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No. 11 Arizona ends No. 5 UCLA’s 14-game win streak

Source image: https://apnews.com/article/sports-arizona-wildcats-basketball-top-25-college-today-mens-a408ec4e8249cfcd96caf4adf2c355d2

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Arizona spent the first half banging bodies with UCLA and the closing seconds desperately trying to hang on against the Bruins’ press.

Even through that, the Wildcats kept their composure and came out with what may be their most impressive win of the season.

Oumar Ballo scored 16 points, Azuolas Tubelis had a double-double and No. 11 Arizona withstood a late rally to end No. 5 UCLA’s 14-game winning streak with a 58-52 victory on Saturday.

“You’ve got to you got to be able to win multiple ways,” Arizona coach Tommy Lloyd said. “Other than that last minute while we were trying to ride out that lead, I think we were comfortable the whole time, which is a good sign.”

The Wildcats (17-3, 5-3 Pac-12) appeared to be cruising to victory, taking a 56-44 lead on Ballo’s alley-oop dunk with 2:07 left.

The Bruins (17-3, 8-1) fought back, creating four straight turnovers to pull within 56-52. UCLA then blocked consecutive shots — one after a review waved off goaltending — but couldn’t convert on two shots of its own.

Arizona’s Pelle Larsson hit two free throws with 0.9 seconds to close it out. Tubelis triggered an 11-3 run to give Arizona a 10-point early in the second half, and finished with with 14 points and 10 rebounds.

“I think we proved today that we can win low-scoring,” said Arizona point guard Kerr Kriisa, who had seven points. “Everyone keeps talking about our offense, our offense, our offense, but nobody realizes how good our defense is.”

The Bruins do.

UCLA matched its longest winning streak since 2007-08 on Thursday by pulling away late to beat Arizona State 74-62. The Bruins had a lot more trouble with Arizona, particularly at the offensive end.

UCLA shot 31% and went 4 of 20 from 3-point range to lose as a top-5 team at McKale Center for the second straight season. Tyger Campbell led the Bruins with 13 points and Jaime Jaquez Jr. added 12 with 11 rebounds.

“When you struggle offensively, something with the other team’s defense caused it,” UCLA coach Mick Cronin said. “Even if it’s open shots, they got you sped up just enough, rattled just enough, so you have to give the other team credit.”

Arizona beat then-No. 3 UCLA last season in a charged atmosphere that included an assault citation for UCLA forward Mac Etienne after he appeared to spit in the direction of Arizona fans while leaving the court.

On Saturday, the Bruins and Wildcats went toe to toe in the paint and perimeter, bodies bouncing off the floor in a physical, defensive afternoon. The Bruins banged on Ballo and Tubelis in the post on every touch, creating numerous close-range misses — and plenty of fouls.

UCLA backup big man Kenneth Nwuba had four fouls in the first half and Ballo made 8 of 10 free throws to score 12 first-half points.

Arizona hit 7 of 23 shots and was the better-shooting team, taking a 26-23 halftime lead.

The Wildcats quickly pushed the lead to 10 in the second half and kept their offensive flow going, the lead at least nine until the final two minutes.

The Bruins made a final push, flustering the Wildcats with their press while scoring eight straight points. Down 56-52, UCLA got the ball back after a review overturned a goaltending call, but Campbell and Jaquez both missed contested shots at the rim before Larsson’s closing free throws.

“At UCLA, we play with heart and intestinal fortitude, and I don’t think we played to win,” Cronin said. “I didn’t think we played hard until the game was over.”

BIG PICTURE

UCLA: Pushed the Wildcats around early and created havoc with their defensive pressure late. In between, the Bruins didn’t hit enough shots to leave the desert with a win.

Arizona: Weathered UCLA’s bumping and banging in the first half, then withstood a furious rally to earn the type of win that should move it back into the top 10.

BRUINS’ BOARDS

UCLA repeatedly beat Arizona on the offensive glass, earning several shots on multiple possessions.

The Bruins had trouble converting those chances into points.

UCLA had an 18-8 advantage in offensive rebounds, but was limited to nine second-chance points.

“We knew their bigs are really good players, but maybe not proficient finishers, so you’ve just got to stay in the play,” Lloyd said.

UP NEXT

UCLA: At rival USC on Thursday.

Arizona: Plays at Washington State on Thursday.

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AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/hub/college-basketball and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-basketball-poll and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Source: https://apnews.com/article/sports-arizona-wildcats-basketball-top-25-college-today-mens-a408ec4e8249cfcd96caf4adf2c355d2

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49ers head into offseason with more questions at quarterback

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers head into another offseason with major questions at quarterback after a season filled with injuries to the most important position ended without any of them physically able to throw the the ball downfield.

Trey Lance, who began the season as starter, is getting close to being fully cleared following two operations on his broken right ankle.

Brock Purdy, who went from third-string rookie to the starter that helped lead the Niners into the NFC title game before getting hurt himself, is figuring out how to treat his injured throwing elbow.

Jimmy Garoppolo, the starter in between those two before breaking his foot, is set to become an unrestricted free agent in six weeks.

And rumors are sure to swirl about whether the best answer for coach Kyle Shanahan and general manager John Lynch will be adding a veteran like Tom Brady to help a franchise that has gone to the NFC title game or further in three of the last four seasons get over the hump and win its first Super Bowl in nearly three decades.

The first big question at the position will be about Purdy’s health after he tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow on the first drive of a 31-7 loss in the NFC title game to Philadelphia on Sunday.

Purdy was forced back into the game in the second half when Josh Johnson left with a concussion but was unable to throw the ball more than a few yards because of the injury.

“The minute I started throwing literally like I knew something was wrong. I couldn’t throw,” he said. “So obviously the adrenaline and stuff I think helps in terms of allowing me to go back in the game and hand the ball off — even that was pretty painful. But just overall it sucked that I wasn’t able to throw.”

An MRI revealed the tear and Purdy said he will undergo more tests and speak to more doctors to figure out whether recovery, repair or full reconstruction is the best option.

The injury is much more common in baseball pitchers, who often undergo reconstructive “Tommy John surgery” that sidelines them up to a year. But Purdy is hoping to avoid that; a simpler repair would keep him out for six months but allow him to return to practice around the start of training camp in July.

“The way a quarterback throws compared to a pitcher, two different things. It’s similar but more violent as a baseball player,” Purdy said. “So they’re saying the recovery process could be a little bit faster as a quarterback. I’ve looked at guys who have gone through this kind of thing. I’m just trying to find what’s right. Everyone’s situation is different and I’m trying to find out which one is right for myself.”

Purdy showed a lot in his first season in the NFL, going from the last pick of the draft to starter in the conference title game. He won all seven of his starts before the loss on Sunday and threw for 1,374 yards with 13 touchdowns and only four interceptions in the regular season.

That performance could make him the favorite to begin next season as starter if he’s healthy.

“For me to claim or say anything in terms of what’s going to happen moving forward, that’s out of my control,” he said. “I’m going to do what I can to get back healthy and be ready to compete come fall.”

Lance was supposed to be in that role after San Francisco traded three first-round picks to draft him third overall in 2021. But he started only two games as a rookie when Garoppolo got hurt and then went down with a season-ending injury early in Week 2 this season.

Lance needed a second operation in late December but said he expects to be fully cleared in a few weeks and to be 100% for the start of the offseason program.

But after he started only five games combined in the last three years in college and the NFL, there are questions about whether Lance can be the long-term answer for San Francisco.

“I’m excited to go out and show what I can do,” he said. “Same situation that it’s been for me the last two years and really my whole life. Nothing has really changed and I still have the same mindset. … I just worry about what these guys think in this locker room, what the coaches think, what people in this organization think. Anything outside of that is totally out of my control. So I don’t let that have any effect on me.”

NOTES: All-Pro DE Nick Bosa said he wants to sign a long-term contract to stay in San Francisco but will be patient and leave that up to his agent.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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Banchero headlines field for All-Star Rising Stars event

Paolo Banchero’s rookie season will include a trip to NBA All-Star weekend.

The Orlando Magic forward and No. 1 pick in last year’s draft was announced Tuesday as a participant in this year’s Rising Stars Game, to be held in Salt Lake City on Feb. 17, two nights before the All-Star Game.

Banchero — who leads all rookies with a 20.7 points-per-game average — may still be selected as an All-Star reserve. Those players will be revealed Thursday.

“Anytime you can get a chance to be a part of All-Star weekend, you can’t say no,” Banchero said. “Especially me, being a rookie, first year, never experienced it before, it’s always been the dream to just be a part of that whether it was Rising Stars or as a reserve. I’m definitely excited to get there and just see what it’s like.”

Banchero is on pace to be the first rookie to average 20 points per game since Luka Doncic in 2018-19. He also is fourth among rookies in rebounds per game entering Tuesday and third among them in steals per game.

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley said the All-Star experience — whether just for Rising Stars or not — will have an impact on Banchero.

“Just being around other young players that have found themselves in that position, it does so much because it’s your peers,” Mosley said. “You’re around a group of young men who are the elite of the league in that class. I think it says something to the work that you’ve put in, the work that he’s put in. It’s going to do wonders for how he continues to believe in himself, what we’re doing as a team and his continued growth.”

Also picked for the game from this year’s rookie class: Detroit’s Jalen Duren and Jaden Ivey, Atlanta’s A.J. Griffin, Utah’s Walker Kessler, Indiana’s Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, Sacramento’s Keegan Murray, Houston’s Jabari Smith Jr., San Antonio’s Jeremy Sochan and Oklahoma City’s Jalen Williams.

The second-year players selected were New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado and Trey Murphy III, Toronto’s Scottie Barnes, Oklahoma City’s Josh Giddey, Houston’s Jalen Green and Alperen Sengun, New York’s Quentin Grimes, Denver’s Bones Hyland, Cleveland’s Evan Mobley and Orlando’s Franz Wagner.

There also will be a team of G League players in the Rising Stars event, composed of Sidy Cissoko, Mojave King, Scoot Henderson, Kenneth Lofton Jr., Mac McClung, Leonard Miller and Scotty Pippen Jr.

The 21 NBA players will be drafted into three seven-player teams. Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Deron Williams will serve as coaches for those teams, while Jason Terry will coach the G League team.

All four teams will play a semifinal game with a target score of 40, and the two winners will then play the championship game with a target score of 25.

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AP NBA: https://apnews.com/hub/NBA and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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Griner’s return, free agency raises charter flight concerns

Brittney Griner’s return to the WNBA this summer after being traded in a dramatic prisoner swap in December with Russia has collided with free agency, creating potential travel complications for the league out of safety concerns for her.

If Griner, who is a free agent but has said she’ll return to Phoenix, needs special travel accommodations — such as chartered flights — the league will have to come up with a plan for the 6-foot-9 star. Griner’s safety when traveling will be a top priority for the team and the league.

“We are very cognizant of BG’s unique situation,” WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert told The Associated Press. “We’ve been planning and we’ve been thinking it through with security experts. BG’s side, our side. We’ll find the right time to comment on it when she signs with a team.”

That could come Wednesday, when free agents can officially sign.

While the Griner situation is unique, other marquee players raised the issue of charter flights, which teams have deemed too costly.

The current collective bargaining agreement requires that all teams fly commercial and doesn’t allow teams to charter flights. Any change in that would have to be approved by both the union and the league.

“No one wants to make this work more than me,” Engelbert said. “That’s why we’re working so hard to transform the economic business model. We’ve had positive changes over the last couple years, but we’re not going to jeopardize the financial viability of the league. We are on the cusp of something big here.”

HOW MUCH WOULD IT COST THE WNBA TO CHARTER FLIGHTS?

Engelbert says it would cost the league about $25 million each season for each of its 12 teams to charter flights to every game. That number has increased about $5 million from previous estimates by the commissioner due the new 40-game WNBA schedule this season, fuel costs and other factors.

The estimated cost per franchise to charter flights would be approximately $2 million. Air travel expenses currently for each team is about $150,000, according to two people familiar with the costs. The people spoke to The Associated Press on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to publicly address the issue.

“We did it last year for the Finals and we have experience on how much it costs for routes we need to fly,” Engelbert said. “We are monitoring and updating our analysis. We are going to try and get an economic model to fund this as soon as we can.”

WHAT HAPPENS IF A TEAM CHARTERS FLIGHTS?

If teams violate the current CBA they could be fined.

The New York Liberty were fined a WNBA record $500,000 in 2021 for chartering flights to away games during the second half of that season.

HAS THE WNBA CONSIDERED SUBSIDIZING FLIGHTS?

Coveted free agent Breanna Stewart, who has narrowed her choices to a few teams including New York, started a social media campaign to try to help get chartered flights for the league. She tweeted, “I would love to be part of a deal that helps subsidize charter travel for the entire WNBA. I would contribute my NIL, posts + production hrs to ensure we all travel in a way that prioritizes player health + safety, which ultimately results in a better product. Who’s with me?”

Many current and former WNBA and NBA players offered their support. Though any change to travel restrictions would have to be voted on by the union and the league.

“We would need a commitment to it in perpetuity,” Engelbert said. “That’s 250-300 million dollars. Look at the gate and media deal and sponsorship dollars. We’re not close to being able to afford $250 million over the next decade.”

DO WOMEN’S COLLEGE TEAMS CHARTER FLIGHTS?

WNBA players are used to flying charter flights. That’s how they traveled in college.

Title IX legislation requires universities to have equal opportunities for their men’s and women’s athletic programs. The NCAA flies both the men’s and women’s teams on charter flights for the tournament if they are more than 400 miles from the site of their game.

That legislation doesn’t apply to the pros so NBA teams chartering between cities has no effect on what WNBA teams do.

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