James, Wade lead Heat past Bobcats 99-88 in Game 1 (Yahoo Sports) - LeBron James scored 27 points, Dwyane Wade added 23 and the Miami Heat used a late charge to beat the Charlotte Bobcats 99-88 on Sunday in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference first-round series. Chris Bosh scored 13 points and James Jones had 12 for the Heat. Kemba Walker scored 20 points for the Bobcats, who led by nine early and led again in the third. He finished with 18 points and 10 rebounds for the Bobcats, who got 17 from Gary Neal and 15 from Josh McRoberts. Carter sees off debutant Xiao - Bruins top Red Wings 4-1, even series at 1-1 (Yahoo Sports) - Justin Florek and Reilly Smith scored in a three-minute span in the first period and the Boston Bruins evened their playoff series with a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings in the Game 2 on Sunday. Showing more spark after not taking enough challenging shots on goal in their 1-0 loss Friday night, the Bruins had 18 shots in the first period after managing just 25 in the entire opener. Luke Glendening cut Boston's lead to 2-1 at 13:20 of the second period before Milan Lucic scored late in the second and Zdeno Chara added a power-play goal early in the third. Game 3 of the best-of-seven series between the top-seeded Bruins, who won the Presidents' Cup with an NHL-high 117 points, and eighth-seeded Red Wings is set for Detroit on Tuesday night. Donald pipped by Kuchar in RBC Heritage - England's Luke Donald finishes second, one shot behind American Matt Kuchar at the RBC Heritage in South Carolina. Kuchar rallies, chips in for RBC Heritage win (Yahoo Sports) - Matt Kuchar overcame a four-stroke deficit to finally finish on top, when his stunning chip-in on the 18th hole gave him a 64 and a victory at the RBC Heritage on Sunday. Kuchar was four shots behind Luke Donald at the start but made that up with seven birdies on his first 10 holes. Kuchar was in more trouble in a bunker at Harbour Town Golf Links' closing lighthouse hole. He missed a 28-foot birdie putt at the 17th hole, then saw his own try at a chip-in birdie slide past the cup. Span's sacrifice fly in 9th lifts Nats over Cards (Yahoo Sports) - Denard Span hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth inning and the Washington Nationals, with Bryce Harper back in the lineup and stealing his first base of the season, rallied past the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 Sunday. The Nationals loaded the bases in the ninth against Seth Maness (0-1) when Danny Espinosa singled with one out for his third hit, Jose Lobaton singled through the right side of the infield and pinch hitter Nate McLouth walked. Prizefighter Rubin 'Hurricane' Carter dies at 76 (Yahoo Sports) - Rubin ''Hurricane'' Carter never surrendered hope of regaining his freedom, not even after he was convicted of a triple murder, then convicted again and abandoned by many prominent supporters. Instead, Carter dedicated much of his remaining life to helping other prisoners and exposing other injustices. Tigers edge sloppy Angels 2-1 (Yahoo Sports) - Rick Porcello pitched seven sharp innings, and the Detroit Tigers took advantage of four Los Angeles errors in a 2-1 victory over the Angels on Sunday. Three of those errors came on one play in the first inning, allowing Detroit's Ian Kinsler to score from first on a walk. Then in the sixth, Angels catcher Hank Conger threw wildly to first trying to pick off Austin Jackson. Nick Castellanos followed with an RBI single to put Detroit ahead 2-1. Popovich to Sager: 'I promise I'll be nice' (Yahoo Sports) - Spurs coach Gregg Popovich says he looks forward to sideline reporter Craig Sager's return and ''I promise I'll be nice.'' TNT's Sager is missing the NBA playoffs as he undergoes treatment for leukemia. So his son, Craig Sager Jr., filled in for Sunday's broadcast of San Antonio's playoff opener against Dallas, asking Popovich a few questions before the fourth quarter. Popovich is famous for his terse answers to in-game questions from Sager and other sideline reporters. Sager even joked about it in a statement Friday confirming his diagnosis: ''Too bad, I had some probing questions for Pop.'' This time, Popovich was verbose by his standards in discussing the Spurs' play. Duncan scores 27 points, Spurs beat Mavs 90-85 (Yahoo Sports) - Tim Duncan scored 27 points, and the San Antonio Spurs held the Dallas Mavericks to one field goal in the final seven minutes to rally for a 90-85 victory Sunday in Game 1 of their first-round playoff series. The Mavericks also went scoreless for 5 1/2 minutes during that stretch, their lone field goal coming as time expired. Tony Parker had 21 points, and Manu Ginobili added 17. Kawhi Leonard had 11 points and 10 rebounds and Tiago Splitter pulled down 11 rebounds for top-seeded San Antonio, which has won 10 straight against Dallas.

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Scheduling concessions to Gonzaga leave Washington State fans disgusted [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 19, 2014, 12:13 pm]
Buried in the middle of a lengthy story in the Gonzaga student newspaper earlier this week was a tidbit that had Washington State fans snarling with anger. The annual matchup between the Zags and Cougars will take place at Spokane Arena next season even though Gonzaga hosted last year's game and the schools have traditionally alternated home games since the series restarted in the mid-90s. What further reporting from the Spokesman Review uncovered is that Gonzaga balked at extending the series as a home and home. To prevent the rivalry from going on hiatus, Washington State athletic director Bill Moos agreed to a three-year contract in which the first game was at Gonzaga last November, the second will be at Spokane Arena next season and the third will be in Pullman the year after that. It's easy to understand the frustration of Washington State fans at that arrangement. Though both teams play occasional home games at Spokane Arena, the venue is a 90-minute drive from Washington State yet is within walking distance of the Gonzaga campus, essentially making a matchup there an extra home game for the Zags.   What Washington State fans aren't taking into account, however, is that Gonzaga has earned the right to make such a demand. Though the Zags may play in a lesser conference, they are clearly the superior program at the moment.  Gonzaga has evolved from mid-major darling to national power under Mark Few, reaching 16 consecutive NCAA tournaments, earning its first-ever No. 1 seed in 2013 and returning enough talent to likely begin next year in the preseason top 20. Washington State meanwhile has fallen off the national radar since Tony Bennett left for Virginia in 2009, going 80-86 overall and 29-61 in Pac-12 games in five seasons under Ken Bone before replacing him with former Oregon coach Ernie Kent last month. Since the improving but still second-tier WCC is a drag on Gonzaga's RPI numbers each year, the Zags have to counteract that by playing as challenging a n

The stormy relationship between Frank Haith and Missouri ended via text message [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 2:58 pm]
The more details emerge about Frank Haith's stormy tenure at Missouri, the more it resembles the average high school relationship. They first got together against the advice of peers who insisted Haith wasn't good enough for the Tigers. They endured three chaotic, drama-filled years together. And they broke up abruptly in the most impersonal, awkward manner possible.  Missouri athletic director Mike Alden told reporters in Columbia on Friday afternoon that Haith indicated he  was leaving for Tulsa via text message earlier in the morning. Haith insisted during his introductory press conference at Tulsa that he'd tried to reach Alden by phone before informing his boss he was leaving by text.  It's a shame we'll probably never see that text exchange because the possibilities are hilarious.  Haith: Off to Tulsa :) Sorry the last two years didn't go better. Tell the players I'll miss them. Alden: Tulsa?!? LOL. Are their games even on TV? Enjoy obscurity, bro. Though publicly Alden was complimentary of Haith and insisted he enjoyed working with him during his news conference, many at Missouri believe the coach did the Tigers a favor leaving for a less high-profile job rather than staying for a fourth season. His departure enables Missouri to begin its rebuilding process a year ahead of schedule rather than having to make a decision whether to retain Haith after the 2014-15 season. When Missouri hired Haith three years ago after a failed bid to pluck Matt Painter from Purdue, many Tigers fans didn't exactly embrace the move. They launched phone and email campaigns urging the school's board of curators not to approve Haith's contract, noting his 43-69 record in ACC play at Miami and his one NCAA tournament berth since 2004. Haith temporarily quieted his critics by leading a group of seniors who had underachieved the previous year under Mike Anderson to a 30-win season, but an opening-round NCAA tournament loss to 15th-seeded Norfolk State undid some of the good will he

Proposed rule change would prevent hardship transfers from gaining immediate eligibility [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 18, 2014, 9:42 am]
Amid complaints regarding the process of obtaining hardship waivers, the NCAA's Division I leadership council recommended a policy change on Friday intended to eliminate the criticism. The proposed rule change would give athletes who transfer due to difficult life or family circumstances an extra year to complete their four years of eligibility but would strip them of the right to apply for immediate eligibility at their new school. Those athletes would instead have to sit out a full year before competing for their new school the way other transfers do. The extra year of eligibility would likely only come into play in rare cases when an athlete transfers because of a hardship and has already used a redshirt year previously. In such situations, athletes would not forfeit a year of eligibility while sitting out after transferring because they would have six years to play four seasons instead of five. “We hope this change will encourage student-athletes who must transfer based on hardships to focus on the circumstances prompting the transfer during their first year and adjust to their new school, while giving them a season back to complete their eligibility,” Amy Huchthausen, America East Conference commissioner and chair of the Leadership Council subcommittee, said in a release. The reexamination of the transfer policy comes in response to intense scrutiny in recent years regarding how the NCAA determines which transfers are worthy of hardship waivers. Many have complained that athletes abuse the spirit of the policy by embellishing a family tragedy in an attempt to gain immediate eligibility at their new school. Athletes who transfer because of insufficient playing time or issues with their coach will try to convince the NCAA that the real reason their changing schools is to be closer to an aunt or uncle who is ill. At the same time, inconsistent decisions from the NCAA have also been a source of frustration. Trey Zeigler received immediate eligibility at Pittsbu

Duke's Jabari Parker makes the prudent choice to enter the NBA draft [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 17, 2014, 11:00 am]
The tantalizing notion of close friends and fellow Chicago natives Jahlil Okafor and Jabari Parker playing together at Duke next season will not come to fruition.  Parker is leaving a year too soon. The national freshman of the year announced Thursday that he is forgoing his final three years of eligibility and entering the NBA draft, a decision that has been anticipated since before he ever donned a Duke jersey. Parker detailed his thought process in an essay published by SI.com, explaining that the lure of chasing a title with Okafor and the rest of his Duke teammates next season wasn't strong enough to overcome his desire to begin his NBA career.  "Ultimately, I boiled my decision down to two simple questions," Parker wrote. "Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow as a basketball player? Which environment -- college or the NBA -- offers me the best opportunity to grow and develop off the court? The answer to both questions is undeniably the NBA. "My father, Sonny, played in the NBA. I know firsthand that the career span of a pro basketball player is finite. The lucky ones play until their mid-30s. With that perspective, I shrink my professional career with each year that I remain in college. It's ironic, but true." Though Parker's passion for college and the imminent arrival of a top-ranked recruiting class led to speculation he could buck conventional wisdom, the 6-foot-8 forward's decision ultimately was fairly clear-cut. His polished, versatile, NBA-ready offensive game makes him a near-certain top five pick and a candidate to unseat Kansas freshmen Andrew Wiggins or Joel Embiid at No. 1 To understand the risks for a potential top five pick returning to school, Parker needs only to study the example of the last player to do so. Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart jeopardized his draft stock during a trying sophomore season in which he shoved a fan, earned a reputation for flopping, struggled to knock down jump shots and f

Nick Johnson chooses turning pro over chasing a title at Arizona [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 15, 2014, 5:02 pm]
Of all the college prospects weighing whether or not to enter the NBA draft this spring, Nick Johnson had one of the most difficult decisions. No matter what he chose, the Arizona star had to make a sacrifice. If he stayed for his senior season at Arizona, there was a very good chance Johnson's stock would level off or even diminish. Not only would it be tough for Johnson to duplicate his All-American-caliber junior season with Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson sharing playing time at wing, he also would have little chance to prove to NBA scouts he could play point guard with T.J. McConnell returning. At the same time, leaving Arizona meant missing out on a season that had the potential to be special. Were the Wildcats to have McConnell at point guard, him, Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson at wing and Brandon Ashley and Kaleb Tarczewski anchoring the frontcourt, they probably would enter the season no worse than the co-favorites to win the national championship. Ultimately, Johnson pondered the pros and cons for two weeks before his decision crystallized in his mind the past few days. He and freshman forward Aaron Gordon jointly announced on Tuesday afternoon that they're both forgoing their remaining college eligibility and entering the NBA draft. "I had to sit down and think about myself and see what's best for me," Johnson told reporters in Tucson on Tuesday. "Although there's a huge chance of being a great team next year with the components we would have had coming back, I just had to make the best choice for myself." It's a testament to the recruiting efforts of Sean Miller and his staff that Arizona can survive the loss of Johnson and Gordon and not miss a beat. With six of last season's top eight players expected back and a top recruiting class headlined by Stanley Johnson and Craig Victor arriving, Arizona should begin next year no worse than third or fourth in most preseason polls. Whereas Gordon's decision was clear-cut since he's a near-certain lott

Cuonzo Martin was wise to leave Tennessee, but was Cal smart to hire him? [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 15, 2014, 12:33 pm]
At the same time as Tennessee was fighting to scrape together enough wins to make the NCAA tournament in late February, a petition with more than 30,000 signatures circulated the internet urging the Vols to bring Bruce Pearl back after the season. Those Tennessee fans won't get Pearl but they will get a new coach. Cuonzo Martin is leaving Tennessee after three seasons to replace the newly retired Mike Montgomery as head coach at Cal. Martin led the Vols on a surprise run to the Sweet 16 last month after narrowly slipping into the NCAA tournament as a No. 11 seed. Leaving Tennessee now is a shrewd move by Martin because he was in a tough spot following the most successful coach the Vols had ever hired. In six seasons in Knoxville, Pearl led Tennessee to six straight NCAA tournaments, ascended to No. 1 in the nation briefly in 2008 and reached the Elite Eight in 2010. Martin was never fully able to escape Pearl's shadow and win over the Tennessee fan base while leading the Vols to a pair of NITs prior to this year's NCAA tournament run.  Worse yet, the pressure was likely to intensify on Martin given that Pearl is back in the SEC at Auburn and that the Vols are probably headed for a rebuilding year next season. Four of Tennessee's five leading scorers are leaving including graduating senior Jordan McRae and NBA draft-bound junior Jarnell Stokes. Judging by the reaction of the outgoing Tennessee players, they clearly understand and even empathize with their coach's decision to bolt. Tweeted McRae, "Can't treat people any kind of way and expect good in return." Added Jeronne Maymon, "Not even surprised... It was just a matter of time! #RESPECT" It's clear Martin wanted out of Knoxville considering he was heavily involved in the Marquette search before the Golden Eagles went with Duke assistant Steve Wojciechowski instead. The bigger question is whether Cal is making a wise choice hiring a coach with minimal recruiting ties to the West Coast.  Martin grew up in Saint L

Willie Cauley-Stein's surprise return bolsters already strong Kentucky frontcourt [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 5:53 pm]
The last image of Willie Cauley-Stein on the Kentucky bench won't be with an electric blue flower-print button-down shirt underneath his jersey. Cauley-Stein announced Monday evening that he is passing on the chance to enter the NBA draft and intends to be back in uniform at Kentucky next season. The 7-foot center averaged 6.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.9 blocks this past season before suffering what turned out to be a season-ending right ankle injury against Louisville in the Sweet 16 and sitting out the remainder of the NCAA tournament. “I’m proud to say I’m coming back for my junior year,” Cauley-Stein said on Twitter. “I still have an empty spot to fulfill and in no rush to leave the best fans in the USA!” The return of Cauley-Stein is nearly as big a surprise as Louisville's Montrezl Harrell announcing he intends to come back to school earlier in the day. Like Harrell, Cauley-Stein was a projected first round pick with a chance to go as high as the late lottery. Whereas Harrell's return shores up a position of weakness for Louisville, Cauley-Stein's return further bolsters a position of strength for Kentucky. Between Cauley-Stein, sophomore-to-be Marcus Lee and incoming freshmen Karl Towns and Trey Lyles, Kentucky will have at least four former McDonald's All-Americans 6-foot-9 and taller next season. And the frontcourt would only get stronger if 7-foot freshman Dakari Johnson and 6-foot-8 sophomore Alex Poythress were also to come back.  What will be interesting to see is whether Cauley-Stein's return influences Johnson's decision. Would Johnson return when there's the potential he could see even less playing time than a year ago? And will Calipari be able to keep that stable of big men happy when there's only so much playing time to go around? Regardless, the bigger question for Kentucky remains the backcourt. If James Young and the Harrison twins turn pro as expected, the Wildcats will rely heavily on a pair of freshmen. Small but jet-quick Tyle

Early departures of Tyler Ennis, Jerami Grant will force Syracuse's freshmen to step up [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 1:40 pm]
What happens when the three leading scorers are removed from a Syracuse program that already struggled to generate enough offense late last season? We're about to find out. Syracuse announced Monday that sophomore forward Jerami Grant will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and declare for the NBA draft. His decision ensures Syracuse will lose the core of this past season's 28-win team since All-ACC forward C.J. Fair is graduating and standout freshman point guard Tyler Ennis is also entering the NBA draft. The departure of Grant is not a huge surprise since he showed enough promise while averaging 12.1 points and 6.8 rebounds this past season to intrigue NBA scouts. Even with an inconsistent jump shot and little in the way of a back-to-the-basket game, Grant is a likely first-round pick this June thanks to his explosive athleticism, impressive wingspan and ability to make an impact on the glass and finish around the rim.  Syracuse's chances of contending in the ACC next season took a significant hit with the loss of Grant considering how strong Duke, North Carolina, Virginia and Louisville all should be. In reality, it will be an accomplishment for the Orange to merely crack the top five in the league standings and comfortably return to the NCAA tournament for the seventh straight season. The only double-digit scorer who will return from this past season is guard Trevor Cooney, a catch-and-shoot specialist who slumped badly in late February and March and still doesn't create much off the dribble even at his best. The Orange do not have a proven replacement for Ennis at point guard, nor do they have much depth or scoring punch in the frontcourt. Either Duke transfer Michael Gbinije or incoming top 50 recruit Kaleb Joseph will be the heir apparent at point guard, with Joseph likely to be given every chance to win the job. Cooney and sophomore Tyler Roberson are the favorites to start at wing, with Gbinije serving as a sixth man for a second straight year.  

Montrezl Harrell's return makes Louisville a threat to win the ACC next season [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 11:36 am]
Had Montrezl Harrell entered the NBA draft this June as expected, Louisville likely would have begun the season on the fringes of the preseason top 25. Instead the 6-foot-8 forward is returning for his junior season, giving the Cardinals hope of contending in their debut season in the ACC and reaching a third Final Four in four seasons. Harrell announced his surprising decision to stay in school on Monday via Twitter. Wrote the sophomore in a tweet that included a picture of himself in a Louisville uniform., "Been on my mind heavy but I love the feeling of being a Louisville Cardinal [and] I will be wearing this for the next year." The return of Harrell is a surprise because he likely would have been selected in the middle of the first round had he turned pro. He averaged 14.0 points and 8.4 rebounds during a breakout sophomore season and tallied double-doubles in six of his final 11 games, helping Louisville finish 31-6 and reach the Sweet 16. Louisville's frontcourt was supposed to be a concern next season with Chane Behanan at Colorado State and Stephan Van Treese graduating, but Harrell's return solidifies that unit considerably. He and raw but promising center Mangok Mathiang would likely start, with Wayne Blackshear probably sliding down to power forward sporadically and heralded freshmen Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku supporting that group off the bench. The backcourt promised to be a strength for the Cardinals no matter what Harrell did. Though Russ Smith, Luke Hancock and Kevin Ware are all leaving, Louisville remains well-stocked on the perimeter with point guard Chris Jones returming, breakout candidate Terry Rozier likely to step into a starting role and four-star point guard Quentin Snider and talented wing Shaqquan Aaron set to arrive. Making an immediate splash in the ACC still won't be easy for Louisville with Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia each poised to be strong again next season. Nonetheless, the return of Harrell gives the Cardin

John Calipari reveals the famous 'tweak' that sparked Kentucky's March revival [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 14, 2014, 9:26 am]
The infamous "tweak" that John Calipari credited for Kentucky's stunning postseason reversal of fortune not surprisingly turned out to be a pretty simple coaching adjustment.  Calipari revealed Monday that he merely simplified the game for point guard Aaron Harrison before the SEC tournament and told him to worry less about scoring and more about distributing. "I was trying to make the game easier for Andrew," Calipari told CBS This Morning on Monday during an interview promoting his new book. "I got tapes of Deron Williams, who averaged nine assists throughout his career in the NBA. We had a game where he had 11 assists and I showed Andrew and I said, ‘Look at this. Let’s watch. Would you have passed or shot?’ He said, ‘I would have shot.’ ‘Would you have passed or shot?’ Well, Deron was throwing balls to everybody. "And so I said, ‘Monday, you will not shoot one basketball. You will pass. We’re going to run less plays. You will create shots. We will chart. We’re not telling our team.’ He comes in and has 26 assist attempts. Twenty-six assists that Monday. I’m mad the whole practice because it’s changed my team. Why didn’t I do it earlier? And then I apologized to him, I apologized to the team and I said, ‘I messed this up, make me look good now.’" The "tweak" has been the subject of much discussion because Calipari refused to reveal what he had altered during Kentucky's run from a No. 8 seed to the national title game, nor would he allow his players to speak about it. How much the "tweak" truly made a difference is debatable, but Harrison's assist numbers did increase in the postseason. In nine SEC tournament and NCAA tournament games, Harrison averaged 11.0 points, 5.4 assists and 3.7 turnovers. He had averaged 3.5 assists per game before the SEC tournament, though his points per game (10.9) and assist-to-turnover ratio were virtually identical before and after. In reality, the biggest impact of the "tweak" was surely psychologic

Ranking the 10 best dunks of this year's college basketball season [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 11, 2014, 12:21 pm]
The Dagger continues its season-in-review series this week with a look back at the best dunks of the 2013-14 college basketball season. Let us know which ones we missed via Twitter or in the comments below. No. 1 Wichita State guard Tekele Cotton's poster dunk Comment: Illinois State defender John Jones learned the hard way not to rotate late on help defense. The 6-foot-2 Cotton threw down a dunk so vicious over Jones that it even had his coach raving about it. "Oh man, that was quite a play," Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told reporters after the game. "Tremendous. Tekele’s just a tremendous athlete and it seemed like he never stopped rising." No. 2 Wagner's Dwaun Anderson flushes off-the-glass alley-oop Comment: The highlight of Wagner's Jan. 11 victory over fellow NEC contender LIU Brooklyn was this emphatic off-the-glass alley-oop from sophomore senior Latif Rivers to sophomore Dwaun Anderson. Two Wagner players actually had a chance to finish the dunk, but Anderson skies over Marcus Burton to complete the spectacular play. No. 3 Michael Qualls' game-winning tip dunk at the buzzer Comment: Nobody delivered a more timely dunk this season than Qualls. Needing a basket to prevent double overtime after Kentucky's James Young had tied the game with a 3-pointer seconds earlier, Arkansas junior Rashad Madden fired from the right corner with two seconds to go. Madden's shot hit the back iron and bounced high in the air, but Qualls snuck in from the left wing, corralled the miss and slammed home a thunderous two-handed put-back dunk to give Arkansas an 87-85 victory. No. 4 Nevada's Deonte Burton annihilates the rim Comment: It's no accident NBA scouts consider Nevada's Deonte Burton perhaps the most athletic point guard prospect in this June's draft class. What other point guard could throw down a dunk as filthy as the one the 6-foot-1 Burton delivered in March over Boise State's Ryan Watkins? No. 5 Kentucky's James Young delivers the NCAA tournament's best

Ranking the 10 best games from this year's college basketball season [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 10, 2014, 1:32 pm]
The Dagger will be recapping the best and worst of the recently completed 2013-14 college basketball season during the next week. Here's a look at the 10 best games: 1. Kentucky 74, Wisconsin 73 (April 5): Aaron Harrison experienced the exhilaration of sinking a game-winning shot in the NCAA tournament for the third time in eight days. The Kentucky guard added to his growing legend in the national semifinals, beating Wisconsin with a game-winning left-wing 3-pointer from virtually the same spot on the floor that he'd waylaid Michigan from six days earlier. Harrison's shot not only kept the Wildcats' national title hopes alive but also saved his twin brother from some difficult postgame questions. Andrew Harrison enabled Wisconsin to take the lead on the previous possession when he bit on Traveon Jackson's shot fake as the shot clock was winding down and sent him to the line for three free throws.  2. Kentucky 78, Wichita State 76 (March 23): The most anticipated matchup of the NCAA tournament's opening weekend somehow exceeded expectations. Unbeaten Wichita State and former preseason No. 1 Kentucky staged a heavyweight fight worthy of the Final Four rather than the round of 32, trading body blows and counterpunches for two-plus hours before the Wildcats finally landed a haymaker. James Young buried a 3-pointer that put Kentucky up two with less than two minutes to play and the Wildcats sank 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to maintain their lead. Fred VanVleet missed an off-balance 3-pointer that would have won it at the buzzer, ending Wichita State's perfect season and launching Kentucky's run to the title game. 3. Wisconsin 64, Arizona 63 OT (March 29): To send Bo Ryan to the first Final Four of his career, Wisconsin had to defeat top-seeded Arizona in front of a hostile crowd in Anaheim. The Badgers did it thanks to a masterful 28-point, 11-rebound performance from Frank Kaminsky and a pair of crucial defensive stands in the final seconds of overtime. On the

Michigan State community creates touching memorial to Princess Lacey on campus [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 10, 2014, 10:58 am]
Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo and some of his players joined hundreds of students on campus Wednesday to paint a rock and fill it with messages to 8-year-old Lacey Holsworth, who lost her fight with cancer Tuesday. The beautiful little girl became known as 'Princess Lacey' and developed a bond with MSU senior forward Adreian Payne, who first met her two years ago during one of her hospital stays. She suffered from neuroblastoma, a fetal-nerve cell cancer. They became like brother and sister with Payne and his teammates including her in numerous team activities. It was time for my lil princess to go home & feel no more pain,now she's happy & she's my angel watching over me. pic.twitter.com/bpUPCipcif — Adreian Payne (@Adreian_Payne) April 10, 2014 Payne carried her around the court last month during senior day and allowed her to participate in cutting down the nets with the Spartans when they won the Big Ten tournament. Izzo spoke to a large group of Michigan State students at the rock memorial Wednesday night. .@Adreian_Payne signs the rock. #RIPLacey pic.twitter.com/AmMEh6Q6kT — Lansing StateJournal (@LSJNews) April 10, 2014 Payne, Izzo and the Spartans included Lacey in so much of what they experienced in March during the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments and Payne's appearance in the college slam dunk contest. - - - - - - - Kyle Ringo is the assistant editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at kyle.ringo@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KyleRingo

Newly released Devonte Graham will be a coveted recruit the next few days [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 10, 2014, 9:21 am]
It didn't take long for Devonte Graham's phone to start buzzing once new Appalachian State coach Jim Fox did what his predecessor would not and released the Brewster Academy standout from the letter of intent he signed in 2012. Fifteen schools have already called Graham to show interest in recruiting him since he received his complete release late Wednesday night. Among those to reach out to the Class of 2014's best available point guard are Boston College, Cincinnati, Creighton, Florida, Florida St, George Mason, Georgia Tech, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Providence, South Florida, Virginia, Virginia Tech and Xavier. Coaches from most of those schools plan to fly to New Hampshire to visit Graham at Brewster Academy either Thursday, Friday or Sunday. Brewster coach Jason Smith said he expects Graham to narrow his list early next week once he has a chance to visit with all those coaches. Fox's decision to release Graham ended a frustrating 14-month standoff between the recruit and the school with which he initially signed. Graham initially signed with Appalachian State in Nov. 2012 but asked for his release three months later after a better-than-anticipated senior season at Raleigh (N.C.) Broughton High sparked interest from numerous high-major programs. Former Appalachian State coach Jason Capel refused since signing Graham was a desperately needed recruiting coup and the staff had stopped recruiting other point guards three months earlier. Since numerous high-major programs wanted to speak directly to Graham but couldn't unless he got his release, Smith spoke with Yahoo Sports and other media outlets in September in hopes that public pressure would help persuade the Mountaineers to set him free. He noted Graham had no intention of playing for Appalachian State and would have to forfeit a season of Division I eligibility if the school did not release him, either by sitting out the 2014-15 season or by playing for a junior college.   Appalachian State nonetheless ent

Derrick Gordon coming out is important because the UMass guard will inspire others [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 9, 2014, 12:52 pm]
Long before Derrick Gordon revealed to his teammates he was gay during a team meeting last Wednesday afternoon, UMass coach Derek Kellogg suspected his sophomore guard was unhappy about something. "There were a few occasions where he'd roll off by himself rather than with the rest of his teammates or he'd leave the Mullins Center looking like something was on his mind," Kellogg said. "We'd ask him and he'd say he was fine, but he clearly had some things he was wrestling with in his life." What Kellogg has learned since Gordon's announcement is the 6-foot-3 New Jersey native was more isolated and depressed than he'd realized. Tired of hiding who he was from his teammates and coaches yet unsure if they would accept him, Gordon avoided going to parties or meals with his teammates, regularly sequestered himself in his room or in the weight room and often cried himself to sleep at nights. He even pondered giving up basketball, quite a statement for a kid who credits the sport with lifting him out of a dangerous neighborhood and putting him on track to earn his college degree and perhaps play professionally someday. Everything has changed for the better for Gordon since he revealed his sexuality to his team last Wednesday and became the first openly gay male Division I basketball player a week later. Kellogg said Gordon has been noticeably happier for the past week and he's hopeful that sharing his story with Outsports.com and ESPN.com on Wednesday will help inspire other closeted athletes to have the courage to come out of hiding. "It seems like a big weight has been lifted off his shoulders," Kellogg said. "He seems a lot more energetic and upbeat. He gives you a harder high five or a bigger hug when he sees you, and I do believe one of the reasons for that is his teammates were so supportive. I think they had an idea or an inkling and they were relieved he came to them and told them." If "Why is this news?" is the question most frequently asked when an athlete publicl

UMass guard Derrick Gordon becomes first openly gay male D-I basketball player [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 9, 2014, 8:52 am]
Nearly a year after Jason Collins became the first active NBA player to publicly reveal that he's gay, the New Jersey Nets center's bravery has helped a college player feel comfortable doing the same. UMass guard Derrick Gordon became the first openly gay Division I basketball player when he revealed his sexuality in articles published by Outsports.com and ESPN.com on Wednesday. One week earlier, Gordon informed his teammates he was gay at a team meeting, a revelation that was met first with surprise and immediately afterward with support. "I have the most profound respect for Derrick and the decision he has made to come out publicly," UMass coach Derek Kellogg tweeted Wednesday. "He is a model student, a terrific competitor, but most importantly, he is a wonderful human being. We know his decision weighed heavily on him for some time, but as a coaching staff, a team and a family, we stressed to him that we support him in every way possible." Gordon told ESPN.com that he distanced himself from his UMass teammates out of fear they'd discover his secret, turning down invitations to join other players for meals or other outings in the two years since he transferred to Western Kentucky. The chance to forge a stronger bond with his teammates was one of the reasons he came out to them, as was the support received by Collins and former Missouri defensive end and current NFL draft hopeful Michael Sam after their recent announcements. "I've lived my life hiding behind somebody who I wasn't," he said. "I wasn't really that close to anybody on this team because there was something I had to hide. So I distanced myself as soon as I got here, and nobody knew why I was doing that."             

Lacey Holsworth, friend of MSU's Adreian Payne, has died [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 9, 2014, 6:26 am]
 Lacey Holsworth, the eight-year-old cancer patient who lived up to her Twitter name @adorablelacey, has died, according to her family. Holsworth became friends with Michigan State's Adreian Payne and accompanied him throughout the Spartans' run to the Big Ten championship and the NCAA tournament. Holsworth's family announced her passing via social media: Holsworth suffered from neuroblastoma, cancer discovered in 2011 after she suffered pain while dancing. Doctors found tumors on her kidney and spine severe enough to restrict her movement. During their many public appearances together, Payne would often carry Holsworth, including a trip up the ladder to cut down the nets after Michigan State's Big Ten championship victory.

UConn beats Notre Dame to cap off undefeated season and give Auriemma record ninth national title [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 8, 2014, 9:16 pm]
In a battle of unbeatens, Geno Auriemma and the Huskies proved once again that Connecticut is the class of women’s college basketball in a dominating 79-58 win over Notre Dame in Nashville. Led by 6-foot-4 sophomore Breanna Stewart and 6-foot-5 senior Stefanie Dolson, four different players scored in double figures for the Huskies to give Auriemma his record ninth national championship, passing legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. The 60-year-old Auriemma, in his 29th season at UConn, is a perfect 9-0 in national championship games. Stewart, the tournament’s most outstanding player, of the led the Huskies with 21 points on an impressive 10-of-15 shooting while also pulling down nine rebounds. Dolson had a fantastic all-around game with 17 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 18 points and seven boards, while senior guard Bria Hartley contributed 13 points. The win clinched a perfect 40-0 season for the Huskies and handed Notre Dame (37-1) its first loss since April 7, 2013 – also a national title game loss to UConn. Notre Dame, who was playing without its 6-foot-3 senior leader Natalie Achonwa, was led by senior guard Kayla McBride (21 points) and Jewell Loyd (13 points), while Michaela Mabrey added 10 off the bench. The loss was Notre Dame’s third in the title game in the past four seasons. The Irish were seeking their first championship since 2001. Using its size to an extreme advantage, it was clear that UConn was the better team from the start. The Huskies jumped out to an early 22-8 lead at the 11:30 mark of the first half with 18 of those 22 points coming from Stewart and Dolson down low. The Huskies scored 32 points in the paint in the first half to build a seven-point halftime lead over their former Big East rivals. The Huskies then scored 18 of the first 22 points in the game’s second half to squelch any possible Notre Dame comeback. For the game, UConn shot 46.6 percent from the field

UConn beats Notre Dame to cap off undefeated season and give Geno Auriemma record ninth national title [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 8, 2014, 9:16 pm]
In a battle of unbeatens, Geno Auriemma and the Huskies proved once again that Connecticut is the class of women’s college basketball in a dominating 79-58 win over Notre Dame in Nashville. Led by 6-foot-4 sophomore Breanna Stewart and 6-5 senior Stefanie Dolson, four different players scored in double figures for the Huskies to give Auriemma his record ninth national championship, passing legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. The 60-year-old Auriemma, in his 29th season at UConn, is a perfect 9-0 in national championship games. Stewart, the tournament’s most outstanding player, led the Huskies with 21 points on an impressive 10-of-15 shooting while also pulling down nine rebounds. Dolson had a fantastic all-around game with 17 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 18 points and seven boards, while senior guard Bria Hartley contributed 13 points. The win clinched a perfect 40-0 season for the Huskies and handed Notre Dame (37-1) its first loss since April 7, 2013 – also a national title game loss to UConn. Notre Dame, which was playing without 6-3 senior leader Natalie Achonwa, was led by senior guard Kayla McBride (21 points) and Jewell Loyd (13 points), while Michaela Mabrey added 10 off the bench. The loss was Notre Dame’s third in the title game in the past four seasons. The Irish were seeking their first championship since 2001. Using its size to an extreme advantage, it was clear UConn was the better team from the start. The Huskies jumped out to an early 22-8 lead at the 11:30 mark of the first half with 18 of those 22 points coming from Stewart and Dolson down low. The Huskies scored 32 points in the paint in the first half to build a seven-point halftime lead over their former Big East rivals. The Huskies then scored 18 of the first 22 points in the game’s second half to squelch any possible Notre Dame comeback. For the game, UConn shot 46.6 percent from the field while outrebounding the

UConn beats Notre Dame to cap off undefeated season with women's national title [Yahoo! Sports: Blogs: April 8, 2014, 9:16 pm]
In a battle of unbeatens, Geno Auriemma and the Huskies proved once again that Connecticut is the class of women’s college basketball in a dominating 79-58 win over Notre Dame in Nashville. Led by 6-foot-4 sophomore Breanna Stewart and 6-5 senior Stefanie Dolson, four different players scored in double figures for the Huskies to give Auriemma his record ninth national championship, passing legendary Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. The 60-year-old Auriemma, in his 29th season at UConn, is a perfect 9-0 in national championship games. Stewart, the tournament’s most outstanding player, led the Huskies with 21 points on an impressive 10-of-15 shooting while also pulling down nine rebounds. Dolson had a fantastic all-around game with 17 points, 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. Junior forward Kaleena Mosqueda-Lewis added 18 points and seven boards, while senior guard Bria Hartley contributed 13 points. [Photos: UConn beats Notre Dame for women's basketball national title | Buy gear] The win clinched a perfect 40-0 season for the Huskies and handed Notre Dame (37-1) its first loss since April 7, 2013 – also a national title game loss to UConn. Notre Dame, which was playing without 6-3 senior leader Natalie Achonwa, was led by senior guard Kayla McBride (21 points) and Jewell Loyd (13 points), while Michaela Mabrey added 10 off the bench. The loss was Notre Dame’s third in the title game in the past four seasons. The Irish were seeking their first championship since 2001. Using its size to an extreme advantage, it was clear UConn was the better team from the start. The Huskies jumped out to an early 22-8 lead at the 11:30 mark of the first half with 18 of those 22 points coming from Stewart and Dolson down low. The Huskies scored 32 points in the paint in the first half to build a seven-point halftime lead over their former Big East rivals. The Huskies then scored 18 of the first 22 points in the game’s second half to squelch any possible Notre Dame com





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