Thursday’s Sports in Brief
The NCAA Tournament’s first full day tipped off, and for 20 minutes, Villanova looked ordinary, vulnerable, maybe even a little scared. The Wildcats finished like champions.
Donte DiVincenzo scored 21 points and the NCAA Tournament’s top seed shook off a shocking start and stumbled forward in the East region Thursday night with a 76-56 victory over No. 16 seed Mount St. Mary’s.
Leading by just one at halftime, the Wildcats (32-3) opened the second half with a 21-6 run and took their first step toward defending their championship. Villanova is trying to be the first back-to-back titlist since Florida in 2007, and the Wildcats will have to play better to make history.
In Orlando, Florida, Trevon Bluiett scored 21 points and Sean O’Mara had 18 to help No. 11 seed Xavier upset sixth-seeded Maryland 76-65 during the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
The Musketeers move on in the West region, marking the third straight year they have advanced to the second round. Maryland, which has started three freshmen for much the season, lost in the first round for the first time since 1997.
In Salt Lake City, Northwestern got its first-ever NCAA Tournament victory, 68-66 over Vanderbilt, after Commodores guard Matthew Fisher-Davis inexplicably grabbed Wildcats guard Bryant McIntosh on purpose, sending McIntosh to the free throw line for the go-ahead points with 15 seconds left.
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) Indiana coach Tom Crean was fired after nine often lackluster seasons.
Athletic director Fred Glass announced the decision as the NCAA Tournament was beginning.
Crean won two Big Ten regular-season championships over the last five seasons but went 18-16 this year and missed the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in nine years – including each of his first three seasons after taking over a gutted team following an NCAA scandal.
The 50-year-old Crean went 166-135 at Indiana overall.
TULSA, Okla. (AP) – One day before top-seeded Kansas opens NCAA Tournament play, court officials released an affidavit that said freshman star Josh Jackson threatened to ”beat” a women’s basketball player during a confrontation in December.
Douglas County District Court officials released the affidavit to The Lawrence Journal-World detailing statements from McKenzie Calvert and two other Kansas women’s basketball players who witnessed the argument Dec. 9 outside a bar in Lawrence, Kansas. The affidavit was filed by police to justify a court summons Jackson was served March 7; he is charged with misdemeanor criminal damage.
Steve Penny resigned as president of USA Gymnastics following intensified pressure on the organization for its handling of sex abuse cases.
The resignation came a week after the United States Olympic Committee’s board recommended to USA Gymnastics chairman Paul Parilla that Penny should step down. Penny offered his resignation during a previously scheduled board meeting on Thursday.
”My decision to step aside as CEO is solely to support the best interests of USA Gymnastics at this time,” Penny said in a statement.
USOC chairman Larry Probst said the move ”will hopefully allow USA Gymnastics to shift its attention to the future with a secure environment for its athletes and continued success in competition.”
CHICAGO (AP) – Chicago Bulls star Dwyane Wade will miss the rest of the season with a fractured right elbow.
The Bulls said an MRI revealed the fracture. Wade was injured in the fourth quarter of the game against the Memphis Grizzlies on Wednesday night. He collided with Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph and said after the game that he felt his elbow pop.
Wade averaged 18.6 points and 4.5 rebounds in his first season with his hometown Bulls. But the homecoming has been marred by a 32-36 record that has the Bulls out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference amid discord in the locker room.
CLEVELAND (AP) – The Cleveland Cavaliers got one player back from injury, but lost two others. Fortunately for the defending NBA champions, they can always count on LeBron James.
James scored 33 points, including 17 in the fourth quarter, and Cleveland defeated the Utah Jazz 91-83 on a night that the Cavaliers’ injury-riddled season took another strange twist.
Kevin Love played for the first time since having surgery on his left knee last month, and scored 10 points in 19 minutes. But Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert left with injuries.
Irving, who scored 21 points, didn’t play in the fourth quarter because of tightness in his left knee and said he left for precautionary reasons. Shumpert sprained his left shoulder in the third quarter. Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said Shumpert, who has been starting at shooting guard for nearly three months, is listed as day-to-day.
MIAMI (AP) – Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was the ”probable” operator of a speeding boat that crashed into a Miami Beach jetty on Sept. 25, killing the baseball star and two other men, according to a report issued by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which investigated the accident.
The 46-page report included a seating chart that had Fernandez at the helm, based on ”physical evidence” collected during the investigation, including the pitcher’s fingerprints and DNA on the steering wheel and throttle and projection of his body as he was thrown from the boat. It also listed drugs and alcohol as factors in the crash.
Fernandez’s 32-foot Sea Vee hit Miami’s Government Cut north jetty at 65.7 mph just after 3 a.m. on Sept. 25, the report said. Fernandez and the boat’s other occupants – Emilio Jesus Macias, 27, and Eduardo Rivero, 25 – were ejected.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) – NL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer probably will miss the Washington Nationals’ opener against Miami on April 3 because of a stress fracture in his right ring finger.
The stress fracture had caused Scherzer to change the grip on his fastball, placing three fingers on top of the ball instead of two, but he went back to his old grip Thursday during his first game action this year, a three-inning stint in a minor league exhibition against New York Mets’ Triple-A players.
Scherzer threw 35 of 54 pitches for strikes, mixing in some three-fingered fastballs. He had two quick innings but struggled with his control in the second. Pitching coach Mike Maddux said Scherzer will start for the Nationals on Wednesday against St. Louis.
U.S. women’s hockey players let a deadline to decide on whether they’ll boycott the world championships pass without any indication they’ve changed their minds in a standoff with USA Hockey over wages.
”We are focused on the issue of equitable support and stand by our position,” the players said in a statement released shortly after the 5 p.m. EDT deadline. ”We continue to be grateful for the encouragement and loyalty of our fans.”
The powerhouse U.S. women’s program has been plunged into chaos less than a week until the scheduled start of training camp and just over two weeks from defending its world championship gold medal on home ice in Plymouth, Michigan.
Coach Ken Klee was replaced by Robb Stauber earlier this month, and now it’s unclear how USA Hockey will fill its roster for a tournament it has won six of the past eight times and was expected to serve as a measuring stick for the South Korea Winter Olympics just 11 months away.
NEW YORK (AP) – A person with knowledge of the hiring tells The Associated Press that the NFL is adding a second female official, Terri Valenti, to work as an instant replay official next season.
Valenti will join Sarah Thomas, who has been a line judge since 2015. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the league has not announced the hiring.
The instant replay official is the individual in charge of the replay crew at the stadium on game day.
Sporting News first reported Valenti’s addition to the NFL’s officiating ranks.
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – Adrian Peterson has taken his final handoff for Minnesota, a 10-year run featuring a league MVP award, plenty of off-the-field drama and a franchise-leading 11,747 yards rushing over 123 regular-season games.
After the Vikings declined their $18 million option on his contract for 2017 two weeks ago to make Peterson a free agent, they signed former Oakland running back Latavius Murray early Thursday. General manager Rick Spielman then clarified the obvious that the four-time All-Pro will play elsewhere in 2017.
Spielman called Peterson’s agent with a heads-up about Murray’s deal before speaking with Peterson, as did Vikings ownership, to wish him well. Spielman declined to answer a question about whether the Vikings offered him a new contract.