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The Sports Report: Kansas wins men’s basketball title

Kansas celebrates with the trophy.
(David J. Phillip / Associated Press)
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Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

What looked like a lost cause turned into one of the sweetest wins ever for Kansas.

The Jayhawks brought their fourth NCAA title back to Allen Fieldhouse on Monday thanks to a second-half flurry that erased a 16-point deficit and eventually overcame North Carolina 72-69 in an epic battle of power programs.

It was the largest comeback in national championship history, surpassing the 1963 title game when Loyola overcame a 15-point deficit to beat Cincinnati at the buzzer, 60-58.

“We just locked in as a family, as a team, and that’s what we do,” said Kansas big man David McCormack, after making last two baskets of the game. “We overcome the odds. We overcome adversity. We’re just built for this.”

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McCormack scored the go-ahead bucket from close range with 1:21 left, then another at the 22-second mark to put the Jayhawks ahead by three.

North Carolina missed its final four shots, including Caleb Love’s desperation 3 at the buzzer. His heave came up short after officials ruled that Kansas guard DaJuan Harris Jr., stepped out on an inbounds pass with 4.3 seconds left.

The Tar Heels went scoreless over the final 1:41. They couldn’t find an answer for KU over the final 20 minutes.

“They were penetrating and doing whatever they wanted,” Love said.

After McCormick’s go-ahead bucket, Love drove to the basket but his shot got blocked. North Carolina grabbed an offensive rebound and got the ball to Armando Bacot under the bucket. But he lost his footing and turned it over, then limped off the court, unable to return.

“I thought I really got the angle that I wanted and then I just rolled my ankle,” Bacot said.

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DODGERS

From Bill Plaschke: This is getting silly. This is getting old.

The Dodgers enter the 2022 season with surely the best team in baseball, obviously one of the best in baseball history, and seemingly destined for a World Series title.

Yet the Dodgers enter the 2022 season as a team on the ropes.

They have made the playoffs nine consecutive years, yet during that time they have won only one title, in a 60-game season, in a World Series played on a neutral field.

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That is not a dynasty. That is not history. That is not enough.

How many more times can a team tease its city with April dreams that become October nightmares? How often can glowing spring predictions continue to devolve into dull autumn realities? How many more seasons can a generous ownership group and skilled front office fill the dugout with greatness that begets frustration, that begets failure?

Since Andrew Friedman became the president of baseball operations in the winter before the 2015 season, he and Guggenheim Baseball Management have combined to spend more money and acquire more stars than anyone in the sport. Yet they have not won a title in a 162-game season, they have not survived a postseason with hostile crowds, they have not ascended to the heights for which they were built.

They’re stronger than that. They’re deeper than that. They’re better than that.

At least, they should be better than that.

————

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LAKERS

From Dan Woike: Anthony Davis, playing with tremendous pain in his right foot, stepped toward, and then around, Denver’s Nikola Jokic in the first quarter Sunday. As he drew contact and scored, he landed oddly and immediately glanced at the ground.

He grimaced. He then shot, and made, the free throw. Then he limped back down the court to play defense.

In just his second game back since injuring that foot before the All-Star break, Davis has played through considerable discomfort in an effort to try to get the Lakers into the final spot of the NBA’s play-in tournament.

“At this point, I know what we’re playing for,” Davis said. “If I’ve got to go through this pain — hopefully it’s not the last four games, hopefully it’s more — then, so be it. I know that, me, myself and my team, know I left it out on the floor. Just like I did in the playoffs last year as well. Give myself a chance — and help give our team chance.

“I’m not going to sit down and quit if I feel like I can at least get out there. If I’m 60%, 70%, whatever, I think my 70% is better than a lot of guys’ 100%. I want to help the team.”

Trolled online and by TV analysts after two straight years with significant injury absences, Davis fired back at his critics Sunday in a one-on-one interview with The Times.

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“This is what I’ve learned about injuries: Last year when I wasn’t playing, people were saying ‘AD’s giving up on his team. It’s the playoffs. AD has to play. He’s got to play.’ And when I went out there to play, got hurt again, they said, ‘Who was his trainer? Who let him play?’

“So, what the [expletive] do you want me to do? When I play, it’s a problem. It’s a problem when I don’t play. At the end of the day, I’ve got to do what’s best for me and how my body feels. And we go from there. I’m not worried about who’s saying what or who thinks this about me because none of them have stepped on the floor and played. And the ones that did play, they should understand.

“These aren’t little ticky-tack injuries.”

CLIPPERS

From Andrew Greif: Glancing at a box score from the Clippers’ victory over New Orleans late Sunday night, a satisfied smile crossed Tyronn Lue’s face.

“Zero attempts from three for Valanciunas,” the Clippers’ coach said, reading the paper in front of him. “How ’bout that?”

In three previous matchups against the Clippers this season, Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas had operated at will, making 14 of 30 three-pointers, even when his threat from behind the arc was on the scouting report. But Sunday, when the Clippers defeated the Pelicans 119-100 to clinch the West’s eighth-best record, Valanciunas was unable to break free for a single three-point attempt.

To Lue, Valanciunas’ 0-for-0 line in the stat sheet represented more than one matchup gone right — it also reflected the renewed, overall influence of Paul George.

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GOLF

From Sam Farmer: Monday felt like Sunday. Tiger Woods can do that to a place.

The first day of practice rounds at the Masters typically is buzzing, but mostly with thousands of spectators — they call them patrons here — getting their first glimpse of Augusta National, walking the holes and lining up to spend hundreds and often thousands of dollars on merchandise.

But this Monday felt markedly different as Woods made his near-miraculous return to the storied tournament after a catastrophic rollover car accident in February 2021 that almost cost him his right leg, or perhaps his life.

Not so long ago, the big question was whether Woods, the winner of 15 major championships, would be able to play golf with his son again — let alone test his legs for the Masters.

But there he was, matching strides with Justin Thomas and Fred Couples, getting ready for yet another comeback story for the ages. He walked a little more rigidly than in the past, slightly favoring his right leg, but still with more fluidity than most every other 46-year-old person on the planet.

Couples took particular note of Woods’ power off the tee.

“What impresses me the most is he was bombing it for one,” Couples said. “If you want to talk golf, he was bombing it. I know JT is not the longest hitter on the Tour, but I know he’s damn long. He was with him flushing it.

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RAMS

From Gary Klein: Rams All-Pros Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey led the initial recruiting effort that eventually drew Bobby Wagner to sign with the team.

That was only one of the highlights that Wagner, who grew up in the Inland Empire, revealed during an introductory news conference Monday.

Here are some takeaways from Wagner’s videoconference.

KINGS

Johnny Gaudreau had two goals and an assist, and the Calgary Flames extended their lead in the Pacific Division with a 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Monday night.

Elias Lindholm also scored for the Flames, who have 91 points and a five-point advantage over the Kings atop the division. Jacob Markstrom stopped 27 shots as Calgary snapped a three-game losing streak.

Adrian Kempe had two goals and Anze Kopitar had two assists for Los Angeles, which had earned at least a point in five of its last six coming into the game. The Kings have 86 points and are only one point in front of the Edmonton Oilers for second.

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Cal Petersen finished with 30 saves for Los Angeles.

THIS DATE IN SPORTS

1915 — Jess Willard beats Jack Johnson in the 26th round to win the world heavyweight boxing title in Havana.

1927 — Johnny Weissmuller breaks his own 200-meter freestyle record by seven seconds in 2:08. He also lowers his own record in the 100-yard freestyle to 51 seconds, a record that stood for 17 years.

1952 — Henry Wittenberg wins the 191-pound AAU wrestling title for the eighth time. Wittenberg won over 350 bouts in 13 years, including a gold medal in the 1948 Olympics.

1959 — Art Wall birdies five of the last six holes to cap a final-round 66 and edge Fred Hawkins by one stroke to win the Masters.

1970 — New York beats Detroit 9-5 to take fourth place and the final playoff berth in the NHL’s East Division. The Rangers are the first team to advance to the playoffs on the basis of goals scored when they finish tied with Montreal.

1972 — Major League Baseball for the first time fails to open because of a player strike, which started April 1 and would be settled April 13.

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1984 — Kareem Abdul-Jabbar hits a sky hook with 8:53 left in the Lakers’ 129-115 victory over the Utah Jazz to become the NBA’s top career scorer. Wilt Chamberlain, with 31,419 points, held the record since his retirement in 1973.

1993 — Donald Williams scores 25 points to lead North Carolina to a 77-71 win over Michigan in the NCAA championship.

1997 — Bruce Baumgartner wins a record eighth World Cup wrestling gold medal, beating David Musolbes 2-1 in overtime at 275 1/2 pounds as the United States routs Russia 25-7.

2004 — Led by 24 points from Emeka Okafor and 21 from Ben Gordon, the Connecticut Huskies outclass Georgia Tech 82-73 to win the men’s national championship.

2008 — The Boston Celtics sets an NBA record for biggest single-season turnaround with a 101-78 win over the Charlotte Bobcats. The Celtics improve to 61-15, 37 more wins than last season.

2008 — Memphis beats UCLA 78-63 in the NCAA semifinals to go to 38-1 and become the winningest team in a season. Kansas’ Brandon Rush scores 25 points, and the Jayhawks defeat North Carolina 84-66 in the second semifinal.

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2009 — Brittany Lincicome sinks a 6-foot eagle putt on No. 18 to win the Kraft Nabisco Championship for her first major title.

2010 — Duke wins its fourth NCAA basketball championship, holding off Butler 61-59 and surviving Gordon Hayward’s last-second desperation shot that hits the rim.

2016 — UConn wins an unprecedented fourth straight women’s national championship, capping another perfect season by routing Syracuse 82-51. Geno Auriemma passes UCLA’s John Wooden with his 11th national title and a sixth undefeated season.

And finally

Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes the NBA’s all-time leading scorer. 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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