Mavericks play and win on day of tragedy
DALLAS, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- After a day in which many questioned whether the game should be played, the Dallas Mavericks routed Denver Saturday night, 122-100.
Debris from the shuttle Columbia disaster was found in the Dallas area during the morning and Mavericks officials finally issued a statement at mid-day saying the game would take place as scheduled.
As was the case at most sporting events around the country, there was a moment of silence to remember the seven astronauts killed in the tragedy.
During an emotional pregame ceremony, the voice of public address announcer Billy Hayes broke up as he asked fans to observe the moment of silence. When the game began, Dallas rolled to its 12th straight home win against Denver.
Nick Van Exel came off the bench to score a season-high 30 and Michael Finley added 22 for the Mavericks, who shot 55 percent from the field -- including 60 percent from three-point range.
Dallas, which has beaten Denver seven straight times overall, ran the league's best record to 37-9. No other team has fewer than 14 losses.
Reserve Rodney White led Denver with 17 points.
Other NBA results: Indiana 109, Boston 100; Washington 109, New Orleans 104; Detroit 106, New Jersey 84; San Antonio 67, Miami 65; Milwaukee 107, New York 100; Phoenix 116, Golden State 107.
Panthers miss out on chance for No. 1
SYRACUSE, N.Y., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Jeremy McNeil's follow shot with three seconds left Saturday night lifted Syracuse a wild 67-65 victory over second-ranked Pittsburgh.
The result left the top three teams in the country with a loss during the past week, giving No. 4 Florida a chance to take over the No. 1 position.
No. 1 Arizona, which recorded a 95-80 victory over California Saturday, lost to Stanford Thursday night. And No. 3 Texas, a 78-65 winner over Oklahoma State Saturday, fell to Kansas last Monday.
McNeil's winning shot for Syracuse came after freshman Gerry McNamara missed a layup for the Orangemen (14-3, 5-2 Big East West). The Panthers inbounded immediately to freshman Carl Krauser, who fumbled the ball and called a timeout with one second to go.
But the clock ran out at the Carrier Dome and hundreds of fans ran onto the court to celebrate the victory. The officials finally restored order and eight-tenths of a second were put on the clock.
Pittsburgh (15-2, 5-1) inbounded to Brandin Knight beyond halfcourt. Knight was forced into a pump-fake by freshman Carmelo Anthony before he made a three-pointer from more than 40 feet away.
The fans again rushed the court, but the officials wanted to review the final shot to see if it came before the buzzer. Syracuse Coach Jim Boeheim even made an announcement on the public-address system, telling fans to get off the court.
Although many lingered on the playing surface, the officials correctly ruled that Knight's shot came after the buzzer. That set off another rush by the fans as Pittsburgh players tried to exit.
The Panthers had a six-game winning streak snapped.
In Tucson, Jason Gardner scored 18 points and Channing Frye added 12 and 11 rebounds as Arizona took over sole possesion of first place in the Pac-10 Conference.
California (14-4, 7-2 Pac-10) was within 33-29 late in the first half after a basket by Brian Wethers. Freshman Hassan Adams had a jumper and a three-pointer and Frye scored at the buzzer for a 40-30 halftime edge.
Salim Stoudamire had a pair of three-pointers and Gardner scored five points in a 13-5 run to open the second half that opened a commanding 53-35 cushion. The Golden Bears did not get within double digits thereafter.
Florida staked a potential claim on the No. 1 position by beating Arkansas, 77-66.
Isiah Thomas suspended
NEW YORK, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- Indiana Coach Isiah Thomas was suspended two games Saturday for his actions during an altercation in Toronto Friday night.
With 8:02 left in the Raptors' 102-90 victory, Toronto forward Morris Peterson became tangled with Indiana's Al Harrington as the two players came downcourt. Apparently thinking that he was tripped intentionally, Harrington charged at Peterson and the players exchanged shoves.
Things escalated when Thomas ran onto the court and tried to go after Peterson, shouting obscenities at him. Thomas was held back by Toronto coach Lenny Wilkens.
Neither Harrington nor Peterson were suspended for the incident.
The suspension caused him to miss Saturday night's game with Boston and he will not be on the bench for Tuesday night's contest with the Los Angeles Lakers. Assistant Brendan Malone will fill in for the third-year coach.
Thomas will not coach again until guiding the Eastern Conference in the All-Star Game in Atlanta on Feb. 9. Thomas' next regular season contest will be Feb. 11 against Cleveland.
Bettman against contraction
SUNRISE, Fla., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- NHL Commisioner Gary Bettman said Saturday he wants to keep the Buffalo and Ottawa franchises where they are.
Delivering his annual state of the game address on the eve of the 53rd NHL All-Star Game, Bettman provided no new details regarding the sale of either franchise. But he sounded pessimistic when pressed for the status of Buffalo businessman Mark Hamister's bid to buy the Sabres.
The commissioner refused to rule out another extension of Hamister's window of exclusivity to complete his purchase. But Bettman expressed concern over the proposal because it relies on "public sector support which may not be there."
Asked whether Rochester billionaire Tom Golisano could re-enter the picture, Bettman noted that Golisano's initial proposal also included "comparable public sector support."
The commissioner would not comment on reports that Toronto billionaire Eugene Melnyk is interested in buying the Senators, saying only, "I am aware of who he is and that he's a very substantial person."
With the league about to enter the final year of a collective bargaining agreement that Bettman insists must be restructured, the commissioner was asked if contraction was one solution under consideration.
"I don't believe in contraction," he replied. "Contraction doesn't hold any interest to me. I believe we should do everything we can to keep franchises stable where they are. I don't see long-term how contraction would benefit us at all. Each one of our franchises, under the right circumstances, can be successful. There is no interest in relocation or losing franchises."
Tiebreaker set for NHL All-Star Game
SUNRISE, Fla., Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The NHL All-Star Game, traditionally a high-scoring affair, will have a new twist when it is played Sunday. It will not end in a tie.
Should the 53rd NHL All-Star Game be deadlocked at the end of regulation, there will be a five-minute sudden-death overtime period. If the deadlock is not broken, there will be an Olympic-style shootout to determine a winner.
A shootout would be the only vestige of the Olympics after the NHL abandoned the North America vs. the World format in favor of the more traditional Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference.
Lemieux, a three-time All-Star MVP, is skipping the event to recover from a nagging groin injury while Leetch remains sidelined by a bruised ankle. Toronto Maple Leafs teammates Mats Sundin and Ed Belfour begged off to rest injuries that sidelined them early in January and Montreal Canadiens captain Saku Koivu has a pre-arranged checkup to monitor his recovery from abdominal cancer.
NHL season ends Sunday
HONOLULU, Feb. 2 (UPI) -- The anticlimactic end to the NFL season comes Sunday at Aloha Stadium.
The best players in the NFL -- or what is left of them -- have gathered for the annual Pro Bowl, one week after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers routed the Oakland Raiders, 48-21, in the Super Bowl.
The Pro Bowl historically sees many players drop out of the game for questionable injury-related reasons and this year's game is no exception. Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, for example, dropped out due to a bunion on his foot.
The list of those that have declined an invitation to play include Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, St. Louis Rams offensive tackle Orlando Pace, Kansas City Chiefs running back Priest Holmes, linebackers Al Wilson of the Denver Broncos and Kendrell Bell of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay defensive lineman Warren Sapp.
While Sapp dropped out due to a knee injury, the Super Bowl champion Buccaneers will be well-represented. Quarterback Brad Johnson, defensive end Simeon Rice, fullback Mike Alstott, linebacker Derrick Brooks and safety John Lynch all made the long trip after taking part in a victory parade in Tampa on Tuesday.
The AFC champion Raiders will be represented by quarterback Rich Gannon, offensive tackle Lincoln Kennedy and veteran safety Rod Woodson, who earned his 11th Pro Bowl selection.
Oakland center Barrett Robbins was named to the team in December, but will not make the trip after getting kicked off the Super Bowl roster last Saturday and ending up in a San Diego hospital.
Herron builds four-shot lead
Herron began the day tied for the lead with Stephen Ames of Trinidad & Tobago but had eight birdies in a 12-hole span en route to a 7-under-par 65 at Indian Wells Country Club. He shot a career-best 61 on Friday at PGA West.
Nicknamed "Lumpy" for his less-than-spectacular physique, Herron had a 72-hole total of 29-under 259, matching the tournament record set by Joe Durant en route to the 2001 title.
Ames struggled to a 1-under 71 and was alone in sixth at 23-under 265.
It was the lowest round in 22 career Champions Tour starts for Zoeller, who had an eagle, eight birdies and a bogey at Hualalai Golf Club.
Nelson shot a 64 and Quigley had a 65 to match Zoeller's 36-hole total of 13-under 131.
Bruce Fleisher and Bruce Lietzke were tied for fourth at 133 after carding 65s. Stewart Ginn and Steve Veriato, who had a share of the first-round lead with Quigley and Hale Irwin, shared sixth place at 134.