Sixers hand Lakers another loss
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Allen Iverson's 32 points and a series of wasted Los Angeles chances gave Philadelphia a 107-104 overtime win over the Lakers Friday night.
Among the many missed Los Angeles opportunities was one by Rick Fox in the final seconds of overtime as the Lakers continued their season-long stumble.
Iverson also had nine steals, establishing a league season high and tying the team record. But he missed all nine of his shots in the fourth quarter and three free throws in the final 15 seconds of overtime.
The Lakers could not capitalize, wasting 44 points by Kobe Bryant and dropping their third straight game. The three-time defending champions are 7-9 since the return of superstar center Shaquille O'Neal and 10-18 overall, in last place in the Pacific Division.
The 76ers held a 104-99 lead before Bryant made a three-pointer with 18 seconds to go. Iverson was fouled but split the free throws, leaving the Lakers within 105-102.
Denied a three-pointer, Bryant drove for a dunk that made it 105-104 with 8.4 seconds left. Iverson again was fouled and this time missed both, leaving Los Angeles with a chance to take the lead.
After a timeout, the Lakers inbounded to Robert Horry and both Iverson and Derrick Coleman went to him, leaving Fox open and cutting to the basket. Horry's pass was behind Fox but it could have been handled. Instead, it went through his hands and out of bounds.
Coleman was fouled and made both free throws with 2.1 seconds remaining. Iverson stole the desperation inbounds pass, securing Philadelphia's third straight victory.
Other NBA results: Indiana 101, Chicago 86; Miami 97, Toronto 77; Boston 108, Minnesota 99; Detroit 109, Cleveland 107 in overtime; Memphis 95, Milwaukee 84; Utah 93, Dallas 81; Houston 101, Atlanta 82; Orlando 89, Denver 80.
Francis gives Hurricanes overtime win
ATLANTA, Dec. 21 (UPI) - Aaron Ward scored his first goal of the season 68 seconds into overtime Friday night, giving Carolina a 3-2 decision over Atlanta.
Ron Francis tallied a goal and an assist in the final 6:14 of regulation to rally the Hurricanes.
Sparked by Francis, who has four goals and two assists during a four-game points streak, the Hurricanes improved to 14
Ward, who had not scored since Jan. 19 at New Jersey, pinched in and never was picked up by Atlanta's defense. Defenseman Tomas Malec's pass from behind the net found Ward, who flipped the puck past goaltender Bryon Dafoe.
Carolina goaltender Kevin Weekes made his first start since suffering a concussion against Detroit on Nov. 29 and made 32 saves.
Vyacheslav Kozlov scored a shorthanded goal and added an assist while Dafoe made 37 saves, but the Thrashers lost for the eighth time in nine games (1-5
Hilltoppers capture national crown
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Quarterback Jon Frazier rushed for 159 yards Friday night in carrying Western Kentucky to the Division 1-AA title, 34-14 over McNeese.
Frazier carried 27 times and scored twice to help the Hilltoppers cap an unlikely run to the championship.
Having never gotten past the second round prior to this year, Western Kentucky (12-3) entered the playoffs seeded 12th and ranked just 15th in the coaches poll. But the Hilltoppers defeated the top three seeds en route to the title, beating two of them on the road.
After routing Murray State, 59-20, in the first round, Western Kentucky gained momentum by ousting No. 2 seed Western Illinois, 31-28, in the quarterfinals on a field goal in the last minute.
In last week's semifinals, the Hilltoppers shocked No. 3 seed and six-time champion Georgia Southern, 31-28, on quarterback Jason Michael's two-yard touchdown run with 46 seconds left.
But no late dramatics were needed Friday night as the Hilltoppers led throughout.
NFL seeks more diversity in huring
NEW YORK, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The NFL announced Friday that teams will implement a comprehensive program to promote diversity in hiring.
The league said it was acting on recommendations from the NFL Committee on Workplace Diversity.
Appointed by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue on Oct. 31, the committee made a series of recommendations in conference calls with owners over the last two days.
A major source of criticism for the NFL has been the lack of minorities in high-ranking positions. There are only two black head coaches in the league.
In September, attorney Johnnie Cochran Jr. released a report that criticized the NFL's hiring practice involving black head coaches and threatened to sue the league.
But under recommendations of the committee, NFL team owners strongly agreed on the principle that any club seeking to hire a head coach will interview one or more minority applicants for the position.
The one exception occurs when a club had made a prior contractual commitment to promote of a member of its own staff and no additional interviewing takes place.
Phillies trade for Kevin Millwood
PHILADELPHIA, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- The Philadelphia Phillies lost the Tom Glavine sweepstakes, but still managed to benefit from the pitching surplus of the Atlanta Braves.
Philadelphia, which made an offer for Glavine before the lefthander signed with the New York Mets earlier this month, acquired righthander Kevin Millwood Friday for catcher Johnny Estrada.
Millwood, who missed nearly 2 1/2 months with arm trouble in 2001, went 18-8 with a 3.24 ERA in 35 games last season.
Philadelphia, which finished 21 1/2 games behind Atlanta, signed the biggest free agent bat available on Dec. 3, when first baseman Jim Thome agreed to a 6-year, $85 million deal. The Phillies also inked former San Francisco Giants third baseman David Bell to a 4-year, $17 million contract in November.
Mets go after Japanese star
NEW YORK, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Trying to keep pace with their cross-town rival, the New York Mets appear to have landed a Japanese star of their own.
Newsday reported Friday that the Mets have agreed to a two-deal, $7 million deal with power-hitting third baseman Norihiro Nakamura, one day after the New York Yankees agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal with Japanese star Hideki Matsui.
The newspaper reported that Nakamura turned down more lucrative offers from the Kintetsu Buffaloes and Hanshin Tigers to accept a deal with the Mets that included a mutual option for a third year at $6 million.
The Mets have been searching for a third baseman to replace Edgardo Alfonzo, who was not offered arbitration before signing with the San Francisco Giants last Sunday.
The 29-year-old Nakamura was a feared hitter in Japan, although not considered on par with Matsui. Nakamura has averaged 38 homers over the past five seasons for Kintetsu, including 42 this past season, and has won three Gold Gloves.
NFL weekend kicks off Saturday
MINNEAPOLIS, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Cris Carter returns to Minnesota and Emmitt Smith may play his final home game for Dallas Saturday.
The next-to-last weekend of the NFL's regular season will get underway with thre games. to open the next-to-last weekend of the NFL season.
Minnesota will host Miami, San Francisco will be at Arizona and Philadelphia will play at Dallas.
Carter came out of retirement in October to sign with Miami in hopes of fulfilling his Super Bowl dream. The script gets intriguing when Carter faces his former team in a pivotal game for the Dolphins (9-5).
The NFL's second all-time leading receiver with 1,100 catches and 130 touchdowns, Carter compiled most of those totals with the Minnesota Vikings from 1990-2001.
"It's going to be exciting. I'm going back to a place I called home for 12 years," said Carter, who also ranks fourth overall with 13,884 yards. "But I'm with a team now that I wanted to be with. At this point in my career, I want a chance to win it all."
The Dolphins, the only team to make the playoffs each of the last five years, are in position to achieve something they have not accomplished since 1992 -- a bye in the first round. If they win Saturday at Minnesota and in the regular season finale at New England, the Dolphins would clinch their second AFC East title in three years under Dave Wannstedt.
Miami also would capture the division with a win Saturday coupled with a loss by New England Sunday night to the New York Jets.
The NFL's all-time rushing leader with 17,119 yards, Smith has spent his entire 13-year career with the Cowboys, winning three Super Bowls and making nine Pro Bowls.
With one year left on his contract, the 33-year-old Smith is scheduled to count $9.8 million against the Cowboys salary cap in 2003, meaning it is unlikely that he will see a 14th season in a Dallas uniform.
Two years ago, Jones went through a similar ordeal with quarterback Troy Aikman, who won three Super Bowls with the Cowboys in the 1990s. Unlike Smith, Aikman was plagued by injuries near the end of his career and Jones made the decision to cut him.
Smith still is a productive back and needs 68 yards for his 12th straight 1,000-yard season. But the Eagles probably are not interested in all the hoopla surrounding one of the NFL's great all-time runners.
The Eagles enter this contest with a five-game winning streak, tied with Tampa Bay and Green Bay for the NFL's best record, and need to win their final two games to gain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Philadelphia closes the regular season next Saturday at the New York Giants.
Philadelphia's winning streak is even more impressive since it has gone 4-0 since star quarterback Donovan McNabb went down with a fractured ankle.
Blue Jays sever ties with Cruz
TORONTO, Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Outfielder Jose Cruz Jr., one of just two Toronto Blue Jays with a 30-30 season, was not tendered a contract for next season.
Cruz hit 34 home runs and stole 32 bases in 2001, but his production slipped last season as he batted just .245 with 18 homers and 70 RBI. He had a .317 on-base percentage and seven steals in eight attempts.
The 28-year-old Cruz was eligible for arbitration and made just under $4 million in 2002. He would have been eligible for free agency following the 2003 season, but now is free to sign with any team.
Snyder receives contract extension
COLUMBIA, Mo., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- Missouri basketball coach Quin Snyder received a two-year contract extension Friday that will carry him through the 2007-08 season.
Snyder has led the Tigers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
The new contract takes effect Jan. 1 and will pay Snyder slightly more than $1 million annually over the next five seasons. His current contract was set to expire March 31, 2006.
Already the fourth-winning coach in school history, Snyder led the Tigers to a 24-12 record last season and a berth in the "Elite Eight." It marked the first time Missouri advanced that far in the NCAA Tournament since 1994.
Body of Ted Williams to remain frozen
INVERNESS, Fla., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- A judge approved Friday the distribution of $200,000 from an insurance trust to three offspring of the late Boston Red Sox slugger Ted Williams.
In exchange, his daughter, Barbara Joyce Jo Ferrell, has agreed to drop her opposition to freezing the Hall of Famer's body. Each sibling will receive $215,000.
Ferrell had suggested that if the money could be distributed immediately rather than wait for 10 years as originally stipulated by the trust, she would not contest the freezing.
Citrus County Circuit Judge Patricia Thomas approved the deal, which was agreed to by the trust. Lawyers for the siblings and the trust attended the hearing, but Ferrell and her half-siblings, John Henry Williams and Claudia Williams, did not appear.
Williams, considered one of the best hitters in the history of baseball if not the best, died July 5 at the age of 83 after years of heart trouble and a serious stroke.