32 win over Judson on Tuesday night.

 

Ari Boya added nine points with 10 rebounds for Bradley (3-1).

 

Chris Oseitutu had six points for the Eagles.

 

The Braves Saturday matchup with Saint Joseph's has been postponed due to COVID test results in the St. Joe's program. They are pausing team activities for 14 days. 

 

Bradley will be back in action next Tuesday night at 7 pm taking on South Dakota State. 

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No. 5 Illinois Faces Early Season Showdown With No. 2 Baylor

No. 5 Illinois visits No. 2 Baylor in an early season matchup Wednesday night from Bankers Life Fieldhousein the nightcap of the Jimmy V Classic at Indianapolis. 

 

Both teams earned victories in their last game. Baylor earned an 86-52 win in Las Vegas over Washington on Sunday, while Illinois won 77-75 at home against Ohio on Friday.

 

Baylor is expected to regain the services of head coach Scott Drew, who missed Baylor's impressive wins over Louisiana and Washington over the weekend in Las Vegas while completing his quarantine after contracting COVID-19. He used Zoom to participate in the Bears' scout sessions and pregame locker room discussions, but mostly volunteered to stand aside and let Jerome Tang run the show.

 

Illinois and Baylor both feature preseason All-American guards in their lineup in Ayo Dosunmu and Jared Butler.

 

Dosunmu dominated Illinois' multi-team event as he averaged 25.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 6.7 assists. Butler averaged a team-high 18.5 points along with 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals in the Bears' sweep. He canned 7 of 12 3-pointers, which fell in line with Baylor's 50 percent marksmanship on 3s (28 of 56) against the Ragin' Cajuns and Huskies.

 

If Dosunmu and Butler wind up canceling each other out, then it will come down to the others.

 

Illinois 7-footer Kofi Cockburn, named to the Big Ten's preseason all-league team, averaged 15.0 points and 11.7 rebounds in 22.3 minutes last week. He'll be a handful for Baylor forwards Flo Thamba (6-10, 245) and Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (6-8, 245).

 

Meanwhile, Illinois sharpshooter Adam Miller (18.0 ppg) and guard Trent Frazier will get a taste of Baylor guards Mark Vital and Davion Mitchell's defensive zeal. Vital piled up eight points, 15 rebounds, four assists and three blocked shots against Washington.

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Illinois Loses LB Barnes, OL Palczewski to Season Ending Injuries

Illinois sophomore linebacker Tarique Barnes and senior lineman Alex Palczewski will miss the remainder of the season with injuries, head coach Lovie Smith announced Monday. Barnes had season-ending surgery and Palczewski is scheduled to have season-ending surgery.

 

Palczewski made his team-high 40th consecutive start at Rutgers 11/14/20 before exiting the game with an injury. Illinois' starting offensive line will play only one game fully together in 2020 - the season opener at Wisconsin. The group entered the season as the highest graded returning offensive line unit in the Big Ten, according to Pro Football Focus. 

 

Barnes made his first career start at Rutgers 11/14/20 and followed with his first career interception the next week at Nebraska 11/21/20. His breakout game came in the season opener at Wisconsin, when he had his first career fumble recovery, touchdown, and recorded sack filling in for an injured Jake Hansen. 

 

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, this season does not count against any players' eligibility. All players can return next year with the same eligibility status as this year. 

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Packers Add WR Tavon Austin

Tavon Austin is attempting to make a comeback with Green Bay as the Packers look to add depth to their receiving group.

 

The Packers announced Tuesday that they had signed Austin and released wide receiver Darrius Shepherd.

 

Austin, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2013 draft of the St. Louis Rams, hadn’t played any NFL games this season. T he San Francisco 49ers placed him on injured reserve before this season and later released him as part of an injury settlement.

 

The 5-foot-8 Austin caught 13 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown last year in his second season with the Dallas Cowboys. Austin spent his first five NFL seasons with the Rams, who drafted him out of West Virginia.

 

Austin has 215 career catches for 2,006 yards with 15 touchdowns. He also has been a kick returner for much of his NFL career, which could help the Packers if Tyler Ervin has to miss any more time.

 

Ervin, a running back/kick returner who also lines up at receiver, has missed Green Bay’s past two games with injured ribs.

 

Green Bay could use some additional players for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. The only Packers wideouts with at least 10 catches this season are Davante Adams (74 catches, 908 yards, 11 TDs), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (25-518-4) and Allen Lazard (19-295-3), though Green Bay has done a nice job of passing the ball to its running backs and tight ends.

 

The Packers’ biggest offseason addition to the receiving group was Devin Funchess, who opted out before the season.

 

Shepherd had five catches for 46 yards this season. He fumbled a kickoff return that led to a field goal in a 34-31 overtime loss at Indianapolis on Nov. 22.

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Illinois' Miller Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week

Illinois' Adam Miller was named Big Ten Co-Freshman of the Week on Monday, the conference office announced. 

 

Miller had an impressive debut with the Fighting Illini, averaging 18 points and setting a school record during the opening week of the season. He set the Illini freshman-debut scoring record with 28 points vs. North Carolina A&T (Nov. 25), breaking the previous mark of 22 set by Brandon Paul (Nov. 13, 2009).

 

Miller also tallied 15 points vs. Chicago State and had 11 points vs. Ohio, making 10-of-12 shots against North Carolina A&T, including 6-of-8 from behind the arc. His 83.3 field goal percentage in the win marked the fifth-best shooting percentage ever by an Illini freshman, while his 6 treys also ranked fifth on the all-time UI freshman list. 

 

Last Illinois Freshman of the Week was Kofi Cockburn (Jan. 27, 2020).

 

Zach Edey of Purdue shared the honors with Miller.

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Illinois Enters AP Poll Top 5

The Illinois Fighting Illini are back in the AP College Basketball Poll top five for the first time since reaching No. 1 in 2004-05.

 

Gonzaga and Baylor remained Nos. 1-2 in the poll released Monday. The Zags received 57 of 63 first-place votes from a media panel and the Bears had six first-place votes. They were the only two teams to hold their places from the preseason poll.

 

Gonzaga kept the top spot by a commanding margin with impressive wins in Fort Myers, Florida. The Zags (2-0) rolled over Kansas 102-90 and crushed Auburn 90-67 the next day.

 

Villanova fell nine places to No. 12 after losing to Virginia Tech, which moved into the poll at No. 16. Virginia also took a big tumble after losing to San Francisco, dropping 11 spots to No. 15.

 

The two losses allowed Iowa to move up two spots to No. 3, with Wisconsin and Illinois rounding out the top five.

 

Kansas dropped a spot to No. 7 after the loss to Gonzaga. The Jayhawks still managed to move atop the all-time consecutive polls list.

 

Kansas was ranked for the 222nd week, breaking the record set by UCLA from 1966-80.

No. 6 Duke has the second-longest active poll streak at 85 straight weeks.

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Packers, Bears Defenses Headed in Different Directions

The Green Bay Packers thrived on big plays from their defense last year, but didn’t produce nearly enough of them the first half of this season.

 

That’s starting to change now as the Packers move closer to a second straight NFC North title.

Meanwhile, Bears coach Matt Nagy on Monday challenged his defense to regain its old form to try and snap a five-game losing streak after a 41-25 loss to the Green Bay Packers.

 

Green Bay (8-3) scored three touchdowns off turnovers Sunday night in a 41-25 victory over the Chicago Bears (5-6). The Packers have eight takeaways in their last four games after forcing just four turnovers in their first seven games.

 

The Packers’ 12 overall takeaways still put them in the bottom half of the NFL rankings and well off their pace from last year, when they forced 25 turnovers.

 

But they’ve picked up the pace and gotten more aggressive lately.

 

Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns and led three long scoring drives on the Packers’ first three possessions in Sunday’s victory. It seemed to leave Nagy at a loss to explain as the Bears turned their attention to facing Detroit on Sunday at Soldier Field.

 

The Bears had been ranked in the top 10 defensively most of the season, but playing without end Akiem Hicks and lineman Roy Robertson-Harris made it difficult to stop simple Packers runs up the middle. The Packers’ 182 rushing yards were the most allowed by the Bears since Dec. 24, 2016, when Washington ran for 208.

 

Kahlil Mack went without a sack for the third straight game. He has made nine total tackles for the three games without making a hit on a quarterback.

 

Green Bay’s defense scored one touchdown on its own. After Za’Darius Smith sacked Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to force a fumble, Preston Smith picked the ball up and ran 14 yards into the end zone to give the Packers a 27-3 lead.

 

Darnell Savage Jr. picked off two of Trubisky's passes, his first two interceptions of the season.

Green Bay’s defense remains a work in progress. The Packers rank just 19th in the NFL in scoring defense and allowed David Montgomery to rush for 103 yards on just 11 carries Sunday. The Packers added some depth Monday by claiming defensive lineman Anthony Rush off waivers from the Bears.

But the Packers might be good enough on offense to make a deep playoff run by outscoring teams, as long as their defense can make a few big plays to help the cause. Aaron Rodgers threw four touchdown passes Sunday to continue his push toward a potential third MVP honor.

 

The Packers’ defense let up a bit late in the game by allowing two fourth-quarter touchdown drives with the game out of reach. Over its last five games, the Packers have allowed Minnesota’s Dalvin Cook, Jacksonville’s James Robinson and now Montgomery to all exceed 100 yards rushing.

 

Indianapolis rookie Jonathan Taylor rushed for 90 yards against the Packers last week.

 

The running game made a revival with David Montgomery returning to the lineup. He ran for a season-high 103 yards, based largely on a career-long 57-yard run. The Bears rushed for 122 yards as a team, their most since Week 3.

 

The Bears trail Arizona for the last playoff spot by one game and will know more about a quarterback starter for Detroit later in the week. If they don’t snap out of this tailspin, it might go beyond missing the playoffs: It’s always possible it could mean coaches’ jobs.

 

The Bears host Detroit (4-7) on Sunday with Darrell Bevell making his debut as Detroit’s interim coach.

 

Green Bay players are off until Wednesday as the Packers wait to find out whether injuries will require them to shake up their offensive line once more as they prepare to host the Philadelphia Eagles.

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