#SportsReport: NFL Wild Card Games Kick-Off Saturday
The Golden State Warriors extended their road winning streak to nine games on Thursday by pulling away in the fourth quarter of a 124-114 victory at Houston. Stephen Curry scored 29 points and Klay Thompson added 28 in the Warriors' league-leading 16th road win. Curry added nine rebounds, five assists and a steal in his third game back after missing 11 straight with a sprained right ankle.
Top-ranked Michigan State went on a 15-0 run late in the first half and nailed a season-high 16 3-pointers in a 91-61 blowout over Maryland. Miles Bridges delivered 15 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two blocks as the 15-1 Spartans improved to 3-0 in the Big Ten. Freshman Jaren Jackson had 15 points, three blocks and two steals despite sitting out all but four minutes of the opening half due to foul trouble.
SMU has hired Connecticut offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee for the same position with the Mustangs. Lashlee joins new coach Sonny Dykes' staff after one year with the Huskies. He spent the previous four seasons as offensive coordinator at Auburn, with the Tigers reaching the BCS championship game his first year.
Ernie Duncan poured in a season-high 32 points on 10-of-11 shooting and Drew Urquhart notched his first double-double of the season as Vermont defeated UMass Lowell 88-77 in an America East Conference opener. Vermont (10-5) won its sixth straight conference opener.
Noah Morgan, the Northeast Conference rookie of the week, scored 21 points, including a 3-point play off a dunk to give Fairleigh Dickinson a two-possession lead in the final minute and the Knights rallied past Central Connecticut State 81-77 despite owning the lead for barely more than three minutes. Darian Anderson added 14 points and had four of Fairleigh Dickinson's 13 steals. CCSU turned the ball over 22 times to just seven for the Knights.
Longtime Yale football coach Carmen "Carm" Cozza has died at 87. Cozza led Yale to a share of 10 Ivy League titles during 32 years as coach. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. He coached the Bulldogs from 1965 to 1996. He had a career record of 179-119-5, including an undefeated 1968 season that ended in a famous 29-29 tie with Harvard.
Junior Robinson scored 25 points with nine assists, Jonah Antonio added 18 points with four 3-pointers, and Mount St. Mary's beat Bryant 96-80 to end a two-game skid. Greg Alexander scored 15 points with five 3-pointers, Chris Way added 12 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, and Donald Carey scored 11 points for the Mountaineers (7-9, 1-2).
The list of players entering the NFL draft now includes Oklahoma left tackle Orlando Brown, Florida State defensive lineman Josh Sweat and Stanford defensive lineman Harrison Phillips. They announced Thursday that they are giving up their senior year of eligibility.
The 6-foot-8, 345-pound Brown was a first-team All-American, an Outland Trophy finalist and a team captain this season. He anchored three of the best offenses in school history and helped quarterback Baker Mayfield finish in the top four of the Heisman Trophy balloting three times.
Sweat led the Seminoles with 5 ½ sacks and 12 ½ tackles for loss while recording 56 total tackles. He is the third Florida State player to declare for the draft, joining safety Derwin James and tight end Ryan Izzo. Phillips was a Third Team All-American, finishing the season with 7 ½ sacks and 14 ½ tackles for loss.
In other college football news:
— A person with knowledge of the decision says Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch is leaving the Cougars and joining Ohio State as an assistant coach.
The NHL has postponed Thursday night's matchup between the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins because of the severe winter storm impacting Boston and the surrounding area. The date and time of the rescheduled game will be announced later.
Sweden has prevented the United States from becoming the first repeat winner of the world junior hockey championship since 2009. Filip Gustavsson stopped 29 shots and the Swedes scored three times in the third period to take a 4-0 lead in a 4-2 semifinal victory over the Americans. Kieffer Bellows and Brady Tkachuk scored late goals for the U.S.
Ivan Provorov had two goals and an assist, and Sean Couturier had a goal, an assist and participated in one of several fights for the Philadelphia Flyers in a feisty 6-4 victory over the slumping New York Islanders. Travis Konecny energized his teammates with a first-period scrap, then scored to cap a four-goal second. Wayne Simmonds and Michael Raffl also scored for the Flyers, who overcame a poor third period for their second win in six games.
Tyler Seguin scored his team-leading 20th goal short-handed, Alexander Radulov had a goal and two assists and the Dallas Stars beat the New Jersey Devils 4-3. Brett Ritchie had the tiebreaking goal on a power play after a second straight penalty against Sami Vatanen, and the Devils matched their season high with a fourth straight loss. The skid follows a season-best five-game winning streak that started with a win at home over the Stars.
Nino Niederreiter had a hat trick in his return from injury, Mikko Koivu contributed a goal and two assists, and the finally fully healthy Minnesota Wild beat the Buffalo Sabres 6-2 last night. Niederreiter, who missed the previous five games because of a lower leg injury, needed less than 25 minutes of game time to get his third goal for the second hat trick of his seven-year career.
Paul Byron scored the lone shootout goal and the Canadiens ended a five-game losing streak by nipping the Lightning 2-1. Montreal's Max Pacioretty scored for the first time in 14 games to end Andrei Vasilevskiy's shutout streak at 184 minutes, 49 seconds. The Lightning lead the NHL's Eastern Conference with 61 points after losing for just the third time in their last 15 games.
NFL Wild Card games kick-off this weekend when the Tennessee Titans take on the Kansas City Chiefs at 4:25 p.m. on Saturday. Later, the Atlanta Falcons will face off with the LA Rams at 8:15 p.m. On Sunday at 1 p.m., the Buffalo Bills will make their first playoff appearance in 17 years, taking on the Jacksonville Jaguars. The Carolina Panthers will finish off the weekend’s wild card games when they go up against the New Orleans Saints at 4:40 p.m.
Tom Brady and the Patriots again top the AFC playoff field in a year when there are three newcomers. Also back are Ben Roethlisberger's Pittsburgh Steelers and Alex Smith's Kansas City Chiefs. The Jaguars, Bills and Titans all ended long droughts to return to the playoff party.
Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy says he's making progress with his right ankle injury. However, his status remains uncertain for Sunday's AFC wild-card playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. McCoy spoke for the first time since suffering the injury in Sunday's 22-16 win over the Miami Dolphins. He has yet to practice this week but did participate in stretches Thursday before leaving the field with a trainer.
The New York Giants' coaching search was delayed by a winter storm that dumped nearly a 1 1/2 feet of snow on some New Jersey shore towns. The Giants had scheduled an interview Thursday with Eric Studesville, the recently fired Broncos' running backs coach who had been in Denver since 2010 and was the interim head coach after Josh McDaniels' firing that year. Studesville now will be interviewed next week.
The Titans will be without running back DeMarco Murray for their AFC wild-card game against the Chiefs in Kansas City on Saturday. Murray hurt his right knee late in a loss Dec. 24 to the Los Angeles Rams and has not practiced since. He finished the season with a career-worst 659 yards rushing, but he ran for six touchdowns. He also caught 39 passes for 266 yards with another TD.
Marc Leishman birdied four straight holes en route to a 6-under 67 that gives him a one-shot lead through the opening round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. Leishman put together his string of birdies around the turn and holed a 20-foot birdie on 17, putting him just ahead of Brian Harman and Jhonattan Vegas.
Tiger Woods is playing twice in California over the next six weeks as he continues another comeback from back surgery. Woods says he will play the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 25 at Torrey Pines, where he claimed the 2008 U.S. Open among his eight victories there. He also says he will play the Genesis Open at Riviera in Los Angeles that starts Feb. 15. The schedule is similar to the one last year when he was returning from back surgery. But he lasted only two tournaments before getting injured again.
The upcoming Australian Open women's draw won't include the defending champion. Serena Williams has withdrawn from the tournament, saying she's not ready to return to competitive tennis. Williams was pregnant with her first child when she won last year's tournament at Melbourne Park, the 23rd Grand Slam singles title of her career. She gave birth in September and played in an exhibition tournament last week. Williams indicated after her loss to French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko that she might not make it to Melbourne.
The Dodgers, White Sox and Royals have pulled off a three-team deal involving major league relievers and minor league prospects. Los Angeles gets lefty Scott Alexander and minor league infielder Jake Peter. Chicago receives veteran relievers Luis Avilan and Joakim Soria, along with cash. Kansas City acquires minor league pitcher Trevor Oaks and infielder Erick Mejia in the deal.
Former major league infielder and longtime coach Rob Picciolo died of a heart attack Monday at age 64. Picciolo played nine big league seasons for the Athletics, Angels and Brewers before becoming a coach for the Padres and Angels. He spent 20 years in the Padres organization and served as a major league coach under three different managers in San Diego before serving on the Angels staff from 2010-13.
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