Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Technology. Show all posts

AP source: Tom Brady gets 3-year extension

Tom Brady will be a Patriot until he is 40 years old.

Brady agreed to a three-year contract extension with New England on Monday, a person familiar with the contract told The Associated Press. The extension is worth about $27 million and will free up nearly $15 million in salary cap room for the team, which has several younger players it needs to re-sign or negotiate new deals with.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the extension has not been announced.

Sports Illustrated first reported the extension.

The 35-year-old two-time league MVP was signed through 2014, and has said he wants to play at least five more years.

A three-time Super Bowl champion, Brady will make far less in those three seasons than the going rate for star quarterbacks. Brady currently has a four-year, $72 million deal with $48 million guaranteed.

Drew Brees and Peyton Manning are the NFL's highest-paid quarterbacks, at an average of $20 million and $18 million a year, respectively.

Brady has made it clear he wants to finish his career with the Patriots, whom he led to Super Bowl wins for the 2001, 2003 and 2004 seasons, and losses in the big game after the 2007 and 2011 seasons. By taking less money in the extension and redoing his current contract, he's hopeful New England can surround him with the parts to win more titles.

Among the Patriots' free agents are top receiver Wes Welker and his backup, Julian Edelman; right tackle Sebastian Vollmer; cornerback Aqib Talib; and running back Danny Woodhead.

Brady has been the most successful quarterback of his era, of course, as well as one of the NFL's best leaders. His skill at running the no-huddle offense is unsurpassed, and he's easily adapted to the different offensive schemes New England has concentrated on through his 13 pro seasons.

The Patriots have gone from run-oriented in Brady's early days to a deep passing team with Randy Moss to an offense dominated by throws to tight ends, running backs and slot receivers.

Brady holds the NFL record for touchdown passes in a season with 50 in 2007, when the Patriots went 18-0 before losing the Super Bowl to the Giants. He has thrown for at least 28 touchdowns seven times and led the league three times.

Last season, Brady had 34 TD passes and eight interceptions as the Patriots went 12-4, leading the league with 557 points, 76 more than runner-up Denver.

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A fickle format that produces the right winner

MARANA, Ariz. (AP) — For such a fickle format, the Match Play Championship sure does seem to produce the right winner.

Matt Kuchar had reason to pack a full suitcase for the high desert of Arizona based on his record in this tournament. He is the only player to reach the quarterfinals each of the last three years, and he wound up losing to the eventual champion the previous two times.

Sunday he went the distance to capture his first World Golf Championship.

Kuchar became only the second player in the 15-year history of the Match Play to win without ever seeing the 18th hole except in a practice round, or when the courtesy van ferrying him in after winning a match drove past the closing hole on the way to the clubhouse.

He played 96 holes in six rounds and only trailed after four of them.

He built a 4-up lead over Hunter Mahan in the championship match and held off a fierce rally on the back nine at Dove Mountain to close him out, 2 and 1, and add his name to an impressive list of winners.

"Match play I find to be such an amazing, unique format, so much fun to play and so much pressure," Kuchar said. "It seems like each hole there's so much momentum riding and so much pressure on every hole. To come out on top after six matches of playing the top 64 guys in the world, it's an incredible feeling."

One reason the PGA Championship abandoned match play in 1958 was that the field was cut in half after each round, giving the crowd fewer players to watch. And it was miserable for television when the biggest stars were eliminated.

That much hasn't changed.

Tiger Woods left on Thursday for the second year in a row, and the only reason he lasted that long was because of a snowstorm on Wednesday. He lost in the first round, as did Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the world. By the weekend, the highest seed remaining was Masters champion Bubba Watson.

But a closer look will show that this tournament is won by some of the best in match play.

Kuchar's record improved to 15-3.

His last win came at the expense of Mahan, who had won 11 straight matches in this event — 12 overall dating to his singles win in the 2011 Presidents Cup — and had a staggering streak of 169 holes without trailing.

The previous four winners were Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Geoff Ogilvy and Woods, all of them considered the best in the head-to-head game that many believe to be the purest form of golf.

Donald has a 17-8 record in this tournament alone, which doesn't speak to his prowess in the Ryder Cup. Poulter had a 19-3-2 record in match play worldwide the last three years, though he wound up losing twice in one day on Sunday — to Mahan in the semifinals, and to Jason Day in a consolation match.

Ogilvy was disheartened at failing to qualify this year, and it's easy to see why. He has a 20-5 record at the Match Play, with two wins and three trips to the championship match. Ogilvy has never lost in singles in the Presidents Cup, with two of those wins over Steve Stricker.

Woods, of course, needs no introduction when it comes to Match Play. He won six straight USGA titles as an amateur, and even with a recent slump at Dove Mountain — he has failed to get out of the second round since he won in 2008 — his overall record in this format as a pro is 48-15-2.

Mahan had to take down Poulter in the semifinal, and it was no picnic. Mahan twice hit tough chips to within 6 feet to win a hole, and he chipped in from 70 feet behind the 12th green to grab a 3-up lead and coast in against the Englishman, who was off his game in that match. As tough as Poulter is in match play, Mahan knew that Kuchar would be just as difficult in his own way.

"It was definitely a different vibe, for sure," Mahan said. "Kooch and I had more conversation on the first hole than I did with Poulter all day. But that's the difference between the two guys. There's nothing wrong with it either way. Poults is very steely out there. He motivates himself in a different way than Kooch does."

Poulter and Mahan learned an old lesson the hard way. There is no good time in this tournament to have a bad day. Some players can get away with one in the early rounds, but not late in the bracket when those who are left got there for a reason.

When Mahan hit a weak pitch up the slope on No. 4 and made bogey, he paid for it more ways than one. It was the first time he trailed in any match since the sixth hole of the opening round last year. And he trailed Kuchar, who doesn't make many mistakes.

Kuchar built a 4-up lead at the turn on the strength of two good birdies and two bad bogeys from Mahan, but the defending champion fought back. He won the next two holes, both into a fierce, cold wind, which the cut deficit in half and gave Mahan loads of momentum. And then he hit an 8-iron into 10 feet on the par-3 12th.

That's where the match turned in Kuchar's favor. He followed with an 8-iron to just inside 15 feet, still a difficult putt.

"The shot was certainly good, but the putt was really crucial, and when that went in, I felt like I was still in control of the match," Kuchar said. "Had that putt not gone in, it would have been only a 1-up lead, and I think the match was in anybody's hands at that point."

Mahan kept fighting and trailed by one hole when they got to the 17th, and an exciting back nine ended with a thud. Both hit into the fairway bunker on 17, but Mahan's ball was slightly sunk in the sand, and his approach never came close to reaching the green. Instead, it rolled through a patch of desert until it lodged in a bush. Mahan took four shots to reach the green and conceded the match.

Kuchar won for the fifth time in his career, pocketing just over $3.2 million for his last two titles — the WGC and The Players Championship. He moved to No. 8 in the world and is sure to be looked up on as a contender in the majors this year.

And now, no one will be deceived by Kuchar's easy smile and happy-go-lucky nature when they return to Dove Mountain next year.

"He does it differently," Mahan said. "He's more like a fuzzier, Peter Jacobsen kind of guy who likes to talk. He's super competitive, there's no doubt about it. He plays golf to win, and he works hard at it."

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Pistorius' brother facing culpable homicide charge

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The family lawyer of Oscar Pistorius said on Sunday that the double amputee athlete's brother is facing a culpable homicide charge for a 2010 road death.

Lawyer Kenny Oldwage would not confirm details of the case Carl Pistorius is facing, but Sunday's development compounded problems for the family after Oscar was charged with premeditated murder in the Feb. 14 shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Carl Pistorius was allegedly involved in a crash with a woman motorcyclist and he was supposed to be in court last Thursday, as his brother Oscar was facing a bail hearing, according to local media reports.

Oscar Pistorius was released on bail Friday and his brother Carl was seen driving into the home of their uncle Arnold early Sunday in Waterkloof, a wealthy suburb of Pretoria, the nation's capital, where Oscar is now staying.

The problems surrounding his older brother Carl are the latest twist in a case that has transfixed South Africa and much of the world. Sunday's revelation of the culpable homicide charge immediately created a stir.

"It's also doubly sad because it's involved with Oscar and his brother and all the family — so they have double sort of trouble. So, not good," said Johannesburg resident Jim Plester.

Oscar Pistorius was charged with premeditated murder, but the athlete says he killed his girlfriend accidentally, opening fire after mistaking her for an intruder in his home.

The Pistorius family has yet to react to the accusations that Carl is facing.

On Saturday, the family took steps to lower its profile on social media after someone hacked into the Twitter account of Carl. They cancelled all the social media sites for both Oscar's brother and his sister Aimee.

Carl has always been close to Oscar but was a notable absent when their uncle Arnold, flanked by Oscar's sister Aimee, read out a first reaction to the shooting on Feb. 17, even though he was also on the premises.

The three-story house where Pistorius is staying with his aunt and uncle lies on a hill with a sweeping view of Pretoria. It has a large swimming pool and an immaculate garden.

Pistorius was born without fibula bones due to a congenital defect and his legs were amputated when he was 11 months old. He has run on carbon-fiber blades and was originally banned from competing against able-bodied peers because many argued that his blades gave him an unfair advantage. He was later cleared to compete. He is a multiple Paralympic medalist, but he failed to win a medal at the London Olympics, where he ran in the 400 meter race and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team.


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed from Pretoria.

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Oscar Pistorius gets bail as murder trial looms

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Oscar Pistorius walked out of court Friday — free at least for now — after a South African magistrate released him on bail, capping four days of often startling testimony that foreshadowed a dramatic trial in the Valentine's Day slaying of his girlfriend.

But as he was driven away, chased by photographers and cameramen, questions continued to hound the double-amputee Olympian about what actually happened the night he gunned down Reeva Steenkamp inside a locked bathroom in his home.

Pistorius is charged with premeditated murder, and even Chief Magistrate Desmond Nair expressed doubts about his story that he mistook the 29-year-old model for an intruder and fired out of fear.

"Why would (Pistorius) venture further into danger" by going into the bathroom at all, Nair asked.

Cries of "Yes!" went up from Pistorius' supporters when Nair announced his decision to a packed courtroom after a nearly two-hour explanation of the ruling.

Nair set bail at 1 million rand ($113,000), with $11,300 in cash up front and proof that the rest is available. The 26-year-old track star was also ordered to hand over his passports, turn in any guns he owns and keep away from his upscale home in a gated community in Pretoria, which is now a crime scene.

He cannot leave the district of Pretoria without his probation officer's permission and is not allowed to consume drugs or alcohol, the magistrate said. His next court appearance was set for June 4.

Earlier, Pistorius alternately wept and appeared solemn and composed, especially as Nair criticized police procedures in the case and as a judgment in the track star's favor appeared imminent. He showed no reaction as he was granted bail.

Pistorius left the courthouse in a silver Land Rover just over an hour after the bail conditions were set. The vehicle, tailed by motorcycles carrying television cameramen, later pulled into the home of Pistorius' uncle.

"We are relieved at the fact that Oscar got bail today, but at the same time we are in mourning for the death of Reeva, with her family," said Pistorius' uncle, Arnold Pistorius. "As a family, we know Oscar's version of what happened on that tragic night and we know that that is the truth and that will prevail in the coming court case."

Dozens of journalists and international and local television crews had converged on the red-brick courthouse to hear the decision — a sign of the global fascination with a case involving a once-inspirational athlete and his beautiful girlfriend, a law school graduate and budding reality TV show contestant.

Nair said Pistorius' sworn statement, an unusual written account of what happened during the pre-dawn hours of Feb. 14, had helped his application for bail.

"I come to the conclusion that the accused has made a case to be released on bail," Nair said.

Pistorius said he shot Steenkamp accidentally, believing she was an intruder in his house. He described "a sense of terror rushing over" him and feeling vulnerable because he stood only on his stumps before opening fire.

Prosecutors say he intended to kill Steenkamp as she cowered in fear behind the locked bathroom door after a loud argument between the two.

Yet despite poking holes in Pistorius' version of events and bringing up incidents they say highlight his temper, the state's case started to unravel during testimony by the lead investigator, Detective Warrant Officer Hilton Botha.

Botha, who faces seven charges of attempted murder in an unrelated incident, was removed from the case Thursday. His replacement, the nation's top detective, Vinesh Moonoo, stopped by the hearing briefly Friday.

While Nair leveled harsh criticism at Botha for "errors" and "blunders," he said one man does not represent an investigation and that the state could not be expected to put all "the pieces of the puzzle" together in such a short time.

The prosecution accepted the judge's decision without protest. "We're still confident in our case," prosecution spokesman Medupe Simasiku said.

Pistorius faced the sternest bail requirements in South Africa because of the seriousness of the charge, which carries a life sentence if convicted. His defense attorneys had to prove that he would not flee the country, would not interfere with witnesses or the case, and his release would not cause public unrest.

Nair questioned whether Pistorius would be a flight risk when he stood to lose a fortune in cash, cars, property and other assets. Nair also said that while it had been shown that Pistorius had aggressive tendencies, he did not have a prior record of offenses for violent acts.

Anticipating the shape of the state's case at trial, he said he had serious questions about Pistorius' account: Why didn't he try to locate his girlfriend if he feared an intruder was in the house? Why didn't he try to determine who was in the bathroom before opening fire? And why did he venture into perceived "danger" in the bathroom when he could have taken other steps to ensure his safety?

"There are improbabilities which need to be explored," Nair said, adding that Pistorius could clarify these matters by testifying under oath at trial.

Sharon Steenkamp, Reeva's cousin, said the model's family would not be watching the bail decision and had not been following the hearing.

"It doesn't make any difference to the fact that we are without Reeva," she told The Associated Press.

Before the hearing, Pistorius' longtime coach, Ampie Louw, said he hoped to put the runner back into his training routine if he got bail.

"The sooner he can start working the better," said Louw, who persuaded the double-amputee to take up track as a teenager a decade ago. But he acknowledged Pistorius could be "heartbroken" and unwilling to immediately pull on the carbon-fiber running blades that earned him the nickname "Blade Runner."


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray contributed to this report from Johannesburg.


Jon Gambrell can be reached at .

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NFL exec: HGH testing resolution needed

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — NFL senior vice president Adolpho Birch says the league and players association need to reach agreement soon on HGH testing.

The NFL and the union agreed in principle to HGH testing when a new 10-year labor agreement was reached in August 2011. But protocols must be approved by both sides and the players have questioned the science in the testing procedures, stalling implementation.

Speaking at the scouting combine Thursday, Birch says the NFL has full confidence in the test and "should have been a year into this by now." He calls the delays "a disservice to all of us."

On Tuesday, the union said in a conference call it favors HGH testing, but only with a strong appeal process. Otherwise, NFLPA spokesman George Atallah said, "it's just a nonstarter."

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Police: Pistorius detective faces charges himself

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — The lead investigator in the murder case against Oscar Pistorius faces attempted murder charges himself over a 2011 shooting, police said Thursday in another potentially damaging blow to the prosecution.

Prosecutors said they were unaware of the charges against veteran detective Hilton Botha when they put him on the stand in court to explain why Pistorius should not be given bail in the Valentine's Day shooting death of his girlfriend.

Prosecutors say Pistorius intentionally killed model Reeva Steenkamp and have charged him with premeditated murder. Pistorius says he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder and that the shooting was accidental.

Police Brig. Neville Malila told The Associated Press that Botha — who gave testimony in the Pistorius bail hearing on Wednesday — is scheduled to appear in court in May on seven counts of attempted murder related to an incident in October 2011 when Botha and two other police officers fired at a minibus they were trying to stop.

Malila said police had learned Wednesday, the same day that Botha appeared in court to oppose Pistorius' bail application, that the charges against Botha and the two others had been reinstated by the Director of Public Prosecutions. They were initially dropped following the shooting incident.

Malila said police were now waiting for details from the Botha case file from the public prosecutor.

Medupe Simasiku, the spokesman for the prosecutors charging Pistorius with premeditated murder, said he couldn't say how the charges against Botha would affect their case against Pistorius.

In the state case against the Olympic athlete, Botha offered often confused testimony and conceded that nothing in Pistorius' account the Steenkamp shooting contradicted the police's version.

Simasiku said that based on the reinstated accusation against Botha, "we can take action and see if we remove him from the investigation or if he stays."

Botha was the lead investigator in an assault claim against Pistorius in 2009. Pistorius' lawyers said police arrested the athlete and held him overnight at a police station and said they will pursue a lawsuit against police for wrongful arrest.

The current case against Pistorius, which is still only in a bail hearing, has riveted much of the world. Pistorius, 26-year-old the man known as the Blade Runner for his carbon-fiber running prosthetic legs, says he fired shots through the locked door of a toilet enclosed inside his bathroom because he thought there was an intruder in there.

Steenkamp was hit three times, in the head, right elbow and right hip, police say, and prosecutors argue Pistorius intended to kill his 29-year-old girlfriend after a fight in the early hours of Valentine's Day.


AP Sports Writer Gerald Imray in Johannesburg contributed to this report.

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No. 1 Indiana beats No. 4 Michigan State 72-68

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Indiana has gone from good to great, and Michigan State coach Tom Izzo thinks he knows how the Hoosiers have done it.

Victor Oladipo.

"He makes them better," Izzo said.

Oladipo shook off a sprained left ankle with a spectacular performance to lift top-ranked Indiana to a 72-68 win over the fourth-ranked Spartans on Tuesday night.

"I'm not going to lie, it hurt a little," Oladipo said. "But I wanted to win."

It looked like a victory meant more to him than any other player in the highly anticipated game that matched the pregame hype.

"Oladipo is just a refuse-to-lose guy," Izzo said. "Winning time, he made the plays."

Oladipo's go-ahead putback, dunk and free throws in the final minute gave him 19 points to go with nine rebounds, five steals and a block. Not bad for a guy who didn't play after halftime of his previous game, just three days earlier, because of the injury.

Hoosiers coach Tom Crean insisted that the junior shooting guard "wasn't even close" to 100 percent healthy.

"There's no doubt his foot hurt," Crean said. "That mind was right, and that was the biggest thing."

Indiana (24-3, 12-2 Big Ten) broke a first-place tie in the conference — with four games left in the regular season — and moved a step closer toward earning top seeding next month in the NCAA tournament.

"It was a huge win for us," Oladipo said. "We've come a long way."

The Hoosiers had lost 17 straight — since 1991 — on the road against the Spartans.

"Most of those guys weren't alive," Crean said of his players. "It didn't affect them."

Michigan State (22-5, 11-3) blew chances at the line, but Izzo thought a lot of little and big plays earlier in the game were as much to blame for the missed opportunity to win.

"Games aren't lost with free throws at the end," he said.

This one was won by Oladipo

Trailing by three with 3.7 seconds left, Gary Harris was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He missed the first one — setting off sighs in the sold-out arena — and after making the second, he deliberately missed the third.

Indiana got the rebound — Oladipo grabbed it, of course — and he hit two free throws to seal the win.

"We were right there," Harris said somberly. "And, we could've won."

Keith Appling had missed the front end of a one-and-one with a little more than a minute left.

"I'd say I was more upset than surprised," he said.

Cody Zeller had 17 points — nearly doubling what he had in the previous matchup against Michigan State — while Jordan Hulls and Christian Watford scored 12 each for the Hoosiers.

Oladipo and Zeller went over the 1,000-point mark of their careers in the game, joining Hulls and Watford in the club, to give the storied program four players with that many points on the same team for the first time.

"They've got a lot of weapons," Izzo said. "They've got a lot of experience."

Harris, Indiana's Mr. Basketball last year, missed a layup in a crowded lane with 16 seconds left and finished with 19 points. Adreian Payne scored 17 and the rest of the Spartans struggled offensively.

Appling, Michigan State's leading scorer, was held to six points on 1-of-8 shooting.

"My quarterback struggled a little bit," Izzo said.

Branden Dawson had eight points and Derrick Nix scored eight and some of his contributions offensively late in the game looked like they were going to help the school win its second game in the regular season against a No. 1 team.

Nix made a go-ahead shot — after grabbing rebounds off two of his misses — to put Michigan State ahead 64-63 lead with 3:08 left and scored again in the post on its next possession.

Harris made one of two free throws with 1:38 remaining to give the Spartans a game-high, four-point lead.

Watford responded with a three-point play on the ensuing possession to pull Indiana within a point and Oladipo did the rest.

Michigan State had won five straight and 11 of 12 with its only loss during the stretch at Indiana. In last month's five-point loss at Indiana, Oladipo had 21 points, seven rebounds, six steals and three blocks.

The rematch marked the first time two top-five teams have met at the Breslin Center.

It was the third matchup of top-four teams in college basketball this season — the second for Indiana, which beat then top-ranked Michigan — and was just the fourth with a pair of Big Ten teams since 1997.

"Nothing rattles us too much," Zeller said.


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Pistorius charged with murdering girlfriend

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Olympian Oscar Pistorius fired into the door of a small bathroom where his girlfriend was cowering after a shouting match on Valentine's Day, hitting her three times, a South African prosecutor said Tuesday as he charged the sports icon with premeditated murder.

Pistorius sobbed softly as his lawyer insisted that Reeva Steenkamp's shooting was an accident.

"She couldn't go anywhere. You can run nowhere," prosecutor Gerrie Nel said at a bail hearing.

The shooting death has shocked South Africans and many around the world who idolized Pistorius for overcoming adversity to become a sports champion, competing in the London Olympics last year in track besides being a Paralympian. Steenkamp, 29, was a model and law graduate who made her debut on a South African reality TV program on Saturday, two days after her death..

Nel said the couple had had a shouting match and Steenkamp fled to the bathroom, down a seven-meter (yard) passage from the bedroom, and locked herself in. He said the 26-year-old Pistorius got up from bed and had to put on his prosthetic legs to reach the toilet door.

Nel told the court the door was broken open after the shots were fired. Pistorius' lawyer insisted there was no evidence to substantiate a murder charge.

"Was it to kill her, or was it to get her out?" defense attorney Barry Roux asked the court, referring to the browken-down door. "We submit it is not even murder. There is no concession this is a murder."

Pistorius, who had appeared grim and solemn at the start of the hearing, broke down and sobbed softly with his head in his hands as his lawyer argued that he had mistaken Steenkamp for a burglar. The shooting in the early hours of Feb. 14 came after neighbors had heard a loud argument and then gunshots, police have said. The couple had been dating for only about three months.

As details emerged at the dramatic court hearing in the capital, Steenkamp's body was being cremated Tuesday at a memorial service in the south-caost port city of Port Elizabeth. The family said members had arrived from around the world. Six pallbearers carried her coffin, draped with a white cloth and covered in white flowers, into the church for the private service.

June Steenkamp, the mother, said the family wants answers.

"Why? Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this?" she said in an interview published Monday in The Times newspaper.

At the court, Nel said the killing was premeditated because Pistorius had planned to say that he thought he was shooting an intruder, and had told that story to his sister, Aimee.

"It was all part of the preplanning. Why would a burglar lock himself inside the bathroom?" Nel asked. The shooting happened at Pistorius' home in a guarded and gated community in a luxury suburb of Pretoria.

Roux, in arguing that Pistorius should be freed on bail, he said there were no other charges outstanding against the double-amputee who last year became the first double-amputee track athlete to run at the Olympics.

Legal experts say it could take months for the case to be tried.

Pistorius, in a gray suit and tie, nodded after the chief magistrate asked if he was well. And he nodded his appreciation when his brother, Carl, pressed his shoulder in support. Journalists jammed into the courtroom, which was full with almost 100 people, including Pistorius' father, Henke, and sister Aimee.

In an email to The Associated Press on Monday, Pistorius' longtime track coach — who was yet to comment — said he believes the killing was an accident.

"I pray that we can all, in time, come through this challenging situation following the accident and I am looking forward to the day I can get my boy back on the track," Ampie Louw wrote in his statement. "I am still in shock following the heart-breaking events that occurred last week and my thoughts and prayers are with both of the families involved."

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Danica Patrick wins pole for NASCAR's Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Danica Patrick is at her best in the spotlight.

Good thing, too, because she's going to be there all week.

Patrick won the Daytona 500 pole Sunday, becoming the first woman to secure the top spot for any race in NASCAR's premier circuit. It's by far the biggest achievement of her stock-car career. She's braced for the attention that will follow.

"I think when pressure's on and when the spotlight's on, I feel like it ultimately ends up becoming some of my better moments and my better races and better results," Patrick said. "I just understand that if you put the hard work in before you go out there that you can have a little peace and a little peace of mind knowing that you've done everything you can and just let it happen."

Patrick, who taped interviews Sunday with CNN, ESPN and Good Morning America, was the first woman to lead laps in the Indianapolis 500. She finished third in 2009, the highest finish in that illustrious race for a woman. And she became the only woman to win an IndyCar race when she did it in Japan in 2008.

Her latest stamp in the history books came with a lap at 196.434 mph around Daytona International Speedway. Patrick went out eighth in the qualifying session, then had to wait about two hours as 37 fellow drivers tried to take her spot.

Only four-time Cup champion Jeff Gordon even came close to knocking her off the pole. Gordon was the only other driver who topped 196 mph in qualifying. He locked up the other guaranteed spot in next week's season-opening Daytona 500.

"It's great to be a part of history with Danica being on the pole," said Gordon, who joked that at least he was the fastest guy. "I think we all know how popular she is, what this will do for our sport. Congratulations to her. Proud to be on there with her."

The rest of the field will be set in duel qualifying races Thursday.

However the lineup unfolds, all drivers — including boyfriend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. — will line up behind Patrick's No. 10 Chevrolet SS.

"I was brought up to be the fastest driver, not the fastest girl," she said. "That was instilled in me from very young, from the beginning. Then I feel like thriving in those moments, where the pressure's on, has also been a help for me. I also feel like I've been lucky in my career to be with good teams and have good people around me. I don't think any of it would have been possible without that.

"For those reasons, I've been lucky enough to make history, be the first woman to do many things. I really just hope that I don't stop doing that. We have a lot more history to make. We are excited to do it."

Even before her fast lap, Patrick had been the talk of Speedweeks. Not only did she open up about her budding romance with Stenhouse — Patrick officially filed to end her seven-year marriage to 47-year-old Paul Hospenthal in January — but she was considered the front-runner for the pole after leading practice sessions Saturday.

Now, she will garner even more hype.

"That's a huge accomplishment," team owner and fellow driver Tony Stewart said. "It's not like it's been 15 or 20 years she's been trying to do this. It's her second trip to Daytona here in a Cup car. She's made history in the sport. That's stuff that we're proud of being a part of with her. It's something she should have a huge amount of pride in.

"It's never been done. There's only one person that can be the first to do anything. Doesn't matter how many do it after you do, accomplish that same goal. The first one that does always has that little bit more significance to it because you were the first."

The result surely felt good for Patrick, especially considering the former IndyCar driver has mostly struggled in three NASCAR seasons. Her best finish in 10 Cup races is 17th, and she has one top-five in 58 starts in the second-tier Nationwide Series.

She raced part-time in 2010 and 2011 while still driving a full IndyCar slate. She switched solely to stock cars last season and finished 10th in the Nationwide standings.

She made the jump to Sprint Cup this season and will battle Stenhouse for Rookie of the Year honors.

Starting out front in an unpredictable, 500-mile race doesn't guarantee any sort of result, but securing the pole will put her in the limelight for at least the rest of the week.

"I don't think about Danica as a female race-car driver," defending Cup champion Brad Keselowski said. "I think of her as a rookie and someone that hasn't won races or proved that she is competitive."

Patrick won the pole at Daytona for last year's Nationwide race.

But this is considerably different, significantly bigger.

The previous highest female qualifier in a Cup race was Janet Guthrie. She started ninth at Bristol and Talladega in 1977.

"It's obviously a history-making event that will last a long, long time," Guthrie said, praising Patrick's feat. "It's a different era, of course. Different times. I can't imagine what I would do with a spotter or somebody telling me how to drive. It's rather a different sport now. Back then, there was a much greater difference from the front of the field to the back."

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No. 2 Duke falls to Maryland 83-81

COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) — As the final horn sounded and Maryland fans rushed the court to celebrate a rare victory over its bitter rival, weary Duke had just enough energy left to escape the mayhem for the safety of its locker room.

Seth Allen broke a tie by making two free throws with 2.8 seconds left, and the Terrapins stunned the second-ranked Blue Devils 83-81 Saturday night to end a six-game skid in the series.

Coming off a five-day break, Maryland notched its most significant win of the season at the expense of a tired Duke playing its fourth game in 10 days.

The Blue Devils were worn out, and it showed.

Duke was outrebounded 40-20, never led in the second half and got only four points and three rebounds from 6-foot-10 senior center Mason Plumlee.

"This has been an exhausting schedule for our team," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We're playing on fumes and I think you could tell that with Mason. I thought he looked exhausted the whole game. He's been great. Obviously not good tonight."

The Terrapins (18-7, 6-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) did not trail after halftime but never could pull away.

Duke (22-3, 9-3) was down by 10 with 3:39 left but pulled even when Rasheed Sulaimon made three foul shots with 16.7 seconds to go. Quinn Cook then fouled Allen as the freshman guard drove through the lane, and Allen made both shots.

After a Duke timeout, Cook's desperation 30-footer bounced off the back rim. Chaos ensued as the fans immediately rushed the court.

"I thought it was in when I got it off," Cook said of his final attempt.

Alex Len had 19 points and nine rebounds for Maryland, and Allen scored 16. The Terrapins had lost 12 of 13 against Duke, including a 20-point embarrassment last month.

"I told our players before the game, there's a lot of pride in Maryland basketball," coach Mark Turgeon said. "There's also a lot of passion about Maryland basketball. We talked about playing with those two things for us and for our fans. Our fans were just tremendous."

From the end of the Star Spangled Banner to the final buzzer, the crowd never stopped shouting for the Terps, who rewarded their fans with a memorable victory in a rivalry that appears destined to end when Maryland leaves for the Big Ten in 2014.

"I have a great deal of respect for Maryland," Krzyzewski said. "If it was such a rivalry they'd still be in the ACC. Obviously they don't think it's that important or else they wouldn't be in the Big Ten."

Oh, but it's very important to Maryland and its coach.

"This win was for my family and the fans," Turgeon said. "I know what this win means for our fan base, and I really wanted to beat Duke."

The Blue Devils had their six-game winning streak end. Seth Curry scored 25 and Cook added 18. But Plumlee was completely outplayed by the 7-1 Len, who went 6 for 8 from the field and 7 for 8 at the foul line.

"There's so much pressure for Mason to play outstanding," Krzyzewski said. "That wears on you as the season goes on. He just didn't look fresh tonight."

Said Plumlee: "I didn't show up to play today and I let my teammates down. It's all on me."

Maryland committed a whopping 26 turnovers, eight by Allen. The Terrapins shot an impressive 60 percent from the floor and finished with a 40-20 rebounding advantage.

Maryland played without reserve guard Pe'Shon Howard, who was suspended for violating team rules. Despite being demoted from his starting role last month, Howard still leads the Terrapins in assists.

Maryland led 66-63 before Allen scored on a drive. Dez Wells then stole the ball from Cook and went in for a dunk for a seven-point lead with 5:20 left. After the Blue Devils closed to 71-63, James Padgett made a layup for Maryland and Wells made two foul shots for a 10-point cushion.

The crowd increased its volume with every subsequent basket by the Terrapins, whose previous win over Duke came in March 2010, when Greivis Vasquez celebrated Senior Night with a 20-point performance.

In this one, it was 80-72 before Curry made two straight 3-pointers to bring Duke to 80-78 with just under a minute left. After Wells was called for a charge, Curry had a 15-footer bounce in and out of the basket.

It was that kind of night for the Blue Devils.

This score was 39 all before Allen hit a 3-pointer to spark a 10-2 run that included five points from freshman Shaquille Cleare. It was 53-43 before Curry bagged a 3-pointer, Alex Murphy made a layup and Curry drove the lane following Maryland's third turnover in a 60-second span.

That cut the gap to three points, and seconds after a 3-pointer by Cook got the Blue Devils to 55-53.

After the Terrapins went up by six, they committed turnovers on three straight possessions. That enabled Duke to close to 59-57 on a dunk by Murphy, but four straight free throws by Len gave Maryland a 64-59 advantage with 7:20 remaining.

The first half featured two ties, 10 lead changes and ended with the Terrapins up 35-34. Curry (14 points) was one of only four Duke players to score before halftime.

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Different looks for Heat, Lakers at All-Star break

HOUSTON (AP) — The last All-Star game in Houston was a glimpse of what Miami Heat games would become.

LeBron James scored 29 points and was the MVP. Dwyane Wade added 20 and made the go-ahead basket to cap a huge comeback, and the Eastern Conference beat the West 122-120 in 2006.

"I had a pretty good experience the first time around, looking for the same thing this time," Wade said Friday.

The way things are going for the Heat, why not?

And think about this: James was already the best player that night, and he was nowhere near the player he is today.

"I'm a better player. At that point in time, I wasn't a complete basketball player. I couldn't shoot as well as I can now, I never posted up back then," James said. "More games, more playoff games, more knowledge. You continue to learn each and every day, it makes you a better player. That's what you want, to become a better player. That's what I want. I want to be the greatest of all-time. I try to do whatever it takes to get me in that position.

"Seven years, I've tried to improve each and every year."

Back where they first teamed up as All-Stars, Wade, James and Chris Bosh will start together for the East on Sunday night, another highlight for the NBA champions.

Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers aren't having nearly as much fun in a season so disappointing that Bryant was asked Friday if the All-Star weekend was a "retreat" for him.

"I don't know if it's a retreat, it's just more of an opportunity to get some rest, regroup, put the first half of the season behind us and move on," he said.

As Wade knows, the All-Star break can be just that — a break — from a forgettable season.

He arrived for the 2008 All-Star game with a 9-43 record after the Heat lost on Valentine's Day to the Chicago Bulls, on their way to a 15-win debacle just two years after they won the NBA title.

"I put all that aside, though, and I came and I enjoyed the weekend, and when I went back to Miami, it was like, 'Oh my God, we're back in it,'" Wade said. "But All-Star weekend, you just enjoy being an All-Star. You enjoy being around the guys. You can kind of forget about that a little bit, unless you have the cameras and the microphones in front of you asking you questions about it, but besides that you try to enjoy it."

This time, the Heat celebrated Valentine's Day in Oklahoma City with a 110-100 victory over the Thunder, the team they beat in five games last summer for the title. They have won seven in a row, James is playing arguably the best basketball of his career, and they can relax and reminisce as they return to Houston.

"It's really indescribable," Bosh said, "just to not only win a championship with great guys, be in a great locker room, and just to have fun doing it, but just to be an All-Star every year, play with great teammates. I mean to play in front of a lot people in arenas every night. I don't take those things for granted."

James just ran off an NBA-record six straight games with at least 30 points and 60 percent shooting from the field, and seems to be distancing himself from anyone else that can take the MVP award he won last year for the third time in four years.

"He's doing well," Bosh said in a Texas-sized understatement. "That's the best way to put it."

Bosh was chosen as a starter Friday by Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who will lead the East. He replaces Boston guard Rajon Rondo, who pulled out with a torn ACL.

Bryant and Howard are still here, away from a Los Angeles season that's been anything but a Hollywood story.

Considered a title contender after acquiring Howard and Steve Nash in the summer, the Lakers fell to 25-29 after they were blown out Wednesday by the rival Clippers, who opened a 13-game lead over them in the Pacific Division standings.

Smiling as he sat with his daughter, Natalia, Bryant laughed that he wished the All-Star break was a chance for the Lakers to "hit the reset button" on what he's said has been a most difficult season.

"Hopefully there's an easy button like in the commercial when we come back in the second half of the season and things are a little easier for us," he said.

Howard has battled injuries to his back and shoulder and has been nothing like the player who has been the NBA's dominant big man in recent years. He said at times he hasn't been having fun and has tried to ignore all the bad news around the team.

"You just try to stay away from the tube and do as much as I can to rehab my back and my shoulder and my mind, and really just get away from everything when I'm not playing basketball," he said.

If he's looking for a chance to enjoy himself this season, it may get no better than the next few days.

"It's a great weekend, it's an unbelievable weekend for the fans to be able to put all their favorite players together in one venue," James said. "We have a great time with it."


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Pistorius in court in murder case

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Paralympic superstar Oscar Pistorius openly wept as he appeared in court Friday, charged with the murder of his girlfriend as South Africans closely watched developments in a killing that has stunned the country.

Reeva Steenkamp, a model and budding reality TV show participant, was shot and killed at Pistorius' upmarket home in an eastern suburb of the South African capital in the predawn hours of Thursday, sending the country reeling.

Pistorius solemnly entered court in a gray suit and blue tie. He later broke down in tears.

Chief Magistrate Desmond Nasir was presiding over the hearing which likely will include Pistorius' request for bail. Police oppose the granting of bail.

Pistorius' father, Henke, was in the court as was his brother Carl, sister Aimee and other supporters of the 26-year-old double-amputee athlete.

Police said Friday an autopsy on the body of the victim was taking place. Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale said the results of the autopsy would not be published.

More than 100 people packed into Courtroom C at Pretoria Magistrate's Court, including dozens of photographers and videographers.

The Paralympian and Olympic athlete was earlier seen leaving a police station, his jacket completely covering his head as he got into a police vehicle.

He was holding what appeared to be a white handkerchief in one hand as he was led by officers to a police van outside the Boschkop Police Station in eastern Pretoria, where he had been questioned on Thursday and had spent the night in custody.

Police said the victim was shot four times at Pistorius' villa in a gated community. Officers found a 9 mm pistol inside the home and arrested Pistorius on a murder charge.

Pistorius made history at the London Olympics last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete at any games. He didn't win a medal but did make the semifinals of the 400 meters and the final of the 4X400 relay, propelling the world's best-known Paralympian to the level of an international track star.


AP Sports Writer Imray reported from Johannesburg. Associated Press writer Michelle Faul contributed to this story.

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Olympian Pistorius in custody after woman killed

PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius was taken into custody and was expected to appear in court Thursday after a 30-year-old woman who was believed to be his girlfriend was shot dead at his home in South Africa's capital, Pretoria.

Police Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale told The Associated Press that officers received a call in the early hours of the morning that there had been a shooting at the double-amputee runner's home in a gated housing complex.

Mogale said when police arrived they found paramedics trying to revive the woman, who had been shot an unspecified number of times. Mogale, who was speaking to the AP from the scene, said the woman died at the house.

Officers found a 9 mm pistol at Pistorius' house and Mogale said the 26-year-old Pistorius is expected to appear in court later on Thursday.

Police have not released the name of the woman, but the publicist for Reeva Steenkamp, Pistorius' girlfriend, told Sky News that Steenkamp had died. Tributes to Steenkamp, a model, poured onto social media sites.

Many South African media outlets had reported that the dead woman was Pistorius' girlfriend Steenkamp and that he may have mistaken her for a burglar and shot her, but police did not clarify the dead woman's relationship to Pistorius. Mogale said the victim's family had not yet identified the body.

It was reported that the woman may have been trying to surprise Pistorius for Valentine's Day and he thought she was an intruder breaking into his home. The shooting prompted discussions on talk radio shows about the country's gun control laws.

Radio 702 talk show host Redi Thlabi discussed accidental shootings, including one in which a father shot his daughter as she tried to sneak out early one morning, mistaking her for an intruder.

"I am just shocked and speechless," Thlabi said. "I wonder if this puts the spotlight on the gun ownership debate. Do you feel safe when you hear such stories?"

Pistorius made history in London last year when he became the first double-amputee track athlete to compete in the Olympic Games. He is one of South Africa's and the world's most famous sportsmen.

Having had both his legs amputated below the knee before his first birthday because of a congenital condition, he campaigned for years to be allowed to compete against able-bodied athletes. Having initially been banned because of his carbon fiber blades — which critics said gave him an unfair advantage — he was cleared by sport's highest court in 2008 and allowed to run at the top events.

He competed in the 400 meters and on South Africa's 4x400 relay team at the London Games, making history after being have his selection confirmed on South Africa's team at the very last minute. He also retained his Paralympic title in the 400 meters in London.

South Africa's Sports Confederation and Olympic committee released a statement later Thursday saying they had been "inundated" with requests for comment but were not in a position to give out any details of the shooting.

"SASCOC, like the rest of the public, knows no more than what is in the public domain, which is there has been an alleged fatal shooting on the basis of a mistaken identity and an apparent assumption of a burglary," the South African Olympic committee said. "The organization is in no position to comment on the incident other than to say our deepest sympathy and condolences have been expressed to the families of all concerned."

South Africa has some of the world's highest murder rates, with nearly 50 people killed each day in the nation of 50 million. It also has high rates of rape, other assaults, robbery and carjackings.

U.N. statistics show South Africa has the second highest rate of shooting deaths in the world, second only to Colombia.


Imray reported from Cape Town, South Africa.

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No. 8 Michigan State routs No. 4 Michigan 75-52

EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan State has muddled through much of its season, finding ways to win games short on style with gritty substance.

The eighth-ranked Spartans, though, showed their potential in an impressive 75-52 win over No. 4 Michigan on Tuesday night in the rivalry's first matchup of top 10 teams.

"The sky is the limit," guard Keith Appling said.

If Michigan State can play anything like it did against the Wolverines, Appling might be right.

The Spartans (21-4, 10-2 Big Ten) broke a first-place tie in the conference with No. 1 Indiana, which plays at Michigan State next Tuesday after the Spartans try to avoid a letdown Saturday night at Nebraska.

Appling acknowledged he was a little bit surprised by the lopsided victory — the school's largest since beating Michigan by 27 points in 2002 — but shrugged off the significance of it with much of the regular season remaining.

"We just have to take it for what it is and prepare for our next game," Appling said.

The Wolverines (21-4, 8-4) have lost three of four, but the closely contested setbacks on the road against the Hoosiers and at Wisconsin were nothing like the latest when they were held to a season-low points total.

"They bullied us — point blank," said Tim Hardaway Jr., who matched a career low with two points.

Michigan State didn't trail once, led by as many as 16 points in the first half and enjoyed 30-point leads in the second.

"We probably played our best game in three years," Spartans coach Tom Izzo said. "And, they probably played one of their worst."

Michigan coach John Beilein agreed.

"That was the worst we've played in a long, long time and credit Michigan State for that," he said.

Burke scored 18 points for the Wolverines and didn't get much help from his teammate offensively, or defensively.

"It was an embarrassing loss," Burke said.

Hardaway Jr. was held scoreless until making a layup in the opening minute of the second half — after turning down Beilein's suggestion to work on his shot during halftime warmups — and didn't score again. Hardaway was 1 of 11 from the field.

"He's been playing as good as any player in the country," Beilein said. "He had a bad night, credit Michigan State's defense. Tim had a bad night and Tim Hardaway will bounce back like he always has."

Glen Robinson III was 1 of 4 and scored two points to match his season low.

The Wolverines, who pride themselves on taking care of the basketball, had a season-high 16 turnovers and didn't have much success getting the ball away from the turnover-prone Spartans. Michigan made fewer than 40 percent of its shots and scored one fewer point than it did in a three-point loss at Ohio State.

"Maybe we got exactly what we deserve and it's medicine for the future," Beilein said.

Everything went right for Michigan State, which had just eight turnovers and made 48-plus percent of its shots.

Gary Harris scored 17 points, making five 3-pointers, and Derrick Nix had his way on the inside, scoring 14 points as part of a balanced offense.

Appling had 11 points and Branden Dawson scored 10 before leaving the court late in the game because Michigan's Mitch McGary hit him in the face inadvertently with his right arm.

Izzo said Dawson got hit in the nose and had a cut on his lip.

"I do think he's going to be OK," Izzo said.

Matt Costello scored a season-high eight points and fellow freshman Denzel Valentine had seven points to help Michigan State win its second straight in the series after losing three in a row following a run of dominance for the Spartans.

White-clad fans in the stands were fired up before the game even started and they stayed enthusiastic, standing for much of the game, because the home team gave them plenty of reasons to cheer from start to finish.

"The crowd was just awesome," Izzo said. "It kind of reminded me of back in the day."

In the first matchup of 20-win teams in Division I basketball this season, Michigan State showed it might not be a rebuilding this season.

Michigan, meanwhile, has been humbled since being ranked No. 1 last month for the first time since the 1992-92 season.

"It was a big step for us, but don't think that's the real Michigan team because it's not," Izzo said.


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Jayhawks back to winning ways with rout of K-State

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Bill Self was the first to acknowledge that folks around Kansas had grown spoiled.

It's only natural when one of the marquee programs in college basketball, one built upon iconic names such as James Naismith and Phog Allen, rattles off eight consecutive conference championships and throws in another national title along the way.

So when the Jayhawks scuffled to three straight losses, including an embarrassing defeat at TCU, it seemed as if the world was collapsing around the walls of Allen Fieldhouse.

"I think we just got spoiled, just like everyone around here does, that this can't happen to us," Self said matter-of-factly, "and we just let it happen."

On Monday night, they finally put an end to it.

Ben McLemore scored 30 points on his 20th birthday, Jeff Withey dominated in the paint and the No. 14 Jayhawks routed No. 10 Kansas State 83-62 to forge a tie for first place in the Big 12 between the bitter in-state rivals.

"I think it'll help us down the road, which is obviously the most important," Self said of the morass, which in reality had extended all the way back to the start of conference play. "We still control our own destiny, even though it will be difficult, without question."

One thing the Jayhawks (20-4, 8-3) have to their advantage is two wins over the Wildcats (19-5, 8-3), who had used a four-game winning streak to take over first place.

Rodney McGruder had 20 points and Angel Rodriguez added 17 for the Wildcats on Monday night, but they never seemed to be in the game despite entering the Phog as the higher-ranked team for the first time since Feb. 20, 1982.

The Jayhawks used two big runs in the first half to take a 47-29 lead at the break, and then thwarted every rally that the veteran Wildcats tried to muster down the stretch.

The result has become predictable: Kansas won for the 11th time in the last 12 games between the rivals, and for the 46th time in their last 49 meetings, prompting the student section to chant "This is our state!" once again in the closing minutes.

"Last week is over. We're going to learn from that," Withey said. "We met so many times and we talked about that so many times, and it's not going to happen again."

Most of the Jayhawks' struggles the past two weeks have centered on their offense, which had produced just 13 points in the first half in that loss to TCU last Wednesday night.

That wasn't much of a problem against the Wildcats.

McLemore, Kansas' star freshman, was 9 of 13 from the field and 6 of 10 from 3. Withey had 17 points, 10 boards and five blocked shots. Kevin Young had 13 points and Travis Releford 10.

Even backup guard Naadir Tharpe got into the act with seven points, eight assists and only one turnover, putting an exclamation mark on the quintessential get-right kind of game for Kansas.

"In the game of basketball, or any sport, it's not always who you're playing but when you're playing them," Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said. "They had a very tough week. They probably hung their head for a while. They got their head up. It's always a good remedy to come home."

Young got the Jayhawks off to a fast start with a dunk off a nifty feed from Tharpe, one of six assists he had in the first half. Withey was the recipient of Young's feed on the next trip, and McLemore's 3-pointer from the wing forced the Wildcats to call time out.

It didn't do much to ebb the tide.

Kansas used a 14-3 run to gain control, and then a 12-3 charge fueled by Tharpe and McLemore to take a 40-19 lead with 3:26 remaining in the first half.

Kansas ended up shooting 58.6 percent from the field, and 5 of 10 from beyond the arc, in building a 47-29 halftime advantage. It was the most points the offensively troubled Jayhawks had scored in a half since putting up 53 in the first half against American on Dec. 29.

"We just played as a team," McLemore said. "Went out there and gave it our all. It started on the defensive end. We got some stops and created on the offensive end."

Kansas State drew within 58-43 with 14:04 left, but Withey snuffed out the comeback.

The reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year swatted away a shot by McGruder and, moments later, threw down a massive dunk over Jordan Henriquez — a fellow 7-footer — before finishing off the three-point play. Withey then rejected McGruder at the other end, and Travis Releford had the putback that restored the Jayhawks' 20-point lead at 63-43 with 11:59 to go.

The Jayhawks put the game on cruise control down the stretch, giving Weber — who once followed Self as the man in charge at Illinois — his third loss in three tries against Kansas, and the Wildcats their sixth straight defeat in Lawrence.

Talk about things getting back to normal.

"First of all, losing three in a row is not — I understand it's not forgivable. It's a terrible, terrible deal. But what we're going through is what 99 percent of teams in America go through," Self said. "There's only 1 percent that doesn't go through this kind of stretch. And we're spoiled because it's been a long time since we went through one of these stretches."

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Snedeker on the rise with Pebble win

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Everything about Brandt Snedeker moves at warp speed, including his rapid rise into golf's elite.

He talks so fast that he always seems to be a few words short of a complete sentence. He plays fast, giving his hips a quick swivel to set his position before pulling the trigger. Even his putts go into the hole quickly, most of them struck with purpose instead of hope.

But when he reached the 18th tee box at Pebble Beach, he had to wait for the fairway to clear before taking a victory stroll up one of the prettiest closing holes in golf.

And that was OK with him.

"There's not much better place to be on the planet with a three-shot lead on that tee box," Snedeker said Sunday. "It felt pretty special there."

Indeed, Snedeker is in a special place.

With his 10th consecutive round in the 60s, Snedeker finally had a trophy to show for his astounding start to the 2013 season. He knew the opening seven holes were critical, and he made an eagle and three birdies to build a quick lead. He realized a late birdie would give him a cushion, and he fired at the flag on the par-3 17th to 10 feet below the cup and holed the putt. He closed with a 7-under 65 for a two-shot win over Chris Kirk in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

It was the fifth win of his career, and his fourth in the last 22 months. But it's the last six months that have really turned heads.

He captured the $10 million FedEx Cup prize with a win at the Tour Championship, where he held off the likes of Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Luke Donald going into the final round. He played in his first Ryder Cup. He started this year with a third-place at Kapalua, and runner-up finishes in consecutive weeks to Woods and Phil Mickelson, both of whom had big leads going into the final round.

Go back to the start of the FedEx Cup playoffs last August and Snedeker now has six top 3s in his last nine starts. Since missing the cut at the PGA Championship, he has broken par in 33 out of 37 rounds. No wonder he now is No. 4 in the world, the best ranking of his career.

"Just hard to put into words, to have a stretch of golf like I had the last couple of months," Snedeker said. "Something you dream about. Something you think that you can do, but you don't really know until you actually put it together. And I have.

"I'm really enjoying this, and hopefully can parlay this into the best year of my career."

Snedeker set the tournament record at 19-under 267, one shot better than Mickelson (2007) and Mark O'Meara (1997), who each had a 20-under 268 when Poppy Hills (par 72) was part of the rotation. It has been replaced by Monterey Peninsula, which is a par 70.

Chris Kirk closed with a 66 to finish alone in second, though he was never closer than two shots of the lead on the back nine and finished with a birdie. Kirk finished on 269, a score that would have been good enough to win all but four times at Pebble Beach since this tournament began in 1937.

"We've had a lot of tournaments like that on tour this year where somebody has really just kind of blitzed the field," Kirk said. "I felt like I played well enough to win a golf tournament and came up a little bit short."

Snedeker could have said the same thing — except for Woods at Torrey Pines, and Mickelson going obscenely low to win the Phoenix Open.

He wasn't about to take a back seat to anyone at Pebble Beach.

Snedeker started the final round tied with James Hahn, a 31-year-old rookie from the Bay Area, with Kirk one shot behind. He set the tone early with a 4-iron into the par-5 second hole that was on the edge of the left green. It hit the collar and kicked slightly to the right, rolling toward the pin until it settled 4 feet behind the cup.

"Kind of lucky, but it was a good shot, and to end up where it did was a great way to start the day," he said.

Hahn hit his approach high and pure, and it nearly hit Snedeker's ball before stopping 6 feet away. Hahn missed. Snedeker made. It was like that over the front nine.

Snedeker started to pull away with a 3-wood that came off the edge of the green, ran by the cup and stopped 20 feet away for a two-putt birdie. Then, he holed a 15-foot birdie putt on the seventh and was on his way.

Most impressive about Snedeker this week was bouncing back from bogey. He made five bogeys for the entire week, and four times made birdie on the next hole. On Sunday, his lone mistake was knocking an 18-foot birdie off the green and three-putting for bogey at No. 9.

The answer, like everything else about him, was fast and furious.

He knocked in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 10th, and then holed from 15 feet for birdie on the 12th. Right when it looked as though he would make another bogey on the par-3 12th, he made par from just short of 10 feet.

There's a reason Snedeker led the PGA Tour in putting last year, though it's his driving that has vastly improved. Snedeker studied some statistics last year that showed his odds of hitting the green go way up when he starts in the fairway. And once he's on the green, he's tough to beat.

Hahn, who shot 70 and tied for third, was looking forward to learning something from his debut in the final group, and he saw Snedeker put on a clinic.

"I learned that he is a better guy than he is a golfer. The dude is world class," Hahn said. "He's obviously one of the best, if not the best golfer right now, and possibly for the last year. But how he conducts himself as a person on an off the golf course, that's also world class. He deserved to win today. ... I'm sure if you ask him, it was never a doubt that he was going to win the golf tournament."

Snedeker concurred.

"I definitely didn't want to do anything but win today," he said. "I was out there for one purpose and one purpose only, and I was extremely focused all day. I did a great job of staying patient and I did a great job of playing the golf course the way you're supposed to play it."

And the outcome was just what he expected. The way he has been playing, it shouldn't have been any surprise to anyone.

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Michigan, Kansas go down as run continues

There goes another one, and another one.

No. 3 Michigan, fifth-ranked Kansas and No. 11 Louisville all lost on Saturday, continuing a perilous stretch for the Top 25.

The Wolverines became the third top-three team to fall this week when Ben Brust hit a tiebreaking 3-pointer with less than 40 seconds left in overtime, leading Wisconsin to a 65-62 victory. Brust also tied the game at the end of regulation with a heave from just inside halfcourt.

That's just the way it has gone lately for the top of the poll.

No. 2 Florida lost at Arkansas on Tuesday night, and No. 1 Indiana dropped a 74-72 decision at Illinois on Thursday. This should be the sixth straight week with a different No. 1 in The Associated Press' Top 25, which would be the second-longest streak since the first AP poll in 1949.

The Jayhawks have dropped three straight games for the first time in eight years after they lost 72-66 at Oklahoma.

"It hasn't been a good week for us by any stretch, but let's be real," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "We were ranked No. 2 in the country seven days ago, and you don't go from being a good team to a bad team overnight.

"We've had a couple of bad outings, but we're still a good team."

The current string of No. 1 swapping is the longest since 1994, when Arkansas, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA and Duke alternated at the top seven straight weeks — the longest streak since Saint Louis debuted as No. 1 in the initial AP poll.

But it isn't just the teams at the top that are having trouble. Top 25 teams all over the country are getting knocked off by unranked opponents.

According to STATS LLC, Top 25 teams lost to unranked teams 36 times from Jan. 17 to Feb. 6 this season, most in at least 17 years.

Louisville lost 104-101 in five overtimes at No. 25 Notre Dame on Saturday night. It was the longest regular-season game in Big East history.

The Irish trailed by eight with 46 seconds left in regulation.

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Northeast storm disrupts travel for sports teams

Several professional and college sports teams were forced to rearrange their travel plans as a massive storm swept through the Northeast, expected to dump a few feet of snow in some areas.

The NBA's New York Knicks were stuck in Minnesota after playing the Timberwolves on Friday night, hoping to try to fly home sometime Saturday. The San Antonio Spurs were also staying overnight in Detroit after seeing their 11-game winning streak fall to the Pistons, awaiting word on when they might be able to fly to New York for their game Sunday night at Brooklyn.

"We can't get there tonight — we know that," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. "So we're going to stay here tonight and try to get there (Saturday). Hopefully, we will be able to get there, but at this point, we don't know."

Airlines canceled more than 5,300 flights through Saturday, and New York City's three major airports and Boston's Logan Airport closed.

The New Jersey Nets planned to take a train home instead of flying from Washington D.C. after losing to the Wizards on Friday night.

Knicks coach Mike Woodson said before a 100-94 victory that his team initially planned to fly home after the game, but the flight had already been postponed. New York is scheduled to play the Los Angeles Clippers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

The NHL's Boston Bruins pushed back the start of Saturday's game against the Tampa Bay Lightning by six hours because of the blizzard. The game originally slated for 1 p.m. was rescheduled for 7 p.m., but Boston was expected to be one of the cities hit hardest by the storm.

The storm had dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on New England by early Saturday and knocked out power to more than a half a million customers. More than 21 inches covered Randolph in southeastern Massachusetts. The National Weather Service said up to 3 feet of snow is expected in Boston, threatening the city's 2003 record of 27.6 inches.

The Bruins and Lightning each already had road games scheduled for Sunday night.

The New Jersey Devils were still scheduled to host the Pittsburgh Penguins at 1 p.m., while the New York Islanders were slated to play at home against the Buffalo Sabres at 7 p.m.

Two Ivy League men's college basketball games that were scheduled for Saturday night were moved back to Sunday because of treacherous travel conditions.

Dartmouth will play at Cornell at noon on Sunday in Ithaca, N.Y., and Harvard will visit Columbia at 2 p.m. Sunday in New York. Dartmouth played at Columbia on Friday night, and Harvard played at Cornell. Two other Ivy League games were still scheduled to be played Saturday night, with Yale visiting Princeton and Brown playing at Pennsylvania.

Aqueduct also called off Saturday's card because of the storm. The track and Belmont Park were expected to remain open for wagering on out-of-town races, with racing scheduled to resume Sunday.

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Illini buzzer-beater upsets No. 1 Hoosiers, 74-72

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — At this rate, no one will want to be No. 1.

Indiana became the fifth straight top-ranked men's college basketball team to lose, falling to unranked Illinois 74-72 on a buzzer-beater by Tyler Griffey on Thursday night.

The senior forward took an inbounds pass with 0.9 seconds to play and made a wide-open layup. And, just like that, the Hoosiers — who moved into the top spot by beating then-No. 1 Michigan just a few days ago — went down.

Indiana coach Tom Crean, whose team has been No. 1 for a total of seven weeks this season after opening there, doesn't know why the top spot is suddenly so hard to hang on to.

"I can't answer that. I'm not sure," Crean said. "I just know that these games are 40-minute games. We played at a high level for most of the game."

The Hoosiers (20-3, 8-2 Big Ten) were in charge until the final 3 1/2 minutes when the Illini (16-8, 3-7 Big Ten) finally put together a run to take and then retake the lead.

"I know this: When we turn the ball over, we're not very good," Crean said. "And the biggest difference tonight was 28 points off turnovers to our 16."

Hoosiers guard Jordan Hulls said flatly that the top rank had nothing to do with Thursday's loss, even for a team that some worried might be looking past unranked, slumping Illinois to a meeting Sunday with No. 10 Ohio State.

"We just didn't execute when we needed to," he said.

If Indiana falls from No. 1 on Monday, No. 2 Florida might not be a candidate to replace the Hoosiers after the Gators' loss this week to Arkansas. That could put No. 3 Michigan back on top if they can make it to Monday without a loss.

For the Hoosiers, nothing could have been worse than the way Thursday's game ended.

With 0.9 seconds, Griffey left defenders Cody Zeller and Christian Watford behind on an inbounds play from the baseline, took the pass from Brandon Paul and delivered the uncontested buzzer-beater.

The shot sent hundreds of students onto the court, though they waited as officials checked the replay to make sure the clock hadn't beaten Griffey. Once the basket was upheld, Paul and fellow guard D.J. Richardson hugged and teared up in relief.

Illinois had endured an awful run since starting 12-0. The Illini had since lost eight of 11 and fallen to 10th in the 12-team Big Ten.

Griffey, who had struggled as bad as any Illini player, seemed surprised at how easily the winning shot came.

"I just made a simple curl cut and left two guys behind me, and Brandon got off a heck of a pass," he said. "Zeller and Watford were both right in front of me and just kind of stayed there."

Crean said the play was a lot like the other breakdowns in the Hoosiers' game that let Illinois climb back from a 12-point halftime deficit.

"We didn't communicate," he said.

Indiana's loss drops them into a three-way tie for first in the Big Ten with Michigan and Michigan State. The win moves the Illini up into a ninth-place tie with Iowa but, more importantly, provides a potential lifeline ahead of a meeting Sunday at No. 18 Minnesota.

"It was good to get back to having that toughness and togetherness and trust that we needed," Illinois coach John Groce said.

Illinois also added a plank to what may be one of the oddest resumes of any team in the country trying to make the NCAA tournament. Illinois has lost to Purdue, Northwestern and twice to Wisconsin. But coming into Thursday night, the Illini had already beaten three teams now in the top 15: No. 6 Gonzaga, No. 10 Ohio State and No. 14 Butler.

Before Thursday, Illinois hadn't beaten a No. 1 team since a win over Wake Forest in 2004.

Richardson had 23 points for Illinois, Paul had 21 and Griffey finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

Zeller led Indiana with 14 points, while Will Sheehey had 13, Watford 12 and Hulls 11.

Indiana shot 50 percent from the field (25 of 50), 52.9 percent from 3-point range (9 of 17) and 93 percent from the free throw line (13 of 14). The Hoosiers led by an eight- to 10-point margin for most of the second half.

When 6-foot-11 Nnanna Egwu fouled out with just under 5 minutes to play, Indiana appeared in control. Watford made both free throws and, at 69-59, the Illini looked done.

But Richardson went on a one-man run, first burying back-to-back 3-pointers and then hitting a midrange jumper on the run to tie it at 70 with 1:17 to play.

With the clock under 30 seconds and the game tied at 72, Indiana had the ball for what would have been a last shot but Victor Oladipo coughed up the ball. Richardson picked it up and tried a breakaway layup that Oladipo just swatted out of bounds to set up the final play.

Groce credited Richardson for providing a spark.

"I thought he was absolutely terrific on both ends of the floor," Groce said. "He battled, he fought."

Griffey was benched several weeks ago after a blowout loss at Wisconsin. On a team that had lost its shooting touch, the senior forward had especially struggled. And, though one of Illinois' bigger players at 6-9, he wasn't adding much to the inside presence the Illini desperately needed.

Groce said that, even after he benched Griffey, he never gave up on him.

"I just have told him numerous times here I believe in him," the first-year Illinois coach said. "I do."

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Signing Day: Ole Miss muscles in on power programs

Alabama. Ohio State. Michigan. Florida. Notre Dame. Mississippi?

Ole Miss muscled in on the powerhouses that usually dominate national signing day, landing some of the most sought-after prospects in the country on college football's annual first-Wednesday-in-February frenzy.

The Rebels, coming off a promising 7-6 season in their first season under coach Hugh Freeze, had the experts swooning by signing three of the bluest chips still on the board and building a well-rounded class otherwise.

"I do think (this class) has the possibility of being a program changer," Freeze said. "But it's all on paper right now.

The day started with defensive end Robert Nkemdiche from Loganville, Ga., rated the No. 1 recruit in the country by just about everyone who ranks them, deciding to join his brother, Denzel, in Oxford, Miss.

"I feel like it's the right place for me," Nkemdiche said after slipping on a red Ole Miss cap. "I feel like they can do special things and they're on the rise. I feel like going to play with my brother, we can do something special."

Nkemdiche originally committed to Clemson last year, then backed off that and narrowed his picks down to LSU, Florida and Mississippi — and the Rebels beat the big boys.

They weren't done. Coaches in the Ole Miss war room were exchanging hugs and high-fives again a couple hours later when Laremy Tunsil, a top-rated offensive tackle from Lake City, Fla., picked the Rebels over Florida State and Georgia.

"Tunsil to Ole Miss I think was the biggest surprise of the whole (recruiting season)," said JC Shurburtt, national recruiting director for

And, as if the Ole Miss needed more good news, highly touted defensive back Antonio Conner from nearby Batesville, Miss., chose the Rebels over national champion Alabama.

Ole Miss also landed Laquon Treadwell from Crete, Ill., one of the best receiver prospects in the country. He made a verbal commitment to the Rebels back in December, and sealed the deal Wednesday, the first day high school players can sign binding letters of intent.

The end result was a class good enough to even catch the attention of LeBron James.

"Ole Miss ain't messing around today! Big time recruits coming in. SEC is crazy," the NBA MVP posted on his Twitter account.

Crazy good. While the Rebels racked up, it's important to remember they still have plenty of ground to gain on the rest of their conference.

Nick Saban reloaded the Crimson Tide with a class that ranked No. 1 in the country.

SEC powers Florida, LSU and Georgia pulled in typically impressive classes. SEC newcomer Texas A&M cracked the top 10 of several rankings. Even Vanderbilt, coming off a nine-win season, broke into the top 25.

It's the cycle of life in the SEC, which has won seven straight BCS championships. Stock up on signing day and scoop up those crystal footballs at season's end.



Signing day didn't do much to soothe the scars left from a difficult season for Southern California.

NCAA sanctions limited the number of scholarships coach Lane Kiffin and the Trojans could hand out this year, and then as signing day approached USC had several players who had given verbal commitments change their minds.

The most notable defection on signing day was five-star defensive back Jalen Ramsey of Brentwood, Tenn., who flipped to Florida State. Defensive end Jason Hatcher from Louisville, Ky., bailed on USC and signed with Kentucky, and defensive end Torrodney Prevot from Houston not only reneged on his USC commitment, but he landed at Pac-12-rival Oregon.

"People expected (Prevot) to flip from USC, but they thought it would be to Texas A&M," Shurburtt said.

USC's class won't be lacking blue chippers. Quarterback Max Browne from Washington is considered the next in a long line of topflight Trojans quarterbacks, and Kenny Bigelow from Maryland is rated among the best defensive linemen in the nation.

Kiffin will be banking on quality to make up for the lack of quantity, but that's a precarious way to play a game as uncertain as recruiting.



Alex Collins, a top running back prospect out of Plantation, Fla., announced on Monday night that he was going to Arkansas instead of Miami.

It was considered a huge victory for new Razorbacks coach Bret Bielema.

But on Wednesday morning, when it was time to make it official, Collins' letter of intent didn't come spinning through the fax machine in Fayetteville, Ark.

There were some odd reports about Collins' mother not being happy with her son's decision to go so far from home.

College coaches aren't allowed to talk about specific players before they sign, but Bielema did acknowledge during his signing day news conference that Arkansas' class of 22 players could "grow by one."



Ohio State and Michigan received two thumbs up from experts on their signing day classes. They all had the Buckeyes and Wolverines around top five in the country.

After that, there was a drop off. Nebraska received solid grades and Penn State, despite NCAA sanctions that limited its class to 17 signees, held up pretty well.

"That's a tribute to the job (Penn State coach) Bill O'Brien and the staff did," Shurburtt said.

But signing day 2013 signaled that Urban Meyer's Buckeyes and Brady Hoke's Wolverines are primed to pull away from most of the Big Ten, and maybe — just maybe — give the league a team or two that can challenge those SEC teams for a national title.



Notre Dame followed up its best season in more than two decades with a recruiting class that coach Brian Kelly hopes can keep the Fighting Irish contending for more national titles.

The class includes a famous name in Torii Hunter Jr., the son of the All-Star outfielder. Hunter Jr. is a top-notch receiver prospect, though he broke his leg during an All-Star game and it could be a while before he's back on the football field.

Linebacker Jaylon Smith from Fort Wayne, Ind., is generally regarded as the jewel of a class that experts have ranked among the best in the country.

"I love agreeing with experts," Kelly said.



Oklahoma hopes it has found the next Sam Bradford in Cody Thomas, a pocket passer from Colleyville, Texas.

One small problem. Thomas is also a big-time baseball player who could draw interest in the major league draft this summer.

"We wouldn't have pursued him if we didn't feel there was a great chance he'd be playing football," Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said.



South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said recruiting classes "don't always pan out. Of course, they always seem to pan out at Alabama."


AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Miss., and Associated Press Writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed.


Follow Ralph D. Russo at

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