Belinelli, Bulls hold off Nets in nail-biter

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Belinelli, Bulls hold off Nets in nail-biter

Saturday nights 83-82 Bulls (13-9) win over the Nets (13-10) at the United Center was a story weve seen before: The undermanned squad, playing an opponent with supposedly more talent on paper and featuring a former player, this time C.J. Watson used a formula of offensive balance, timely contributions from an unexpected source, determination to fight back with the odds against them and of course, Tom Thibodeaus vaunted defense, to earn a hard-fought victory.

Two Joakim Noah (12 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) dunks the second of which, over Brooklyn counterpart Brook Lopez (18 points, 10 rebounds), was highlight-worthy started the Bulls off on a positive note, as the hosts scored the games first six points and hit their first five shots from the field. In addition to Noah, fellow starters Carlos Boozer (15 points, six rebounds) and Marco Belinelli (19 points) also had good starts, enabling the Bulls to build a cushion in the early going.

While Lopez, whos dealing with health issues, found his groove as a scorer early, as did point guard Deron Williams (24 points, five assists), half of Brooklyns All-Star backcourt Joe Johnson (16 points), the Nets marquee offseason acquisition, picked up two quick fouls and took a seat on the bench the visitors looked sluggish overall, perhaps a byproduct of playing a double-overtime game the previous evening. That changed as the opening period waned on, as Williams outside marksmanship made it a close-knit affair and at the end of the first quarter, the Bulls trailed, 24-23, despite Boozer carrying the offensive load.

The game remained tight in the second frame, as backup point guards Marquis Teague in for Nate Robinson, who started in place of the injured Kirk Hinrich, but picked up two quick fouls and Watson, the former Bull in his first game back in Chicago, went at it. Teagues speed and ability to score in transition, were immediately evident and matched up with an elite player at his position in Williams, he held his own on the defensive end.

The tenor of the contest suited the home teams defensive sensibilities, even as their field-goal percentage dropped on the other side of the ball, necessitating putting the clamps on their guests offensive intentions. At the intermission, the Bulls held a 46-41 advantage, with Nets backup big man Andray Blatche making an impact for the guests.

After the break, Belinellis efficient scoring and underrated playmaking helped the Bulls start the third quarter positively, but after flirting with acquiring a double-digit lead, the hosts allowed Brooklyn to get back into the game. Behind the play of Lopez, Williams, Johnson and veteran Gerald Wallace, the Nets significantly cut into the deficit, eventually overtaking their hosts.

In what evolved into a defensive struggle, the Bulls took control late in the frame to once again build some breathing room, with Belinelli, Luol Deng (17 points, seven rebounds) and reserve Taj Gibson serving as catalysts. Heading into the final stanza, the Bulls held a 67-62 lead, following a Deng jumper with 2.9 seconds left in the frame.

The Bulls lead proved to be tenuous as the fourth quarter began, as the visitors quickly regained the momentum in the contest, buoyed by the point production of Johnson. Put into the position of playing from behind after the Nets built a slim cushion, but led by the play of Teague, who continued to display poise beyond his 19 years, the Bulls made it a nip-and-tuck game heading into the stretch run.

Critical unforced errors appeared to be the hosts ultimate undoing late in the contest, but after a Belinelli fast-break layup cut it to 79-77, in Brooklyns favor, with 1:26 remaining, the Bulls tied the game at 79 with 1:01 left, on a Deng dunk in transition from a slick Teague assist after a Nets turnover.

Following a defensive stop on the other end, a Belinelli driving layup gave the Bulls an 81-79 advantage with 22.1 seconds to go, leading to yet another clutch defensive stop and two free throws by Belinelli to seal the deal, which ended up being necessary for the winning margin, as Williams hit a three-pointer at the buzzer.

Big Ten poll update: Win over North Carolina boosts Hoosiers four spots in AP poll

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USA TODAY

Big Ten poll update: Win over North Carolina boosts Hoosiers four spots in AP poll

Indiana is back in the top 10 of the AP poll.

After avenging an embarrassing loss to Fort Wayne with a win over third-ranked North Carolina in last week's Big Ten-ACC Challenge, the Hoosiers jumped up four spots from No. 13 to No. 9 when the new AP top-25 rankings were released Monday morning.

Indiana sits at 7-1 with a very strange season to this point. The Hoosiers have wins over a pair of teams currently ranked in the top seven, No. 3 Kansas and No. 7 North Carolina, yet have that head-scratching defeat on the road against the aforementioned IPFW Mastodons.

Tom Crean's crew has five non-conference games left on the schedule, including matchups with 11th-ranked Louisville and 16th-ranked Butler.

Only two other Big Ten teams were ranked this week.

Wisconsin maintained the No. 17 spot despite scoring a pair of big home victories over Syracuse and Oklahoma. The Badgers are 7-2 with their only losses coming against teams currently ranked in the top 10, No. 7 North Carolina and No. 10 Creighton.

Purdue dropped three spots from No. 15 to No. 18 after suffering its second loss of the season against aforementioned Louisville last week. Again, the Boilers' two losses are of the utmost quality, coming against No. 1 Villanova and No. 11 Louisville.

Ohio State, Maryland, Michigan State and Minnesota also received votes in this week's poll.

Purdue hires Western Kentucky's Jeff Brohm as new head coach

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USA TODAY

Purdue hires Western Kentucky's Jeff Brohm as new head coach

Purdue has found its next head football coach.

After multiple outlets reported Monday morning that Western Kentucky head coach Jeff Brohm accepted the open job, Purdue tweeted an announcement about an hour later.

Brohm was considered one of the top options for teams looking for a new coach this season. He posted a 30-10 record in three seasons as the head coach of the Hilltoppers, winning back-to-back Conference USA championships. Western Kentucky won double-digit games in each of the last two seasons and reached a bowl game in all three of Brohm's seasons, winning the first two.

The Hilltoppers have been terrific on offense under Brohm. This season they boasted the No. 2 scoring offense in the country, averaging 45.1 points a game, and the No. 7 total offense, averaging 517.4 yards per game. Purdue already owned the top passing offense in the Big Ten this season, but Western Kentucky was the No. 5 passing offense in the nation, averaging 336.8 passing yards a game.

"We were fortunate to meet with many talented coaches from around the country during our search, and Jeff’s name was one that rose to the top early in the process," Purdue athletics director Mike Bobinski said in the announcement. "He is a coach who already has achieved tremendous success and, at the same time, has incredible upside. His reputation and record of accomplishment as an innovative offensive coach and developer of quarterbacks is second to none. That pedigree, combined with his commitment to developing the complete student-athlete and doing so with integrity makes him a perfect fit for Purdue University. I am extremely excited to have Jeff as our head football coach."

Prior to becoming the head coach at Western Kentucky, Brohm spent one season as the offensive coordinator at UAB. He was the Illinois quarterbacks coach in 2010 and 2011 under head coach Ron Zook and the quarterbacks coach at Florida Atlantic during the 2009 season. He spent seven seasons as an assistant at Louisville, where he played from 1989 to 1993 before an seven-year NFL career.

Additionally, former Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm, Jeff's brother, is expected to be the Boilermakers' new offensive coordinator, per a report.

Purdue needed a new coach after firing Darrell Hazell midway through this season. Hazell had practically no success in his three and a half seasons in West Lafayette, winning just nine games and only three Big Ten games.

The Boilers have made just two bowl appearances in the past nine seasons, but the job isn't the least attractive with the amount of resources any Big Ten school can provide, as evidenced by his reported contract.