From Comcast SportsNetEL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) -- Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill all will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' upcoming road trip with injuries, leaving the struggling club without its top three big men indefinitely.Howard has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Gasol has a concussion after taking an elbow in the face late in Sunday night's loss to Denver. Hill, a key backup to both starting big men, has a right hip injury.The three injuries are the latest blows for the Lakers (15-18), who still haven't meshed despite a star-studded roster, a bulging payroll and an early-season coaching change. Los Angeles has lost three straight and four of five since beating the Knicks on Christmas, falling to 11th place in the Western Conference."The NBA is unforgiving, and nobody is feeling sorry for us," Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni said. "There's 29 other teams that are happy, and we've got to do the best we can do. It's kind of weird coming to work thinking you have three centers, and all three of them are hurt on the same day."The Lakers' biggest concern is Howard, who hurt his shoulder in last Friday's loss to the Clippers and aggravated it in Sunday's loss to the Nuggets while grabbing a career high-tying 26 rebounds. The six-time All-Star center said he won't need surgery, but he'll sit out for at least a week before his injury is re-evaluated."It depends on how fast I heal up," said Howard, who had a bulky wrap on his shoulder Monday at the Lakers' training complex. "I was in pain (Sunday night), and the biggest thing right now is I have to make sure I'm 100 percent. I don't want to play with my shoulder weak. I'd have a chance for more injuries. I've got to let it heal up."After canceling practice Monday, the Lakers announced Gasol and Howard are both out indefinitely. Hill will be examined by team doctors later Monday before getting a prognosis.When the Lakers open a stretch of four games in six days starting Tuesday in Houston, rookie Robert Sacre is likely to be their starting center. The final pick in last June's draft has been playing for the Lakers' affiliate in the D-League.D'Antoni will be forced to improvise with his three best post players sidelined from an already top-heavy roster. The coach said 6-foot-7 Metta World Peace could play center at times as part of the small lineups he'll be forced to use."We'll go small a lot, and we'll just have to spread the floor and get things done," D'Antoni said. "Some guys are going to have to step up and put some superhuman effort into it. We'll have some little guys guarding big guys, and we'll have to be quick. We'll have to take advantage of other situations."He won't have much choice: The 7-foot Sacre and 6-foot-9 Antawn Jamison are his only players taller than World Peace, unless the Lakers sign a temporary big man. Los Angeles cleared a roster spot by waiving rookie Darius Johnson-Odom on Monday, three days before his contract would have been guaranteed for the season.Although their wealth of problems can hardly be attributed to injuries, the Lakers haven't been fully healthy for any significant stretch of the season. After Howard missed their first five preseason games while recovering from offseason back surgery, new point guard Steve Nash got a small fracture in his leg in their second game of the season, keeping the two-time NBA MVP out for seven weeks.Add in the difficulties of learning a new offense with no training camp for an older roster struggling to keep up with faster teams, and the preseason title contenders realize why they're looking up at the likes of Golden State, Minnesota and the Pacific Division-leading Clippers in the standings."It's almost like -- what's that game where you pop one of those things in the head and another one pops up?" D'Antoni said. "Whac-a-Mole? That's what we seem to be doing right now."Gasol got a concussion and an injured nose when Denver's JaVale McGee accidentally clobbered him under the basket with 1:05 to play. The four-time All-Star 7-footer has been struggling both with plantar fasciitis and the difficulty of adapting his game to D'Antoni's offense, averaging just 12.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in a trying season.Hill had been struggling with a sprained right ankle and a herniated disc in his back even before injuring his hip Sunday. He has been a consistent contributor off the bench in his second season in Los Angeles, averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds."No one is going to feel sorry for us," said Nash, who is five assists shy of 10,000 for his career. "We've got to take the challenge, embrace it, and no matter how many lumps we take, you can't feel sorry for yourself. You've got to keep battling, and if you keep battling, you give yourself a chance for good things to happen."The injuries were the most concrete news on yet another ridiculously busy day for the 16-time champions. Lakers great Magic Johnson launched yet another barrage of Twitter criticism of the franchise, while Howard and NBA scoring leader Kobe Bryant both flatly denied a report of friction between them, with Bryant tweeting a photo mocking the idea they had nearly come to blows."You feel like at some point, you hit rock-bottom, and the only place you can go is up," Bryant said. "It's just been a tough year for everybody ... but when you go through a lot of adversity, it challenges you, and then it's on you, whether or not you choose to fight, or whether you choose to run away from it. I think we'll choose to fight it."
For the second straight offseason, Urban Meyer could be losing a defensive coordinator to a head-coaching job.
Last year it was Chris Ash moving from Ohio State to become the head coach at Rutgers. Now, Luke Fickell looks like he might be leaving for the head-coaching job at Cincinnati.
BearcatReport.com, a Rivals site, reported Friday that Fickell is in negotiations to become the next head coach at Cincinnati, right down the street from the place he's spent almost the entirety of his career.
ESPN's Adam Rittenberg followed up, reporting that while Fickell and Cincinnati have talked about the opening, things might not be as imminent as the first report suggested.
Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and Cincinnati have spoken but no contract negotiations are under way, sources tell ESPN.— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) December 9, 2016
While Fickell — if he were to leave — would technically become a part of the Meyer coaching tree, he's been a mainstay in Columbus since before the Buckeyes' current head coach arrived.
Fickell played at Ohio State from 1992 to 1996 and got a graduate assistant job under John Cooper in 1999. After two seasons as an assistant at Akron, Fickell returned as the Buckeyes' special teams coordinator under Jim Tressel and spent the next nine seasons as a Tressel assistant. He moved from special teams coordinator to linebackers coach in 2004 and got the title of co-defensive coordinator in 2005.
After Tressel's tenure came to a tumultuous end amid what became known as "Tattoogate," Fickell assumed the one-season role of interim head coach, leading the Buckeyes to a 6-7 record before Meyer showed up. Fickell has been a defensive coordinator under Meyer for the past five seasons, helping Ohio State to a jaw-dropping 61-5 record — including a national championship in 2014 — and coaching one of the best defenses in the country over the past several seasons.
Fickell would seem like a perfect fit at Cincinnati, which has a vacancy after the departure of Tommy Tuberville, who posted just a 4-8 record this past season. Fickell is a longtime assistant who most definitely deserves his chance, bringing that one season of head-coaching experience and a knowledge of the recruiting area.
If Fickell takes the job, he wouldn't have to wait too long to go up against his former employer and new in-state foe. The Bearcats and Buckeyes play in 2019, though that comes after Cincinnati's already-scheduled game against Michigan next season.
The worst defensive team in the Big Ten, finally turned in a strong defensive performance Thursday night — and got its biggest win of the season.
In fact, Thursday night's 78-64 win over in-state rival and 25th-ranked Iowa State was Iowa's first win of note on the campaign.
For all of their points — Iowa is one of the highest-scoring teams in the conference — the Hawkeyes were paper thin on defense in their five losses this season against name opponents Seton Hall, Virginia, Memphis and Notre Dame, not to mention Omaha, the small-conference foe that pushed Iowa's losing streak to four games last weekend. Those five teams averaged 91 points a game against the Hawkeyes, and if you take out low-scoring Virginia — which wins not by scoring points but preventing them, like when it held Iowa to just 41 — that scoring average among the other four teams shoots up to 95.3.
But such was not the case Thursday in Iowa City, with the Hawkeyes limiting the Cyclones to 64 points — a season-low for an Iowa opponent — on just 35.7-percent shooting.
So, Fran McCaffery, was this the best your defense has been all season?
"Yeah, I would say that."
Only twice prior had the Hawkeyes turned in a scoring output of fewer than 80 points, both in losses against Virginia and Notre Dame. But that's not to say that the typically high-scoring Hawkeyes were ineffective on offense. They shot 47.3 percent from the field and scored nine points off turnovers and 13 on the fast break. They narrowly won the rebounding and turnover battles but had a big advantage at the free-throw line, going 17-for-24 from the stripe while the visiting Cyclones were just 6-for-9.
Iowa got its biggest performance from who else but Peter Jok, the Big Ten's leading scorer putting up 23 points and grabbing nine rebounds. But the young Hawkeyes stepped up, too. Freshman Isaiah Moss scored 14 points; he's scored 35 points combined in his last two games. Freshman Cordell Pemsl finished with 11 points, his fourth straight game scoring in double figures. Sophomore Nicholas Baer had 10 points to go along with eight rebounds. And freshman Jordan Bohannon stuffed the stat sheet with eight points, five rebounds and four assists.
"I thought in terms of putting everything together, you know, we had been really good at times," McCaffery said. "We had not really put it together for 40 minutes, and you have to against this team, a lot of veterans. And right from the opening tip, we were locked into the game plan and stayed with it in terms of try to keep it out of the paint, trying to get back, limit their easy baskets, try to limit their second-shot opportunities. And then, you know, the other end moved the ball. They got up into us pretty good. So it's not as easy as it looks, but you've got to get it moving but you have some opportunities to drive the ball. So really proud of our guys."
It was a huge win for a Hawkeyes team that seemed to be in free fall as recently as early this week. Prior to Thursday, Iowa's wins came against the unimpressive lineup of Kennesaw State, Savannah State, Texas-Rio Grande Valley and Stetson. Any team of note had its way.
Even with the win, Iowa still ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, allowing an average of 81.2 points a game.
But Thursday's victory — which snapped a three-year losing streak to Iowa State — gave a young squad a landmark win over a ranked team to build off with just three games remaining before the start of conference play.
"We had the potential to be better than we were playing," McCaffery said. "And you know, I sort of kept saying it: We played pretty well against Memphis at times, at Notre Dame for longer, Seton Hall at times, and even Omaha at times. Started to put it together a little bit against Stetson. But this is a team that is ranked. So it is a step.
"But you can never be too satisfied, just like you can't get too down if you lose a game, whether it be this game or another game. That was a tough loss for us the other night against Omaha, tough loss. But how do you respond, you know, and they went right back to work. They locked into Stetson, they put it together, came right back. No nonsense, very mature approach to game preparation, following the game plan. And I thought the enthusiasm of the guys on the floor and the guys on the bench, how they were supporting their teammates, and of course the crowd was spectacular, but our whole bench was really into the game in a way that you have to be to win a game of this caliber."