Texas, Syracuse round out Final Four
SAN ANTONIO, March 31 (UPI) -- Texas was thought to be the weakest of the No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament, but the Longhorns were the only one to reach the Final Four.
Texas was joined by Syracuse Sunday in reaching the national semifinals of the NCAA tourney. The Longhorns and Orangemen will meet next Saturday in the Louisiana Superdome with the other semifinal game sending Marquette against Kansas.
T.J. Ford scored 19 points and handed out 10 assists Sunday in carrying the Longhorns to the Final Four for the first time in 56 years with an 85-76 victory over No. 7 Michigan State in the South Region.
Texas (26-6) became the lone top seed to survive a regional final after Kentucky, Arizona and Oklahoma all fell.
Brandon Mouton scored 16 points and Brian Boddicker added 15 for Texas, which used a 9-1 spurt midway through the first half to take the lead for good. The jet-quick Ford did his part by leading the offense and keeping mistakes to a minimum.
Texas made 24 of 30 free throws in the second half to cement the victory. Mouton made two free throws and Royal Ivey and Ford each split a pair to account for the game's final four points.
Michigan State (22-13) was denied a fourth Final Four appearance in five years. The Spartans were bidding to join Virginia in 1984 as the only No. 7 seeds to reach college basketball's biggest stage.
In Albany, N.Y., Carmelo Anthony collected 20 points and 10 rebounds as Syracuse used its stifling zone defense to bottle up Hollis Price and the top-seeded Oklahoma Sooners for a 63-47 victory in the East Region.
Syracuse (28-5) advanced to its fourth Final Four and first since 1996, when it lost to Kentucky in the title game.
Anthony, the region's Most Outstanding Player, had turned in scoreless first halves in his last two NCAA Tournament games. But the freshman sensation came out strong Sunday, scoring 12 points in the first half while making six of nine shots.
Price, the Big 12 Player of the Year, showed the lingering effects of a groin injury and also failed to score in the first half. He missed his first seven shots, finished with eight points in his final game and was part of an attack that never solved the Orangemen's 2-3 zone defense.
In the women's tournament, the regional finals will begin Monday night with Tennessee playing Villanova and Duke taking on Texas Tech. On Tuesday night, Connecticut will play Purdue and LSU will face Texas.
Rangers win season opener
The homers accounted for five runs and the Texas bullpen allowed one hit over four innings.
Buck Showalter enjoyed a successful debut as Rangers manager as he tries to bring some life to a team that has finished last in the American League West three straight years.
Young hit a three-run homer in the fourth to put the Rangers in front for good, Rodriguez hit the 299th home run of his career in the fifth with the bases empty and Gonzalez led off the seventh with another blast.
If Rodriguez hits one more home run in the next 2 ½ months, he will reach the 300 mark faster than any other player in history.
Texas had the worst bullpen in baseball last season, but Aaron Fultz allowed just one hit in two innings, Francisco Cordero walked one in a scoreless eighth and Ugueth Urbina turned in a perfect ninth to record the save.
It was the first appearance in a Texas uniform for Urbina, who recorded 40 saves last year for Boston.
The win went to Ismael Valdes, who gave up seven hits and three runs through five innings. With Valdes on the mound, Anaheim hit into two double plays and left seven runners stranded.
Nine openers are on the schedule for Monday, including the Chicago Cubs game at the New York Mets. Tom Glavine will be making his New York debut and Dusty Baker will be managing his first game with the Cubs.
Love blitzes field at Players Championship
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Calif., March 31 (UPI) -- Davis Love III tamed the windswept and diabolical TPC-Sawgrass Stadium Course to run away with the Players Championship.
Love produced a brilliant 8-under 64 that lifted him to a six-shot triumph. Having been left in the wake of golf's top threesome of Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson, Love re-established himself as one of the leading figures in his sport.
It was the second Players Championship for Love, coming 11 years after he won his first.
He made five birdies in a row beginning at the eighth and capped off the best round of the tournament with a 10-foot eagle putt at the par-5 16th.
Love won for the second time this year, adding the richest prize in American golf to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am title he claimed in February. Sunday's first-place money of $1.17 million boosted his earnings for the year to $2.782 million, leaving him in second place on the earnings list behind Woods.
Woods, who began the day five shots out of the lead in his bid for a fourth win in five starts this year, eagled the par-5 second hole to seemingly start a run at the top. But he put shots into the water at the fourth, 11th and 17th holes and eventually had to settle for an even-par 72 that left him tied for 11th at 6-under 282.
Love recorded a 72-hole total of 17-under 271, the lowest winning score at this event in seven years.
Ireland's Padraig Harrington and 49-year-old Jay Haas, who began the day tied for the lead at 11-under, wound up tied for second after both shot a 72. Haas holed a 15-foot par putt at the final hole to grab a share of second place and $572,000.
It was Harrington's best finish on American soil while Haas came up short in his attempt to become the fifth oldest winner in PGA Tour history.
Meunier-Lebouc captures Nabisco
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif., March 31 (UPI) -- On a weekend when Michele Wie gave women's golf a glimpse at its future, Patricia Meunier-Lebouc emerged as a star of the present.
Meunier-LeBouc shot a 1-over-par 73 Sunday that was good ehough to edge Swedish superstar Annika Sorenstam by one stroke and win the Nabisco Championship, the first major of the LPGA season.
Meunier-LeBouc carried a three-shot lead into the final round. She took the lead for good with a birdie on the par-4 13th hole and had a two-stroke cushion entering the 18th.
The Frenchwoman missed a short putt for par, but it did not matter as she holed the next one from two feet to finish 7-under 281 and take home the first prize of $240,000.
Saturday's story at the Mission Hills Country Club was the 13-year-old Wie, who fired a 6-under 66 to match the best round ever by an amateur at a women's major. But Wie stumbled to a 76 Sunday and ended in a tied for ninth at 288.
LeBouc had won five times of the European Tour and once on the LPGA Tour entering this season.
Sorenstam bogeyed the 13th and 14th hole and settled for a 1-under 71. She failed in a bid to become the first LPGA player to win the same major championship three years in a row.
Mavericks crush Timberwolves
MINNEAPOLIS, March 31 (UPI) -- Dirk Nowitzki scored 33 points Sunday and Dallas hit 56 percent of their shots in whipping the Minnesota Timberwolves, 119-95.
The stunned looks on the faces of Timberwolves General Manager Kevin McHale, Coach Flip Saunders and star forward Kevin Garnett was an all-too familiar sight for a franchise that has failed to win a postseason series and slipped to the fifth playoff spot, a half game behind Portland.
The fourth spot is the last for homecourt advantage in the first round. The Timberwolves now just lead the sixth-place Utah Jazz by two games.
The Mavericks swept the Timberwolves in the first round last year, but lost two of the first three meetings this season. Sunday's game was not much of a contest, even with the Mavericks missing Michael Finley, who was sidelined for a sixth straight game with a pulled left hamstring.
Dallas used a 10-0 run in the second quarter to build a 47-33 lead and increased it to 62-47 at halftime. Raef LaFrentz scored nine of his 15 points in the quarter.
The Mavericks then hit 14 of 22 shots in the third quarter, including eight of 11 from three-point range, to open a 100-71 lead.
Other NBA results: Toronto 95, New York 86; Indiana 92, Phoenix 81; Milwaukee 109, Miami 87; Detroit 99, Sacramento 88; San Antonio 92, New Orleans 90; Denver 88, Washington 72; Los Angeles Clippers 102, Memphis 100; Seattle 119, Los Angeles Lakers 98.
Brodeur reaches 40 wins
EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., March 31 (UPI) -- Martin Brodeur became the first goaltender in NHL history with four 40-win seasons Sunday.
Patrick Elias also recorded the second four-goal game in team history to lead the New Jersey Devils to a 6-0 blasting of the New York Islanders.
Already the only goalie ever with at least 35 wins in seven consecutive years, Brodeur improved to 40-22-8 and registered his league-leading ninth shutout of the season. Jacques Plante and Terry Sawchuk are the only other goalies with three 40-win seasons.
Rarely tested, Brodeur did make a nice pad save on a drive by Jason Blake from the slot with just under two minutes remaining in the third period. Brodeur has defeated the Islanders more than any other opponent, going 27-10-3 with four shutouts against them.
Elias gave the Devils a 2-0 lead with a power-play goal with 8:09 remaining. After taking a pass from defenseman Scott Niedermayer, Elias beat Rick DiPietro with a wrist shot from the top of the left faceoff circle.
Scott Gomez had the second assist on that goal and set up four others to tie a team record, last accomplished by Tom Kurvers on Feb. 13, 1989.
Elias scored once in the second period and twice in the third for the first four-goal game by a Devil since Pat Verbeek on Feb. 28, 1988.
New Jersey improved to 5
2 in its last seven games and climbed within four points of the Ottawa Senators for the top spot in the Eastern Conference.
Other NHL results: Edmonton 4, Chicago 4; Anaheim 3, Vancouver 1.
Newman wins NASCAR race
FORT WORTH, Texas, March 31 (UPI) -- After appearing to make a mistake in his final pit stop Sunday, Ryan Newman still was able to capture the Samsung/RadioShack 500.
Newman passed leader Dale Earnhardt Jr. with 10 laps to go at Texas Motor Speedway and drove away for his second career victory.
Driving a Dodge Intrepid, Newman held the lead when the field pitted for the final time during a caution period on lap 287 of the 312-lap race. While the rest of the cars on pit road changed four tires, Newman's Penske Racing South crew decided to change just two.
Newman still led when the green flag waved on lap 289 but was not there long. On the next lap, Earnhardt drove his Chevrolet Monte Carlo inside of Newman at the start-finish line.
But over the long run, Newman's car only got better and he was able to track down Earnhardt and make the race-winning pass. The Purdue University graduate pulled away to defeat Earnhardt by 3.405 seconds for his first win of the season.
Earnhardt barely got second in a side-by-side duel with fellow Chevrolet driver and four-time Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon. The margin was .020 seconds.
Agassi grabs third straight Miami title
The second-seeded Agassi won the tournament for the third straight year and surpassed his wife Steffi Graf, who was a five-time winner of this event.
"I finally beat her at something," Agassi said during the trophy ceremony. "Steffi can bring all her trophies home from this tournament. I have one more, so I'll let her bring home the five that she won."
Graf, who won 22 Grand Slam titles and 107 tournaments, smiled as the trophy was presented to Agassi.
Agassi, who turns 33 next month, nearly withdrew before the tournament due to a sore shoulder, but ended up winning his third match in as many days to earn the $500,000 first prize.
It was also Agassi's third tournament victory of the season. He captured his eighth career major at the Australian Open in January and won at San Jose in February. His only defeat of the year was to Thomas Enqvist in the first round at Scottsdale, Ariz., last month.
Report: Masters to rescind age limit rule
AUGUSTA, Ga., March 31 (UPI) -- The Augusta Chronicle reported Saturday that the age limit to compete in the Masters would be rescinded.
Masters chairman Hootie Johnson had come up with an unpopular rule last year that forced former champions to step down after they turned 65. The rule had been scheduled to be implented in 2004 and it had caused hard feelings among some of the legendary players nearing or past that age.
Arnold Palmer, 73, played last year in what he said would be his final Masters and he was given an emotional farewell by the galleries.
The Chronicle said, however, that Palmer had changed his mind and would play again. It will be his 49th consecutive appearance in the event.
Brewer was so upset at the manner in which the Masters handled the matter that he refused to appear at the Champions Dinner which is held on Tuesday of Masters week each year.