The Sports Report: USC’s NCAA tournament hopes might have ended with loss to Arizona State
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From Ryan Kartje: After a season spent clawing its way back from the wrong side of the bubble, just one last win seemed like it would be proof enough to assure any lingering doubters of USC’s rightful place in the NCAA tournament field. One measly victory in the conference quarterfinals, and USC could rest easy on Selection Sunday.
But there was no reassurance to be found for USC in Las Vegas, nor will there be restful nights ahead. If the committee still needed any convincing, USC didn’t make much of a case in an 77-72 loss to Arizona State.
Now USC will have to sit and wait, crossing its fingers that enough bubbles burst between now and Sunday.
The Trojans didn’t look at all like a team intending to make a statement on Thursday, as they were outplayed and outhustled from start to finish by Arizona State, a team still desperate to win its way into the field.
There was no such desperation from USC, at least until the final few minutes, when the Trojans started firing at will from deep. They’d sink 3-pointers on three straight possessions, cutting Arizona State’s lead to just four points, offering one last glint of hope in an otherwise disappointing evening.
But the hole they’d dug was too deep, the desperate last push too late. For the first time since 2014, the first season of the Andy Enfield era, USC was ousted in its opening matchup of the Pac-12 tournament.
This time, however, it had the chops to make a much deeper run. But its offense ran out of gas on Thursday and didn’t find its reserves until it was too late.
Freshman Tre White would lead the way, scoring 16 points. Boogie Ellis and Kobe Johnson would both add 15, while Drew Peterson would struggle from the field, shooting just 2 of 12.
From Ben Bolch: Life without Jaylen Clark is going to be tough. Amari Bailey made sure it wasn’t unbearable.
In UCLA’s first game without its most relentless defender, it got an offensive barrage from its star freshman guard to ward off a huge upset.
Bailey found an early rhythm on the way to a career-high 26 points Thursday afternoon and the Bruins did their usual thing in pulling away late at T-Mobile Arena. It was just enough.
Second-ranked and top-seeded UCLA held off ninth-seeded Colorado for an 80-69 comeback victory in a Pac-12 tournament quarterfinal after scoring 20 of the final 28 points.
“Our guys, as usual, get tougher as the game goes on,” Bruins coach Mick Cronin said after his team notched its 11th consecutive victory on the way to a semifinal showdown Friday against fourth-seeded Oregon. “That’s what happens when you got winners on your team.”
Pac-12 men’s tournament
at Las Vegas
All times Pacific
No. 1 UCLA 80, No. 9 Colorado 69
No. 4 Oregon 75, No. 5 Washington State 70
No. 2 Arizona 95, No. 10 Stanford 84
No. 6 Arizona State 77, No. 3 USC 72
No. 1 UCLA vs. No. 4 Oregon, 6 p.m., Pac-12 Network
No. 2 Arizona vs. No. 6 Arizona State, 8:30 p.m., ESPN
7:30 p.m., ESPN
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From Broderick Turner: After going through a full practice Thursday, D’Angelo Russell will be available to play for the Lakers on Friday against the Toronto Raptors at Crypto.com Arena after sitting out the last six games because of a sprained right ankle.
Russell said he was “good” and ready” after sitting out the last two weeks to let his ankle heal.
“Took some time off, unfortunately, but ready to get back out there and contribute,” he said.
NBA PLAYOFF STANDINGS
First six qualify for playoffs. Nos. 7-10 compete in play-in tournament to determine final two spots.
1. Denver Nuggets, 46-20, —
2. Sacramento Kings, 39-26, 6.5 GB
3. Memphis Grizzlies, 39-26, 6.5 GB
4. Phoenix Suns, 37-29, 9 GB
5. Clippers, 35-33, 12 GB
6. Golden State Warriors, 34-33, 12.5 GB
7. Minnesota Timberwolves, 34-33, 12.5 GB
8. Dallas Mavericks, 34-33, 12.5 GB
9. Lakers, 32-34, 14 GB
10. New Orleans Pelicans, 32-34, 14 GB
11. Utah Jazz, 32-35, 14.5 GB
12. Oklahoma City Thunder, 31-35, 15 GB
13. Portland Trail Blazers, 31-35, 15 GB
14. e-San Antonio Spurs, 16-49, 29.5 GB
15. e-Houston Rockets, 15-51, 31 GB
e-eliminated from playoff contention
From Gary Klein: Rams general manager Les Snead channeled his inner building contractor on Thursday as he searched for the right term to define the team’s philosophy for 2023 and beyond.
Remodel? Restructure? Rebuild?
Whatever the term, the Rams appear to be sledgehammering how they built a Super Bowl champion in the 2021 season — before cratering last season.
“Our DNA is to attack, hit the gas,” Snead said during a videoconference with reporters. “We want to hit the brakes a little bit.
“That does not change, right, how we’re going to approach the season, how we’re going to approach the day to day. But it will definitely change how we approach constructing the roster.”
From Helene Elliott: With an alphabet soup of vanished leagues littering its history, women’s professional hockey is still awaiting its big moment. The Professional Women’s Hockey Players Assn. believes that moment is imminent.
The evolution of women’s pro hockey has been slowed by a lack of funding and philosophical splits that divide players whose best chance for success is in uniting. Leagues born amid great optimism have discovered the harsh realities of a game that’s expensive to operate and remains a niche sport to many Americans.
Financial woes sank the Canadian Women’s Hockey League in 2019. The National Women’s Hockey League lost most of its stars the same year when they boycotted to protest a lack of health insurance and being paid too little to make hockey their only job. The NWHL continues as the seven-team Premier Hockey Federation, but without most of the elite American and Canadian players.
That breakaway group formed the nonprofit PWHPA, which barnstorms around the U.S. and Canada and will stage its championships in Southern California this weekend.
Adrian Kempe and Phillip Danault each scored twice as the Kings beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2 on Thursday night for their fifth straight win.
Gabriel Vilardi also added a goal and Anze Kopitar had three assists goals for the Kings, who remain tied with Vegas for the top spot in the Western Conference. No team in the West has been hotter than the Kings since the All-Star break, going 10-2-1.
From Jorge Castillo: Team USA’s starting second baseman Thursday took his position for some work a few hours before the first pitch against the Angels and looked the part.
He fielded groundballs with fluidity. He snapped throws from various arm angles. He shifted up the middle, over to the shortstop side of the bag, and back to shallow right field, all spots he could find himself in during the World Baseball Classic.
Mookie Betts appeared at home because second base was once home.
“It’s in my roots,” Betts, 30, said Thursday. “It’s what I grew up doing and it’s hard to kind of get rid of that.”
From Kevin Baxter: A second-half hat trick from Denis Bouanga gave LAFC a 3-0 win over Alajuelense in a first-round CONCACAF Champions League game Thursday in Alajuela, Costa Rica. With the aggregate score determining the winner of the two-game playoff, LAFC can advance to the tournament quarterfinals even if it loses by multiple goals in the return leg Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Bouanga opened the scoring less than two minutes into the second half, tapping home a low Ryan Hollingshead cross at the far post. He doubled the advantage 22 minutes later on an almost identical play, with Hollingshead dodging a challenge from Alajuelense’s Suhander Zúñiga on the right wing before sending another low pass across the front of the goal for Bouanga, who had an easy finish.
Bouanga closed the scoring in the final minute of regulation time, taking a back-heel pass from Ilie Sánchez and beating Alajuelense keeper Leonel Moreira with a right-footed blast from the left side of the penalty area. Bouanga also had the best scoring opportunity in the first half, but he banged a left-footed shot off the left post.
From Nathan Fenno: The FBI agents arrived in Las Vegas with $135,000 and a plan.
They took over a sprawling penthouse at the Cosmopolitan, filled the in-room safe with government cash and stocked the wet bar with alcohol. Hidden cameras — including one installed near a crystal-encrusted wall in the living room — recorded visitors.
In the heart of a city known for heists and hangovers, the four agents were running an undercover operation as part of their probe into college basketball corruption that investigators code-named Ballerz.
One of the agents was posing as a deep-pocketed businessman wanting to bribe coaches to persuade their players to retain a particular sports management company when they turned professional. He distributed more than $40,000 in cash to a procession of coaches invited to the penthouse. The sting concluded at a poolside cabana on a blistering afternoon in July 2017 with a final envelope of cash passed to one last coach.
After that transaction, the lead case agent, Scott Carpenter, joined the undercover operative and the two other agents in eating and drinking their way through the $1,500 food and beverage minimum to rent the cabana.
Carpenter had consumed nearly a fifth of vodka and at least six beers by the time he returned to the penthouse to shower and change clothes before a night out.
He grabbed $10,000 in undercover cash from the penthouse safe, then headed to a high-limit lounge at the casino next door. What happened next would ultimately stain the investigation like a cocktail spilled on a white tablecloth.
THIS DATE IN SPORTS
1913 — The Quebec Bulldogs win the Stanley Cup in two games over Sydney.
1920 — Quebec’s Joe Malone scores six goals to lead the Bulldogs to a 10-4 rout of the Ottawa Senators.
1961 — Wilt Chamberlain of the Philadelphia Warriors becomes the first NBA player to score 3,000 points in a season. Chamberlain scores 32 points in a 120-103 loss to Detroit to bring his season total to 3,016.
1963 — Wilt Chamberlain of the San Francisco Warriors scores 70 points in a 163-148 loss to Syracuse.
1985 — Dick Motta becomes the fourth NBA coach to record 700 victories as Dallas beats New Jersey 126-113.
1991 — Eddie Sutton of Oklahoma State becomes the first coach to lead four schools into the NCAA tournament. Sutton also coached Creighton, Arkansas and Kentucky in the tournament.
1992 — New York Islanders coach Al Arbour becomes the second coach in NHL history to win 700 games with a 5-2 victory over Philadelphia.
2001 — With Swedish great Ingemar Stenmark looking on, Hermann Maier wins the giant slalom for his 13th victory this season, equaling one of the mightiest alpine skiing records. Maier, winner of the overall World Cup title three of the last four years, ties the record Stenmark set in 1979.
2002 — John Stockton, the NBA’s career assist leader, has 13 assists in Utah’s 95-92 loss at Houston to give him exactly 15,000 for his career.
2004 — Orlando’s Tracy McGrady scores a franchise record 62 points in a 108-99 win over Washington.
2011 — Veteran referees Jim Burr, Tim Higgins and Earl Walton, cited for two errors in the final seconds of the St. John’s-Rutgers game, withdraw from the rest of the Big East tournament. The three officials missed two calls — a travel and stepping out of bounds — in the final 1.7 seconds of St. John’s 65-63 win in the second-round of Big East tournament. The Big East acknowledged after the game the officials blew the calls.
2014 — The game between Dallas and the Columbus Blue Jackets is postponed by the NHL after Stars forward Rich Peverley collapses on the bench during the first period.
2018 — Texas Southern beats Arkansas-Pine Bluff 84-69 in the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship game. Texas Southern (15-19) earns an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament after starting out 0-13 this season. The Tigers didn’t win a game until Jan. 1 and never beat a nonconference opponent.
2018 — The Vegas Golden Knights set a record for road wins by an expansion team with a 2-1 shootout victory at Buffalo. At 20-12-3, the Golden Knights break a tie with the 1993-94 Anaheim Ducks for most road wins by an NHL team in its first season.
2022 — After a 99-day lockout, Major League Baseball and MLB Players Association reach a new collective bargaining agreement; MLB teams set to play full 162 game season in 2022.
—Compiled by the Associated Press
Highlights from UCLA’s win over Colorado. Watch and listen here.
Until next time...
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