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Dosunmu, Frazier lead No. 19 Illinois over No. 7 Iowa 80-75

Ayo Dosunmu scored 25 points, Trent Frazier had 24 and No. 19 Illinois upset No. 7 Iowa 80-75 on Friday night.

 

In one of the most entertaining games of the Big Ten season, the teams traded leads for most of the game. Illinois finally took command in the final two minutes but was up by only three points when Iowa’s Jordan Bohannon missed a hurried 3 pointer with 11 seconds left.

 

The Illini’s Kofi Cockburn was immediately fouled and missed his free throw but grabbed the rebound. Cockburn was fouled again with 2 seconds left and sank both shots to seal the win.

“Great win against a great team,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said. “That was a heck of a college basketball game.”

 

Luka Garza and Joe Wieskamp each had 19 points for Iowa (12-4, 6-3 Big Ten). Garza was called for his third foul early in the second half and spent more than seven minutes on the bench. He was flagged for his fourth with 4 minutes left and the score tied at 69.

 

“I’ve never been one to make excuses,” Garza said. “I’ve got to be better for my team and not put myself in position to be in foul trouble.”

 

Jacob Grandison had 11 points and 10 rebounds for Illinois (11-5, 7-3). Cockburn added nine points and 11 rebounds.

 

Illinois led 43-41 at the half, thanks to a long 3-pointer by Frazier with 7 seconds left. Neither team led by more than six points in the back-and-forth half.

 

Dosunmu had 19 points at the midpoint and Garza had 13 for Iowa.

 

The Hawkeyes were without shooting guard CJ Fredrick, who averages 9.1 points and is a leader on the court. Fredrick has been battling a lower leg injury and is considered day-to-day.

 

“Obviously, we’d love to have him,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said.

 

Neither team looked rusty, despite long layoffs. Iowa hadn’t played since losing to unranked Indiana on Jan. 21. Illinois’ last game was Jan. 19, a home victory over Penn State. Both teams had a game postponed in the interim due to COVID-19 protocols.

 

Neither team had played in a week or more, yet both looked sharp from the opening tip.

 

“That first half was fast and up-tempo,” Underwood said. “Two very well-rested teams. The second half was just grind-it-out, smash-mouth basketball.”

 

McCaffery wasn’t happy after the game and it showed in his Zoom press conference.

 

When asked why his team hadn’t made many free throws down the stretch, he snapped, “I guess I’ve got to do a much better job of getting Luka Garza to the free throw line, apparently. I’m just a horrendous coach.”

 

Still, McCaffery thought the game was in reach until the bitter end.

 

“We were in a position to win the game,” he said. “We had a chance.”

 

Ayo Dosunmu: “It was great to get this win. I’m really proud of the team and how we responded after 10 days off.”

 

Iowa will likely drop out of the top 10 after the loss to Indiana and now Illinois. The Illini should edge closer to the top 10 with the win.

 

Iowa: Hosts Michigan State on Tuesday.

 

Illinois: Travels to Indiana on Tuesday.

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Central Illinois Outdoors to Feature YouTube Star This Weekend

A YouTube star will be among the guests on Jared White's Central Illinois Outdoors this week.

 

White says this week's show features Jim Crowley of  'Hook and Hunt TV' along with Clinton resident Jon Roberson along with YouTube star 'Jiggin' with Jake' as well as a central Illinois music star folks will likely be familiar with. 

 

 

Catch the show on WTIM in Christian County on all their platforms Saturday morning at 10 am, The Winner 96.5 FM on Sunday morning at 8, then on WHOW and all our online platforms at 8 am on Sunday. 

 

If you miss the program this weekend, White reminds listeners the show goes up in podcast form on Monday morning at centralillinoisoutdoors.com. 

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Valpo Needs Double OT To Get By Bradley

Sheldon Edwards had three 3-pointers and 11 points in the second overtime to finish with 18 points and lead Valparaiso to a 91-85 win over Bradley on Thursday night.

 

Ben Krikke also scored 18 points, five in the first overtime, for the Crusaders (6-8, 3-3 Missouri Valley Conference). Donovan Clay added 15 points and eight rebounds, for the Crusaders, Connor Barrett had 14 points and Eron Gordon 12 with eight boards.

 

Edwards opened the second extra session with a 3-pointer and after two Bradley free throws Barrett nailed a 3-pointer. Edwards later added 3-pointers at 1:23 and :45 before the Crusaders made 7 of 8 free throws in the last 30 seconds.

 

Elijah Childs scored a career-high 27 points, including a contested turnaround 18-foot jump from the left side to tie the game at 70 with 0.7 seconds left in overtime after a length-of-the-court pass from Rienk Mast.

 

Childs also had 10 rebounds for the Braves (9-8, 3-5), who have now lost four straight games. Terry Nolan Jr. scored a season-high 20 points. Sean East II had 13 points.

 

Bradley led by as many as 14 points in the first half before Barrett had five points in a 9-0 Valpo run to cut the deficit to 32-29. The Crusaders had a nine-point lead with five minutes left in regulation but the Braves scored 10 straight, taking a 62-61 lead on a Childs layup with 49 seconds to go. 

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Illinois, Iowa End Long Layoffs for Friday Night Big Ten Showdown

No. 7 Iowa (12-3, 6-2 Big Ten) and No. 19 Illinois (10-5, 6-3) will be playing their first games in over a week after Illinois’ scheduled matchup with Michigan State and Iowa’s planned matchup with Nebraska were postponed. 

 

Iowa is attempting to bounce back from an 81-69 loss to Indiana in its last outing back on Jan. 21. Illinois won its last game 79-65 over Penn State on Jan. 19 but had lost two straight before that.

 

With 1.6 seconds left against Illinois last March, Luka Garza had a chance to tie the game when he took an inbound pass near the basket. Kofi Cockburn blocked his shot, and the Illini won 78-76.

 

Garza had 28 points and eight rebounds that night, and the next day he was named Big Ten player of the year.

 

Garza will see Cockburn for the first time since last March when the No. 7 Hawkeyes (12-3, 6-2 Big Ten) and No. 19 Illinois (10-5, 6-3) meet on the same court in Champaign on Friday night.

 

Iowa is 1 1/2 games behind Big Ten-leading Michigan, which will have at least four straight games postponed because of the school’s athletic program shutdown last Saturday after a variant of the COVID-19 virus was found in testing.

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Monticello to Open 2021 Boy's Basketball Basketball Season at Home vs. PBL

Monticello High School will open the 2021 abbreviated basketball season next Saturday, February 6 at the new Sievers Center.

 

Athletic Director Dan Sheehan on the WHOW Hometown Tour Spotlight Thursday told Regional Radio News they are working to get all the schedules put together now that they know the sports calendar layout for the second semester.

 

 

Once students heard the announcement that high school sports were back, the buzz was palpable. Sheehan says there was a renewed energy from their student-athletes last Friday afternoon.

 

 

Per the IHSA announcement Wednesday, winter sports will begin after seven practices. Those sports include boys and girls basketball, boys swimming, as well as dance and cheerleading.  There will be no state series for basketball or swimming, however, a virtual state series will be held for dance and cheerleading. 

 

Football will begin practices on March 3 with the first games to be Saturday, March 13. Boys soccer will begin practices on March 1 and games can begin after seven practices. Girls volleyball will begin practices on March 8 and games can begin after seven practices. There will be no state series for any of these sports.

 

Spring sports, including boys baseball, girls soccer, girls softball, boys tennis, and boys and girls track and field will begin practices April 5 with competitions to begin after seven practices and a state series to be determined. 

 

Wrestling will begin practicing on April 19 with meets to begin after seven practices. There will be no state series for wrestling this year.

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IHSA Announces Return to Sports Schedule

The IHSA announced that high school sports will be returning. 

 

The updated schedule was released late on Wednesday afternoon. IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson spoke to the media to address any questions and says that this has been anticipated for a while.

 

 

Anderson says that the IHSA does not have any plans to have students tested.

 

 

As far as scheduling, Anderson says that it’s still a work in progress.

 

 

Winter sports will begin after seven practices. Those sports include boys and girls basketball, boys swimming, as well as dance and cheerleading.  There will be no state series for basketball or swimming, however, a virtual state series will be hed for dance and cheerleading. 

 

Football will begin practices on March 3 with the first games to be Saturday, March 13. Boys soccer will begin practices on March 1 and games can begin after seven practices. Girls volleyball will begin practices on March 8 and games can begin after seven practices. There will be no state series for any of these sports.

 

Spring sports, including boys baseball, girls soccer, girls softball, boys tennis, and boys and girls track and field will begin practices April 5 with competitions to begin after seven practices and a state series to be determined. 

 

Wrestling will begin practicing April 19 with meets to begin after seven practices. There will be no state series for wrestling this year.

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Lincoln High School AD Ready to Get Schedules Set for Sports

After Wednesday's announcement of how high school sports will proceed, school district athletic directors now have the challenge of putting together not only game schedules, but practice schedules for all these sports that will be getting underway at once. 

 

According to Lincoln High School Athletic Director Neil Alexander, they will be giving priority to gyms and facilities to sports that are in season. He says they'll have to do more adjusting as sports schedules get put together, likely starting this morning.

 

 

For Lincoln High School, the Apollo Conference will meet at 10 am this morning to begin hashing out details of schedules.

 

 

Alexander, who is also the basketball coach at Lincoln High School and arguably one of the most accomplished coaches in any Illinois sport, discussed the importance of high school sports for today's youth.

 

 

Alexander calls the last several months a nightmare trying to keep up with the latest developments and adjust practice schedules as things change. 

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Preds Get By Blackhawks in Shootout

Matt Duchene scored the only goal of the shootout to give the Nashville Predators a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

 

Nick Cousins had the regulation goal for Nashville.

 

Ryan Carpenter had the Chicago goal. The Blackhawks have dropped two in a row, but have earned at least one standings point in their last five games.

 

It was the second straight night the teams needed extra time to decide the game. Nashville won Tuesday night's first game of the back-to-back set on an overtime goal by captain Roman Josi.

 

In the tiebreaker, Duchene skated down the center of the ice, froze Chicago goaltender Kevin Lankinen with a forehand move before lifting a backhand under the crossbar of the fallen goaltender.

 

Lankinen finished with 41 saves in regulation and overtime, including 20 in the third period.

 

Juuse Saros made 29 saves and denied all three Blackhawk shooters in the shootout.

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Pacers Topple Hornets

Damontas Sabonis powered through with a bruised knee, getting 22 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists to lead Indiana past the Charlotte Hornets 116-106 on Wednesday night. He came into the game listed as questionable but finished 9 of 10 from the field.

 

Doug McDermott scored a season-high 28 points - three shy of his career-high - Malcom Brogdon had 25 points and Justin Holiday chipped in with 19 points for the Pacers, who have won three of four.

 

Terry Rozier had 20 points for the Hornets, who have dropped six of seven.

 

Sabonis bruised his knee during a collision with Toronto's Kyle Lowry on Monday night and had an MRI on Tuesday that showed no damage.

 

He was on his game from the start, continuously making the right plays and finding teammates like McDermott on cuts to the basket and making the most of his shot selection in and out of the paint.

 

Indiana had 34 assisted baskets.

 

The Hornets host the Pacers again Friday night. 

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IHSA Board Announces Sports Schedule For Remainder Of 2020-21

The IHSA Board of Directors met for a special board meeting on January 27, 2021, where the Board provided an updated sports schedule and other guidance for the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

“We understood the high level of anticipation surrounding today’s announcement, along with the scrutiny that will accompany it,” said IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson. “Ultimately, the Board adhered to its stated goals throughout the pandemic: providing an opportunity for every IHSA student-athlete to compete safely this year and maximizing opportunities for traditional IHSA spring sports after they lost their entire season a year ago. I recognize that many schools and coaches could likely offer a tweak here or there that would have, in their opinion, made it ‘better’ for their school or sport. Our Board faced an impossible task with a litany of factors. They were conscientious in considering every possibility and I believe their decisions today are a positive step for the mental, emotional, and physical well-being of our students. We are excited to channel our energy into creating as many positive experiences for Illinois high school students as we can between now and the end of this extraordinary school year.”

The Board approved the following schedule for the remainder of the school year:

Sport IDPH Risk Practices Start Practice Dates
Before Games
State Series End Date
Boys/Girls Basketball Higher ASAP 7 dates No State Series March 13
Boys Swimming & Diving Lower ASAP 7 dates No State Series March 13
Dance Lower ASAP 7 dates Virtual (2/27 & 3/6) March 13
Cheerleading Lower ASAP 7 dates Virtual (3/6 & 3/12) March 13
Boys/Girls Bowling Lower ASAP 7 dates No State Series March 13
Girls Gymnastics Lower ASAP 7 dates No State Series March 13
Badminton Lower ASAP 7 dates TBD April 3
Boys Soccer Moderate March 1 7 dates No State Series April 17
Football Higher March 3 1st Game March 19 No State Series April 24
Girls Volleyball Moderate March 8 7 dates No State Series April 24
Boys Gymnastics Lower March 15 7 dates TBD May 22
Boys/Girls Water Polo Moderate March 15 7 dates TBD May 29
Baseball Lower April 5 7 dates TBD June 19
Boys/Girls Lacrosse Higher April 5 7 dates TBD June 19
Girls Soccer Moderate April 5 7 dates TBD June 19
Softball Lower April 5 7 dates TBD June 19
Boys Tennis Lower April 5 7 dates TBD June 19
Boys/Girls Track & Field Lower April 5 7 dates TBD June 19
Boys Volleyball Moderate April 5 7 dates TBD June 19
Wrestling Higher April 19 7 dates No State Series June 12


The Board is considering State Series competition for traditional IHSA spring sports only. Dance and cheerleading will be allowed to conduct virtual Sectional and State Final meets, as they will record their performances and submit them to be judged.

“The Board wants to do everything in their power to prevent spring sports from going two consecutive years with no postseason IHSA play,” said Anderson. “There are obviously no guarantees, as risk levels by sport and local region mitigation statuses will factor significantly. Postseason could mean being limited to a Regional or Sectional level of competition, but we have not ruled out the idea of playing a full state tournament in these traditional spring sports if possible. The overwhelming feedback we have heard from athletic directors and coaches was that returning to play in all sports should be the main goal.”

With the exception of football, which requires individuals to participate in practice on 12 different days, all sports will be required to hold practice on seven different days prior to holding a contest. Holding multiple practices on a date does not impact that timeline. If student-athletes transition from basketball or boys swimming & diving into football, they will need to participate in practice on 10 different days prior to their first contest. Winter sport contests could begin as early as today, dependent on when a school’s Region reached the appropriate mitigation status and when they began practices.

The IHSA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee (SMAC) issued a statement reminding all student-athletes, coaches, and schools on the importance of acclimatization:

"The IHSA SMAC reminds member schools that student-athletes may need additional conditioning in order to participate in a full schedule this season. In addition to season/practice requirements, care needs to be given to each student's individual acclimation as they return to play. When building schedules, attention needs to be given to academic pressure, changes from in-person to remote learning, changes between tiers of mitigation, time spent traveling to events, appropriate time to practice/learn the sport between games, etc. to ensure the student experience truly enhances the academic day."

IHSA guidelines require all student-athletes to participate in masks (with the exception of swimming & diving, gymnasts on an apparatus and outdoor events where social distancing can occur) and for all game personnel not participating in the contest to also wear masks and adhere to social distancing.

“We still have regions of the state that need to make strides in order be able to play basketball this winter,” said Anderson. “That underscores the importance of our schools following all the mitigations and precautions. We need to maintain a positive trajectory not only to get winter sports going, but to make sure we do not have any regions regress before spring and summer sports have their opportunity. We can all do our part by wearing a mask and socially distancing.”

The Board also agreed to consider other participation opportunities for a given sport, like basketball, if the sport is unable to be played in a specific region.

“We have said from day one that if and when we were allowed to play again this year, the situation would be fluid,” said Anderson. “We don’t feel great about the notion of some schools falling behind based on their Region’s status, but also recognize that we are running out of time and can’t afford to hold back the Regions that can play.”

In October, the Board ruled that students who play sports (football, boys soccer, girls volleyball) that were displaced from their traditional season could participate on high school and non-school teams simultaneously. The Board affirmed this position in Wednesday’s meeting with additional sports moving out of their traditional seasons, and also ruled that girls and boys basketball players will need to cease non-school team participation within seven days of their first high school game.

All sports that are out-of-season can conduct contact days through June 4. Contact days are limited to three days per week per sport with a maximum of six hours of contact per week with no interscholastic competition.

The IHSA Board of Directors issued the following statement on the day’s events:

“Unprecedented circumstances create extraordinary decisions. The IHSA Board of Directors faced one of the most difficult decisions in the Association’s 100-plus year history today. Please know that we did so with great diligence, empathy, and understanding. There were an immense number of factors that went into today’s decisions. We knew there would be obstacles no matter what we decided. Whether those hurdles included overlapping seasons for multi-sport athletes, equity between sports, preseason acclimatization guidelines, the prioritization of spring sports, facility conflicts for schools, officiating, and that is just naming a few. Please know that each potential roadblock was recognized and given consideration. The IHSA membership, like our state, is incredibly large and diverse. Each Board member brought different concerns to the table that impacted their own school or region differently. There was never going to be a one-size fits all solution to playing 25 sports seasons in a little over four months. What did occur was collaboration and camaraderie. Each Board member may not have been able to have all of their specific concerns addressed, but we worked together to produce a schedule and plan that we believe will work for our student-athletes.”

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IHSA Meets Today

Student-athletes, coaches, administrators, and parents anxiously awaiting today’s IHSA board meeting. They are expected to map out a plan for high school sports for the remainder of the school year. Sherrard superintendent Alan Boucher says schools are hoping for answers.

 

 

IDPH and the Governor announced last Friday that Regions that meet Phase 4 would be allowed to have competitions in high-risk sports such as basketball, football, and wrestling.

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Rodgers Clarifies Postgame Comments

All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers says “I don’t think there’s any reason why I wouldn’t be back” with the Green Bay Packers next season.

 

But he added that his future isn’t necessarily in his control.

 

Rodgers was clarifying remarks he made Sunday after the Packers’ 31-26 NFC championship game loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rodgers said after the game “there’s a lot of guys’ futures that are uncertain, myself included.”

 

Rodgers said Tuesday during his weekly spot on SiriusXM Radio’s “The Pat McAfee Show” - “Obviously after the season I had, potentially winning MVP and we obviously made another good run, I don’t think there’s any reason why I wouldn’t be back,” Rodgers said Tuesday during his weekly spot on SiriusXM Radio’s “The Pat McAfee Show.” “But there’s not many absolutes, as you guys know, in this business. So to make an absolute statement about something that is not an absolute, I didn’t do it.”

 

While discussing his postgame comments, Rodgers said Tuesday that it “just kind of hit me in the moment” as he was thinking about some teammates whose futures were uncertain. The Packers’ list of potential free agents includes All-Pro center Corey Linsley and Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones among others.

 

Rodgers was asked Tuesday if the comment about his uncertain future was an attempt to capitalize on his leverage after a season in which he earned All-Pro honors. Rodgers threw 48 touchdown passes and five interceptions during the regular season.

 

“I haven’t even had the conversations yet,” Rodgers said.

 

Rodgers has spent his entire NFL career in Green Bay and has three years remaining on the four-year, $118 million extension he signed in August 2018. The two-time MVP has said on multiple occasions that the Packers’ decision to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 draft complicated his hopes of finishing his career in Green Bay.

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Blues Topple Short-Handed Vegas Knights

David Perron and Brayden Schenn scored in a shootout Tuesday to give the St. Louis Blues a 5-4 victory over Vegas. Pacioretty got his seventh career hat trick for the Golden Knights, who were without their entire coaching staff because of COVID-19 concerns.

 

General manager Kelly McCrimmon took over head coaching duties and was assisted by staff from the team's minor league affiliate in the AHL, the Henderson Silver Knights.

 

Vegas players said they didn't even know about the situation until they got to the arena.

 

Even after Robin Lehner allowed three goals on the first seven shots he faced as the Golden Knights fell into a 3-1 hole.

 

Perron scored twice in regulation, and Jaden Schwartz and Jordan Kyrou also had goals for St. Louis (4-2-1).

 

Jordan Binnington was brilliant in net for the Blues. He finished with 42 saves, including five in overtime.

 

Alex Tuch added a goal for Vegas. Shea Theodore scored during the shootout, and Lehner made 21 saves.

 

It marked the fifth time in 11 meetings since Vegas entered the NHL in 2017 that the teams played into overtime.

 

Not only did the Golden Knights (5-1-1) lose for the second time in three games, but they were disrupted by coronavirus for the first time this season. Roughly two hours before puck drop the team announced it would be without its coaching staff.

 

The club said the entire staff, including head coach Peter DeBoer, would self-quarantine ''out of an abundance of caution.'' Vegas' staff is comprised of DeBoer, assistants Steve Spott, Ryan Craig and Ryan McGill, and goaltending coach Mike Rosati.

 

McCrimmon stepped in behind the bench and was assisted by head coach Manny Viveiros and assistants Jamie Heward and Joel Ward from the Silver Knights.

 

After Tuch put the Golden Knights on the board 3:17 into the game, the Blues took over. Perron tied it with a nifty wrist shot that sneaked between Lehner and the post less than a minute later, then got his second of the game and third of the season just six seconds into St. Louis' first power play, sending a blistering slap shot past Lehner's blocker.

 

Schwartz scored two minutes later when he sent a shot off the crossbar and in, pushing the lead to 3-1.

 

Pacioretty's snapper from the slot early in the second cut the lead to one, but Kyrou would answer later when he poked the puck free from Pietrangelo, skated past his former teammate while holding him off into the offensive zone, gathered the puck and roofed a wrist shot Lehner never even saw to give St. Louis a 4-2 lead.

 

Pacioretty scored twice in the third period, his team-leading fifth and sixth goals of the season, to rally Vegas and force overtime.

 

Vegas and St. Louis close their two-game series at T-Mobile Arena on Thursday. It is unclear if DeBoer and his assistants will be cleared to return by then.

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Preds Get By Blackhawks in Overtime

Roman Josi, the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's top defenseman, scored at 2:57 of overtime to give the Nashville Predators a 3-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday night.

 

Yakov Trenin and Mikael Granlund had the other goals for Nashville, which snapped a three-game losing streak.

 

Dylan Strome and Mattias Janmark scored for the Blackhawks, who won their previous two games.

In overtime, Josi took a pass from Granlund, carried the puck on the right side, cut to the slot and then slipped a shot under goalie Malcolm Subban.

 

Subban, who finished with 36 saves, played for the first time since a season-opening loss at Tampa Bay.

 

At 12:06 of the third period, Granlund scored his second in two games with a one-timer from the left faceoff dot to tie it at 2.

 

Strome scored the game's first goal at 2:59 of the opening period.

 

With the Blackhawks on a power play, Dominik Kubalik's shot from above the right circle was stopped by Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne, but Andrew Shaw tipped the puck to Strome in the slot, where he beat Rinne low to the stick side.

 

Rinne made 18 saves to earn his first victory of the season.

 

Nashville has allowed the first goal in each of its six games this season.

 

Trenin tied it 1-all at 4:47 of the second.

 

Chicago regained the lead at 11:43 of the second when Janmark stepped in front of Matt Duchene's pass attempt and went in on Rinne on a clear breakaway and beat him to the stick side with a wrist shot.

 

The Predators and Blackhawks play again Wednesday night in Nashville to complete the second half of the back-to-back series for the longtime Central Division rivals. It will be the first set of back-to-back games for both teams. Nashville was scheduled to play Carolina on Monday and Tuesday last week, but COVID-19 issues with the Hurricanes prevented the second game from taking place.

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Another Year of No New Hall of Famer

The baseball Hall of Fame won’t have any new players in the class of 2021 after voters decided no one had the merits — on the field or off — for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

 

Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were the closest in voting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America released Tuesday, and the trio will have one more chance at election next year. It’s the first time the BBWAA didn’t choose anyone since 2013.

 

Schilling, a right-handed ace who won three World Series titles, finished 16 votes short of the 75% threshold necessary for enshrinement. He got 71.1% percent this time after coming up 20 votes shy at 70% last year.

 

Bonds (61.8%) and Clemens (61.6%) made minimal gains and joined Schilling in falling short on their ninth tries. Both face suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use — Clemens has denied using PEDs and Bonds has denied knowingly using PEDs.

 

Schilling, Clemens and Bonds will be joined on next year’s ballot by sluggers Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 season for violating MLB’s PED policy and collective bargaining agreement, and Ortiz’s name allegedly appeared on a list of players who tested positive in 2003.

 

Omar Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, dropped from 52.6% last year to 49.1% after his wife accused him of repeated domestic abuses in December. Braves star Andruw Jones, arrested in 2012 on a domestic violence charge, got 33.9% in his fourth year. Rockies slugger Todd Helton, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to two days in jail last year, got 44.9% in his third time on the ballot.

 

Some players missed out over old-fashioned baseball disagreements, too. Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen moved from 35.3% to 52.9% and hard-throwing closer Billy Wagner from 31.7% to 46.4%.

 

It’s the ninth time the BBWAA didn’t elect anyone and just the third time since 1971. With the Hall of Fame’s Era Committees postponing their scheduled elections until next offseason because of the pandemic, there won’t be a new Hall class for the first time since 1960.

 

Cooperstown won’t be without celebration next summer, though. After the 2020 ceremony in the upstate New York village was canceled due to the pandemic, Yankees great Derek Jeter and five-tool star Larry Walker will take center stage on July 25, a year later than planned. They’ll be honored alongside catcher Ted Simmons and late players’ association chief Marvin Miller.

 

BBWAA members are instructed to elect Hall members “based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

 

The BBWAA recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the name and imprint of former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from MVP plaques. Landis became commissioner in 1920, and there were no Black players in the majors during his more than two decades in charge.

 

Further down the ballot, outfielder Gary Sheffield jumped from 30.5% to 40.6% on his seventh time on the ballot and Jeff Kent improved from 27.5% to 32.4% in his eighth year.

 

The 2022 ballot also will include Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

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Monticello Athletic Director Hopes Having Sports Back Gives Us a New Appreciate

Perhaps having high school sports back in Illinois will grow the appreciation for their impact on our kids and their lives.

 

That is the hope for Monticello Athletic Director Dan Sheehan who says for 12 years he's been with high school athletes as they grow, fail, and get up and try again. He hopes the year we lost of high school sports will grow the appreciation we have for them.

 

 

This week should provide more clarity on how the seasons will be broken down going forward but Sheehan speculates competitions could get back up and go as soon as February 1.

 

 

According to Sheehan, a lot of responsibility now shifts to the student-athletes and for them to be responsible during the seasons. He indicates any region that falls back out of Phase 4 will have to fall back the old guidances on sports.

 

 

Sheehan says there is a lot of logistics to be worked out in terms of schedules, getting officials lined back up and then how the issue of spectators will be broken down. The IHSA is scheduled to meet tomorrow. 

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Illinois Moves Up in Latest College Basketball Polls

Gonzaga and Baylor have remained firmly atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll all season while everyone else keeps rotating in and out of the top 10 beneath them as potential challengers.

 

Illinois moved up from No. 22 to No. 19 this week despite not having played since they lost at home to Ohio State last Saturday afternoon. The Illini will get back in action Friday night when they host No. 7 Iowa at the State Farm Center. 

 

Michigan’s rise comes after the school announced a two-week pause in all sports activities due to concerns about a new COVID-19 variant believed to spread at a higher rate. That has led to the postponement of the Wolverines’ next four games through at least Feb. 11.

 

In Villanova’s case, the Wildcats were No. 5 when they beat Marquette on Dec. 23 before pausing team activities due to COVID-19 protocols. They didn’t play again until beating Seton Hall last Tuesday, though they had inched up to No. 3 by that point.

 

Florida State went the other direction. The Seminoles fell out from No. 25 in the midst of having three straight January games postponed. But they’ve won four straight games — three by double-digit margins — since returning and re-entered the poll Monday at No. 16.

 

The Volunteers took the week’s biggest tumble, falling 12 spots after a 26-point loss at Florida followed by the Missouri home loss.

 

There were also six-spot slides for No. 15 Kansas and No. 17 Creighton. The Jayhawks lost at Baylor to start last week then fell at Oklahoma, marking the program’s first three-game skid since February 2013 and dropping them out of the top 10 for the first time in two years.

 

A total of seven teams fell from last week’s poll.

 

No. 24 Oklahoma and No. 25 Louisville joined Florida State as the week’s new additions to this week’s poll. Clemson (No. 20), Oregon (No. 21) and Connecticut (No. 23) fell out of the rankings.

 

 

 

It was a wacky week in college basketball, with four top-10 teams taking at least one loss and two top-10 teams -- Kansas and Tennessee -- taking two. The result is a big fall for both programs in the latest Coaches Poll released Monday, with KU dipping nine spots to No. 18 and Tennessee dropping a whopping eleven spots to No. 17.

 

Florida State and Alabama, on the other hand, experienced vastly different weeks -- and both trended vastly different directions. The Seminoles beat Louisville and Clemson and jumped nine spots to No. 16 in this week's poll, and Alabama beat LSU and Mississippi State to get to No. 8. It's the highest ranking for the Tide all season and one spot shy of tying FSU's highest ranking in the poll this season.

 

Gonzaga and Baylor were the only teams to garner first-place votes once again this week, with both once again coming in at No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the rankings.

 

Illinois moved up from No. 24 to No. 22 in this week's Coaches Poll.

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Loyola-Chicago Drops Bradley Again

Marquise Kennedy came off the bench to score 18 points to carry Loyola of Chicago to a 65-58 win over Bradley on Monday night.

 

Keith Clemons had 15 points for Loyola of Chicago (13-3, 8-1 Missouri Valley Conference), which earned its sixth straight win. Cameron Krutwig scored seven points but it was enough for him to reach 1,605 points, tied for ninth on the school's career list.

 

Terry Nolan Jr. had 17 points for the Braves (9-7, 3-4). Elijah Childs added 12 points and seven rebounds. Rienk Mast had 11 rebounds.

 

The Rambler defeated Bradley 69-56 on Sunday.

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Celtics Topples Bulls

Jayson Tatum scored 24 points after missing five games with COVID, Jaylen Brown had 26 and the Boston Celtics beat the Chicago Bulls 119-103 on Monday night.

 

Daniel Theis scored 19 points and Marcus Smart added 13 while tying a career-high with 11 assists as the Celtics won their second straight.

 

Zach LaVine led Chicago with 30 points and shot 6 of 10 on 3s. But he also committed six turnovers, giving him 13 in the past two games.

 

Lauri Markkanen scored 18. Thaddeus Young just missed a triple-double with 16 points, nine rebounds and nine assists, but the Bulls dropped their second in a row after three consecutive wins.

 

Celtics G Kemba Walker was held out. The four-time All-Star played the previous four games after missing the first 11 because of a left knee injury.

 

Bulls C Wendell Carter Jr. (bruised right quadriceps) will be evaluated toward the end of the week after he missed his third consecutive game.

 

The Bulls will host Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers on Saturday.

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Pacers Rebound from Sunday Loss, Top Raptors

Malcolm Brogdon scored a career-high 36 points, flirted with a triple-double, and accounted for the final seven points as the Indinaa Pacers pulled away from Toronto 129-114.

 

Brogdon didn't just score, he found open teammates, played defense and helped spur the decisive fourth-quarter flurry. He finished with nine assists and seven rebounds, Jeremy Lamb matched his season high with 22 points and Myles Turner scored 11 of his 21 points over the final 8 1/2 minutes when the Pacers finally put it away.

 

And they did all that despite missing All-Star forward Domantas Sabonis for the final three quarters. He left with a bruised knee in the first half. Sabonis didn't return.

 

Toronto was led by Fred VanVleet's 25 points and six rebounds. Norman Powell scored 24 points as the Raptors rallied from a 70-60 halftime deficit to finally reclaim a 102-100 lead on Kyle Lowry's go-ahead dunk with 9:46 left in the game.

 

It didn't last long.

 

Goga Bitadze tied the score, Turner broke the tie by making 1 of 2 free throws and then fueled the decisive 12-4 run with his late scoring flurry. Indiana went 14 of 17 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter and wound up with its highest free-throw attempt total (45) in nearly a decade.

 

Sabonis' franchise-record streak of 16 consecutive double-doubles to open the season ended unceremoniously after he had 11 points, three rebounds and two assists in the first 11 minutes. The All-Star is one of just six players since the ABA-NBA merger to start the season with 15 straight double-doubles.

 

The Pacers play the first of two games in Charlotte on Wednesday.

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Rodgers' Uncertain Future Hangs Over Green Bay

Aaron Rodgers said he's not sure what his future holds in Green Bay. That was all it took to raise concerns about the Packers' ability to contend in 2021 and beyond.

 

Green Bay earned the top seed in the NFC behind an All-Pro season from Rodgers, who at age 37 put his team in ideal position to win its first Super Bowl since the 2010 season and the second of his brilliant career.

 

But the Packers' season ended with a dispiriting 31-26 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sunday's NFC championship game, and it didn't take long for questions about the team's long-term commitment to Rodgers to resurface.

 

After the Packers' fourth NFC title game loss in seven seasons, Rodgers said “a lot of guys’ futures are uncertain, myself included.” Rodgers has three years remaining on the four-year, $118 million extension he signed in August 2018, but the two-time MVP has acknowledged on multiple occasions that his hopes of finishing his career in Green Bay were complicated by the Packers’ decision to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love in the 2020 draft.

 

Assuming Rodgers returns, the team around him could look quite different. The Packers’ list of potential free agents includes running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams, All-Pro center Corey Linsley and cornerback Kevin King.

 

Packers coach Matt LaFleur is 26-6 in his two seasons, and despite questions about his late-game decisions against Tampa Bay, he remains one of the bright young minds in the NFL and isn't going anywhere.

 

LaFleur has had the same coordinators — Hackett, Mike Pettine (defense) and Shawn Mennenga (special teams) for his first two seasons. Now he must decide whether to bring them back.

 

The NFC championship game reflected the occasional inconsistency of Green Bay’s defense under Pettine. The Packers intercepted three of Tom Brady's passes and allowed only three points in the last 28 1/2 minutes of the game, but they also gave up that long touchdown pass just before halftime.

 

Green Bay’s most notable flaw during its seven-game streak was its occasional tendency to have a breakdown on special teams.

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Packers Miss Opportunities, Brady Bucs Advance to Super Bowl

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers defense sacked Aaron Rodgers five times, and a curious late call on fourth-and-goal by Green Bay allowed Brady and the Bucs to beat top-seeded Green Bay 31-26 for the NFC title Sunday.

 

The Bucs (14-5) will face the Kansas City Chiefs (16-2) at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium on Feb. 7. No, a host team in the Super Bowl has never happened in 54 previous games.

 

Brady went 20 of 36 for 286 yards and three touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions as Tampa Bay squandered most of an 18-point lead. Shaquil Barrett and Jason Pierre-Paul combined for five sacks to help the Bucs hang on for their franchise-record eighth consecutive road victory.

 

The Bucs snapped Green Bay's seven-game winning streak. They were aided by a strange decision from Packers coach Matt LaFleur with just over two minutes remaining in a 31-23 game.

 

After three straight incompletions had the Packers facing fourth-and-goal from the 8, the Packers elected to kick a field goal to get within five.

 

The Packers lost in the NFC championship game for the fourth time in the last seven seasons.

 

Green Bay hasn't reached the Super Bowl since its 2010 championship season.

 

Rodgers went 33 of 48 for 346 yards with three touchdowns and one interception, but fell to 1-4 in conference championship games as a starting quarterback. The Packers had the NFL's best red-zone offense this season, but they twice settled for field goals after having a first-and-goal Sunday.

 

After Sean Murphy-Bunting intercepted a Rodgers pass and Tampa Bay converted a fourth-and-4, the Bucs were at Green Bay's 39 while leading 14-10 with 8 seconds remaining in the second quarter The Bucs passed up a long field-goal attempt, and Brady found Miller down the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown with just 1 second remaining.

 

The Packers got the ball to start the second half, and Aaron Jones caught a short third-down pass. He took a huge hit from Jordan Whitehead that knocked the ball loose. Devin White recovered and ran 21 yards to the Green Bay 8.

 

One play later, Brady found a wide-open Cameron Brate to extend Tampa Bay's lead to 28-10.

 

The Packers rallied as Brady threw interceptions on three straight drives for just the second time in his career. Green Bay cut the lead to 28-23 late in the third quarter on Rodgers' touchdown passes to Robert Tonyan and Davante Adams.

 

Twice in the fourth quarter, the Packers got the ball with a chance to take the lead after Jaire Alexander picked off Brady passes deep in Green Bay territory. Both times, the Packers went three-and-out.

 

The Buccaneers are the third Tampa team to play for a championship during the pandemic. The Lightning won the Stanley Cup in 2020, and the Rays lost to the Dodgers in the World Series.

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Loyola-Chicago Topples Bradley

Cameron Krutwig had 19 points and three assists as Loyola of Chicago topped Bradley 69-56 on Sunday.

 

Krutwig hit 8 of 10 shots.

 

Aher Uguak had 13 points and eight rebounds for Loyola of Chicago (12-3, 7-1 Missouri Valley Conference), which won its fifth consecutive game. Tate Hall added 11 points. Lucas Williamson had eight rebounds.

 

Loyola of Chicago dominated the first half and led 43-19 at halftime. The Ramblers' 26 points in the second half were a season low for the team.

 

Elijah Childs had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Braves (9-6, 3-3). Ville Tahvanainen added 12 points. Sean East II had 12 points.

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Valpo Tops Illinois State

Ben Krikke scored a career-high 25 points plus 15 rebounds as Valparaiso rallied past Illinois State 70-66 on Sunday.

 

Krikke and Daniel Sackey scored back-to-back layups around an Illinois State miss, pushing Valparaiso into the lead for good, 67-64 with 1:17 to play. The Crusaders outscored the Redbirds 7-2 in the final 99 seconds.

 

Sackey had 16 points and eight assists for Valparaiso (5-9, 2-3 Missouri Valley Conference). Eron Gordon and Donovan Clay scored nine points apiece.

 

DJ Horne had 20 points and five steals for the Redbirds (5-10, 2-7). Antonio Reeves added 18 points. Howard Fleming Jr. scored nine.

 

Illinois Sate’s second-leading scorer, Josiah Strong (12 ppg) scored two on 1 of 7 shooting.

 

Valparaiso defeated Illinois State 69-60 on Saturday.

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Raptors Down Pacers

OG Anunoby scored a season-high 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds, defended well and made three of four free throws in the final minute to give the surging Raptors a 107-102 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

 

He scored a season-high 30 points, grabbed eight rebounds, defended well and made three of four free throws in the final minute to give the surging Raptors a 107-102 victory over the Indiana Pacers.

Anunoby, the former Indiana University star, was the key.

 

He went 9 of 16 from the field, 4 of 6 on 3-pointers and 8 of 10 from the free-throw line and he excelled defensively, too, helping to hold Domantas Sabonis, Indiana's All-Star forward, scoreless in the second half.

 

The Pacers played catch-up most of the game after falling behind midway through the second quarter. Toronto, with the help of Anunoby, extended the lead to 58-47 at the half.

 

Indiana finally regained the lead briefly in the fourth quarter, twice.

 

But the Raptors broke an 82-all tie with an 8-0 run and when Indiana tied the score again with 1:07 to play, Anunoby made three of four free throws.

 

Toronto scored the final five points to hand Indiana its third loss in four games.

 

Fred VanVleet scored 21 points and has made at least one 3-pointer in a franchise-record 48 consecutive games. 

 

Sabonis had 10 points and 10 rebounds in the first half alone for his 16th consecutive double-double to open the season. It's the longest streak of his career and the longest in Indiana's NBA era. He finished with 19 rebounds and five assists. 

 

The teams square off again tonight.

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Blackhawks Blast Red Wings

Pius Suter collected his first three goals in his sixth game and Kevin Lankinen made 25 saves, helping the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Detroit Red Wings 6-2 on Sunday for their second straight win.

 

The 24-year-old Suter became the first player to score each of his first three NHL goals in the same game since Auston Matthews' four-goal debut for Toronto on Oct. 12, 2016. He became the second player to accomplish the feat for the Blackhawks, joining Bill Kendall on Dec. 17, 1933.

 

Connor Murphy and Mattias Janmark each had a goal and an assist as Chicago swept its two-game set with Detroit after beginning the season with four straight losses in Florida. Phillipp Kurashev also scored, and Patrick Kane had two assists.

 

Lankinen was solid once again after he made 30 stops while earning his first career win in Friday night's 4-1 victory against the Red Wings. He was tested on a Dylan Larkin drive early in the second period, but he got over to make the stop at the right post.

 

Tyler Bertuzzi scored twice for Detroit, and Jonathan Bernier made 29 saves. The Red Wings lost for the third time in their past four games.

 

Chicago got off to a fast start behind Suter, a Swiss forward who agreed to a one-year contract in July. He sent a rebound into a wide-open net 4:42 into the first period and then added a power-play goal off a nice pass by Janmark.

 

Chicago went 1 for 2 with the man advantage to move to 8 for 19 on the year. It has scored at least one power-play goal in its first six games for the first time since it opened the 1990-91 season with an 11-game run.

 

The Blackhawks visit Nashville for two straight games against the Predators beginning on Tuesday night.

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Kings Double Up Blues

Anze Kopitar had a goal and two assists, Jonathan Quick made 28 saves and the Los Angeles Kings beat the St. Louis Blues 6-3 on Sunday night.

 

Alex Iafallo, Carl Gundstrom, Gabriel Vilardi, Lias Andersson and Drew Doughty each scored for the Kings as Los Angeles earned a split of its two-game set in St. Louis. Quick improved to 2-0-2.

 

Brayden Schenn scored twice for St. Louis and Ville Husso stopped 29 shots in his first NHL start.

 

St. Louis has lost the second game in all three of its two-game series this season.

 

Los Angeles took the lead on a pair of goals just 23 seconds apart in the first period. With Torey Krug in the penalty box for hooking, Iafallo swatted a loose puck in the crease with 1:47 remaining in the opening period to tie it at 1.

 

Gundstrom put a move on Vince Dunn and faked Justin Faulk to his knees before beating Husso for his first goal of the season.

 

St. Louis went on the power play when Andersson was penalized for hooking with 4:52 remaining in the second. However, Kopitar setup Andersson streaking out of the box to make it 5-1.

 

Schenn put the Blues on the board on a cross-ice feed from Jordan Kyrou 14:26 into the first period. He added his fourth goal of the season 6:01 into the third period.

 

Ryan O'Reilly followed Schenn's second tally with his first goal of the season 48 seconds later to cut the Kings lead to 5-3.

 

Doughty added an empty-net goal with 12 seconds remaining.

 

The Blues open a four-game road trip at Vegas on Tuesday night.

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Illinois State Rolls Bradley

DJ Horne had a season-high 23 points as Illinois State defeated Bradley 71-56 on Wednesday night.

 

Josiah Strong had 14 points for Illinois State (5-8, 2-5 Missouri Valley Conference). Antonio Reeves added 11 points. Dusan Mahorcic had nine rebounds.

 

Bradley totaled 25 points in the second half, a season-low for the team.

 

Elijah Childs had 14 points and 11 rebounds for the Braves (9-5, 3-2). Sean East II added six rebounds.

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Clinton High School Boy's Basketball Coach Excited to Get Back to Practice

For now, it is only practice, but that is good enough for first-year Clinton High School boy's basketball coach Dan Luketich.

 

Fired up, Coach Luketich says it's 'phenomenal'.

 

 

Coach Luketich says while they were missing a few kids for various reasons, everyone was excited to get back. He is ready to get his system installed.

 

 

Back when school started, the conversation centered around if students would be able to handle wearing masks. According to Coach Luketich, they have had very minimal issues and he credits his kids with being very willing to abide by the rules.

 

 

Coach Luketich is planning to practice with the team Monday through Saturday and go full steam right out of the gate.

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Mavs Top Pacers

Kristaps Porzingis posted season-high totals of 27 points and 12 rebounds in leading the Dallas Mavericks to a 124-111 victory at Indiana on Wednesday night.

 

Luka Doncic added 13 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists as Dallas snapped its first three-game losing streak in almost two years.

 

The short-handed Pacers have lost two straight by double digits, their two most lopsided losses of the season. Malcolm Brogdon had 26 points and Domantis Sabonis finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds, giving him a franchise-record 14 in a row.

 

Dallas took the lead for good on the final basket of the third quarter and pulled away with an 11-4 run in the fourth.

 

The Mavericks were in control most of the night after using an early 15-3 run to take a 37-22 lead late in the first quarter.

 

Indiana closed the deficit to 65-63 at the half, then took its first lead when Edmond Sumner's 3-pointer broke a 67-all tie early in the third. It didn't last long.

 

Porzingis scored all of the Mavericks points in a 9-2 run and Dallas eventually extended the margin to 84-76.

 

Again, the Pacers charged back, tying the score at 86 on Brogdon's second 3 of the game, taking an 89-88 lead on his next 3 and then making it 91-88 when Brogdon made a layup.

 

But Dallas answered with a 13-3 run to make it 101-94 and gradually pulled away late to seal it.

Trey Burke scored 22 points off the bench. Tim Hardaway Jr. had 19 points. 

 

Pacers newly acquired guard Caris LeVert sat on Indiana's bench and received a warm welcome from the small crowd when he was introduced late in the first half. 

 

The Pacers host Orlando on Friday after sweeping the Magic last season.

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Sharks Outlast Blues in Shootout Win

Tomas Hertl scored the only goal in a four-round shootout to give the San Jose Sharks a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night.

 

Marcus Sorensen scored the tying goal late in the second period and Martin Jones made 22 saves for the Sharks, who snapped a six-game losing streak to St. Louis that started in the 2019 playoffs.

 

Jones denied all four Blues shooters in the tiebreaker. Both of San Jose's wins this season have come via shootout.

 

Brayden Schenn scored in his second consecutive game for St. Louis. Jordan Binnington made 37 saves but couldn't stop Hertl in the shootout.

 

Kevin Labanc appeared to get the game-winner for San Jose with 11 seconds left in overtime, but the officials quickly waved it off for goaltender interference on Ryan Donato. After a replay review, the call was upheld.

 

John Leonard almost gave the Sharks the lead in this one, ringing a drive off the post early in the second period.

 

Instead, Schenn put the Blues on top at 4:27 of the second off Jordan Kyrou's feed. It was the first time in four games that St. Louis scored first.

 

Vince Dunn came close to building on St. Louis' lead, but he hit the post late in the second.

 

The Sharks took advantage, tying the game with 2:03 left in the second as Sorensen made a diving poke off Matt Nieto's shot to even the game 1-all.

 

The teams combined to go 0 for 12 on the power play.

 

Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola saw his first action of the season, filling in for Marco Scandella. Mikkola was paired with Carl Gunnarsson, who made his season debut on Monday for Robert Bortuzzo, who was placed on injured reserve with an upper-body injury.

 

The Blues continue their four-game homestand by hosting the Los Angeles Kings in the first of a two-game set Saturday night.

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PAC-12 Commissioner Stepping Down at End of June

Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott is stepping down at the end of June, ending an 11-year tenure in which the conference landed a transformational billion-dollar television deal but struggled to keep up with some of its Power Five peers when it came to revenue and exposure.

 

The Pac-12 announced Wednesday night that the 56-year-old Scott and university presidents who make up the league’s executive committee mutually agreed that he would not seek a new contract.

Scott’s current deal was set to expire June 2022, but instead he will finish out this academic year to assist with the transition to his successor.

 

Scott said the decision came together quickly after a routine meeting with the Pac-12′s executive committee last week.

 

Scott came to the Pac-12 in 2009 with no experience as a college sports administrator after two decades working in professional tennis, including a stint as the chairman and CEO of the Women’s Tennis Association. He replaced Tom Hansen in 2009.

 

Under Scott, the Pac-10 became the Pac-12 by adding Colorado and Utah in 2011 and created a football championship game. The additions helped the conference secure a 12-year $3 billion media rights deal with Fox and ESPN that set the standard in the college sports market at the time.

 

That move came after Scott made a bold attempt to raid the Big 12, at first trying to woo Texas and five other schools to create a 16-team conference and then again circling back on Texas and Oklahoma.

 

Scott’s grandest plans never came to fruition. The additions did help the conference secure a 12-year, $3 billion media rights deal with Fox and ESPN. The contract set the standard in the college sports market in 2011 and brought Pac-12 football unprecedented national TV exposure. The Pac-12 also agreed to equal revenue sharing for the first time under the new deal.

 

Those contract are up in 2024 and negotiating the next media rights deals will be a top priority of the next Pac-12 commissioner.

 

Scott’s other daring move has not panned out as well. The Pac-12 Network, launched in 2012, followed the lead of Big Ten Network but never could replicate it as a money-maker for its members.

 

The Pac-12 chose not to partner with an existing cable network the way the Big Ten did with Fox and the Southeastern Conference later did with ESPN.

 

Scott has also been criticized for moving the Pac-12 offices out of Walnut Creek, California, to San Francisco, which drove up operating costs. He is currently the highest paid conference commissioner at $5.4 million for 2019-20, according to USA Today.

 

At the time, though, the move to San Francisco fell in line with the Pac-12 presidents’ charge to Scott: Modernize a conference that had fallen way behind its peers in major college sports.

 

The Pac-12′s highest profile sports, football and men’s basketball, have failed to produce national champions during Scott’s tenure, and some of his long-term plans failed to satisfy the short-term needs of administrators within the conference.

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Clinton High School Girls Basketball Coach Excited For Basketball

Basketball will return next week with limited practices for high schools in Illinois, many hope this will be the proverbial breaking of the seal to bring back sports in the state that have had a moratorium on them since before Christmas.

 

Clinton High School girls basketball coach Josh Williams is excited to get back with his team recognizing they will continue to deal with the challenges of contact tracing and subsequent quarantine issues. 

 

 

According to Coach Williams, with a young team and new kids in the program, they need that practice time. He somewhat anticipated the winds of change as tiers and phases began to be adjusted in Illinois.

 

 

Dealing with the challenges of multi-sport athletes will come into play as girl's volleyball will also be restarting their practices. Coach Williams says those will be challenges they'll have to deal with as they come. He says it will be about doing what is best for each individual. 

 

 

Coach Williams indicates they will ease into their practices and get kids back into the swing of their schedule. He looks forward to the days of Monday through Saturday practices with games twice a week.

 

 

With practices being limited contact and the girls getting back for the first time in months, Coach Williams says they will probably take a slower approach. He reemphasizes his gratitude that they are finally back to playing basketball again. 

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Illinois Rolls Penn State

Kofi Cockburn had 21 points and 12 rebounds, leading No. 22 Illinois to a 79-65 victory over Penn State on Tuesday night.

 

Cockburn leads the nation with 11 double-doubles this season. Ayo Dosunmu and Trent Frazier scored 13 points apiece for Illinois (10-5, 6-3 Big Ten).

 

Myreon Jones scored 20 points and Seth Lundy added 13 for Penn State (3-6, 0-5).

 

Illinois charged to a 13-5 advantage and never relinquished the lead. The Illini led 42-28 at the break. Dosunmu scored just three points in the first half.

 

Illinois held an 18-8 advantage in assists. Dosunmu had 5 assists and freshman guard Andre Curbelo had 4.

 

Illinois shot 46% from the field (26 for 57). Penn State was 21 of 62 (34%).

 

The Illini's game at Michigan State, scheduled for Saturday, was canceled due to COVID-19 issues with the Spartans. Illinois doesn't play again until it hosts No. 4 Iowa on Jan. 29.

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'War on 74' Resumes Tonight

Bradley will look for its sixth straight win in the head-to-head series over Illinois State tonight when the two teams meet at Redbird Arena at 8 pm. 

 

Bradley has won by an average of 10 points in its last five wins over the Redbirds. Illinois State’s last win in the series came on Jan. 17, 2018, a 70-57 win.

 

Elijah Childs is averaging 14.6 points and 7.7 rebounds to lead the way for the Braves. Terry Nolan Jr. is also a big contributor, maintaining an average of 11.1 points per game. The Redbirds have been led by DJ Horne, who is averaging 13 points.

 

Horne has connected on 43.8 percent of the 64 3-pointers he’s attempted and has made 7 of 12 over the last three games. He’s also made 82.4 percent of his free throws this season.

 

The sturdy Bradley defense has held opponents to just 61.5 points per game, the 20th-lowest in Division I. Illinois State has allowed an average of 78.5 points through 12 games (ranked 267th, nationally).

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Panthers Get By Blackhawks in Overtime

Frank Vatrano scored 2:50 into overtime, and the Florida Panthers beat the winless Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 on Tuesday night.

 

Patric Hornqvist and Carter Verhaeghe each scored two goals for Florida (2-0-0). Keith Yandle had two assists.

 

Hornqvist, who was acquired in a September trade with Pittsburgh, has three goals and an assist in the first two games.

 

Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for Florida in his first start of the season, but the two-time Vezina Trophy winner was a bit rusty.

 

The 32-year-old Bobrovsky, who is in the second year of a seven-year, $70 million contract, was deemed ''unfit to play'' during most of training camp. He had a .900 save percentage last season, the second-worst of his career.

 

Dominik Kubalik scored his first two goals of the year for Chicago, which has dropped its first four games of the pandemic-shortened season. Patrick Kane also scored, and Phillipp Kurashev posted his first NHL goal.

 

Kevin Lankinen stopped 23 shots in his first NHL start.

 

Kurashev's shot from the high slot gave the Blackhawks their first lead of the season at 4-3 with 13:54 left. Hornqvist tied it at 4 with his second power-play goal.

 

The Blackhawks have surrendered 20 goals in their four losses, but managed to earn their first point of the season.

 

The Panthers are one of only three teams to allow fans. They allow up to 25% capacity and attendance was 3,667 on Tuesday.

 

The Blackhawks host the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday.

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Tiger Has Another Back Surgery

Tiger Woods has suffered a setback with his back, disclosing Tuesday that he recently had a fifth surgery that will keep him from starting the year until after the West Coast Swing on the PGA Tour.

 

Woods will not play next week in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, which he has won seven times, most recently in 2013. He also won the U.S. Open in 2008 at Torrey Pines, which hosts the U.S. Open again in June.

 

He also will miss the Genesis Invitational on Feb. 18-21 at Riviera, where he serves as tournament host.

 

In a statement from his TGR Foundation, which Woods also tweeted, he did not say when he had the microdiscectomy surgery though Rory McIlroy, speaking Wednesday at a news conference ahead of the Abu Dhabi Championship, said it took place on Dec. 23 and that Woods was “back on his feet the next day.”

 

It was to remove a pressurized disc fragment that was giving him nerve pain during the PNC Championship last month that he played with 11-year-old son Charlie.

 

Doctors said the operation was a success and predicted a full recovery, according to the statement.

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Illinois Drops in Latest College Basketball Polls

Gonzaga and Baylor maintained their grip on the top two spots in The Associated Press men’s basketball poll Monday.

 

If third-ranked Villanova ever plays a game, perhaps it will make a run a them.

 

The Bulldogs again racked up all but the two first-place votes that went to the Bears, while the Wildcats remained firmly behind the preseason top two despite not playing a game since Dec. 23. They had a pair of COVID-19 pauses broken up by a single day, including one involving coach Jay Wright, effectively sidelining them for a month.

 

The last five in were Oregon, Illinois, Connecticut, UCLA and Saint Louis. Illinois dropped two games at home in between a mid-week postponed game against Nebraska. 

 

The same teams made up the top 5 this week, though Iowa and Texas swapped places.

 

Tennessee climbed from 10th to sixth and was followed by Michigan, which remained No. 7 after losing its first game of the season to No. 17 Minnesota. Houston climbed three spots to eighth, Kansas fell three spots to ninth and Wisconsin rounded out the top 10 after following up a lopsided loss to the Wolverines with a gritty win at Rutgers.

 

Creighton was No. 11, followed by the Red Raiders and Virginia, which rose five spots after its blowout win over No. 20 Clemson. West Virginia and Ohio State were next, with Virginia Tech climbing four spots to No. 16 on the heels of a win over Duke, which knocked the Blue Devils from the Top 25 for the first time since Feb. 8, 2016.

 

The Golden Gophers were followed by Auburn, one of this week’s poll newcomers, Missouri and Clemson.

 

Duke dropped to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the ACC after losing to the Hokies last week. Its streak of 91 consecutive weeks in the Top 25 was second only to Kansas, which extended its record to 229 weeks. Gonzaga is now No. 2 at 87 weeks.

 

This week’s AP poll is the first since Dec. 18, 1961 — when only 10 teams were included each week — in which Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina are all unranked.

 

 

 

On the strength of two quality wins in conference play this week, both Alabama and Ohio State jumped eight spots in the latest Coaches Poll released on Monday. The Crimson Tide rose from No. 24 to No. 16 after crushing Kentucky at Ruppa Arena then beating Arkansas at home in similarly dominant fashion. The Buckeyes went from unranked in the poll to No. 18 after beating Northwestern at home then claiming a signature win over Illinois.

 

Illinois, who had a postponed mid-week game with Nebraska sandwiched by two home losses to Maryland and Ohio State. Illinois goes from No. 13 last week to No. 24 this week. 

 

Ohio State was one of three teams to join the poll this week after being unranked last week.

 

Colorado and Florida State also cracked the poll, at No. 23 and No. 25, respectively. The Buffaloes extended their winning streak to four games after wins over Cal and Stanford this week, and FSU claimed wins over NC State and North Carolina in consecutive games to join the poll.

 

As for the top of the rankings, Gonzaga held steady at No. 1 once again, earning 28 of a possible 31 first-place votes, while Baylor garnered the remaining three first-place votes and stayed at No. 2.

 

Villanova also stayed at No. 3, while Iowa leapt four spots to No. 4 and Texas fell to No. 5. Rounding out the top 10 this week is No. 6 Tennessee, No. 7 Michigan, No. 8 Houston, No. 9 Kansas and No. 10 Wisconsin.

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Bulls Topple Harden-Less Rockets

Zach LaVine scored 33 points, and the Chicago Bulls overcame a strong effort by Victor Oladipo in his Houston debut, beating the Rockets 125-120 on Monday night.

 

LaVine led seven Bulls players in double figures and added seven assists. He scored nine points in the closing minutes of the third to help send Chicago to the final quarter with a 93-86 lead.

 

The Bulls made enough shots down the stretch to win for the second time in as many days after losing four straight by four points or fewer.

 

Lauri Markkanen finished with 18 points. The 7-footer from Finland nailed a 3-pointer in the closing minute to make it a six-point game, helping Chicago squeeze out a tight win after an easy victory at Dallas. And the Bulls hit 20 of 45 from beyond the arc.

 

Oladipo looked good in his first game for Houston, setting season highs with 32 points and nine assists. The two-time All-Star was acquired from Indiana as part of the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn last week after he said the Rockets weren't ''good enough.''

 

Christian Wood scored 30 and grabbed nine rebounds. Eric Gordon added 21 points after missing back-to-back games because of tightness in his lower left leg. The Rockets lost for the fourth time in five games.

 

Oladipo nailed a 3 to cut it to 114-111 with 1:50 remaining. LaVine answered with a finger roll layup for Chicago.

 

Wood made a pair of free throws for Houston with just over a minute remaining. But Markkanen hit a 3 from the wing off a feed from LaVine after a driving Coby White passed out to the perimeter, making it 119-113 with 46.9 seconds left.

 

The Bulls held out rookie forwards Patrick Williams (bruised right hip) and Otto Porter Jr. (strained lower back). Williams, the No. 4 overall pick in the draft, started Chicago's first 13 games.

 

The Bulls play at Charlotte on Friday before the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers visit on Saturday.

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Blues Outlast Sharks

Jordan Kyrou got the tiebreaking goal midway through the third period, Justin Faulk scored twice and the St. Louis Blues rallied to beat the San Jose Sharks 5-4 Monday night.

 

Mike Hoffman scored his first goal as a Blue and Brayden Schenn also scored for St. Louis, which beat San Jose for the fourth straight time on home ice. Jordan Binnington made 22 saves.

 

Logan Couture had two goals and an assist, Brent Burns had a goal and two assists, and Kevin Labanc also scored for the Sharks. Devan Dubnyk stopped 27 shots.

 

Kyrou's wrist shot snapped a 4-all tie midway through the third. It was his second career game-winner after getting his first in the Blues' season-opener at Colorado on Wednesday.

 

Faulk got his second goal when he tipped in David Perron's pass with one minute left to cap a back-and-forth second period and give the Blues their first lead of the game. It was his first multi-goal game since recording a hat trick as a member of the Carolina Hurricanes against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 13, 2018.

 

Couture countered with his second of the game, from a severe angle, to tie it at 4 at the 4:17 mark of the third period.

 

The Sharks took an early lead with first period goals from Labanc and Couture. Labanc deflected in Burns' slapshot with 8:22 left in the first period, and Couture followed with a power play tally a few minutes later.

 

The Blues tied it with quick goals by Faulk and Hoffman early in the second period.

 

Faulk got the Blues on the board at the 2:36 mark moments after he finished serving a tripping penalty. Ivan Barbashev hit him with a breakout pass as he exited the box, and Hoffman tied it at 2 just 93 seconds later, deflecting Colton Parayko's shot from the point.

 

Burns regained the lead for San Jose with a power-play goal with 7:54 left in the second.

 

St. Louis responded two minutes later with Schenn's shot that knuckled its way across the goal line.

The teams conclude their two-game set in St. Louis on Wednesday night.

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Padres Acquire Joe Musgrove in Three-Team Deal

The San Diego Padres are adding yet another pitcher to their rotation, agreeing to bring right-hander Joe Musgrove to his hometown team in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates, according to a person familiar with the deal.

 

Another person confirmed the New York Mets were also involved in the trade, acquiring left-hander Joey Lucchesi from San Diego.

 

Musgrove, who played at Grossmont High in suburban El Cajon, California, will join a rotation that includes Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, who were obtained in blockbuster trades after Christmas.

 

Musgrove will head from a Pirates team that had the worst record in the majors during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to a Padres club that ended a 13-year playoff drought and believes it can contend for the World Series title.

 

Lucchesi is likely to compete for a spot at the back of New York’s rotation behind two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Marcus Stroman and David Peterson. The Mets also expect to have Noah Syndergaard back from Tommy John surgery some time after May.

 

The 27-year-old Lucchesi made 56 starts for San Diego over 2018 and ’19 but struggled in limited duty last season. He made two starts and one relief appearance, going 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA.

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Ex-Cubs Pitcher Lester Agrees to 1-Year Deal With Nationals

Left-hander Jon Lester and the Washington Nationals have an agreement in principle in place for a one-year contract, pending the successful completion of a physical exam, a person with knowledge of the deal confirmed to The Associated Press.

 

ESPN was first to report an agreement between Lester and the Nationals, whose manager, Dave Martinez, was the bench coach for the Chicago Cubs when the starting pitcher helped that club win the 2016 World Series for its first title in 108 years.

 

Lester is expected to fill the need for a No. 4 starter in Washington, slotting into a rotation that is led by three-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, 2019 World Series MVP and lefty Patrick Corbin.

 

Coming off a last-place finish in the NL East in 2020, Washington’s busy offseason already included adding outfielder Kyle Schwarber via free agency — like Lester, from the Cubs — and first baseman Josh Bell in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

 

Lester turned 37 this month and will be heading into his 16th season in 2021. He has a 193-111 record and 3.60 ERA for his career, which mostly was spent with the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, plus part of one season with the Oakland Athletics.

 

Lester is a workhorse who has topped 200 innings in eight regular seasons and still threw at least 170 in each of the past three full years.

 

He’s also been a postseason star, putting up a 2.51 ERA across 154 innings while helping Boston win a pair of World Series championships before being a part of Chicago’s title run.

 

Lester pitched 61 innings across 12 starts during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, going 3-3 with a career-high 5.16 ERA for the Cubs.

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Optimism Growing Over High School Sports Resuming

Last week felt like a turning point in the fight towards the return of high school athletics in Illinois.

 

Jon Kerr of the Kerr Report has been following the up-and-down battle to bring back high school sports in Illinois and says last week felt like a turning point as several high-profile people began using their platforms to advocate for student athletes. Kerr is as optimistic as he's been in this whole process.

 

 

A lack of transparency from the Governor's office has long been a frustration for administrators, coaches, parents and athletes. Kerr points out the frustration is only growing watching all the surrounding states successfully execute sports seasons.

 

 

According to Kerr, the good news is that there is finally movement in the dialogue between the IHSA, IDPH and the Governor's office, as the three entities recently met to discuss what is next.

 

 

Kerr says the IHSA has kicked the can to the end of the road and now decisions have to be made. In about a month, the rescheduled high school football and volleyball seasons are tentatively scheduled to start back up. 

 

Friday, it was announced Illinois regions reduced their COVID mitigations, opening the door for some prep sports to return. 

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IHSA Executive Director Confident Outdoor Sports Will be Played This Year

IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson feels confident about traditional spring sports like baseball, softball and track having seasons this school year.

 

 

The IHSA is still waiting on “return to play” and will meet again on Jan. 27. They are still hoping all sports--even “high risk” sports such as football, basketball and wrestling—can still have seasons this school year.

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Bradley Rolls Evansville

Ja'Shon Henry had 16 points off the bench to lead Bradley to an 86-55 wire-to-wire win over Evansville on Sunday.

 

The Braves built a 23-6 lead on a 3-pointer from Ville Tahvanainen seven minutes into the game.

 

Terry Nolan Jr. had 13 points for Bradley (9-4, 3-1 Missouri Valley Conference), which earned its fifth consecutive home victory. Tahvanainen added 12 points. Elijah Childs had 10 points.

 

Iyen Enaruna had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Purple Aces (6-8, 4-4). Noah Ferderking added nine points, Jax Levitch added nine rebounds.

 

Jawaun Newton, whose 12.0 points per game coming into the contest ranked second on the Purple Aces, was held to 5 points on 2-of-11 shooting.

 

Bradley defeated Evansville 69-60 on Saturday.

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Indiana State Beats Illinois State

Tyreke Key scored 18 points as Indiana State turned aside a late rally to defeat Illinois State 74-68 on Sunday.

 

Randy Miller Jr. had 13 points for Indiana State (6-7, 3-5 Missouri Valley Conference). Tre Williams added 11 points and three blocks. Tobias Howard, Jr. had 11 points.

 

Key scored four of the Sycamores last eight points as Illinois State cut a 15-point gap down to 72-67 on a Dusan Mahoric basket with 17 seconds left.

 

Dedric Boyd had 19 points for the Redbirds (4-8, 1-5). Antonio Reeves added 14 points. Mahorcic had 12 points and 11 rebounds.

 

Indiana State defeated Illinois State 73-65 on Saturday.

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Clippers Throttle Pacers

Marcus Morris scored a season-high 20 points to lead seven players in double figures, and the Los Angeles Clippers defeated the Indiana Pacers 129-96 on Sunday night for their first four-game winning streak of the season.

 

With sharpshooter Lou Williams sidelined, Morris came off the bench to hit four 3-pointers, tying his season-high. He was coming off an 18-point performance at Sacramento on Friday. The Clippers made 19 of 39 from long-range, outdueling the Pacers, who were 11 of 38.

 

Fellow reserve Luke Kennard added season highs of 20 points and five 3-pointers. Paul George also had 20 points. Kawhi Leonard had 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Clippers.

 

Doug McDermott led the Pacers with 23 points, making five 3-pointers. Domantas Sabonis added 19 points and 14 rebounds.

 

Indiana had won two straight, but was idle since Thursday at Portland. The team's game at Phoenix on Saturday was postponed because of COVID-19 issues.

 

The Pacers host Dallas on Wednesday.

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Bulls Roll Mavs

Lauri Markkanen had 29 points and 10 rebounds, Garrett Temple scored 15 of his season-high 21 points in the second quarter and the Chicago Bulls ended a four-game losing streak with a 117-101 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday.

 

Dallas star Luka Doncic passed Michael Jordan on the career list with his 29th triple-double, finishing with 36 points, 16 rebounds and 15 assists, including a behind-the-back pass to Willie Cauley-Stein for a dunk. Doncic is tied with Grant Hill for 15th place.

 

Doncic had his European sidekick in Kristaps Porzingis, who scored 20 points, after both missed a loss at Chicago this month. But the 7-foot-3 Latvian was 0 of 7 from 3-point range as Dallas players not named Doncic shot 10% from deep (2 of 20).

 

Zach LaVine, who had 21 first-quarter points in the earlier win over Dallas, didn't get his first bucket until the third quarter while going 1 of 8 from the field and making all eight free throws to finish with 10 points and 10 assists.

 

Chicago native and Dallas guard Jalen Brunson, who scored a season-high 31 points when Doncic was sidelined by a quadriceps injury in Chicago, was listed as questionable on the COVID-19 list and didn't play. 

 

Chicago visits Houston on Monday to finish its fourth back-to-back. The Bulls have lost each of the first three back ends.

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Panthers Blast Blackhawks

Keith Yandle got his 100th career goal, Chris Driedger made 23 saves and the Florida Panthers beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Sunday night.

 

Eetu Luostarinen scored his first NHL goal, and Aaron Ekblad, Patric Hornqvist, and Jonathan Huberdeau also scored for Florida, which had three goals in the third period to pull away in its delayed opener. The Panthers were to have played Dallas last week twice, games that were called off because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Stars.

 

Alex DeBrincat and Connor Murphy scored for the Blackhawks. Collin Delia stopped 24 shots.

 

As late as last Friday, it seemed as if Yandle was going to be scratched from this game and break his string of playing in 866 consecutive regular-season games, the longest active streak in the NHL.

 

Instead, Yandle scored the goal and extended his streak to 867.

 

The Blackhawks have given up 15 goals in three games.

 

The teams finish their two-game set on Tuesday.

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Illinois Football Coach Enters 'Return to Play' Dicsussion

A snap hasn't been taken and practice hasn't been held but recently hired Illinois football coach Bret Bielema is diving into the 'return to play' discussion in Illinois.

 

Bielema has been on the job barely a month but a tweet earlier this week from the Illini football coach is grabbing the attention of many and giving hope to many perhaps the hiring of Bielema will mean more than just wins on the football for the University of Illinois. 

 

Jon Kerr who runs his own sports website, The Kerr Report, says this week seems to be significant in people with a platform beginning to advocate for kids to be playing sports.

 

 

The move could have a two-fold purpose for Bielema. Bielema, who won three Big Ten championships in his time at Wisconsin and was Coach of the Year in 2006, has said he wants to keep the best and brightest high school football players in Illinois. Kerr says advocating for athletes to get back to playing football would allow him to see the players in Illinois and could help on the recruiting trail.

 

 

Kerr is optimistic about a meeting recently with the IHSA, IDPH, and the Governor's office. He hopes with mitigations expected to be lessened in the days ahead, plus cases dropping and the vaccine rollout there might be a possibility we end up playing sports very soon. 

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Packers Host Rams for Chance at NFC Title Again

No NFL team scored more points during the regular season than the Green Bay Packers. Nobody has played better defense than the Los Angeles Rams.

 

That sets up an intriguing showdown of strength vs. strength when MVP favorite Aaron Rodgers and the Packers (13-3) host All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald and the Rams (11-6) in an NFC divisional playoff game Saturday.

 

The Packers have won six straight games and have been held below 22 points just once all season. Los Angeles got to this point by sacking Russell Wilson five times in a 30-20 victory at Seattle last week.

 

Rodgers has set franchise single-season records for touchdown passes (48) and completion percentage (.707) this year while throwing just five interceptions for an offense scoring 31.8 points per game. Donald calls Rodgers a ''great quarterback that's playing lights out this year.''

 

Donald leads a defense that allowed the fewest points and yards of any team during the regular season.

 

This will be the first time the NFL's top-ranked scoring offense and scoring defense have faced off in the postseason since the New England-Atlanta Super Bowl on Feb. 5, 2017. The Patriots had the top-ranked defense and the Falcons had the No. 1 offense that year.

 

This also will be the Rams' first playoff game at Lambeau Field. These two franchises have met in the postseason just twice before, with the Packers winning 28-7 in Milwaukee on Dec. 23, 1967, and the Rams winning 45-17 in St. Louis on Jan. 20, 2002.

 

John Wolford started at quarterback for the Rams against Seattle, but left early in the game with a neck stinger that will prevent him from playing Saturday. That means the Rams will turn to Jared Goff, who is less than three weeks removed from thumb surgery.

 

The Rams' most important offensive players right now might be rookie running back Cam Akers and left tackle Andrew Whitworth. Although both are recovering from recent injuries, they're the keys to a revitalized ground game that racked up 164 yards rushing last week.

 

Green Bay has outscored opponents 299-163 in the first half this season, including a 219-92 edge in the second quarter. The Packers actually have been outscored 124-107 in the fourth quarter and overtime, but they've made up for that by building such big early leads.

 

The Rams are 37-0 in games they've led at halftime during McVay's four-year tenure.

 

The Packers won't have All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in practice on Dec. 31.

 

Green Bay's offensive line fared well without Bakhtiari in a 35-16 victory at Chicago to close the regular season, but his absence is more of a concern against a Rams team that led the NFL with 53 regular-season sacks.

 

Donald left the Seahawks game last week with injured ribs, but the Rams have expressed confidence the six-time All-Pro will play Saturday.

 

The Packers will be playing a home game in front of paying spectators for the first time this season. The Lambeau Field crowd will include about 6,500 season-ticket holders as well as invited frontline health-care workers and first responders plus a league-mandated allotment for the visiting team.

 

Green Bay hadn't allowed any spectators for its first four regular-season home games due to the pandemic. In late November, the Packers made seating available to team employees and their immediate family members. The last two home games also featured hundreds of frontline workers who were invited to attend.

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Pacers Get By Blazers

Domantas Sabonis had 23 points and 15 rebounds, and Indiana held Portland's dynamic backcourt duo in check for a 111-87 victory Thursday night.

 

Malcolm Brogdon added 25 points and seven assists for the Pacers, who improved to 4-1 on the road this season and snapped an 11-game losing streak in Portland. Indiana led by 25 in the second quarter and maintained a double-digit advantage the rest of the way.

 

CJ McCollum and Damian Lillard each scored 22 for the Blazers, playing the second of a back-to-back.

 

The loss was costly for Portland: During the third quarter, center Jusuf Nurkic left the court holding his right wrist and the Blazers later announced he had sustained a fracture.

 

The Trail Blazers (7-5) won in Sacramento 132-126 on Wednesday night. Lillard had a season-high 40 points in that one and Portland tied a franchise record with 23 3-pointers.

 

The Blazers lead the NBA in 3s but they were off against the Pacers, making just 13 of 43 (30.2%).

The Pacers (8-4) were coming off a 104-95 road victory over the Warriors on Tuesday night, when Myles Turner had a season-best 22 points. He finished with 11 points and 10 rebounds against the Blazers, along with four blocks.

 

The Pacers traded Victor Oladipo to the Rockets as part of the four-team blockbuster Thursday that sent James Harden from Houston to Brooklyn. Indiana got guard Caris LeVert from the Nets and a draft pick in the deal.

 

Indiana led by six in the opening quarter, but the score was tied at 26 going into the second. A 12-0 run capped by McDermott's layup put the Pacers up 40-28.

 

Indiana extended its lead to 25 before going into halftime up 59-36. The Pacers outscored the Blazers 33-10 in the second period.

 

Portland was hurt in the third when Nurkic headed to the locker room after appearing to injure his right hand. The Blazers announced he fractured his wrist, but additional details were not available.

But the Blazers chipped away at Indiana's lead, pulling to 82-71 late in the third on Carmelo Anthony's 3-pointer.

 

The Pacers were scheduled to play the Suns in Phoenix on Saturday, but that game was postponed because of COVID-19 protocols. Indiana's next game is at the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday.

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Former Cubs Executive Epstein Hired By MLB

Former Chicago Cubs and Boston Red Sox executive Theo Epstein has been hired by Major League Baseball as a consultant for on-field matters and will evaluate possible rule changes.

 

Epstein will work with baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred, the owners’ competition committee and analytics experts, MLB said Thursday.

 

MLB is considering possible rule changes such as expanding the designated hitter to the National League. The DH was adopted by the American League for the 1973 season and was used by the NL as an experiment last year during the novel coronavirus pandemic.

 

Manfred would like to speed to pace of play, which rose to a record average of 3 hours, 5 minutes, 35 seconds for nine-inning games last season, up from 3:00:44 in 2018 and 2:46 in 2005.

 

Epstein was the Red Sox general manager from 2003-11, putting together the team that won the 2004 World Series for Boston’s first title since 1918, and then another championship team in 2007.

 

He was the Cubs’ president of baseball operations from 2012-20 and guided Chicago to the 2016 World Series title, the team’s first since 1908.

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Urban Meyer Hired to Lead Jaguars

Urban Meyer agreed to become head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday, leaving the broadcast booth and returning to the sidelines after a two-year absence that followed another health scare.

 

The 56-year-old Meyer was team owner Shad Khan’s top target for weeks, maybe even months, and the deal was signed shortly after their third and final meeting in seven days. They met last Friday on Khan’s yacht in Miami, again Wednesday and once more at the facility Thursday.

 

Hiring the longtime college coach with three national championships signifies a new direction for a franchise that has lost 105 of 144 games since Khan took over in 2012.

 

Meyer went 187-32 — a staggering winning percentage of 85.3 — in stops at Bowling Green (2001-02), Utah (2003-04), Florida (2005-10) and Ohio State (2012-18). He ranks seventh all time in collegiate winning percentage, trailing only Notre Dame legends Knute Rockne and Frank Leahy among coaches at major programs.

 

But some doubts remain about Meyer’s ability to make a smooth transition to the NFL, where motivational tactics tend to be moot and losing multiple games every year is a given. Meyer never lost more than five times in any season as a college head coach; he went 83-9 at Ohio State.

 

Still, Meyer has been eyeing an NFL move for months. He researched the league with help from former players and friends, started assembling a potential staff and learned how the front office works. Meyer and Khan have been friends for years, building a relationship while both were living in Big Ten country.

 

Jacksonville was the most attractive opening. The Jaguars have 11 picks in the 2021 draft, including five in the top 65, and are nearly $100 million under the projected salary cap. Adding to the appeal: Khan, a billionaire businessman, has shown a penchant for patience and a willingness to spend big.

 

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence is a lock to land in Jacksonville with the top pick and will be the centerpiece of the team’s latest rebuild.

 

Khan also interviewed Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, Atlanta defensive coordinator Raheem Morris, San Francisco defensive coordinator Robert Saleh and Tennessee offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

 

Meyer’s health remains a concern, though. He stepped down at Ohio State in 2018 mostly because of a congenital arachnoid cyst in his brain, which required surgery in 2014 and bothered him throughout his final season with the Buckeyes. He also resigned at Florida for health reasons in December 2009 only to change his mind the following day and instead take a leave of absence.

 

He returned to coach in 2010 and then walked away again at the end of the season, a move that eventually angered many Florida faithful because he took the job at Ohio State less than a year later.

 

Meyer spent the last two years in an analyst role for Fox Sports, appearing weekly on the network’s college football pregame show.

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Niemann Finishes Strong, Shares Lead at SONY Open

Four days after a pair of pars on the final hole at Kapalua led to a playoff loss, Joaquin Niemann holed a 50-foot chip for eagle on the 18th hole Thursday for an 8-under 62 and a share of the lead with Jason Kokrak and Peter Malnati at the Sony Open.

 

Niemann’s only bogey was when he fell asleep on a 25-foot birdie putt above the hole at No. 12, ran it 10 feet by the hole and three-putted. The finish was exquisite.

 

Kokrak played bogey-free, and he was as pleased with a 15-foot par putt on No. 1 — his 10th hole of the round — than any of his nine birdies. He had a 25-foot eagle putt for 61 on his closing hole that narrowly missed.

 

Malnati was the only one at 62 who played in the morning, though conditions were similar for much of the day.

 

The group at 64 included Daniel Berger, among the 31 players in the Sentry Tournament of Champion last week on Maui, and Jim Herman, who should have been there.

 

Harris English, hopeful of being only the third player to sweep the Hawaii swing, had three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on his second nine and had to birdie two of the last three holes for an even-par 70.

 

Scoring was so low that only 30 players from the 144-man field were over par.

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Pebble Beach to Be For Pros Only This Year

The only stars at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am this year will be the players and the golf course.

 

The spike in COVID-19 cases in California led organizers to cancel the pro-am portion of a tournament with a long history of entertainers, celebrities and CEOs mixing with the pros on one of the most famous and picturesque landscapes in America.

 

That means no antics from Bill Murray, Justin Timberlake breaking out into song while waiting on a tee box or even the latest fashion statement from rap singer Macklemore.

 

The tournament also is losing one of its golf courses. The 156-man field on Feb. 11-14 will be held only at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill. It typically includes the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

 

Pebble Beach, which already had announced it would not have spectators, is the second PGA Tour event to lose a pro-am format during competition. The American Express next week in La Quinta, California, previously announced it would have only professionals on two courses instead of three in the desert.

 

This was to be the 75th anniversary of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am since moving to the Monterey Peninsula in 1947 as the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, and celebrities have been a major part of the scene ever since.

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Bears to Bring Back Pace, Nagy

The Chicago Bears plan to keep general manager Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy for at least another season.

 

The team opted against sweeping changes in leadership after the Bears slipped into the playoffs despite going 8-8 for the second year in a row, chairman George McCaskey said Wednesday.

 

The announcement comes on the heels of the Bears’ wild-card loss at New Orleans on Sunday, their second playoff appearance in three years. Chicago won the NFC North at 12-4 in 2018 — Nagy’s first season.

 

The Bears have two playoff appearances and a 42-54 regular-season record in six years under Pace, while Nagy is 28-20. They have not won in the postseason since the 2010 team played in the NFC championship game.

 

There was speculation Pace or Nagy could be on their way out when the Bears lost six in a row this season — their worst skid since 2002. Chicago regrouped by winning three straight against struggling teams before closing the regular season with a 35-16 loss to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.

 

The Bears made the playoffs because Arizona lost to the Los Angeles Rams. Chicago then got knocked out in convincing fashion by Drew Brees and the Saints.

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Blues Open 2021 Season With Win Over Avalanche

Oskar Sundqvist scored twice and blocked four shots, Jordan Binnington made 26 saves and the St. Louis Blues beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-1 on Wednesday night in the season opener for both teams.

 

The Blues had to juggles things around when they found out forward Mike Hoffman couldn't play due to visa issues. The team was looking forward to having him in the lineup, too. He signed a one-year contract Monday after signing a professional tryout agreement with St. Louis on Dec. 27.

 

Jordan Kyrou also found the net after being recalled from the taxi squad, and new addition Kyle Clifford added another goal as the Blues scored four unanswered.

 

Andre Burakovsky scored early in the first period for the Avalanche, whose streak of season-opening wins was halted at four.

 

It was a surreal start to the season inside a mostly empty Ball Arena, where artificial noise was pumped in and on occasion would suddenly cut out. There were good-luck signs from fans lining the glass near the net before the game.

 

Binnington was brilliant all night, including a stop of Nathan MacKinnon's shot in the second period after the Colorado forward sped coast-to-coast, weaving through traffic.

 

Kyrou was recalled from the taxi squad Wednesday morning after making the trip with the team. His goal at 13:15 of the first gave the Blues a 2-1 lead. It was a nifty bit of passing that set up the score, as Kyrou sent the puck to Tyler Bozak, who sent it right back to Kyrou for the goal.

 

Philipp Grubauer stopped 28 of 32 shots in a rough start for Colorado.

 

The Blues placed forward Vladimir Tarasenko (upper body) on long-term injured reserve.

 

The Blues stay in Denver to play Colorado again on Friday. Last season, the Avs and Blues split their four meetings, with the home team winning every matchup.

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Lightning Blast Blackhawks To Open Season

Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists in his return to the Tampa Bay Lightning lineup, and the defending Stanley Cup champions opened the season with 5-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

 

Stamkos underwent surgery in early March that kept him out of all but one game in the playoffs before undergoing surgery again in October to repair the same core muscle. Wednesday's game was the first full game Stamkos played since Feb. 22.

 

Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat and Mathieu Joseph also scored to help Tampa Bay win its seventh consecutive season opener. Victor Hedman and Alex Killorn each finished with two assists. Andrei Vasilevskiy had 23 saves.

 

Dylan Strome scored for Chicago, and Malcolm Subban stopped 28 shots.

 

Tampa Bay raced out to a 3-0 lead in the opening period on Palat's rebound goal on the power play, Joseph's redirect that bounced in off Subban, and Cirelli's deflection of Erik Cernak's shot.

 

Stamkos made it 4-0 with a power play goal in the second, one-timing a shot from the left circle where he's scored so many goals during his career.

 

Point one-timed Stamkos' pass from the slot in the third that made it 5-0 before Strome broke the shutout bid with a power-play goal that bounced in off the skate of Vasilevskiy with 3:24 remaining.

 

Chicago played without captain Jonathan Toews, who is out indefinitely with an undisclosed illness.

 

The Blackhawks stay in Tampa to take on the Lightning again on Friday.

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Harden to Nets in 4-Team Blockbuster, Pacers Get Lavert

James Harden is heading to Brooklyn, joining old teammate Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving to give the Nets a potent trio featuring some of the NBA’s highest scorers.

 

The Nets agreed to acquire the three-time scoring champion from the Houston Rockets on Wednesday in a move Harden has sought for weeks, a person with knowledge of the situation said.

 

Harden is the centerpiece of a four-team deal that also involves Indiana and Cleveland, according to the person who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade call with the NBA — which signs off on all deals — had not been completed.

 

Once it is, the Nets will be able to trot out a lineup of three players capable of scoring 25 or more points on any night in a collection of firepower to rival any Big Three in recent years.

 

The Nets are loading up for a title run with three of the highest-paid players in the league. All are under contract through 2022-23, with Harden and Durant both set to earn more than $40 million in each of the next two seasons.

 

At least four draft picks and additional pick swaps are also part of the deal, the person said. Other key players: Victor Oladipo goes from Indiana to Houston, and Caris LeVert goes from Brooklyn to Indiana, the person said. The Cavaliers will get Jarrett Allen and Taurean Prince from the Nets in the deal, a person familiar with the trade told the AP.

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Packers QB Rodgers to Guest Host 'Jeopardy!'

reen Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers says he will be a guest host on “Jeopardy!” during the offseason.

 

The show is currently using a series of interim hosts to replace Alex Trebek, who died of cancer on Nov. 8. That process began when record-holding contestant Ken Jennings made his debut on an episode that aired Monday.

 

Rodgers was a winning “Celebrity Jeopardy!” contestant in 2015. The All-Pro quarterback and two-time MVP is currently preparing to lead the Packers (13-3) into their NFC divisional playoff game Saturday with the Los Angeles Rams (11-6).

 

Rodgers first made the announcement earlier Tuesday during an appearance on Sirius XM’s “The Pat McAfee Show.” A representative from “Jeopardy!” declined comment and said no announcement has been made about future guest hosts.

 

Rodgers mentioned the nostalgic connection people have to certain figures based on their childhood. He compared meeting Trebek during his “Celebrity Jeopardy!" stint to his first production meetings with Keith Jackson, John Madden and Dan Fouts, longtime broadcasters he had watched as a kid.

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COVID Forcing Clinton HS Basketball Coach to Get Acclimated in Different Environment

For first-year basketball coaches, getting to know their new teams often comes with time.

 

Seeing the kids in the hallways of the schools and watching them in practice are perhaps the biggest ways a new coach gets to know their new team. For first-year Clinton High School boy's basketball coach Dan Luketich, COVID is forcing him to take a different approach to get to know his players.

 

 

According to Coach Luketich, this week begins limited practices and while trying to predict what will happen next has gone off the radar for him, he says you take the time you have and make the most of it.

 

 

The IHSA is meeting this week for what could provide further guidance on the future of high school sports in Illinois. 

 

Hear more from Coach Luketich in this week's Clinton Maroon's Player Spotlight program on WHOW and our many online platforms along with seniors in the Clinton High School basketball program.

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Packers Add OT Veldheer

Offensive tackle Jared Veldheer is back with the Green Bay Packers, giving him an opportunity to compete in playoff games for different teams on back-to-back weekends.

 

Veldheer was with the Packers for Tuesday's practice. The Packers (13-3) are hosting the Los Angeles Rams (11-6) in an NFC divisional playoff game Saturday.

 

The 33-year-old Veldheer was the Indianapolis Colts’ starting left tackle for their final two games, including a 27-24 AFC first-round playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills last weekend.

 

Because the Colts merely elevated him from the practice squad for game day and didn’t officially sign him to their 53-man roster, the Packers were able to sign him this week. The Packers announced the signing Tuesday and made room for him by placing guard Simon Stepaniak on injured reserve.

 

Veldheer joined the Packers late last season and was their starting right tackle for a divisional playoff victory over the Seattle Seahawks when an illness left Bryan Bulaga unable to play in that game.

 

The addition of Veldheer gives the Packers more options as they try to replace All-Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari, who is out for the remainder of the season after injuring his knee during a Dec. 31 practice.

 

Green Bay replaced Bakhtiari for its regular-season finale by moving right tackle Billy Turner over to left tackle and starting Rick Wagner at right tackle. The rest of the line included Pro Bowl left guard Elgton Jenkins, All-Pro center Corey Linsley and right guard Lucas Patrick.

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Bears DC Pagano to Retire

Chuck Pagano, a longtime NFL coach who spent the last two seasons as the Chicago Bears' defensive coordinator, is retiring, according to NFL Network's Mike Garofolo and Ian Rapoport. 

 

Pagano, 60, presided over a Bears defense that finished 11th and 8th in yards allowed during his two seasons with the team, respectively. In 2020, Chicago's defense finished 14th in the NFL in scoring, 12th in passing, 15th in rushing, eighth in third down efficiency and fifth in red zone efficiency. The Bears defense was led by linebackers Khalil Mack (nine sacks, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries), Roquan Smith (139 tackles, four sacks, two interceptions), Danny Trevathan (113 tackles) and safety Eddie Jackson (82 tackles, three forced fumbles). The Bears went 8-8 during the regular season before falling to the New Orleans Saints in the wild-card round of the playoffs. 

 

In 2012, Pagano was hired as the Indianapolis Colts' coach, a position he held through the 2017 season. During his first seasons in Indianapolis, Pagano guided to the Colts to three playoff appearances and a trip to the AFC title game in 2014. 

 

The Bears will now begin the process of finding Pagano's successor. Raheem Morris is among the possible candidates -- he served as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' head coach during the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Morris, who served as the Atlanta Falcons' defensive coordinator last season, went 4-7 as Atlanta's interim coach after Dan Quinn was fired following an 0-5 start. 

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The Masters Plans for Limited Fans at Augusta in April

Augusta National Chairman Fred Ridley said Tuesday the club intends to allow a limited number of spectators for the Masters on April 8-11, provided it can be done safely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

In other areas, the Masters in April will be a lot like the last one in November. Ridley said it will be conducted with similar health and safety standards. Those standards included mandatory testing for the coronavirus and masks being worn to prevent its spread.

 

Ridley said holding the Masters with only essential personnel made the club confident in its ability to stage a major championship with limited fans.

 

The Masters was played Nov. 12-15 — the first time in the autumn since it began in 1934 — because of the pandemic that forced golf to reconfigure its major championship season and led to the cancellation of the British Open.

 

Ridley did not indicate how many spectators will be allowed. The Masters does not publicize how many tickets it sells or how many people typically are on the grounds. It has been estimated at roughly 40,000, though it’s far easier to judge the attendance in volume decibels.

 

The roars are a big part of what makes the Masters, and they were missing in November when Dustin Johnson set the scoring record at 20-under 268 to win by five shots for his first green jacket.

 

The club is so confident that Ridley also said the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which was canceled last year after its debut in 2019, and the Drive, Chip and Putt National Finals, will be held with a small number of spectators.

 

Golf has been without a full house since the Arnold Palmer Invitational in Orlando, Florida, in March. The Players Championship the following week cut off attendance by midday of the opening round, and then the PGA Tour shut down for the next three months and returned without fans.

 

The Houston Open sold 2,000 tickets a day in November. The Sentry Tournament of Champions had about 200 people in an area near the 18th green.

 

But no tournament is more defined by noise than the Masters.

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Illinois Basketball Game at Nebraska Postponed

The Illinois men's basketball game at Nebraska on Wednesday has been postponed.

 

Nebraska announced it has paused full team activities due to positive COVID-19 results among its Tier 1 personnel.

 

Illinois and Nebraska will work with the Big Ten Conference to identify rescheduling options.

 

Next up for the 14th-ranked Fighting Illini is a home game vs. No. 21 Ohio State on Saturday at 11 a.m.

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Bradley Edges Northern Iowa

Ja'Shon Henry scored 16 points to carry Bradley to a 75-73 win over Northern Iowa on Monday night.

 

Terry Nolan Jr. made two free throws with seven seconds left to give Bradley a three-point lead.

 

Elijah Childs had 16 points and eight rebounds for Bradley (7-4, 1-1 Missouri Valley Conference). Rienk Mast added 13 points and Nolan had 10 points.

 

Bowen Born had 17 points for the Panthers (3-8, 2-4). Trae Berhow added 15 points and Austin Phyfe had 11 rebounds and six assists.

 

The Braves leveled the season series against the Panthers with the win. Northern Iowa defeated Bradley 78-72 on Sunday.

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Illinois Down a Few Spots in Latest AP, Coaches College Basketball Polls

Gonzaga and Baylor were the top two teams in The Associated Press preseason men’s college basketball poll. After eight weeks of twists and turns, that hasn’t changed.

 

The Zags received 63 of 64 first-place votes from a national media panel in the poll released Monday and the Bears had the other one. Villanova, Texas and Iowa rounded out a top 5 that remained the same from last week.

 

Gonzaga and Baylor split most of the first-place votes in the preseason AP Top 25, but the Zags have become the clear-cut No. 1 after stringing together a series of routs.

 

After their Sunday night loss to Maryland, Illinois goes from No. 12 to No. 14 in this week's AP Poll. West Virgina who jumped Illinois to No. 13 this week and No. 23 Minnesota joined Illinois as the three four-loss teams in the poll this week. 

 

Clemson climbed seven spots to No. 12 this week after returning to the poll a week ago. The Tigers beat North Carolina State by four last week.

 

No. 23 Minnesota lost seven spots after losing to No. 7 Michigan and No. 5 Iowa last week. No. 22 Oregon dropped five places following a loss to Colorado and a win over Utah.

 

Louisville is back in the rankings at No. 16 after beating Virginia Tech. The Cardinals were not ranked the previous three weeks after reaching No. 23 on Dec. 14.

 

No. 21 Ohio State returned to the poll after a one-week absence following a win over Rutgers. The Scarlett Knights dropped out from No. 15 following a three-game losing streak.

 

Michigan State dropped out from No. 23 after losing to Purdue, and Florida State is out from No. 25 following three straight postponements.


In this week's Coaches Poll, Illinois only dropped one spot to No. 13 from No. 12 last week. Clemson takes the Illini's spot at No. 12. 

 

Michigan has its highest ranking of the season in the Coaches Poll, moving up four spots on Monday to No. 5 and supplanting Creighton. The leap comes after the Wolverines defeated No. 16 Minnesota -- its second consecutive win over a ranked opponent -- to improve to a perfect 10-0 on the season.

 

The Wolverines are the only team in the Big Ten who have yet to take a loss in conference play. It comes a week after in-state rival Michigan State dropped out of the Coaches Poll and the same week it dropped out of the AP Top 25.

 

Otherwise, the top of the Coaches Poll remained relatively static. Gonzaga, Baylor, Villanova and Texas held steady at 1-4, while Creighton, Kansas and Iowa all dropped one spot to make room for Michigan. Tennessee dropped two spots to No. 10 and Wisconsin moved up one spot to No. 9.

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Illinois Football Coach Bielema Continues to Fill Out Staff

University of Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema Monday named Andy Buh (BOO) to his staff as linebackers coach.

 

Buh brings 23 years of collegiate coaching experience to Champaign-Urbana including four different stops as defensive coordinator in three Power 5 conferences.

 

In a statement Coach Bielema expressed his confidence in Buh as a special teams and linebackers coach based on his experience in the Big Ten. 

 

Bielema and Buh spent the 2012 season together at Wisconsin helping the Badgers win the Big Ten Championship. He makes the move to Illinois after spending the 2020 season as outside linebackers coach at Arizona.

 

Buh also spent time in the Big Ten as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach at Rutgers in 2019 and three years as defensive coordinator at Maryland from 2016-18. He also served as a coordinator earlier in his career at California, Nevada and Stanford.

 

Bielema Sunday named Ben Miller his tight ends coach. 

 

Miller moves to Illinois after 14 seasons as an assistant coach at Air Force. A 2002 Air Force Academy graduate, Miller spent the 2006 season as the offensive graduate assistant at Illinois under Ron Zook before returning to the Academy. He spent nine seasons as the running backs coach and 13 years coaching the specialists, including the last 10 as the special teams coordinator.

 

Bielema says Miller will help the Illini in their recruiting efforts from coast-to-coast.

 

Miller's nine years working with Falcon running backs was highly successful. He oversaw the progress of first-year starter Cody Getz, who rushed for 1,248 yards in 2012. Miller also coached Jacobi Owens, who posted back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons in 2014 and 2015, while topping 3,000 yards in his career.

 

Miller was an all-conference offensive lineman for the Falcons, starting at left tackle as a junior and senior. After completing his collegiate career, Miller signed a contract with the Cleveland Browns, where he was used as a fullback/tight end/long snapper.

 

Last week, Bielema announced the addition of Ryan Walters as the Fighting Illini Defensive Coordinator. One of the nation's top young coaches, Walters comes to Illinois following six seasons at Missouri, including three years as the Tigers' defensive coordinator and two years as co-defensive coordinator.

 

Walters has had an impressive run at Missouri where he has overseen an impressive transformation of the Tiger defense into one of the SEC's top units. In 2019, Walters' defense ranked in the nation's Top 20 in several major categories, including total defense (14th NCAA/3rd SEC – 312.0 avg) and scoring defense (17th NCAA/6th SEC – 19.4 avg.), while excelling as a Top 10 pass defense (eighth in passing yards allowed NCAA/2nd SEC – 179.3 avg.).

 

Prior making the move to Missouri in 2015, Walters coached at Memphis where he spent the 2014 season as cornerbacks coach and oversaw a defense that was among the most improved in the nation when the Tigers went 10-3.

 

A native of Aurora, Colorado, Walters played collegiately at Colorado, where he was a standout safety for the Buffaloes (2004-08). 

 

A 2008 team captain for the Buffaloes, Walters was voted that season as team MVP by his teammates.

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White Sox Ink Top Reliever Liam Hendricks

The Chicago White Sox have signed free-agent reliever Liam Hendriks to a three-year, $54 million deal, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. CBS Sports HQ Baseball Insider Jim Bowden confirmed the signing. The deal includes a club option for a fourth year, and it's $54 million guaranteed, Rosenthal notes.

 

At $18 million per year, Hendriks breaks the record average annual value for a relief pitcher, Bowden notes. He surpasses right-hander Wade Davis' three-year, $52 million contract he signed in 2018 with the Colorado Rockies.

 

Hendriks, who turns 32 next month, has spent the past five seasons with the Oakland Athletics, helping the A's to an AL West title last season. In 2020, Hendriks saved 14 games in 15 chances and recorded a 1.78 ERA, 0.67 WHIP and 37 strikeouts against two unintentional walks in 25 1/3 innings. He finished ninth in the AL Cy Young voting and 13th in the AL MVP voting.

 

It's been another busy winter for the White Sox. Along with the Hendriks signing, the club also acquired right-handed starter Lance Lynn in a trade with the Texas Rangers and signed free-agent outfielder Adam Eaton. In 2020, the White Sox made the expanded playoffs, snapping a 12-year postseason drought, before falling 2-1 to the Oakland Athletics in the American League Wild Card Series. 

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Kings Hold Off Late Charge By Pacers

Buddy Hield made a big 3-pointer moments after Indiana's Domantas Sabonis had a basket taken away following a replay review, and the Sacramento Kings beat the Pacers 127-122 on Monday night.

 

Hield finished with 18 points on six 3s as the Kings won for the second time in seven games. Harrison Barnes had a season-high 30 points and eight rebounds, and De'Aaron Fox added 21 points and nine assists.

 

The Kings held a one-point lead when Sabonis went up underneath the basket and was credited with a bucket as Richaun Holmes was called for goaltending with 1:25 remaining. After a lengthy review, the call was overturned.

 

After Hield's 3 made it 121-117, Indiana's Victor Oladipo missed from beyond the arc. Fox then scored on a soaring one-handed dunk.

 

Sabonis had 28 points and 11 rebounds for the Pacers. Malcolm Brogdon added 24 points, while Oladipo and Doug McDermott scored 21 apiece.

 

Oladipo scored 14 of 17 points for Indiana during a late stretch in the fourth.

 

Fox made a buzzer-beating 3 to end the first half with the Kings up 65-64. It came 10 seconds after Brogdon's 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of the 6-foot-10 Holmes.

 

McDermott had 13 points in the second quarter on 5-of-6 shooting. 

 

The Pacers visit the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night.

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Alabama Overwhelms Ohio State

DeVonta Smith was uncoverable, Najee Harris unstoppable and Mac Jones impeccable as the top-ranked Tide won the College Football Playoff national championship game 52-24 against No. 3 Ohio State on Monday night - the sixth national title in the last 12 years under Coach Nick Saban. 

 

The Tide finished the year 13-0 — a full season when many wondered if it would be possible to play any.

 

For Saban, it was career title No. 7 overall, breaking a tie with Alabama great Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most by a major college coach.

 

Ohio State (7-1) just couldn’t keep up. Justin Fields, playing what might be his last game before heading to the NFL, passed for 194 yards and a touchdown. Whether Fields was 100% after taking a brutal hit to the side during his brilliant semifinal performance against Clemson was hard to know for sure.

 

On the Buckeyes’ first drive, they lost star running back Trey Sermon to an injury, and in a game they needed to be running at top speed, facing one of great offenses in recent history, they sputtered too much. Ohio State has never allowed more points in a bowl game.

 

Smith, the Heisman Trophy winner had catches for 12 catches for 215 yards and three touchdowns, all in the first half.

 

Mac Jones, who finished third in the Heisman voting, was 36 for 45 for a CFP championship-record 464 yards and five touchdowns. In one of maybe the most overlooked seasons a quarterback has ever played, Jones set a single-season record for passer efficiency rating at 203.

 

Harris, who was fifth in the Heisman race, had 158 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches, scoring three times to give him an SEC record 30 touchdowns this season.

 

Smith hardly played in the second half, leaving with an injury. He returned to the sideline in the fourth quarter with his right hand wrapped to the wrist, two fingers taped together, and wearing a Heisman mask.

 

Alabama hardly missed him and cracked 50 early in the fourth quarter when Harris went in untouched from a yard out.

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Miller Media Group Launches New, All-Sports Radio Station On-Air and On-Line

The Miller Media Group has launched its first all-sports radio station on-air and on-line as of January First.

 

"The Winner" is heard in Christian County at 96-point-5 FM, and also streamed on-line thru-out the area at THEWINNER965-DOT-COM.

 

Group president Randal J. Miller said that the new all-sports station features a host of national and collegiate sports, plus national and local sportstalk shows.

 

"The Winner" carries national sportstalk programming 24-7 from the Sports Map Radio Network.  A 2-hour local sportstalk show with Miller Media Group announcers, called "The Sports Guys", airs every Wednesday from one to 3pm.

 

"The Winner" is airing Chicago Bulls Basketball this winter, plus a full schedule of Big Ten Basketball, including the Big Ten Tournament.

 

The new station has also signed up to air all Chicago Bears football games starting this fall.

 

And, negotiations are underway to carry one of the Midwest's Major League Baseball teams.

 

Miller added that "The Winner" is a great compliment to the group's 7 other radio stations serving the Taylorville and Clinton markets.

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Maryland Drops Illinois

Darryl Morsell scored 19 points, Donta Scott added 16 and Maryland upset No. 12 Illinois 66-63 on Sunday.

 

The game was fast-paced and close throughout. Hakim Hart hit a 3-pointer with 4:08 left to give the Terrapins a 62-61 lead, which Maryland didn’t relinquish.

 

Ayo Dosunmu scored 23 points for Illinois (9-4, 5-2 Big Ten) and Kofi Cockburn added 21 points and 10 rebounds. Dosunmu missed a long 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have tied it.

 

Aaron Wiggins added 12 points for Maryland (7-6, 2-5). The Terrapins limped in on a three-game Big Ten losing streak, including two double-digit home losses.

 

Maryland played without point guard Eric Ayala (14 points per game) due to a groin injury.

 

Illinois jumped to a 14-7 lead, fueled by five quick points for Dosunmu, six by Cockburn and a long 3-pointer by Adam Miller. Maryland stuck around and tied it at 16 midway through the first half.

 

Illinois guard Trent Frazier took a blow to his left shoulder late in the first half and left in obvious pain. He returned in the second half but was held scoreless.

 

Cockburn had 16 points at the break.

 

Scott buried a 3 at the buzzer to pull the Terrapins within 34-32 at the half.

 

Illinois travels to Nebraska on Wednesday.

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Northern Iowa Edges Bradley

Austin Phyfe had 18 points and nine rebounds as Northern Iowa topped Bradley 78-72 on Sunday.

 

Trae Berhow had 15 points for Northern Iowa (3-7, 2-3 Missouri Valley Conference). Noah Carter added 14 points. Nate Heise had 11 points.

 

Terry Nolan Jr. had 17 points for the Braves (6-4, 0-1). Elijah Childs added 15 points and nine rebounds. Rienk Mast had 14 points.

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Illinois State Rolls Evansville

Antonio Reeves scored a career-high 21 points as Illinois State narrowly beat Evansville 73-68 on Sunday, breaking the Purple Aces four-game win streak.

 

Reeves hit 9 of 11 shots and added six rebounds as the Redbirds shot a scorching 74% from the floor in the second half (61.5% overall) to claim their first Missouri Valley Conference win.

 

Dusan Mahorcic had 13 points for Illinois State (4-6, 1-3), which snapped its six-game road losing streak. DJ Horne and Josiah Strong had 10 points each.

 

Noah Frederking had 15 points for the Purple Aces (6-6, 4-2), Evan Kuhlman added 13 points. Shamar Givance had 12 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

Evansville defeated Illinois State 57-48 on Saturday.

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Saints Knock Out Punchless Bears

Drew Brees completed 28 of 39 passes for 265 yards, connecting with Michael Thomas and Latavius Murray for touchdowns, and the New Orleans Saints defeated the Chicago Bears 21-9 in an NFC wild-card game Sunday.

 

The victory for the Saints (13-4) and Brees, who turns 42 on Friday, sets up a divisional-round meeting next weekend in the Superdome with Tampa Bay and 43-year-old QB Tom Brady. The Saints won each regular season matchup with the NFC South rival by double digits.

 

Alvin Kamara rushed for 99 yards and added a 3-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter after sitting out the regular-season finale and not practicing this past week because of contracting COVID-19.

 

The Bears (8-9) put forth a scrappy performance defensively that prevented the Saints from building more than a one-touchdown lead until Murray's 6-yard catch-and-run made it 14-3 late in the third quarter.

 

That score resulted from a big Bears mistake: Safety Eddie Jackson, lined up for an apparent blitz, jumped offside on fourth-and-3 from the Bears 13-yard line.

 

Two plays later, Brees scrambled right and spotted Murray waving for the ball. Brees sent a short touch pass over onrushing linebacker Khalil Mack, and Murray sprinted straight to the goal line, diving through converging tacklers to reach the end zone.

 

Brees' first touchdown pass in the opening quarter was 11-yards over the middle to Thomas, back from a three-game absence to help heal a nagging ankle injury. The 2019 Offensive Player of the Year missed nine games this season and had not caught a touchdown pass since December 2019.

 

Thomas finished with five catches for 73 yards and Deonte Harris, back from a neck injury, caught seven passes for 83 yards.

 

Tashaun Gipson set up Chicago's first points and might have prevented a Saints score on the same play. He got his hand on the ball as Taysom Hill attempted to throw deep. The ball fluttered a few yards and defensive lineman John Jenkins caught it, setting up Cairo Santos' 36-yard field goal to make it 7-3.

 

But the Chicago offense struggled against a defense ranked fourth in the NFL. Mitch Trubisky was 19 of 29 for 199 yards and one inconsequential TD pass to Jimmy Graham as time expired. The Bears were held to 48 yards rushing.

 

Bears starting receiver Anthony Miller was ejected for shoving Saints defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson after a failed third-down play early in the second half. Gardner-Johnson also was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct but not ejected. That marked the second time this season a Bears player was thrown out for action taken against Gardner-Johnson after the whistle. During a regular-season meeting, Bears receiver Javon Wims was ejected and suspended two games for punching Gardner-Johnson.

 

The Bears head into offseason with uncertainty surrounding the futures of general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. The Bears have reached the playoffs twice since Pace took over in 2015, both times under Nagy, who was hired in 2018. Chicago lost its playoff opener both times.

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Clippers Edge Out Bulls

Kawhi Leonard finished with a season-high 35 points, going over 10,000 in his career, and the Los Angeles Clippers rallied to beat the Chicago Bulls 130-127 on Sunday.

 

Leonard reached the 10,000 plateau on one of his five 3-pointers in the third quarter, when he scored 21 points. His points and 3-pointers made were the most in a single quarter in his career.

 

Leonard's last 3-pointer in the quarter gave the Clippers their first lead since they scored the game's first basket. In all, he had seven 3-pointers, tying his career high.

 

Leonard had 12 points in the first half, when the Clippers trailed by seven at the break. He got a steal and dunk for his first points of the third, then made five straight 3-pointers before closing out his explosive quarter with a pair of baskets, the last of which tied the game at 87.

 

For the first time in two weeks, Leonard no longer needs the on-court mask he wore strapped around his head to protect eight stitches in his mouth. He got hit by teammate Serge Ibaka's elbow at Denver on Christmas.

 

George had 28 points, seven rebounds and nine assists for the Clippers, who avoided their first three-game losing streak of the season. Lou Williams added 21 points off the bench.

 

Zach LaVine led six Bulls in double figures with a season-high 45 points - four off his career-high - and he made a season-best 10 3-pointers. Garrett Temple added 18 points and Patrick Williams had 17 points. Coby White had a career-high 13 assists. Chicago dropped its third in a row for the first time since starting the season 0-3.

 

The Bulls shot 61% from the floor and 55% from 3-point range.

 

The Clippers chased the Bulls through the first three quarters, falling behind by 13. Lou Williams' basket tied the game at 94 heading into the fourth.

 

Los Angeles led by six in the fourth before Temple's three-point play put the Bulls ahead 119-118. Nicolas Batum hit a 3-pointer in front of the Clippers' bench with Thaddeus Young in his face, got fouled and made the free throw, launching an 8-0 run that gave Los Angeles a 126-119 lead.

 

LaVine had a three-point play and a 3-pointer over Marcus Morris Sr. to pull the Bulls to 126-125.

 

White got called for his fourth foul, putting George at the line. He made both for a 128-125 lead.

 

LaVine airballed a 3-pointer from the top of the key with six seconds to go.

 

LaVine got called for his fourth foul and George made both free throws for a 130-125 lead. Temple's late basket closed the scoring for Chicago.

 

Starting F Otto Porter Jr. missed the game with a lower back issue. Starting F Lauri Markkanen and G Ryan Arcidiacono have been able to work out while remaining in health and safety protocols in Chicago. Coach Billy Donovan said they continue to test negative and he's hopeful they can rejoin the team this week.

 

The Bulls host Boston on Tuesday.

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Cubs Slugger Schwarber Signs With Nationals

Kyle Schwarber, who had a big 2019 and a disappointing 2020, signed a one-year contract with Washington for 2021 that guarantees him $10 million, and Schwarber said Saturday his relationship with current Nationals skipper Dave Martinez was “a big factor.”

 

Schwarber will make $7 million this season and the contract includes a mutual option for 2022 that would be worth $11.5 million if exercised or guarantee a $3 million buyout if not.

 

Schwarber was able to sign with any club after becoming a free agent last month when he was non-tendered by the Cubs. He was a member of their drought-ending 2016 World Series championship team — and Martinez was on then-manager Joe Maddon’s staff at the time — hitting .412 in the Fall Classic after missing much of that season with an injured left knee.

 

He was taken by Chicago with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 amateur draft and has proven to deliver homers and strikeouts in bunches.

 

The 27-year-old Schwarber struggled at the plate during the pandemic-truncated 2020 season, hitting .188 with a .701 OPS. He earned $2,596,296 prorated of a $7.01 million salary.

 

A year earlier, he produced 38 homers and 92 RBIs, a .250 batting average and an .871 on-base plus slugging percentage, all career highs.

 

Schwarber could take care of two needs that Washington general manager Mike Rizzo outlined heading into the offseason: a corner outfielder and a power hitter to help protect Juan Soto, the 22-year-old who was the NL batting champion last season, in the lineup.

 

Unless the designated hitter rule is brought back to the NL in 2021, it seems likely that Schwarber would start in left field, with Soto sliding from that spot over to right field, where he saw a bit of time late last season.

 

This is Rizzo’s second significant attempt to boost the lineup, after making a trade to acquire first baseman Josh Bell, a 2019 NL All-Star, from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Like Schwarber, the 28-year-old Bell had a career year in 2019 — 37 homers, 116 RBIs, .936 OPS — and slumped in 2020. Bell had a .226 batting average and .669 OPS last season.

 

The Nationals went 26-34 in 2020 and tied for last place in the NL East, a year after winning the franchise’s first World Series title.

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Harris English Holds Off Resurgent Joaquin Neimann In Hawaii

Harris English completed his turnaround from a seven-year drought with a victory that he felt was long overdue, making a 6-foot birdie putt on the first playoff hole against Joaquin Niemann to win the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii.

 

He ran off four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to catch Niemann. Needing a birdie on the 18th at Kapalua, English hit a 3-iron so pure from a downhill lie that it rolled out to 10 feet for an eagle putt that he narrowly missed, settling for a 4-under 69 to force extra holes.

 

In the playoff, he lagged a long putt from off the front of the green to 6 feet for the winner

Niemann did his part with a 9-under 64, matching the low score of the tournament, impressive considering the blustery wind finally showed up on the Plantation Course for the final day.

 

But he missed a 6-foot birdie putt on the 18th that cost him. And on the same hole in the playoff, with a 30-yard advantage off the tee, he tugged his shot just enough that it tumbled down the shaggy slope left of the 18th. A full swing with a lob wedge only got it up the hill to the fringe, and his birdie attempt from 15 feet was short.

 

They finished at 25-under 267. It was the second straight year the tournament was decided by a playoff.

 

English once was among the rising American starts, winning a Nationwide Tour event while still an amateur and picking up two victories in 2013. But then he got into a funk, and he fell so far that he lost his full card in 2019 and was No. 369 in the world. He played so well from there that he reached the Tour Championship, and it paid off in a big way.

 

In a normal year, English wouldn’t be at Kapalua for the winners-only start to the year. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the PGA Tour for three months, the field was expanded to include anyone who reached the Tour Championship. Niemann also didn’t win last year.

 

But the fact he made it to the Tour Championship speaks to his turnaround. He did everything but win last season, and then he took care of that in the first tournament of the year. English now goes to No. 17 in the world, a career-best.

 

Justin Thomas stayed in the mix after a 66 left him one shot out of the playoff.

 

He missed an 8-foot birdie chance on the 16th, and then three-putted from long range on the 17th for bogey. A birdie on the final hole wasn’t enough.

 

Dustin Johnson, in his first start since winning the Masters on Nov. 15, made an early run until he lost a tee shot in the native grass on No. 12 and made double bogey. He shot 69 and tied for 11th, ending his streak of seven consecutive top 10s dating to the first week in August.

 

Ryan Palmer, who shared the 54-hole lead with English, had an early lead with an eagle on the fifth hole. His hopes came undone when his tee shot on the par-3 11th turned left with the wind into the shin-high grass. It took him two to get out and he made double bogey. Palmer rallied with four birdies on his last five holes but shot 71 to finish two back.

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Miller Media Group Premieres "Central Illinois Outdoors With Jared White" This Weekend

The Miller Media Group will premiere a new weekly one-hour hunting and fishing show called "Central Illinois Outdoors with Jared White" this weekend.

 

White is the long-time station manager at WHOW/WEZC Radio in Clinton, and local farm broadcaster for the Miller Media Group's 2 agriculture stations WHOW in Clinton and WTIM in Taylorville.

 

White's show will be focused on fishing, hunting, outdoor recreation, & conservation in central Illinois, primarily on the Clinton Lake and Lake Shelbyville areas.  White will provide up-to-date weekly fishing information on local lakes from professional guides.

 

The show will include a weekly “Celebrity Sportsman” segment, with an interview with a different noted local business owner, official, or teacher, swapping stories about their favorite outdoor activities.

 

"Central Illinois Outdoors" will also include weekly listener “Catch of the Week” segment, where listeners submit via the "CentralIllinoisOutdoors-dot-com" website, a picture of their best catch, favorite trophy buck, or other animal. The owner of the weekly "Catch of the Week" will also be interviewed.

 

But, the main content of the show will be interviews from various divisions of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources; local conservation efforts such as Pheasants Forever; highlighting youth, veteran, and disabled hunting and fishing opportunities; local high school bass fishing teams; and state and local site specific reports.  

 

"Central Illlinois Outdoors" will be starting this weekend on several Miller Media Group platforms.  It can be heard Saturday mornings at 10 on all of the NEWSTALK WTIM platforms on-air and on-line; Sunday mornings at 8 on all of the WHOW platforms on-air and on-line; and Sunday mornings at 8 on THE WINNER 96-5 and on-line at THEWINNER965-DOT-COM.

 

You can hear show the show live, hear podcasts of interviews, and access hunting and fishing information anytime by going to the show's web site, "Centralillinoisoutdoors-dot-com."

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Illinois Rolls By Northwestern

Kofi Cockburn scored 13 of his 18 points in the second half, and Illinois rallied to beat the overwhelmed Wildcats 81-56 on Thursday night.

 

Illinois (9-3, 5-1 Big Ten) outscored Northwestern 53-13 after it trailed by 15 at the break. The Illini limited the Wildcats to just two field goals and forced nine turnovers in the final 20 minutes of their biggest victory at Northwestern since a 63-30 blowout on Feb. 19, 2000.

 

According to STATS, Illinois became the first team to outscore a major conference opponent by at least 40 points in a single half since Kentucky outscored Vanderbilt by 43 in the second half of a 106-44 win on March 5, 2003. The Illini are the only Division I team in the last 25 seasons to trail by at least 15 points at halftime and come back to win by 20 or more.

 

Cockburn went 8 for 9 from the field in his eighth double-double of the season, asserting himself in the middle after Illinois got off to a rough start. Ayo Dosunmu added 15 points, and Trent Frazier and Adam Miller each scored 14.

 

Illinois trailed by as many as 16 before completely overpowering Northwestern (6-4, 3-3) in its fourth straight win.

 

Robbie Beran scored 11 points for the Wildcats in their third consecutive loss.

 

Northwestern closed the first half with a 12-1 run for a 43-28 lead. But the Wildcats looked tired down the stretch of their fourth straight game against a Top 25 team.

 

After a 3-pointer by Beran made it 48-41 with 14:19 left, the Illini grabbed control with a 25-2 run. Miller capped the decisive stretch with a 3 that made it 66-50 with 5:36 remaining.

 

Illinois senior Da’Monte Williams tweaked an ankle injury that Underwood said has been bothering him for about a month. Williams finished with six points on 2-for-5 shooting in 23 minutes.

 

Illinois hosts Maryland on Sunday night.

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All Positive Vibes For Rodgers as Packers Hit Bye Week of Playoffs

The vibes from Aaron Rodgers are all positive heading into the postseason as he seeks the second Super Bowl berth that has eluded him for the last decade.

 

The 37-year-old Packers quarterback may never have a better chance to get back to the Super Bowl.

 

Green Bay owns the No. 1 seed in the NFC and the conference’s lone first-round playoff bye. The Packers have won six straight games and finished the regular season 13-3 for a second straight year.

 

One more victory would give the two-time MVP a chance to do something he’s never done before: play an NFC championship game at home.

 

Rodgers led Green Bay’s 2010 team to a Super Bowl title as a No. 6 seed that won playoff games at Philadelphia, Atlanta and Chicago. Three times in the last six seasons, the Packers lost an NFC championship game on the road, including a 37-20 setback at San Francisco a year ago.

 

Rodgers is seeking the ideal finish to a brilliant season in which he threw a career-high and NFL-leading 48 touchdown passes with only five interceptions. He set single-season franchise records for touchdown passes and completion percentage (.707).

 

Rodgers has helped the Packers strike gold just about every time they get near the goal line this season.

 

Green Bay leads the NFL in red-zone offense and have dramatically improved their third-down efficiency. The Packers are converting 49.4% of their third-down situations to rank second in the NFL, behind only Buffalo. Last season they converted 36% of their third-down plays to rank 23rd in the league.

 

That helps explain why Green Bay is scoring a league-high 31.8 points per game, up from 23.5 last season.

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Bears Visit Saints for First Round Playoff Game

The four-time NFC South champion New Orleans Saints (12-4) embark on yet another playoff run, starting Sunday against the recently resurgent Chicago Bears (8-8) in the Superdome.

 

For the Saints, the stakes are high because their quarterback is 41-year-old Drew Brees, who has become synonymous with New Orleans during the past 15 seasons. Brees brought the football-obsessed community it's lone major pro sports championship 11 seasons ago, and became the NFL's all-time leader in yards passing. Brees will turn 42 on Jan. 15 and hasn't committed to playing beyond this season, so each game could be his last.

 

Bears quarterback Mitch Trubisky, now in his fourth NFL season, is in the playoffs for just the second time after what was a turbulent 2020 for him.

 

Trubisky was benched earlier this season and has started just nine games. But the Bears went 6-3 in those games, with three victories in four games to close the regular season and sneak into the playoffs.

 

The Saints' 2,265 yards rushing are the most since the Payton era began 2006. The defense ranks fourth and tied for the NFL lead in interceptions with 18.

 

The Bears will likely need a dynamic performance from a defense that ranked among the top 10 for much of the season if they're going to knock out the high-powered Saints. The problem is that group isn't producing momentum-changing plays as much as it would like.

 

The Bears tied for 25th in the NFL in takeaways with 18 and were middle of the road in sacks with 35, 17th in the league.

 

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Eddie Jackson had no interceptions for the first time in his career after picking off 10 passes over his first three seasons. Khalil Mack, a three-time All-Pro, had nine sacks - his second straight year in single digits. And Robert Quinn had just two sacks, down from 11 1/2 for Dallas last season.

 

Brees, receiver Michael Thomas and running back Alvin Kamara could all be back on the field together on Sunday - something circumstances have largely prevented this season. Thomas has missed nine games, largely because of an ankle injury. Brees has missed four games with rib and lung issues. Kamara was out last week because of COVID-19.

 

They haven't all played together since Brees was injured in Week 10.

 

While Thomas, the 2019 AP Offensive Player of the Year, has returned to practice, Kamara is not scheduled to return to the team until game day and won't practice all week.

 

Bears star receiver Allen Robinson went from matching a career-high with 10 receptions in a win over Jacksonville to catching a season-low two passes for 37 yards in the loss to Green Bay last week.

 

Considering his dominant form for much of the season, the Bears would like to get him more involved - if he's healthy. The Bears listed Robinson as missing some practice time this week because of a hamstring injury.

 

Robinson's 102 receptions this season were a career-high. And his 1,250 yards were second only to the 1,400 he had with Jacksonville in his 2015 Pro Bowl season - his second year in the NFL.

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Mets Make Mega Deal for SS Lindor

Knowing they could never meet his price, the Indians dealt four-time All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor and pitcher Carlos Carrasco to the New York Mets, who have a new owner willing to spend at baseball’s highest levels in order to get his franchise back on top.

 

The cash-strapped Indians sent Lindor and Carrasco to the Mets on Thursday for young infielders Andrés Giménez and Amed Rosario, and two minor league prospects: right-hander Josh Wolf and outfielder Isaiah Greene. It’s a move Cleveland hopes can keep it competitive and capable of ending baseball’s longest title drought.

 

Dealing Lindor, who is eligible for free agency after the 2021 season, will cut roughly $30 million off the Indians’ payroll and allow them to rebuild.

 

For the Mets, the acquisition is another sign owner Steve Cohen means business.

 

Lindor, who will be playing in a far different spotlight than he experienced in Cleveland, impacts the game with his bat, glove and legs. A two-time Gold Glove winner, he’s a career .285 hitter and averaged 29 homers, 86 RBIs and 21 steals in his six major league seasons — all with the Indians, who drafted him in 2011.

 

He’s been the face of the Indians’ franchise, with an infectious smile and joy for playing that has made him one of Cleveland’s most popular athletes. 

 

Carrasco is one of the game’s best comeback stories, overcoming leukemia to become one of the AL’s steadiest starters. The 33-year-old righty has an 88-73 career record with a 3.73 ERA.

 

Beyond his stats, Carrasco was a team leader. But with an abundance of young pitchers, including Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber, the Indians were in position to move a player of Carrasco’s caliber to fill more holes.

 

The 25-year-old Rosario is a good start. He was New York’s primary shortstop the past three-plus seasons, though he struggled at the plate last year and lost playing time to Giménez.

 

Lindor is signed for only one more season, so the Mets will have to get to work quickly on locking him up for the long term.

 

Carrasco is signed at $12 million for each of the next two seasons, part of a deal that includes a $14 million team option for 2023 with a $3 million buyout. The option would become guaranteed if he pitches 170 innings in 2022 and is found to be healthy for the 2023 season.

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Justin Thomas, Harris English Atop Sentry Leaderboard

Defending champion Justin Thomas began the new year with an 8-under 65, a share of the lead with Harris English and no bogeys on his card, all of which made him happy Thursday in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

 

Half of the 42-man field shot in the 60s on the Plantation Course.

 

The tournament features more than just PGA Tour winners for the first time. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down golf for three months, the field includes anyone who made it to the Tour Championship.

 

That’s how English returned to Kapalua, and he was the one of the best turnaround stories in 2020. Starting last season with conditional status and at No. 369 in the world when he lost his full PGA Tour card, he did well enough to finish 12th in the FedEx Cup and starts this year at No. 29.

 

His only victory was joining Matt Kuchar in the two-man team QBE Shootout last month, which didn’t count. No matter. He’s still riding a nice wave even by Maui standards.

 

English holed a pitch for eagle on the par-5 ninth and finished with three birdies on his last five holes with 6-foot putts.

 

Sergio Garcia, playing at Kapalua for the first time in 15 years, and Patrick Reed were among those at 6-under 67, with Adam Scott in the group at 68.

 

Johnson, making his first start since his Masters victory in November, showed some rust on the greens. He had good birdie looks on the final six holes and didn’t make any of them, settling for a 2-under 71.

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Bears Could Be Short-Handed Sunday

The Chicago Bears could be down two important players when they visit Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints for a wild-card game on Sunday, with inside linebacker Roquan Smith and receiver Darnell Mooney injured.

 

Both players missed the team's walkthrough on Wednesday after leaving last week's loss to Green Bay, and coach Matt Nagy had little to say about their status.

 

The Bears (8-8) would be hard-pressed to beat the NFC South champion Saints (12-4) even at full strength. But with Smith and Mooney out, their task would be that much tougher.

 

Smith, Chicago's leading tackler, went out with a left elbow injury on Green Bay's first possession while Mooney left in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury.

 

The Bears (8-8) went on to lose the game 35-16. But they made the playoffs for the second time in Nagy's three years because the Arizona Cardinals lost to the Los Angeles Rams.

 

Smith's injury could leave the Bears more vulnerable against star running back Alvin Kamara, assuming he comes off the COVID-19 list. If Smith — who had a career-high 139 tackles and ranked second in the league with 18 for loss — is unavailable, Josh Woods could make his first NFL start. The third-year pro played 28 snaps.

 

Mooney, the Bears' second-leading receiver, set career highs with 11 catches for 93 yards against Green Bay. The fifth-round draft pick from Tulane ranked fifth among NFL rookies in receptions with 61 for 631 yards and overtook Anthony Miller as Chicago's No. 2 wide receivers.

 

Miller's production dropped in his third season. He had 49 receptions for 485 yards compared to 52 for 656 yards in 2019. He had seven games with two receptions or fewer.

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Pacers Get By Rockets

Malcolm Brogdon scored 35 points, his second career-high in three games, and made the go-ahead 3-pointer with 2:22 left to lead the Indiana Pacers past the Houston Rockets 114-107 on Wednesday night.

 

James Harden finished with 15 points, his second straight sub-20-point performance as the Pacers won their second straight and beat Houston at home for the first time since January 2017.

 

After Harden scored on a late layup to make it 107-106, Brogdon answered with the go-ahead 3, Domantas Sabonis scored on a putback to extend the margin to four and Brogdon sealed the victory with two free throws with 29.9 seconds to go.

 

Indiana scored the final eight points.

 

Justin Holiday had a season-high 20 points for Indiana, while John Wall scored a season-best 28 points in his fourth game with the Rockets. Harden also had 12 assists for Houston - not enough to avoid a second straight loss.

 

The Rockets' David Nwaba had a season-high 15 points. 

 

Houston was 8 of 30 on 3s and had 16 turnovers. 

 

The Pacers will try to win their third straight when Phoenix visits Saturday.

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Clemson QB Lawrence Declares for NFL Draft

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence has made it official — he’s heading to the NFL.

 

Lawrence, the 6-foot-6 QB with the power arm and flowing hair, released a video on social media Wednesday announcing he was leaving school and declaring for the NFL draft.

 

Lawrence had said in September he planned to play his junior season, graduate in December and move on to the NFL. However, in October, Lawrence discussed keeping his options open, which included possibly returning for another year of college as discussions of the No. 1 pick intensified between the then winless New York Jets and the Jacksonville Jaguars.

 

The Jaguars finished 1-15 and have the top pick in the draft and are expected to take Lawrence.

He finished 34-2 in his college career, leading Clemson to three Atlantic Coast Conference titles and the national title after the 2018 season. He finished second in the Heisman Trophy race Tuesday night to Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith.

 

Lawrence was the epitome of cool and confident almost from the moment he arrived at Clemson in January 2018. It took four games as a freshman before he became the starting quarterback and never surrendered the position — except for two games this season he missed after testing positive for COVID-19.

 

Lawrence led the Tigers to the national title in 2018, dismantling powerhouse Alabama 44-16 as he threw for 347 yards and three touchdowns to complete a 15-0 season.

 

Clemson and Lawrence looked they would make it two in a row a year ago before falling to LSU 42-25 to end a 29-game win streak in the national championship game.

 

Lawrence finished with 10,098 yards passing with 90 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. This year, he completed a career best 69.1 percent of his throws on the way to winning ACC player of the year.

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Kings Edge Bulls

Buddy Hield converted a four-point play with 38 seconds left to make up for a horrible shooting night, and the Sacramento Kings held off the Chicago Bulls 128-124 on Wednesday.

 

Hield missed 12 of his first 14 shots and was 1 of 8 on 3-pointers before hitting one from the top of the arc and getting fouled by former Kings teammate Garrett Temple. Hield sank the free throw to give Sacramento a 124-119 lead and finished with 10 points.

 

First-round draft pick Tyrese Haliburton scored 15 of his season-high 17 points in the fourth quarter and made a key steal in the backcourt. Haliburton followed Hield's pivotal 3 with one of his own against a pair of Chicago defenders to help the Kings end a three-game losing streak.

 

Marvin Bagley III had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Sacramento, which played most of the game without De'Aaron Fox. The point guard strained his right hamstring midway through the first quarter and did not return.

 

Richaun Holmes had 24 points, eight rebounds and five assists for the Kings. Harrison Barnes added 20 points.

 

Coby White had a career-high 36 points and seven assists for the Bulls. Zach Lavine scored 32 and Wendell Carter Jr. added 11 points and a career-best 17 rebounds.

 

Hield's clutch shot bailed out the Kings after Sacramento blew a 12-point lead in the first half and trailed with 6 minutes remaining.

 

Haliburton's 3-pointer was equally big, making it 127-121 with 12 seconds remaining just before Barnes missed a pair of free throws for Sacramento. Lavine countered with a 3 to cut it to 127-124 with 2.6 seconds to play.

 

Haliburton missed the previous two games with a bone bruise in his left wrist but played the entire fourth quarter of this one while Fox watched from the bench.

 

Denzel Valentine had seven points in the final 3:51 of the first quarter. Carter was called for defensive three seconds, resulting in a technical foul. Temple scored 11 points in 33 minutes. Patrick Williams spent much of the first half in concussion protocol after getting hit in the head. Williams finished with nine points.

 

The Bulls visit the Lakers in Los Angeles on Friday.

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IHSA Board to Meet Next Week

Time is running thin on a decision about spring sports and according to the Illinois High School Association's top leader, modifications or even cancelations of seasons are on the table.

 

With an IHSA board meeting set for next Wednesday, IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said the meeting could determine spring seasons' fate.

 

 

Anderson added it all depends on when the organization can have conversations with the Illinois Department of Public Health.

 

During a meeting next Wednesday, the board will discuss modifications, possible cancelations, and potential spring sport start dates.

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Bulls Top Trailblazers to Get .500

Coby White had 21 points and a career-high 10 rebounds, while Otto Porter Jr. added 19 points and 13 rebounds and the short-handed Bulls rebounded from a 20-point first-half deficit to down Portland 111-108 on Tuesday night.

 

The Bulls had seven players in double-figure.

 

CJ McCollum led the Blazers with 26 points, including six 3-pointers. Damian Lillard had 24 points and nine assists.

 

The Blazers led by as many as 20 points early in the game, but the Bulls chipped away at the lead, tying it in the fourth quarter at 91 on Porter's 3-pointer. Garrett Temple's 3 gave the Bulls a 96-94 lead with 6:36 left.

 

Portland went up 100-98 lead on Carmelo Anthony's 3-pointer before Chicago rookie Patrick Williams' floater tied it again with 4:12 to go. Porter's pull-up jumper made it 104-100 with just over three minutes left.

 

Lillard was fouled on a 3-point attempt and made all his free throws, pulling Portland within 106-103. He added two free throws with 30.8 seconds left to narrow the gap further.

 

LaVine's step-back 3-pointer appeared to be the winner for Chicago - until Lillard made a 3 to get the Blazers within a point again with 5.7 seconds to go. White made a pair of free throws in the final moments and Portland fell short.

 

After going 0-3 to start the season, the Bulls have improved with wins in four of their last five games, including a 118-108 victory over the Mavericks, paced by LaVine's 39 points.

 

The Bulls were without Lauri Markkanen, Ryan Arcidiacono, Chandler Hutchinson and Tomas Satoransky for the fourth straight game because of the league's COVID-19 protocols. Hutchinson and Satoransky tested positive and are isolating.

 

The Blazers made four straight 3-pointers to open the game and went on a 14-0 run to close out the first quarter with a 39-21 lead. Gary Trent Jr.'s shot from distance gave Portland a 47-27 lead.

 

The Bulls closed the gap with a 13-0 run capped by Porter's 3-pointer to get within 47-40. The Blazers went into halftime with a 54-45 lead.

 

The Bulls visit Sacramento tonight.

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Packers Hoping Weather Will Be to Their Advantage in Postseason

The Green Bay Packers (13-3) wrapped up the No. 1 seed in the NFC and a first-round playoff bye with a 35-16 road victory over the Chicago Bears on Sunday. Knowing they're two home playoff wins away from a Super Bowl berth, the Packers want freezing temperatures at Lambeau Field.

 

They want a repeat of the snowy conditions that marked their regular-season home finale, a 40-14 rout of the AFC South champion Tennessee Titans.

 

Wide receiver Davante Adams is likely to be an All-Pro and said quote - “It is what it is. You can come in and try to bark and be barefoot pregame, shirt off and do whatever you want to do, but at the end of the day it’s a beast playing in that snow. It’s a beast playing in that weather, and just being in that environment, it takes people’s confidence away.”

 

The Packers clinched the No. 1 seed by showing their ability to adapt.

 

They allowed only one sack just three days after losing Pro Bowl left tackle David Bakhtiari to a season-ending knee injury. The Packers moved usual right tackle Billy Turner to Bakhtiari’s old spot and had Rick Wagner take over at right tackle, something they also had done earlier this season when Bakhtiari missed three games with broken ribs.

 

And although Green Bay led the NFL in average time of possession (32:31) this season, the Packers won convincingly Sunday while having the ball for less than 25 minutes. Green Bay scored 35 points on just 44 offensive plays.

 

Of course, it helps to have a Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback producing one of his finest seasons and a receiver delivering one of the greatest years in franchise history.

 

Rodgers threw four touchdown passes Sunday to increase his season total to 48, breaking his own franchise record from his 2011 MVP season. Adams said after the game that Rodgers should have the MVP race locked up.

 

Adams had his NFL-leading 18th touchdown catch to tie the Packers record that Sterling Sharpe set in 1994. Adams matched the third-highest single-season touchdown total by a wide receiver in league history, behind Jerry Rice’s 23 in 1987 and Randy Moss’ 23 in 2007.

 

Adams finished the regular season with 115 overall receptions to break Sharpe’s franchise record of 112 in 1993. He did all that despite injuring his hamstring in the second game of the season, causing him to miss the rest of that game and the next two games as well.

 

The Packers finished the regular season with more touchdown passes (48) than punts (47).

The Packers get a week off to rest, heal and discover who they will face in the playoffs either Jan. 16 or Jan. 17. Players will practice Thursday and Friday this week.

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Alabama's DaVonta Smith Wins Heisman

Alabama's DaVonta Smith became the first wide receiver to win the Heisman Trophy in 29 seasons Tuesday night, breaking the monopoly quarterbacks have had on the award by beating out three of them.

 

Smith finished with 447 first-place votes and 1,856 points to easily outdistance Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence (222, 1,187), Alabama teammate Mac Jones (138, 1,130) and Florida’s Kyle Trask (61, 737).

 

Crimson Tide running back Najee Harris finished fifth in the voting, making No. 1 Alabama the second team in the 85-year history of the Heisman to have three of the top five vote-getters. Army did it in 1946 with Glenn Davis (first), Doc Blanchard (fourth) and Arnold Tucker (fifth).

 

Smith is just the fourth receiver to win the Heisman, joining Michigan’s Desmond Howard in 1991, Notre Dame’s Tim Brown in 1987 and Nebraska’s Johnny Rodgers in 1972.

 

Quarterbacks had won 17 of the previous 20 Heisman trophies, including the last four.

 

Smith was presented the award in a virtual ceremony orchestrated by ESPN. The usual trip to New York for the finalists was called off because of the pandemic and the winner was announced later than it had ever been before.

 

Smith accepted the trophy in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, decked out in a deep crimson jacket and shiny black bow tie.

 

Smith is the third Alabama player to win the Heisman, all since 2009. Like Tide running backs Mark Ingram (’09) and Derrick Henry (2015), Smith will play for the national championship as a Heisman winner.

 

Alabama faces No. 3 Ohio State on Jan. 11 in the College Football Playoff title game in Miami Gardens, Florida.

 

The Heisman voting was complete on Dec. 21, so playoff performances were not a factor. But Smith made those who supported him feel good about it with a brilliant three-touchdown game against Notre Dame in the CFP semifinals last weekend.

 

Smith has 105 catches for 1,641 yards and 22 total touchdowns going into the final game of his college career — which will also be his third national championship game.

 

Smith carved out a place in Alabama’s storied history as a freshman, catching the winning touchdown pass from Tua Tagovailoa on second-and-26 in overtime against Georgia to give the Tide the 2017 national championship.

 

A former four-star recruit, Smith came to Tuscaloosa from LSU’s backyard, disappointing many Tigers’ fans in his hometown.

 

The understated Smith quietly led the Tide in receptions and yards last year as a junior and became a second-team All-American.

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Peyton Manning Highlights 2021 Hall of Fame Finalists

Peyton Manning, no surprise, is among 15 finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2021.

The star quarterback, owner of a record five NFL Most Valuable Player awards and two Super Bowl titles, was the first finalist revealed by the hall on Tuesday night.

 

Manning, of course, was one of the most prolific passers in NFL history. In 18 pro seasons and 265 starts out of 266 games played since being the top overall draft choice by Indianapolis in 1998, he had 14 seasons with 4,000-plus yards passing.

 

When he retired following leading Denver to the 2015 league title, Manning held NFL records for career passing yards (71,940), career passing touchdowns (539) and consecutive seasons with at least 25 passing touchdowns (13).

 

He won 201 of those games, including playoffs, guiding the Colts to the 2006 NFL championship. He also made the Super Bowl for the 2009 and 2013 seasons, was a seven-time All-Pro, and a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

 

Joining Manning as a finalist was one of the players he threw to, wide receiver Reggie Wayne, a finalist for the second time. First-year eligible Calvin Johnson and second-time finalist Torry Holt also made the cut among receivers.

 

Wayne played in two Super Bowls with Manning.

 

Four defensive backs, including current 49ers general manager John Lynch, advanced. This will be Lynch’s eighth time as a finalist, while it’s the first for Charles Woodson in his initial year of eligibility, and Ronde Barber, and the second for appearance in the finals for Leroy Butler.

 

Two of the NFL’s most dependable defensive linemen got to the finals: sack master Jared Allen and versatile Richard Seymour. Allen, who had 136 sacks and forced four safeties, is another first-year eligible player, while Seymour has made the finals for three of his four eligible years.

 

Zach Thomas, who also excelled on special teams, was one of three linebackers making the finals, joining Sam Mills — a star in the USFL and then the NFL — and Clay Matthews, who led some strong Cleveland defenses from 1978-1993 before playing three season in Atlanta. Thomas and Mills became second-time finalists, and Matthews for the first time.

 

Two offensive linemen who have been frequent finalists round out the potential class of 2021: Alan Faneca and Tony Boselli. Faneca, who played guard and tackle and starred for three franchises (Steelers, Jets, Cardinals) made his sixth final in as many years of eligibility, while Boselli, a standout for Jacksonville, reached the finals for a fifth time.

 

Voting on the entrants to the hall will be conducted later this month, with the inductees announced during Super Bowl week. A maximum of five modern-day players can be chosen, along with three previously announced candidates should they get the required votes: coach Tom Flores, contributor Bill Nunn, and senior Drew Pearson.

 

Inductions are scheduled for next August, when the 2020 class and a special centennial class also will be enshrined after the COVID-19 pandemic forced postponement of those ceremonies last summer.

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Illinois Moves Up in Latest AP College Basketball Poll

While Gonzaga and Baylor remain firmly atop The Associated Press men’s college basketball poll, Shaka Smart and fourth-ranked Texas are making a push into the rankings’ top tier, too.

 

The top-ranked Zags and second-ranked Bears remained 1-2 in Monday’s latest Top 25 as they have all season. But the Longhorns jumped four spots after a lopsided weekend win at Kansas to earn the program’s highest ranking under their sixth-year coach, as well as its first top-5 ranking since February 2011.

 

Texas (8-1) started the year at No. 19 and hadn’t cracked the top 10 under Smart before this season. The Longhorns hadn’t cracked the top five since spending three weeks at No. 3 followed by a week at No. 5 in February 2011 under former coach Rick Barnes.

 

The Big Ten has seven ranked teams, including three in the top 10 along with No. 12 Illinois and No. 15 Rutgers. But the Big 12 has three of the top six teams in Baylor, Texas and Kansas and five teams overall.

 

The ACC also has five teams, but again it’s a backloaded bunch. The Tigers and Hokies are the highest ranked of that quintet at No. 19, followed by Duke, No. 22 Virginia and No. 25 FSU.

 

The Big East (Villanova and Creighton) and the Southeastern Conference (Tennessee and No. 13 Missouri) are the only other leagues with multiple ranked teams.

 

No. 19 Clemson was back in the poll for the second time this season, tying fellow Atlantic Coast Conference team Virginia Tech. The other new addition was St. Louis, with the Billikens tying Michigan State at No. 23 to make their first AP Top 25 appearance since the 2013-14 season.

 

No. 25 Florida State had the week’s biggest tumble, falling seven spots after losing at Clemson and then having its game against No. 21 Duke postponed due to coronavirus issues within the Seminoles program.

 

Houston and No. 23 Michigan State each fell six spots, while No. 18 Texas Tech joined West Virginia in sliding five spots.

 

No. 6 Kansas fell three spots after the Texas loss, bringing the total of teams that fell from last week’s rankings to 11.

 

Mark Few’s Gonzaga Bulldogs earned 63 of 64 first-place votes in Monday’s poll, while Scott Drew’s Bears received the other vote. Gonzaga and Baylor have been 1-2 in all seven polls so far this season.

 

Villanova climbed one spot to No. 3 on the same day the program announced a pause in team activities, including having three games postponed through Jan. 13, due to coronavirus issues.

 

Iowa, Kansas, Creighton, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Michigan rounded out the top 10, while No. 11 Houston and No. 14 West Virginia slid out from that group from last week.

 

The Wolverines (9-0) had the week’s biggest jump, rising six spots after wins against Maryland and then-No. 19 Northwestern. Michigan has now cracked the top 10 in each of Juwan Howard’s two seasons as coach, including last year’s rapid rise from unranked to No. 4 after winning the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in the Bahamas.

 

Iowa, No. 16 Minnesota and No. 19 Virginia Tech each climbed five spots, while No. 17 Oregon joined Texas and Creighton in rising four spots.

 

In all, 10 teams climbed from last week’s rankings.

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Illinois Up in Coaches Poll

Michigan State finally got its first Big Ten victory over Nebraska on Saturday following an 0-3 start to league play, but it was not enough to keep the Spartans from falling out of the USA Today Coaches Poll. After beginning the year at No. 12 in the poll and rising to No. 4 last month, the Spartans were relegated to the "others receiving votes" category by the coaches this week.

 

On the flip side, in-state rival Michigan ascended six spots to its highest ranking yet at No. 9 in the Coaches Poll following a 4-0 start to conference that has left the Wolverines as the last remaining unbeaten team in Big Ten league games. The only Big Ten team ranked ahead of Michigan by the coaches this week is No. 7 Iowa.

 

Illinois moved up to No. 12 in this week's Coaches Poll. Rival Missouri is not far behind at No. 13. Illinois beat Purdue Saturday evening. The Illini are off until Thursday night when they travel to Evanston, Illinois to take on Northwestern. 

 

Perhaps the biggest surprise in this week's Coaches Poll, though, is the resurgence of Creighton. The Bluejays catapulted five spots up to No. 5 after a 67-65 win at Providence on Saturday, making them the highest ranked two-loss team in the Coaches Poll. By contrast, Iowa and Kansas are both two-loss teams that are ranked of Creighton in this week's AP poll.

 

Gonzaga, Baylor and Villanova stayed as the top-three in this week's Coaches Poll, but there was one notable surprise at the bottom. Despite having not played since Dec. 16 and being just 3-2, Duke returned to the ranking at No. 24 after dropping out last week. 

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Illinois Tabs Mark Taurisani as Football Chief of Staff

Illinois head football coach Bret Bielema announced today the addition of long-time associate Mark Taurisani as Assistant Athletics Director/Chief of Staff for the Fighting Illini football program. He will oversee much of the administrative aspects of the football program along with the day-to-day needs of Bielema and the football program.

 

Bielema said in a statement, quote - "Throughout my head coaching career, Mark has been able to start at an entry-level position in operations and now will help manage everything within our Illini football family. He works well with a wide range of people in various different positions that all appreciate his professional approach and ability to create a winning environment. Mark will join the fight here with our staff and student-athletes helping them become champions on and off the field."

 

Taurisani worked with Bielema in each of his 12 years as a head coach and comes to Illinois after three seasons as the Director of Operations for Michigan Football. He spent five seasons at the University of Arkansas, where he worked as Director of Football Operations, including the last four as Assistant Athletics Director. Prior to his stop in Fayetteville, Taurisani spent seven seasons at Wisconsin, including the final four as Director of Football Operations. He had been football operations coordinator in 2008-09, following two seasons as an operations assistant in 2006-07.

 

At Wisconsin, Taurisani was part of three Big Ten Championship-winning teams and seven bowl trips, including the 2010, 2011 and 2012 Rose Bowls. He has coordinated 12 bowl trips throughout his career, and has served as a member of the Rose Bowl Advisory Committee since 2010.

 

A native of Utica, New York, Taurisani graduated from State University of New York at Fredonia in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in sociology and a minor in sports and exercise, earning first-team all-conference honors as captain of the baseball team. He spent the summer of 2005 as a training camp assistant with the Seattle Seahawks and earned a master's degree in sport administration from Louisville in 2005.

 

Taurisani and his wife, Tara, welcomed their first child, daughter Rose, in 2018.

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Pacers Need Overtime to Top Pelicans

Malcolm Brogdon capped a 21-point, 11-assist performance by bouncing in a driving, one-handed floater with 1.7 seconds left in overtime, and the Indiana Pacers beat the New Orleans Pelicans 118-116 on Monday night.

 

Victor Oladipo scored 25 points for Indiana, hitting a 29-foot 3-pointer and following that up with a steal from Lonzo Ball to spark a six-point comeback in the final 20 seconds of regulation.

 

After Oladipo's steal, Brogdon got the ball to Myles Turner, who made an open, game-tying 3 from straight away with 8.2 seconds left in regulation.

 

Turner had 17 points and three blocks before he fouled out with a minute left in overtime. Domantas Sabonis had 19 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out with about four minutes left in regulation.

 

Brandon Ingram scored 31 points and Zion Williamson added 24 points and 10 rebounds for New Orleans, which led 104-94 with 3:46 left in regulation after Ingram's three-point play on a short pull-up as he was fouled by Sabonis.

 

Pelicans guard Eric Bledsoe had 12 points and 11 rebounds for his second double-double in as many games.

 

The Pelicans were still up by six with less than a half-minute to go when JJ Redick missed a 3-point attempt from the near the right sideline, setting up the dramatic sequence in which the Pacers tied it.

Ingram pulled up from 20 feet at the end of regulation, but was unable to connect, forcing overtime.

Turner and Oladipo each scored five points in overtime before Brogdon's winner.

 

Doug McDermott scored 11 points. 

 

For the Pelicans, Ball finished with 18 points and Steven Adams had 10 points. 

 

New Orleans lost for the first time in three home games. 

 

The Pacers host Houston on Wednesday night in the first of two straight home games.

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March Madness to Be Played Entirely in Indiana

The NCAA announced Monday that its showcase event — the Division I men’s basketball tournament, all 67 games of it — will be played entirely in or near Indianapolis. The hope is to limit the possibility that the coronavirus pandemic cancels the wildly popular and lucrative tournament for a second consecutive season.

 

Indy was already scheduled to host the Final Four and it didn’t take long for the city to emerge as the favorite.

 

The original plan was for the 67 games to be played at 13 sites across the country, starting with the First Four in Dayton, Ohio. Regional sites were set for Minneapolis, Denver, New York City and Memphis, Tennessee.

 

Dozens of restaurants of hotels are within walking distance of Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse, home of the NBA’s Indiana Pacers and WNBA’s Indiana Fever. Many of those businesses and venues are connected by skywalks that allow players, coaches or fans to stay indoors.

 

Hinkle Fieldhouse, the historic home of the Butler Bulldogs, and the Indiana Farmers Coliseum, where the IUPUI Jaguars play, are just short drives from the downtown area. Mackey Arena at Purdue and Assembly Hall at Indiana also are about an hour’s drive from downtown.

All of those venues are slated to host games.

 

Some things aren’t expected to change.

 

Selection Sunday is still set for March 14, the tourney field is expected to remain at 68 and the Final Four games are still scheduled for April 3 with the title game two days later. CBS Sports and Turner Sports will continue to televise and stream the games.

 

But this tourney will have dramatically a different atmosphere.

 

Two courts will be constructed inside cavernous Lucas Oil Stadium, though only one game will be played at a time because of potential distractions from whistles and horns going off. NCAA vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt said fewer games may be played each day because of longer breaks needed to properly clean the facilities. Preliminary round dates have not yet been set.

Fewer fans are expected, too.

 

NCAA officials said a limited number of family members of players and coaches can attend games, but they will consult local and state public health officials to determine final attendance.

 

COVID-19 testing will be conducted before each game and each team will be assigned its own floor and its own meeting spaces inside its hotel.

 

NCAA vice president of basketball Dan Gavitt cautioned that the holding the tournament will present many challenges. Scores of college basketball games have been canceled or postponed this season because of COVID-19 issues, with games called off on a near-daily basis.

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Packers Beat Bears to Clinch No. 1 Seed, Bears Get In Playoffs After Arizona Lost

Aaron Rodgers threw for four touchdowns, breaking his franchise record for scoring passes in a season, and Green Bay clinched the No. 1 seed in the NFC by beating the playoff-bound Chicago Bears 35-16 on Sunday.

 

The Packers (13-3) earned a bye while winning their sixth in a row and beat Chicago (8-8) for the 19th time in 22 games, counting the postseason.

 

The Bears are headed to the playoffs for the second time in coach Matt Nagy's three years despite the loss because Arizona fell to the Los Angeles Rams. Chicago will be at New Orleans (12-4) at Sunday at 4:40 p.m. EST.

 

Rodgers joined Peyton Manning (2004 and 2013) as the only players to throw for at least 45 touchdowns in multiple seasons. He now has 48, surpassing his previous high of 45 in his first MVP season of 2011, and just five interceptions.

 

Rodgers completed 19 of 24 passes for 240 yards without getting picked off and had a 147.9 rating. He also improved to 21-5 against Chicago, counting the postseason.

 

Davonte Adams broke Sterling Sharpe's team record for receptions in a season and tied his mark for touchdown catches in a year on Sunday. Adams had six receptions to bump his total to 115 and surpass Sharpe's mark of 112 in 1993. His 6-yard score late in the game gave him 18 TD's, matching Sharpe's team record in 1994.

 

Marquez Valdes-Scantling became the first Packer since Jordy Nelson in 2014 with two touchdown catches of 70 or more yards in a season. He caught a 72-yarder in the second quarter, though he also dropped a potential 63-yard TD early in the third.

 

Aaron Jones ran for a score in the closing minutes. And the Packers beat Chicago again after pounding the Bears at Lambeau Field to start their win streak.

 

The Bears are the third team since the 1970 merger to reach the playoffs after losing six in a row. The Monsters of the Midway bounced back by winning three straight against struggling teams. But against Green Bay, the result was a familiar one.

 

Mitchell Trubisky went 33 for 42 with 252 yards and an interception.

 

Rookie Darnell Mooney set career highs with 11 catches and 93 yards before leaving early in the fourth period with an ankle injury. He was hurt when he was tackled going out of bounds after a catch.

 

David Montgomery ran for 69 yards and a touchdown and caught nine passes for 63 yards. Cairo Santos made all three field goals, extending his streak to a franchise-record 27. The Bears also lost linebacker Roquan Smith to an elbow injury. 

 

Smith was hurt defending a run late in the first quarter and headed to the locker room.

 

The Packers lost standout left tackle David Bakhtiari to a season-ending knee injury on Thursday. Even so, they scored on all three possessions in the first half. And they added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to break open a five-point game.

 

The Packers were leading 21-16 when the Bears opted to go on fourth-and-1 at the 25 rather than kick a field goal. Trubisky's pass to Allen Robinson got broken up. Green Bay then drove 76 yards, with Jones scoring from the 4 to make it 28-16 with 3:47 remaining.

 

Adrian Amos then intercepted Trubisky at midfield and returned it to the Chicago 26, leading to a 6-yard touchdown catch for Adams.

 

The Packers have their sights set on a deep playoff run after losing to San Francisco in the conference championship game last season. They are off next weekend.

 

The Bears visit New Orleans on Sunday.

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Bulls Drop Mavs

Zach LaVine had 39 points and Coby White scored 21 of his 23 points in the second half to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 118-108 victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Sunday night.

 

Chicago prep star Jalen Brunson, starting in place of the injured Luka Doncic, had 31 points for the Mavericks.

 

Otto Porter Jr. added 15 for the Bulls, who were without starter Lauri Markkanen and reserves Tomas Satoransky, Chandler Hutchison and Ryan Arcidiacano. Chicago has won three of four and won for the first time in four home games.

 

Doncic sat out because of a left quadriceps contusion. He was injured Friday night in the second quarter of a home victory over Miami Heat. He continued to play and finished with season highs of 27 points and 15 rebounds. He's listed as day-to-day, with his status Monday night at Houston uncertain.

 

Dallas led 60-59 at halftime despite LaVine scoring 29. LaVine was 9 for 13 from the field while the rest of the Bulls were 10 for 27.

 

Brunson had 18 first-half points on 7-for-8 shooting for the Mavericks.

 

Chicago scored the final seven points of the third quarter to take an 86-81 lead into the fourth.

The Bulls stretched the lead to 100-91 with just over 8 minutes on a pair of free throws by White - the largest lead to that point by either team to that point.

 

The Mavericks pulled to within 103-98 on a basket by Josh Richardson with just under 5 minutes to go. Porter Jr. answered on the end with a 3-point play on an offensive rebounds to build the lead back up to 106-98.

 

Dallas responded with six straight points (four by Brunson) to make it 106-104 with 3 1/2 minutes to play.

 

LaVine then was fouled at other end and hit two free throws. Following a defensive stop, LaVine fed Porter Jr. for a layup to make it 110-104 with 2:50 remaining.

 

White hit a 3-pointer with 1:33 left for a 113-105 lead.

 

Kristaps Porzingis (right knee surgery) has been cleared for full contact, but there is no timetable for his return. He is expected to participate when the team holds its next practice session on Wednesday.

 

The Bulls are at Portland on Tuesday night to begin a four-game West Coast trip.

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Short-handed Bulls send Wizards to 5th straight defeat

Otto Porter scored 28 points, Zach LaVine added 22 and the Chicago Bulls beat the winless Washington Wizards 133-130 on Thursday.

 

The Bulls played without Lauri Markkanen, their second-leading scorer and top rebounder, as well as forward Chandler Hutchison and guards Ryan Arcidiacano and Tomas Satoransky.

 

Russell Westbrook had his fourth straight triple-double in his four games with Washington, finishing with 22 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. Thomas Bryant and Bradley Beal each had 28 points for Washington (0-5).

 

The Bulls took the lead on Coby White's two free throws with 1:01 to play.

 

Chicago had taken an 11-point lead in the third quarter, but couldn't hold it.

 

Chicago had seven players in double figures for the second straight game. White and Wendell Carter had 16, Daniel Gafford and Thaddeus Young added 15 and Patrick Williams had 10.

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Sabonis, 3-point shooting carry Pacers past Cavs, 119-99

Domantas Sabonis led the Pacers with 25 points and 11 rebounds, and McDermott provided a spark with 18 points and nine rebounds off the bench in a 119-99 victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

 

It's the fourth time in five games that McDermott has scored in double digits. He hit three 3-pointers as the Pacers were 16 of 35 from long range. Because opponents are wary of his 3-point shooting and have adjusted defending him accordingly, that's provided more opportunities to drive to the rim.

 

All-Star guard Victor Oladipo hit four 3-pointers.

 

Sabonis, the 6-foot-11 center who usually does most of his work inside, made both of his 3-point tries and shot 10 of 14 overall. The NBA's first Eastern Conference Player of the Week also had 11 rebounds.

 

Two days after blowing a 17-point, third-quarter lead in a home loss to Boston, the Pacers pulled away again after halftime to take a 20-point advantage into the fourth quarter. 

 

Indiana, playing seven of its first nine at home, improved to 4-1.

 

Shooting guard Collin Sexton led the Cavaliers with 28 points, and point guard Darius Garland added 21. Cleveland was 12 of 23 on 3-pointers in the first of six straight road games. The Cavs are 3-2.

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Packers-Bears Preview

Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are rolling with five straight wins and their second straight NFC North championship.

 

Rodgers and the Packers will try to clinch the No. 1 seed and the bye that comes with it when they close out the regular season against the playoff-hopeful Chicago Bears on Sunday.

 

The Packers (12-3), who pounded Tennessee last week, began their win streak by dominating the Bears at Lambeau Field. If they beat or tie Chicago (8-7), the No. 1 seed is theirs. A loss or tie by Seattle against San Francisco would also do it for Green Bay.

 

The Bears have scored 30 or more points in four straight games for the first time since 1965. And if they beat the Packers, they will make the playoffs for the second time in coach Matt Nagy's three seasons.

 

It's quite a turnaround after losing six in a row. But the Bears bounced back with three straight wins against struggling teams, beating Houston, Minnesota and Jacksonville.

 

The oldest rivalry in the NFL has been a rather one-sided affair in recent years, with Green Bay winning 18 of 21 against Chicago counting the postseason. The Bears can still reach the playoffs with a loss if Arizona falls on the road against the Los Angeles Rams. And if both games end in ties, the Bears would be playoff bound.

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