NEW YORK, March 13 (UPI) -- The first of the major conference basketball tournaments got underway Wednesday and there was an immediate upset.
Marcus Hatten scored 18 points to lead a balanced attack, helping the St. John's Red Storm avoid a second-half collapse and forge an 83-80 win over No. 19 Notre Dame in the first round of the Big East Conference Tournament.
Notre Dame became the first ranked team to be ousted from a conference tourney this season. Creighton, the only team ranked in the top 25 to take part in a tourney last week, won the Missouri Valley Conference title.
In other first-round games in the Big East, Providence defeated West Virginia, 73-50; Georgetown fought off Villanova, 46-41; and Seton Hall downed Miami, 67-52.
In Conference USA, South Florida edged DePaul, 76-74; Tulane ran over Houston, 74-52; Alabama-Birmingham routed Charlotte, 85-61; and Southern Mississippi surprised Cincinnati, 63-61.
The NCAA Tournament field was increased by two when Wagner defeated St. Francis (N.Y.) in the final of the Northeast Conference tourney, 78-61; and Weber State captured the Big Sky Conference crown with a 60-57 decision over Eastern Washington.
Thursday begins the big push toward Sunday's announcement of the NCAA field. The Atlantic Coast, Atlantic 10, Big 10, Big 12, Mountain West, Pac-10 and Southeastern conferences will start their tournaments Thursday.
Duncan keeps Spurs hot
ST. PAUL, Minn., March 13 (UPI) -- Tim Duncan scored 10 of his 18 points in the first quarter Wednesday night as San Antonio downed Minnesota, 111-99.
It was San Antonio's fourth straight win and halted Minnesota's 17-game home winning streak. The Timberwolves had not lost at home since a setback to Utah on Jan. 4. Overall, they had won nine of their last 12 games, including a pair of road victories to cap a difficult five-game trip.
But the Timberwolves were no match for the Spurs, who have been the NBA's hottest team in 2003. Led by Duncan, they had won 25 of 30 games since Jan. 1 and wasted no time improving that mark.
San Antonio led by nine points after one period, 17 in the second quarter and 20 in the third period.
Minnesota got back in the game behind Troy Hudson, who scored 20 of his 30 points in the third quarter. But San Antonio scored the final eight points of the period to rebuild the advantage to 78-66 and led by double digits thereafter.
Stephen Jackson scored 22 points and Tony Parker and rookie Emanuel Ginobili added 17 apiece for the Spurs, who had six players in double figures, shot 51 percent from the field and held a 42-32 rebounding edge. Duncan swept 14 boards.
Minnesota's Kevin Garnett had 17 points, 13 rebounds and seven assists but was relatively quiet. Despite their recent hot streak, the Timberwolves have lost four of their last six games.
Other NBA results: Boston 93, New Orleans 65; Utah 111, Orlando 108; Indiana 96, Philadelphia 93; Atlanta 111, Milwaukee 92; Detroit 111, Los Angeles Lakers 88; Memphis 124, Chicago 95; Houston 118, Los Angeles Clippers in overtime.
Wild enjoys quick start
ST. PAUL, Minn., March 13 (UPI) -- The Minnesota Wild erupted for four first-period goals Wednesday night and held on for a 4-2 decision over Dallas.
Darby Hendrickson scored his first goal of the season and defenseman Filip Kuba netted a shorthanded tally as part of the big first period.
Having gone 121 minutes, 26 seconds without allowing a goal, Ron Tugnutt was trying for a third consecutive win. But Hendrickson, who missed the first 45 games of the season with a fractured left wrist, ended the goalie's hopes of another blanking 7:14 into the first period with his first tally since March 8, 2002, also against Dallas.
Kuba gave the Wild a two-goal lead midway through the first and Andrew Brunette and Antti Laaksonen tallied 70 seconds apart late in the period to open a 4-0 cushion for Minnesota, which improved to 6-2-1 in its last nine games and tightened its grip on the first playoff berth in franchise history.
The Wild moved 10 points ahead of ninth-place Nashville in the Western Conference.
Other NHL results: Carolina 3, Buffalo 2 in overtime; Tampa Bay 4, Los Angeles 2; Montreal 4, Florida 0; Pittsburgh 2, Nashville 2; Detroit 3, Phoenix 2.
Dodgers brawl with Mets
The incident marred the Los Angeles Dodgers' 13-6 romp over the Mets in a battle of split squads.
After Mota hit him behind the left shoulder during the sixth inning, Piazza charged the mound. Mota tossed his glove, but Piazza was tackled by three Dodgers. Mets outfielder Jeromy Burnitz chased Mota, who retreated to the Dodgers' dugout.
Both Mota and Piazza were ejected. A year ago, Mota also hit Piazza with a pitch in a spring training game. Piazza tracked down the former Mets' farmhand and grabbed him by the jersey, although no punches were thrown.
This incident came after Mota hit a three-run homer off Armando Benitez in the top of the sixth. Adrian Beltre also homered and drove in four runs for Los Angeles, which collected 17 hits off rookie Aaron Heilman and six relievers.
Cardinals make big acquisitions
TEMPE, Ariz., March 13 (UPI) -- A week after losing Jake Plummer and David Boston, the Arizona Cardinals softened the blow Wednesday.
They added a Super Bowl Most Valuable Player to their roster along with a veteran quarterback.
The Cardinals signed safety Dexter Jackson, who had two interceptions in Tampa Bay's 48-21 victory over Oakland in Super Bowl XXXVII, to a five-year contract. They also acquired Jeff Blake, a starting quarterback for three NFL teams, by signing him to a three-year deal.
Financial terms were not disclosed, but Jackson received $14 million with a signing bonus worth $2.75 million, according to his agent Peter Schaffer.
The Pittsburgh Steelers were also in the bidding for Jackson, offering more than $12 million over five years. But instead of signing with the AFC North champions, Jackson took the highest bid from Arizona, which has not made the playoffs since 1998 and lost its best two offensive players.
The Bucs wanted to retain Jackson, the team's starting free safety the last two years, but did not have much room under the salary cap.
The 25-year-old Jackson is the second defensive back to turn a Super Bowl MVP into a financial windfall, following cornerback Larry Brown of the Dallas Cowboys. He signed a five-year, $12 million contract with the Oakland Raiders after earning MVP honors in Super Bowl XXX.
The 6-1, 205-pound Jackson had a career-high 86 tackles with three interceptions, a fumble recovery and 10 pass deflections last season for the NFL's No. 1 ranked defense.
Jackson will replace Kwamie Lassiter, an unrestricted free agent, at free safety in Arizona.
Blake will succeed Plummer, who was Arizona's starter for the last six years. Last week, Plummer signed a seven-year contract worth more than $40 million with the Denver Broncos.
Twins sign Kenny Rogers
FORT MYERS, Fla., March 13 (UPI) -- After learning that lefthander Eric Milton could miss the entire 2003 season, Minnesota signed Kenny Rogers on Wednesday.
Financial terms on the one-year deal were not disclosed, but it is believed Rogers will receive $2 million plus $500,000 in performance bonuses.
A 14-year veteran, Rogers went 13-8 with two complete games, a shutout and a 3.84 ERA in 33 starts for Texas, where he also spent the first seven seasons of his career.
In 589 career games with the Rangers, New York Yankees, Oakland and New York Mets, including 304 as a starter, Rogers owns a 145-106 record with 28 saves, 33 complete games, seven shutouts and a 4.20 ERA.
Milton, who underwent arthroscopic surgery on his left knee last week, is expected to be sidelined four to six months.
Redskins grab another Jet
ARLINGTON, Va., March 13 (UPI) -- The Washington Redskins' raid of the New York Jets continued Wednesday with the submission of an offer sheet to receiver Laveranues Coles.
A restricted free agent, Coles had a breakout season for the Jets in 2002, catching 89 passes for 1,264 yards and five touchdowns.
Various published reports say Coles has agreed to a seven-year, $35 million offer sheet that includes a $13 million signing bonus.
The Redskins did not disclose the terms, but the Jets have seven days to match. If New York does not match, the Redskins would keep Coles and give the Jets their 2003 first-round draft pick, which is 13th overall.
The Jets have until Thursday to decide whether to match the Redskins' five-year, $8 million offer sheet to kick returner Chad Morton. The Redskins already have signed starting guard Randy Thomas and kicker John Hall away from the Jets as free agents.
The Jets offered Coles a six-year, $24 million deal that included a $6 million signing bonus, far less than the Redskins' reported offer.
Dana Stubblefield signs with Raiders
ALAMEDA, Calif., March 13 (UPI) -- Dumped by the San Francisco 49ers for salary cap purposes, defensive tackle Dana Stubblefield crossed the bay Wednesday.
The Oakland Raiders, who released four defensive starters last month in their scramble to get under the $75 million salary cap, signed Stubblefield.
Financial terms were not disclosed.
The 32-year-old Stubblefield will likely replace Sam Adams at left defensive tackle for the AFC champions. Adams was waived along with defensive end Regan Upshaw, cornerback Tory James and strong safety Anthony Dorsett last month.
The NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1997 and a three-time Pro Bowler, Stubblefield started alongside Bryant Young with the 49ers each of the last two seasons and helped them rank seventh against the run in 2002.
But San Francisco cut Stubblefield and guard Dave Fiore last month to save $4.7 million in cap space for 2003.
The 6-2, 290-pound Stubblefield spent his first five seasons with the Niners and earned NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors in 1997 after recording a career-high 15 sacks along with 65 tackles.
A hot commodity on the free agent market, Stubblefield signed with the Washington Redskins in 1998, but had three sub-par seasons there before returning to San Francisco in 2001.
Surprising Vahaly keeps winning
INDIAN WELLS, Calif., March 13 (UPI) -- Brian Vahaly upset third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero Wednesday, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, in the second round of the Pacific Life Open.
The 23-year-old Atlanta resident made it into the qualifying draw only after four players withdrew. After reaching the main draw, he eliminated No. 21 Fernando Gonzalez of Chile in the first round before posting his first career win over a top-10 player.
World No. 1 and defending champion Lleyton Hewitt's appearance in the third round was more expected.
One day after saving three match points in a first-round win over Younes El Aynaoui, the 22-year-old Australian continued his domination of Russia's Yevgeny Kafelnikov with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph- - his seventh in eight career meetings with the two-time Grand Slam champion.
Also, fifth seed Carlos Moya of Spain crushed Arnaud Clement of France, 6-0, 6-2; sixth-seeded American Andy Roddick topped Spain's Feliciano Lopez, 6-4, 6-3; and No. 7 Marat Safin of Russia posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over Australian Mark Philippoussis, who was coming off a runner-up effort last week at Scottsdale.
Ferrero was one of seven seeded players to fall.
On the women's side, two-time champion Lindsay Davenport booked a semifinal showdown with No. 2 Jennifer Capriati or Russian Vera Zvonareva when fifth-seeded French star Amelie Maresemo was forced to withdraw due to an acute throat infection.
Patriots sign Rodney Harrison
FOXBORO, Mass., March 13 (UPI) -- The New England Patriots continued to revamp their defense Wednesday by signing unrestricted free agent safety Rodney Harrison.
Terms were not disclosed.
The 30-year-old Harrison joins the Patriots after nine seasons with the San Diego Chargers and has compiled 759 tackles, 21 1/2 sacks and 26 interceptions.
On Tuesday, the Patriots signed free agent cornerback Tyrone Poole away from the Denver Broncos and added free agent linebacker Roosevelt Colvin, who was previously with the Chicago Bears.
The signing of Harrison gives the Patriots flexibility with free agent safety Tebucky Jones, who has been given the franchise tag. New England could now remove the tag from Jones and make him a free agent.
Harrison was named to the Pro Bowl in 1998 and 2001 and was named the Chargers Defensive Player of the Year four times. He was plagued by a groin injury last season that forced him to miss two games, but was second on the team with 88 tackles.
Cyclist dies in French race
ST ETIENNE, France, March 13 (UPI) -- Cyclist Andrei Kivilev died Wednesday from head injuries sustained in a crash in Tuesday's second stage of the Paris-Nice race. He was 29.
A native of Kazakhstan who rode for the French Cofidis team, Kivilev had been in a coma following the crash that took place after he appeared to get caught up with another driver and catapulted over his bicycle onto the road.
Kivilev, who was not wearing a helmet, underwent surgery Tuesday night, but his condition worsened.
Eberharter increases lead over Miller
KVITFJELL, Norway, March 13 (UPI) -- France's Antoine Deneriaz won the final World Cup downhill race of the season Wednesday, edging Stephan Eberharter.
By finishing second, Eberharter stretched his lead ahead of Bode Miller of the United States in the overall World Cup standings.
American Daron Rahlves, who won back-to-back downhills here three years ago, finished third to lock up second place in the World Cup downhill standings behind Eberharter. The Austrian had already secured the discipline's crystal globe last month when he won in Garmisch-Partenkirchen.
Oblivious to the high winds that forced organizers to shorten Lillehammer's Olympic piste by 1,292 feet, Deneriaz triumphed in 1 minute, 28.37 seconds for his second downhill victory of the season.
In the women's downhill, Renate Goetschl won the season's final race but lost the World Cup discipline trophy to teammate Michaela Dorfmeister by just four points.
Dorfmeister, sixth in Wednesday's race, finished the season with 372 points after six races, while Goetschl had 368. American Kirsten Clark, the favorite for the title along with France's Carole Montillet only a few weeks ago, finished the season third in the rankings with 316.
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