Thursday’s Sports In Brief
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Zion Williamson made all 13 of his shots, five on high-flying dunks, and scored 29 points in his return to lead No. 5 Duke to an 84-72 victory over Syracuse in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.
RJ Barrett added 23 points and six rebounds to help Duke set up a semifinal showdown with No. 3 North Carolina. The Tar Heels swept both games from the Blue Devils in the regular season, with Williamson injured in the first minute of the first meeting.
Williamson was playing his first game since his left Nike Paul George shoe broke during a Feb. 20 game against the Tar Heels, causing him to miss nearly six full games with a sprained right knee. Williamson wore modified Nike Kyrie 4’s this time specifically designed to lend extra support to his 6-foot-7, 285-pound frame.
He showed no signs of any lingering knee issue and cracked a smile several times throughout the game.
NO. 2 VIRGINIA 76, NORTH CAROLINA STATE 56
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Kyle Guy scored 29 points, including seven 3-pointers, and Virginia rallied to beat North Carolina State 76-56 in the Atlantic Coast Conference quarterfinals.
Big man Jack Salt provided an unexpected offensive boost with a career-high 18 points for the top-seeded Cavaliers. Down 29-27 at halftime, Virginia shot 63 percent after the break and scored 49 points.
Virginia will play Florida State in the semifinals.
Cameron Johnson scored all of his 14 points in the first half to help the Tar Heels extend their winning streak to eight games.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Emmitt Mathews scored a career-high 28 points and 10th-seeded West Virginia upset Texas Tech 79-74 in the Big 12 quarterfinals.
West Virginia will play No. 17 Kansas in the semifinals.
Matthews hit a corner 3 to give West Virginia a 16-point lead with nine minutes to go, but Texas Tech scored 16 of the next 18 to get within four.
NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball and its players agreed to an unprecedented early start to contract bargaining, a move sparked by union anger that raised the possibility of a return to work stoppages that marred the sport in the late 20th century.
MLB and the union announced modest rule changes, mostly starting in 2020 such as expanded rosters and a three-batter minimum for pitchers, and the commissioner’s office agreed to drop its push for pitch clocks until 2022 at the earliest.
Players have been furious at slow free-agent markets during the first two offseasons of the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Dec. 1, 2021. The agreement increased the level of the luxury tax and prompted more teams to jettison veterans in favor of rebuilding with youth. None of the previous 11 collective bargaining agreements dating to 1966 was overhauled in mid-agreement, except for limited areas defined by the sides when the deal was signed.
It was Irving’s second career triple-double. His first was with Cleveland on Feb. 28, 2014, against Utah.
It was Boston’s second victory over Sacramento in eight days, and the Celtics’ fourth win in five games overall.
NEW YORK (AP) — Le’Veon Bell is leaving all the number crunching to the critics.
The star running back slept soundly after finally making his long-awaited decision on where to restart his NFL career, agreeing to a four-year, $52.5 million deal from the New York Jets early Wednesday morning and officially signing Thursday.
The deal, which reportedly includes $25 million in guarantees, had some wondering if he might have made a mistake by sitting out all last season after declining a five-year, $70 million offer from the Steelers and then refusing to sign his $14.5 million franchise tender.
Bell gambled on himself and took a chance — one he’s content with, regardless of whether some think he overplayed his hand and shortchanged himself.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A big finish for Tommy Fleetwood and a fast start for Keegan Bradley led each to a 7-under 65 for a share of the lead in the opening round of The Players Championship.
Fleetwood kept a clean card in the March wind, kept his patience and was rewarded at the end with three birdie putts. Bradley had three eagle putts on the front nine, made one of them, and picked up a pair of birdies on the front nine.
Tiger Woods made only one par on the back nine — five birdies, three bogeys — in a round of 70. He has only broken 70 in the opening round one time at the TPC Sawgrass, when he won in 2013.
The move from May to its traditional spot on the calendar brought green, softer conditions and more wind than usual.
Byeong Hun An and Brian Harman were at 66, while Rory McIlroy also played bogey-free for a 67. He was in a group with Ryan Moore, who made the ninth hole-in-one on the island-green 17th hole, and Vaughn Taylor.
INDIAN WELLS, Calif. (AP) — Milos Raonic made sure Miomir Kecmanovic’s good luck finally ran out at the BNP Paribas Open.
Raonic beat the 19-year-old Serb 6-3, 6-4 to reach the semifinals and improve to 19-4 at Indian Wells since 2014. Raonic fired 13 aces against no double faults in putting away Kecmanovic in 72 minutes on a sunny, windy and cool day in the Southern California desert.
He’ll try to improve next against No. 7 Dominic Thiem, who advanced via walkover when No. 18 Gael Monfils announced on court that he couldn’t play because of a left Achilles injury.
Belinda Bencic beat fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 to reach the semis, ensuring her return to the top 20 in the rankings. Bencic’s victory set up a semifinal against No. 8 seed Angelique Kerber, who beat error-prone Venus Williams 7-6 (3), 6-3 in a matchup of 30-somethings.