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The Sports Report: Cancer can’t keep Dick Vitale from UCLA-Gonzaga game

Dick Vitale before an NCAA college basketball game in 2020.
(Isaac Brekken / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

Ben Bolch on college basketball: As the cadence of his voice careens through T-Mobile Arena and into the homes of millions of television viewers, Dick Vitale gushing about diaper dandies and PTPers as only he can, the veteran college basketball analyst will energize someone new after all these years.

Himself.

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It’s gonna be awesome, baby, when the 82-year-old known for a thick glossary of catchphrases gets to push aside his recent cancer diagnosis for several hours to call what might be the biggest game of the regular season. Only a few days after having a fourth round of drugs pumped into his body to fight lymphoma, Vitale will be courtside Tuesday night in Las Vegas for the ESPN broadcast of No. 1 Gonzaga versus No. 2 UCLA, providing the sort of jolt no treatment center can match.

“It’s great medicine, right?” Vitale said earlier this week during a telephone interview. “And that’s how the doctors feel too. They told me, ‘All the tests about how you are — your EKG, your heart, your organs, they’re all great, so there’s no reason why you cannot go on and live your life, be active and let us worry about chemo and let us worry about the cancer. You do what you normally do at 82 — enjoy yourself.’ ”

Vitale intends to do exactly that before making his season debut as part of an abbreviated lineup of games. There’s a dinner with his wife and another couple, allowing some relaxation before the following night’s rematch of the epic Final Four game that Gonzaga won on Jalen Suggs’ 40-footer at the overtime buzzer.

Vitale acknowledged the possibility that he might get a little emotional when partner Dave O’Brien asks him about his ordeal during the broadcast given the burden he’s carried the last month since receiving his diagnosis.

“Cancer affects so many people,” Vitale said. “I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again — it sucks.”

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Eight decades of Bruins standouts look back at UCLA-Gonzaga Final Four thriller

No. 2 UCLA defeats Bellarmine in tuneup before Final Four rematch with Gonzaga

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LAKERS

Broderick Turner on the Lakers: LeBron James was suspended by the NBA for one game without pay and will miss his only appearance at Madison Square Garden this season when L.A. plays the Knicks on Tuesday night.

Pistons forward Isaiah Stewart, who had his face bloodied by James, was suspended for two games by the league.

James was suspended for what the NBA said was “recklessly hitting Stewart in the face and initiating an on-court altercation.”

Stewart was suspended for “repeatedly and aggressively pursuing” James, the NBA said.

USC FOOTBALL

Ryan Kartje on the Trojans: When Kenan Christon vanished from USC’s football team in early September, just days after the Trojans’ season-opening win, no explanation was offered as to why the junior running back was suddenly “removed from team activities.”

But nearly three months later, with USC’s season in a tailspin and Christon facing sanctions from the university, new details have emerged about the altercation that led the university to suspend the promising Trojan running back.

Accompanied by his lawyer and local civil rights activist Najee Ali, Christon told The Times he feels he’s been treated unfairly by the university and its student judicial process over a physical altercation with another male USC student that resulted in no arrests or charges filed.

The two students have since reconciled via text message, Christon says. But a six-week investigation conducted by Andrew Barton, a judicial officer within USC’s office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, found Christon responsible for seven violations of the student code of conduct and suspended him from USC’s campus and any other university activities, including football, through Dec. 14, 2022.

Christon and his lawyer, Anton Diffenderfer, are accusing Barton of conducting “an incomplete and inadequate investigation,” while Ali alleges that the university’s student judicial process is “racially biased” and “unfair to student athletes of color.”

“We have looked at this in line with university policy and have taken appropriate action,” the university said in a statement to The Times. “We are unable to talk about the details because of student privacy laws.”

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Meet Mike Bohn, the man tasked with resurrecting USC football with one perfect hire

DUCKS

Yakov Trenin scored the tiebreaking goal in the third period and had an assist, Ryan Johansen added a goal and an assist, and the Nashville Predators beat the Ducks 3-2 on Monday night.

“I thought we were ready to play,” Nashville coach John Hynes said. “Our puck execution wasn’t great in the first period. It caused us turnovers and caused us to have to defend too much.

Mikael Granlund also scored for the Predators, and Juuse Saros made 29 saves. Nashville (10-7-1) stopped a two-game skid and handed Anaheim (10-6-3) its second consecutive defeat.

Rickard Rakell and Jamie Drysdale scored for the Ducks while Troy Terry’s 16-game points streak, the second-longest in the NHL behind Connor McDavid’s 17, ended.

CHARGERS

Jeff Miller on the Chargers: In the NFL’s concussion protocol for the second time in three weeks, Asante Samuel Jr. doesn’t have to search for learned advice.

He can turn to Joey Bosa, the Chargers’ three-time Pro Bowl edge rusher who suffered two concussions in the second half of last season.

The teammates already spoke after Samuel’s first concussion in a Week 8 loss to New England.

“I just let him know that it was a real tough time for me,” Bosa said Monday, “and it was important to talk to somebody if you’re feeling depressed or feeling down about anything.”

Samuel, a rookie cornerback drafted in the second round, missed one game before returning Nov. 14 in the Chargers’ loss to Minnesota.

He went down again Sunday after tackling Pittsburgh running back Najee Harris. A short time later, the Chargers announced that Samuel was back in concussion protocol.

Coach Brandon Staley said it was too early to speculate on Samuel’s status. Medical personnel were still determining the severity of his condition when Staley met with reporters early Monday afternoon.

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NFL Week 12 best bets: Three games with intriguing odds, including Rams-Packers

Tom Brady tosses two touchdowns, Buccaneers beat Giants

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1947 — Sammy Baugh throws six touchdown passes as the Washington Redskins beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 45-21.

1958 — Bobby Mitchell of the Cleveland Browns returns a punt and a kickoff for touchdowns in a 28-14 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles.

1968 — Houston scores 49 points in the fourth quarter to complete the rout an injury-riddled, flu-stricken Tulsa, 100-6.

1975 — Minnesota’s Fran Tarkenton becomes the all-time completions leader in the NFL. Tarkenton completes his 2,840th pass in the Vikings’ 28-13 win over the San Diego Chargers.

1984 — Doug Flutie passes for 472 yards and leads Boston College to a 47-45 upset victory over Miami with a last second touchdown throw to Gerard Phelan.

1991 — Tony Sands smashes NCAA records with 396 yards and 58 carries and scores four touchdowns as Kansas trounces Missouri 53-29. Sands broke the NCAA one-game rushing record of 386 yards set this season by Marshall Faulk of San Diego State.

1991 — Desmond Howard returns a punt against rival No. 18 Ohio State for a touchdown, celebrating with his “Heisman Pose” en route to No. 3 Michigan’s biggest win over the Buckeyes in almost 50 years. The Wolverines win 31-3.

1991 — Evander Holyfield comes back from a third-round knockdown to batter and bloody Bert Cooper before stopping him in the seventh round of a IBF and WBA heavyweight title fight.

1996 — Iowa State’s Troy Davis becomes the first Division I-A player to rush for 2,000 yards in consecutive seasons, gaining 225 yards in a 35-20 loss to Kansas State. Davis, who had 2,010 yards in 1995, finishes with 2,185 yards.

2001 — Middleweight boxer James Butler punches his opponent Richard Grant long after the final bell at Madison Square Garden in New York. Grant, winner of a 10-round decision, is dropped by Butler who connects with a short hook with gloves off. Butler, facing second-degree assault charges, is suspended indefinitely by the New York State Athletic Commission.

2002 — Penn State’s Larry Johnson becomes the ninth running back in NCAA Division I-A history to run for 2,000 yards in a season when he gained 279 yards and scored four TDs in a 61-7 win against Michigan State.

2007 — In a rare instance of double triple-doubles, Baron Davis and the Golden State Warriors get the better of Caron Butler and the Washington Wizards. Davis finishes with 33 points, 15 assists and 11 rebounds and Golden State beat Washington 123-115. Butler ends with 26 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists.

2012 — The San Diego Sockers set a U.S. pro team sports record with their 41st consecutive victory, 14-4 against the Toros de Mexico in the Professional Arena Soccer League. The Sockers had been tied with the Sioux Falls Storm of United Indoor Football, who set the old record of 40 from 2005-08.

2014 — New Zealand teenager Lydia Ko ends a big year on the LPGA Tour with the largest payoff in women’s golf. Ko wins the $1 million bonus from the “Race to CME Globe” even before she begins a three-way playoff in the CME Group Tour Championship. The 17-year-old adds $500,000 when she defeats Carlota Ciganda of Spain on the fourth extra hole at Tiburon Golf Club.

2016 — Kevin Love scores 40 points, including an NBA-record 34 in the first quarter, LeBron James records his 44th career triple-double, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Portland Trail Blazers 137-125.

2018 — Phil Mickelson needs 22 holes to beat Tiger Woods in their head-to-head golf matchup. Mickelson wins the $9 million purse and a championship belt crafted with 18-karat gold and two karats worth of diamonds. The four extra holes force the match to finish under the lights at Shadow Creek Golf Course in North Las Vegas. B/R Live, the sports streaming platform for Turner Sports, makes the match available for free to anyone after technical difficulties prevent those who paid $19.99 to see the live stream.

Supplied by the Associated Press

And finally

Doug Flutie’s Hail Mary miracle pass. Watch and listen here.

Until next time...

That concludes today’s newsletter. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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