NCAA hoops: Notre Dame, Bradley roll

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NCAA hoops: Notre Dame, Bradley roll

Notre Dame rolls over St. Francis

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) Jack Cooley had 13 points and 13 rebounds Saturday to lead Notre Dame to a 69-52 win over St. Francis of Pennsylvania.

Eric Atkins and Cameron Biedscheid each scored 13 points as well for the Irish, and Garrick Sherman had 11 points in his first start of the season.

Umar Shannon scored 14 points and Ollie Jackson had 12 points on four 3-pointers for St. Francis (0-5), which lost its ninth straight road game dating back to last season. The Irish (5-1) have won 39 of their last 40 home games and improved to 44-0 all-time in November under coach Mike Brey.

Cooley recorded double figures in points and rebounds in the same game for the 17th time in his career.

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Western Illinois can't complete comeback

SAVANNAH, Ga. (AP) Rashad Hassan and Preston Blackman scored 13 points apiece as Savannah State held off Western Illinois 39-38 Saturday in nonconference action.

Blackman also tallied a game-high five assists to go with five rebounds and Cedric Smith grabbed nine rebounds for the Tigers, who outrebounded Western Illinois 33-26.

Savannah State (4-3) jumped out to a 22-13 halftime lead behind 11 first-half points from Hassan.

Western Illinois (3-3), following a 23.1 percent (6 of 26) first-half shooting performance, bounced back after intermission. The Leathernecks shot 50 percent (10 of 20) from the field and cut what was an 11-point second-half lead to one, 39-38, with 50 seconds remaining.

The Leathernecks held Savannah State scoreless over the final minute of the game but the Tigers' Arnold Louis blocked Don McAvoy's 3-point attempt as time expired.

Adam Link led Western Illinois with 11 points and had four of the Leathernecks' eight steals.

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Bradley dominates Tennessee-Martin

PEORIA, Ill. (AP) Walt Lemon Jr. scored 15 points and Bradley breezed to an 80-57 victory over Tennessee-Martin on Saturday.

Jake Eastman added 14 points for the Braves (4-1). Will Egolf had 13 points and a team-high nine rebounds, Jalen Crawford scored 12 and Dyricus Simms-Edwards finished with 11 points.

Myles Taylor had 17 points and nine rebounds before fouling out to lead the Skyhawks (2-4). Mike Liabo scored 15 points and Justin Childs added 12 points for UT-Martin.

Bradley has won all four games in the series between the schools. The Braves led 27-21 at halftime but opened up a 28-point lead late in the game.

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Piper leads Eastern over Houston Baptist

CHARLESTON, Ill. (AP) Josh Piper scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds on Saturday to lead Eastern Illinois to a 64-44 victory over Houston Baptist.

Sherman Blanford also helped Eastern Illinois (3-4) with 15 points and eight rebounds, as the team had a 32-22 advantage on the boards.

Malcolm Herron scored 12 points for Eastern Illinois.

Eastern Illinois pulled away in the second half with accurate shooting, hitting 10 of 15 shots.

Houston Baptist (3-3) struggled with its shooting most of the game, hitting just 14 of 40 shots from the floor and missing all 10 of its 3-point attempts.

Tyler Russell scored 11 points to lead Houston Baptist, and Marcus Davis had seven rebounds.

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Loyola takes down NIU

DEKALB, Ill. (AP) Ben Averkamp scored 15 points, including three 3-pointers, and Loyola of Chicago pulled away in the second half for a 53-46 victory over Northern Illinois on Saturday.

Averkamp added 10 rebounds, as did Joe Crisman, for the Ramblers (4-2), and Cully Payne scored 10 points.

Akeem Springs led the Huskies (1-3) with 15 points but was just 6 of 16 from the field, part of a 30 percent overall effort for NIU.

After a tepid first half in which the teams combined for 11 field goals, Loyola came alive, shooting 56 percent from the floor after halftime. An 18-4 run, capped by a Jeff White layup with 7:19 to play, turned a tie game into a 43-29 Ramblers lead. Payne and White made five free throws in the final minute to seal the victory.

The victory moved Loyola ahead of NIU 17-16 in the all-time series, which dates to 1926.

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Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

Scott Darling takes the reins for Blackhawks in Corey Crawford’s absence

It’s an interesting working life, really, this backup goaltending gig.

Most of the time, you’re in hurry-up-and-wait mode. But now and then something bizarre happens – like the starting goaltender needing an appendectomy on the road – that thrusts you into the No. 1 spot for a time.

Scott Darling has been here, done this before, though, and he did it well. And considering how goaltending has been the backbone of this team’s performance this season, the Blackhawks are confident he can handle the job.

Darling gave the Blackhawks a chance again on Sunday night, his 30-stop performance keeping them within one goal in what was ultimately a 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets. Darling started his second consecutive game – Crawford was diagnosed with appendicitis prior to the team’s game in Philadelphia, where he had his operation. An interesting turn of events, for sure, but Darling will do what’s necessary in Crawford’s absence.

“Obviously you don’t want it to happen this way. But there’s not too many other ways it can happen so it’s an exciting opportunity for me,” Darling said following Sunday’s game. “I mean I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know how long Corey will be gone or what the game plan is. But I’m excited to get a few more starts than usual.”

Darling had a whole three games of NHL experience in December of 2014 when he subbed for Crawford, out with a lower-body injury at that time. That worked out just fine – he won three of his first four starts and came up even bigger in the Blackhawks’ first-round series against the Nashville Predators that postseason.

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

Coach Joel Quenneville said Darling has handled the extremes well.

“I think that’s what it’s all about in that role: you’re ready to play once every four or five games and then all of a sudden you’re playing every night and it’s a different job description, workload, pressure. But the expectations when you do get it can be different,” Quenneville said. “Some guys handle it the same way, going every fourth or fifth game and don’t change a beat. I think Darls did exactly that. He had a good demeanor, had a good approach, was patient as he always was. I think that helped a lot. He played some critical games for us in the playoffs, handled it the same way and that’s how you’re hoping they handle it.”

Darling is expected to get most, if not all, of the workload while Crawford’s out. Lars Johansson was recalled on Sunday and will serve as backup, but he has no NHL experience – then again, Darling didn’t have much a few years ago, either.

But Darling isn’t taking anything for granted during this stretch.

“I’ve gotta win some games to have the right to get those minutes,” he said.

Maybe, but the Blackhawks also have to give him some help. The goaltending hasn’t gotten a ton of that from the Blackhawks, who have sputtered offensively most of the season. No matter who’s in net, the Blackhawks need to start producing more.

For now, Darling is the man. He’s rolled with the backup-gig demands before and should be fine again. And if the Blackhawks can help him out some, they shouldn’t miss much of a beat without Crawford.

“He’s played great. I thought he played great again [Sunday],” Duncan Keith said. “He gave us a chance, and you know, more than a chance to win. He stopped breakaways and made big plays all night. We’re lucky to have him as a goalie we can look to when we’ve got a guy like Crow out.”

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

Bears Grades: Offense ignites to end 1st half, puts up season-high points vs. Niners

With less than 2 minutes to play in the first half the Bears had gained a total of 45 yards, and had zero pass completions (2 attempts) and zero points . By the end of the half they had 115 yards, Matt Barkley had completed 4 of his last 6 passes and the Bears adjourned for halftime with a 7-6 lead.

For the second straight week Barkley engineered a comeback, this time for a win, and running a two-minute offense that, curiously perhaps for an inexperienced quarterback, seems to suit Barkley even more than the offense run a normal speed. More than one player said that 70-yard drive to finish the first half was a tipping point, on all sides of the football.

The turning point “was that two-minute right before the half,” said right tackle Bobby Massie. “Everybody just executed, did what we needed to do and drove right down the field. Then we come out after the half and drove right down again. It was good.”

More than just good for the offense. “I think that really spurred both sides of the ball to be motivated to finish the game strong,” said Barkley, who got the Bears into the end zone twice in last Sunday’s Tennessee game, and nearly a third, within the final 10 minutes, running 35 plays over the span of those minutes.”

This time the result was the highest point total (26) this season and scores on four out of five possessions beginning with that hurry-up score to end the half.

Quarterback: A-

Once again Barkley was beset by dropped passes, although nowhere near the avalanche of them that defeated him against the Tennessee Titans. Barkley shook off the conditions and poor start to complete 4 of 6 passes on the final drive of the half, for 64 yards – the entire passing production for the half.

Barkley followed a shaky first half with a solid second, completing 7 of 10 passes for 128 yards and zero interceptions, a significant key with the 49ers unable to do much of anything against the Bears defense. Barkley effectively convinced coaches that he could operate in the adverse conditions with passing and not simply handing off to Jordan Howard.

“I thought [the way] he handled the two-minute drive before the half, we had to open it up some and throw the ball,” said coach John Fox. “I thought he executed outstanding.”

Barkley finished with 11-of-18 passing for 192 yards, no touchdowns but no interceptions and a passer rating of 97.5.

Running back: A+

In a game that demanded effective rushing, Jordan Howard delivered a statement game, his fifth in the last eight with 100 rushing yards and 115 total yards of offense.

Howard rushed for 3 touchdowns, giving him five on the year, and carried 32 times, an average of 3.7 that belies the overall, which involved the chemistry of the run game, now averaging 4.4 yards on the season . “He’s fun, man,” said guard Eric Kush. “We block our butts off to try to give him something. Even if it’s not the prettiest block, we try to finish our blocks and give him a chance.”

Howard displayed power inside as well as burst on the Bears’ outside-zone runs that exploited the San Francisco edges. He carried 10 times in the first half, then 22 in the second.

“I’m definitely ready to be that workhorse,” said Howard, who now has 883 rushing yards and 5 touchdowns despite not starting until game four. “Even though they might know the run is coming, they still have to stop it.”

Receivers: B+

Josh Bellamy, replaced in the starting lineup by Deonte Thompson after his drop-laced game against Tennessee, had perhaps one the streakiest game of the Bears year. Bellamy again suffered with drops that included lost TD catches, but Bellamy rebounded to match his career-best 4 catches against Tennessee but with 93 yards and a long of 31 and others of 24, 22 and 16 yards. Bellamy also was handed the ball on an end-around for 12 yards.

All of this despite two egregious drops, one of a potential TD ball with Bellamy two steps behind his defender. “He came up to me and said, ‘Keep feeding me,’” Barkley said. “I’m not going to stop giving those guys the ball… .I’m going to keep coming back to them for the rest of the year.”

Cam Meredith remained in the starting lineup and caught 3 of the 4 passes thrown to him, with Thompson and tight end Daniel Brown catching 2 each.

Offensive line: A

With the adverse weather conditions expected, coaches made a specific challenge to the offensive line to take over this game against a struggling San Francisco front. Guard Josh Sitton was active but still limited with an ankle injury, so coaches stayed with Eric Kush at left guard and were rewarded with some consistent blocking in the run game. Kush executed combination blocks and worked to the second level. Kush and Charles Leno repeatedly dominated the San Francisco left side as the Bears pounded with the run and never let up in the snowy conditions.

“With the conditions, you had to run the ball,” Leno said. “The O-line just tried to come together, not worry about the record and win one week at a time.”

The result was another 100-yard rushing day for Jordan Howard, with 3 touchdowns, and 142 rushing yards, high for the season. “Today the offensive line got great push like they always do,” Howard said.

Barkley was sacked once, in the fourth quarter, on a breakdown in one-on-one blocking by tight end Daniel Brown.

Cody Whitehair going down in the fourth quarter with a leg injury was a blow, but Whitehair was able to return later in the period. The Bears had Sitton dressed and part of field-goal unit, and Sitton came in at right guard and Ted Larsen moved over to center.

Coaching: A

The obvious overall effort and preparation of a 2-9 team for a game of virtually no import to the season was noteworthy, as the Bears again played with intensity and efficiency throughout, including recovering from first-half gaffes on special teams that put the Bears down 6-0.

The defense schemed for 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by staying almost exclusively in a 3-4 front, utilizing three down-linemen and two outside linebackers to pressure Kaepernick and with the speed to thwart his runs. The result was the worst game of Kaepernick’s career, with 20 rushing yards and 4 passing, vs. 25 yards lost to sacks.

The offense held to a run-based mindset and plan, even when the 49ers turned two special-teams mistakes into field goals for the first two scores. The 49ers also relied primarily on man-to-man coverage, committing an extra defender to run defense, but the Bears were willing and able to challenge downfield knowing that the San Francisco pass rush was hampered by the field conditions.

“Props to Dowell[Loggains, offensive coordinator] and the whold coaching staff for getting us ready and making adjustments like that during the game,” Barkley said.

Special teams was again mistake-prone with mental breakdowns compounded by physical mistakes.