Reigning champs ousted by Iowa St.

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Reigning champs ousted by Iowa St.

From Comcast SportsNet
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Jim Calhoun and Connecticut didn't expect their season to end this way. Their future is equally unpredictable. "We're talking about tonight's game. We're not talking about me," Calhoun said after Iowa State stunned the defending national champions 77-64 in the NCAA tournament Thursday night. "I'm going to get on the plane tomorrow, go home and do what I usually do and meet up with the team on Monday. My own personal thing, I don't think it has any relevance, to be honest with you." Chris Allen led four Cyclones in double figures with 20 points, and Iowa State scored its last 14 at the free-throw line to beat UConn, the first time since UCLA in 1996 that the defending champs have lost in the opening game. Calhoun didn't even wait for the final buzzer, heading for halfcourt with about four seconds left to congratulate Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. It is only the second loss in the opening game of the NCAA tournament for UConn under Calhoun. "I'm surprised as anybody, clearly," Calhoun said. "I imagine our players are, too." For the eighth-seeded Cyclones, meanwhile, it's their biggest victory in a season of them, having knocked off Kansas and Baylor during Big 12 play. Royce White had a double-double with 15 points and 13 rebounds, and Scott Christopherson also had 15 for the Cyclones. Iowa State shot 48 percent from the floor and had a whopping 41-24 edge in rebounds. "I feel like just we wanted it more," Allen said. "I felt like we was doing everything we needed to and played hard." Next up for Iowa State: Overall No. 1 seed Kentucky in the third round of the South Regional on Saturday. The Wildcats routed Western Kentucky earlier Thursday. For the Huskies, the future is far less certain. This could be Connecticut's last tournament until at least 2014, with the Huskies facing a ban on tournament play next year because of past academic problems. Although Calhoun insists he hasn't made any retirement plans, he's had a history of health problems -- he's a three-time cancer survivor and missed a month this season with back pain -- and he turns 70 in May. "This game was a disappointment; this season was not a disappointment to me," Calhoun said. "I knew this team could be really good, but we just didn't reach that level." Shabazz Napier led the Huskies with 22, and Jeremy Lamb had 19. But Connecticut could never get into a rhythm and had no answer for the quicker, more aggressive Cyclones. "It's very disappointing to have to end the season this way," Napier said. The Cyclones arrived in Louisville with no shortage of swagger, smirking when asked if they were intimidated by the defending national champions. And they wasted no time backing up their big talk, jumping on the Huskies from the opening tip. It took Calhoun less than two minutes before he'd seen enough, jumping up to call a timeout. "We wanted to attack the boards more and whatever 3s we got, we took," Allen said. "At the end of the day, we were trying to get it in, get rebounds and do all the little stuff." After leading by as much as 22 in the first half, Iowa State (23-10) withstood a UConn rally in the second half. Ryan Boatright went on a one-man tear, making three straight baskets to pull Connecticut within 58-52 with 8:24 to play. "Once we cut it to six, I felt like if we dug down a little deeper maybe it would crack," Boatright said. But the Huskies (20-14) couldn't get any closer, missing their next four shots and going scoreless for more than five-and-a-half minutes. Iowa State, meanwhile, got a big layup from Bubu Palo and an even bigger bucket from Allen. Allen has played more NCAA tournament games than any player in the 68-team field after making back-to-back Final Fours with Michigan State in 2009 and 2010, and his experience showed. He chased down his miss on a 3 from the corner and went up and under the basket, scoring to put Iowa State back in front 63-52 with 4:15 to play. "Scoring in clutch situations always boosts your team's momentum," Allen said. "That's what I felt like it did and helped us just get back on track." UConn could never make another run, and all the Cyclones had to do was convert their free throws. As the game wound down, White pointed at Iowa State's radio crew and said, "I told you, didn't I?" NCAA investigations and questions about Calhoun's future have clouded the glow from UConn's third national title all season. Calhoun sat out the first three games of the Big East season for failure to maintain control of his program when it was charged with NCAA violations. Boatright missed nine games, including six at the beginning of the season, after an NCAA investigation found he and his family took more than 8,000 in impermissible benefits before he enrolled at Connecticut. Despite the turmoil, the Huskies won 12 of their first 13 games. Then things fell apart, in spectacular fashion. UConn lost 11 of its next 16, including a 21-point blowout by Louisville followed by an 18-point rout at the hands of Syracuse. Back problems forced Calhoun to take a monthlong leave, and the Huskies went 3-5 in his absence. He returned for the regular-season finale against Pittsburgh after back surgery, and UConn responded with three straight wins before losing a close one to Syracuse in the Big East tournament. Though Calhoun talked about having a second chance in the tournament, Iowa State put a quick end to that. "You saw the game," Calhoun said, "we played very poorly. We deserved to lose the game."

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Blackhawks have options, for the right price

Those tremors you felt Wednesday was the hockey world shaking things up.

They were the most exciting 30 minutes of offseason we’ve seen in some time, with the Montreal Canadiens sending P.K. Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber and Edmonton trading Taylor Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson. Oh, and coveted potential unrestricted free agent Steven Stamkos re-signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning, sending teams like Toronto, Detroit and Buffalo to their Plan Bs.

For the Blackhawks, they weren’t players for any of the top-tier guys. But with the free-agent “frenzy” about to begin on Friday, the Blackhawks, who have a little shopping to do, can’t get caught in the ripple effect.

Most of the top UFAs are already off the board, from Stamkos to Keith Yandle to Alex Goligoski. Prices could go up on those remaining, and that could include some guys the Blackhawks were targeting.

As general manager Stan Bowman said last Saturday following the NHL Draft, the Blackhawks no longer have a salary-cap problem. Generalfanager.com shows the Blackhawks have a little more than $5 million in cap space. That’s after the Blackhawks made two cap friendly re-signings with forward Brandon Mashinter and defenseman Michal Rozsival. According to Pierre LeBrun, Mashinter and Rozsival will earn $575,00 and $600,000, respectively, this season.

So the Blackhawks enter the weekend with some spending cash, and they may be spending some of it immediately on a familiar guy. Andy Strickland reported on Thursday that Brian Campbell, who was part of the 2010 Stanley Cup team, could return on a one-year deal. Nothing would be official until Friday, when free agency begins.

If Campbell does return it probably won’t be for much cash. But Campbell knows the Blackhawks are still built to win and he won’t be hurting for money. It could be another sensible move like Brad Richards from the summer of 2014. Richards, just bought out by the New York Rangers after the team’s trip to the Stanley Cup final, just wanted to get back to the final. He signed a one-year deal worth $2 million here. While Richards was up and down in the regular season he was great in the playoffs, capping the Blackhawks’ Cup run with that beautiful pass to Patrick Kane in Game 6. The Blackhawks aren’t what they were in 2014 but they’re not in bad shape, either. A good, affordable tweak or two could have them thinking about another lengthy postseason run.

Keep something else in mind: just about every July the Blackhawks pick up someone we didn’t anticipate. Richards was a good example of that, too.

The Blackhawks have a little cash to spend but they also have future considerations; please see Artemi Panarin, who the Blackhawks can start negotiating with on Friday. It’s not just about what they spend this season, it’s about what they save for that potential deal that would start next season.

The options are out there to improve this team but the Blackhawks have to be prudent. They can’t afford not to be.

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

White Sox outlast Twins to move back above .500 mark

It hasn’t been easy for the White Sox over the last seven weeks so why should Thursday afternoon be any different?

A day after they nearly squandered an eight-run advantage in the ninth, the White Sox beat the Minnesota Twins 6-5 in front of 26,158 at U.S. Cellular Field despite giving away two more leads. J.B. Shuck’s two-out RBI single in the eighth inning paved the way for the team to earn it’s third straight series victory. David Robertson converted his 21st save in 23 tries for the White Sox, who moved back above .500 for the first time since June 10.

Shuck already had two hits in three at-bats when he was gifted an eighth-inning plate appearance courtesy of a pair of two-out walks by Fernando Abad. Abad walked Avisail Garcia and Jason Coats to bring up Shuck, who singled to left to produce the winning run. Shuck tied a career-high with three hits.

Carlos Rodon twice struggled with the lead, surrendering it once.

Ahead 2-0 in the fourth, Rodon gave up back-to-back homers to Robbie Grossman and Brian Dozier with two outs. Before that, Rodon retired the first 11 batters he faced, including five strikeouts.

The White Sox regained a three-run advantage in the fourth inning and Rodon responded with a perfect fifth. But he struggled in the sixth and allowed Minnesota to creep back within a run. Rodon gave up a double and a RBI single before he walked Grossman with one out and Dozier followed with an RBI single. Matt Albers stranded a pair to keep the White Sox ahead 5-4.

Rodon exited after allowing four earned runs and five hits in 5 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out six.

The White Sox offense figured out how to attack Tommy Milone and forced him out of the game in the fourth inning.

Todd Frazier got things rolling with a solo homer in the second inning — the 14th consecutive solo homer hit by the White Sox — to make it a 1-0 game. The team is one shy of tying a franchise record with 15 straight solo home runs, which was set from Sept. 2-25, 1965.

Jose Abreu singled in a run in the third to put the White Sox up two.

The White Sox regained the lead for Rodon in the fourth after Minnesota tied it in the top half. Avisail Garcia singled in Brett Lawrie, who started the inning with a double.

Garcia stole second base and he scored on an RBI single by Matt Davidson. It was the first big league RBI for Davidson since Sept. 27, 2013 with Arizona. Davidson later left the game with a fracture in his right foot.

After Shuck doubled and Tim Anderson walked to load the bases — his first career free pass in 86 plate appearances — Milone hit Adam Eaton to force in a run and make it 5-2. But Neil Ramirez took over and got Abreu to bounce into an inning-ending double play.

With Anderson, who reached base four times, on second and one out in the seventh, Abreu struck out and Frazier flew out. 

World Series Champs: White Sox draftees help Coastal Carolina win first college title

World Series Champs: White Sox draftees help Coastal Carolina win first college title

OMAHA, Neb.— Coastal Carolina capitalized on two errors on the same play for four unearned runs in the sixth inning, and the Chanticleers won their first national championship in any sport with a 4-3 victory over Arizona in Game 3 of the College World Series finals on Thursday.

Coastal Carolina (55-18) became the first team since Minnesota in 1956 to win the title in its first CWS appearance. Arizona (49-24) was trying for its second national title since 2012.

Andrew Beckwith (15-1), the national leader in wins, went 5 2/3 innings after pitching two complete games and picked up his third victory of the CWS. He was named the Most Outstanding Player. Alex Cunningham earned his first save, striking out Ryan Haug with a full-count fastball to end the game after Arizona had pulled within a run in the bottom of the ninth.

Arizona's Bobby Dalbec (11-6) also worked 5 2/3 innings, with all the runs coming against him. He struck out eight to increase his CWS total to 25 in 20 innings.

The championship was also the first in a team sport in the 33-year history of the Big South Conference. But the Big South only has about eight hours to savor the accomplishment -- the Chanticleers become members of the Sun Belt Conference on Friday.

Arizona, which came into the day with just two errors in seven CWS games, saw second baseman Cody Ramer commit two on the same play to open the door to a four-run sixth inning for Coastal Carolina. Ramer couldn't get a handle on Zach Remillard's grounder, allowing David Parrett to score from third. Then Ramer tried to get Michael Paez running from second to third, but he overthrew infielder Kyle Lewis, which allowed Paez to come home.

Next, G.K. Young launched a no-doubt homer into the seats above the right-field bullpen for a 4-0 lead. All four runs were unearned, and Dalbec was relieved by Cameron Ming after facing one more batter. Before the sixth inning, Ramer hadn't committed an error in 17 games.

The Wildcats cut the lead in half with two unearned runs in the bottom half against a tiring Beckwith. An error on first baseman Kevin Woodall Jr. and a walk loaded the bases before Jared Oliva's two-RBI single knocked out Beckwith. Bobby Holmes relieved and struck out No. 9 batter Louis Boyd to end the inning.

Coastal Carolina caught a break in the third inning after Ramer sent a liner into right field that got under Connor Owings' glove and rolled to the wall. Ramer made it to third on the two-base error. Zach Gibbons then hit a comebacker to Beckwith, who went home as Ramer tried to score. After catching Beckwith's wide throw, catcher Parrett reached back to put the tag on Ramer, who was called out on an extremely close play.

Arizona's first two batters in the bottom of the ninth reached base against Cunningham, and Gibbons' sacrifice fly made it a one-run game with two outs. Ryan Aguilar then doubled into the left-field corner, but Ramer was held at third to bring up Haug.

After Cunningham struck out Haug, he turned to his dugout, beat his chest with his fist three times and saluted before flipping his glove away to start celebrating with his teammates.