Connecticut goes for second straight title
ATLANTA, April 8 (UPI) -- The women's Final Four has produced yet another title game between Connecticut and Tennessee.
The premier programs in women's basketball will meet in the title game for a record third time Tuesday night at the Georgia Dome with Connecticut (36-1) having prevailed in 1995 and 2000.
The Huskies lead the overall series, 10-6, and won the last meeting, 63-62, in overtime on Jan. 4 in Hartford.
"I know that's the game everybody's been waiting for, so now that it's here, let's enjoy it," Connecticut Coach Geno Auriemma said.
Tennessee (33-4) is seeking a seventh national championship under coach Pat Summitt, the last coming in 1998.
Texas nearly spoiled the matchup in the Georgia Dome Sunday night, but Diana Taurasi scored 26 oints and sparked a second half rally to give the Huskies a 71-69 win and Auriemma his 500th career victory.
"I'll always remember this one, this was pretty good," said Auriemma, who has won 500 in 599 games, the second fastest in NCAA women's basketball history behind Texas' Jody Conradt. "To win it when we're down nine and to win it the way we did, there aren't too many games of the 500 that I'll remember over this one."
A year ago, Connecticut posted a 39-0 record and captured its second national championship in the last three years.
The Huskies seemed poised for another shot at perfection this season, opening the year with 31 straight wins and running the nation's longest winning streak to an NCAA women's record 70 consecutive games before a 52-48 loss to Villanova in the Big East title game.
Woods avoids controversy
AUGUSTA, Ga., April 8 (UPI) -- Tiger Woods refuses to be drawn into any hint of controversy surrounding this week's planned protest in connection with the Masters.
Woods will attempt to win the Masters for a record third straight time this week and that bid has not received as much publicity as it might have because of world events and because of a campaign designed to intimidate the Augusta National into breaking down its current gender barrier.
That campaign will culminate Saturday with a protest led by Martha Burk, chairwoman of the National Council of Women's Organizations.
Woods has consistently said he thinks the club should admit a woman, but that he does not have a vote in the matter.
He was reminded Tuesday of his comments early in his career about his passionate desire to see golf clubs around the country become more diverse in their memberships.
"Are you still as passionate about that as you were then?" he was asked.
"I am," Woods said in a quiet voice.
"You don't seem as passionate," the questioner said.
"That is probably just your opinion," Woods responded.
Cubs win home opener
CHICAGO, April 8 (UPI) -- Matt Clement combined with three relievers on a four-hitter Tuesday to give the Chicago Cubs a win in their home opener, 6-1 over Montreal.
Moises Alou drove in three runs to spark the Cubs' attack.
Chicago Manager Dusty Baker, who took over in Chicago after guiding the San Francisco Giants to the World Series last year, split his first six games on the road.
The Cubs started their home campaign on the right note despite a game-time temperature of 29 degrees. The game was pushed back from Monday due to a snowstorm.
Clement (1-1) allowed one and three hits in 7 1/3 innings with five walks and five strikeouts. He left his first start of the season with stiffness in his lower back.
After Clement left with one out in the eighth, Mark Guthrie and Joe Borowski each retired a batter to end the eighth. Mike Remlinger yielded a hit but struck out two in the ninth.
Foul weather continued to take its toll on the major league schedule. Kansas City's game at Detroit was postponed.
NFL executive Ed McCaskey dies
DES PLAINES, Ill., April 8 (UPI) -- Ed McCaskey, the chairman emeritus of the Chicago Bears and an executive of the NFL team for 36 years, died Tuesday at his home.
He was 83. McCaskey had been battling a series of illnesses in recent years.
A popular figure within the NFL, McCaskey was the son-in-law of Bears founder George Halas and joined the Bears in 1967. He was often referred to as the "conscience" of the league as well as a sounding board for many of its leaders.
"Today the entire Bears organization suffered a great loss in the passing of Ed McCaskey," Bears president Ted Phillips said. "Ed's leadership and his love of life gave all of us at the Chicago Bears a real sense of family. He will be greatly missed."
Mario Austin to turn pro
STARKVILLE, Miss., April 8 (UPI) -- Mississippi State star Mario Austin said Tuesday he has hired an agent and will forgo his senior season to enter the NBA draft.
Austin cited economic necessity for changing his mind about returning to school. The two-time All-Southeastern Conference center told the Clarion-Ledger last month he would return to Mississippi State for his senior year. But last Friday, he flew to California and signed with agent Bill Duffy.
The decision was based on Austin's family situation. The 21-year-old is the oldest of four children in a single-parent home in York, Ala. His mother, Deborah, has been hospitalized recently with complications from diabetes.
"It's time for me to take care of my family and do what's right," Austin told the Clarion-Ledge in Tuesday's editions. "I had been thinking about it for a long time. I based it on that. My mom can't work. She doesn't have any money to pay any bills. It's time for me to take care of my family."
The NBA has had a strong pull on Austin, who was considering going professional as a senior at Sumter County High in 2002 but eventually enrolled at Mississippi State. He withdrew from classes in spring of 2002 with the intention of declaring for the NBA draft before returning in April.
Rudd signs with Bucs
TAMPA, Fla., April 8 (UPI) -- Linebacker Dwayne Rudd, who was involved in one of the most bizarre plays in the NFL last season, found a new home Tuesday.
Rudd, who spent the last two seasons with the Cleveland Browns, agreed to a two-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The 28-year-old Rudd is expected to step in at strongside linebacker in place of Alshermond Singleton, who signed as a free agent with the Dallas Cowboys, and will play alongside Pro Bowl linebackers Shelton Quarles and Derrick Brooks.
A starter at weakside linebacker the last two years, Rudd was involved in one of the craziest plays in a Week 1 loss to Kansas City last season.
With his team clinging to a two-point lead in the waning seconds, Rudd tossed his helmet in the air in celebration, thinking the game was over. But he received an unsportsmanlike penalty and the Chiefs kicked the winning field goal on the next play.
The play overshadowed what was an otherwise strong season for Rudd. He started 15 of 16 games last season and was fourth on the Browns with 62 tackles to go along with one sack.
Report: Dennis Felton to coach Georgia
ATHENS, Ga., April 8 (UPI) -- Georgia reportedly has found a replacement for former basketball coach Jim Harrick.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday that Georgia has tabbed Western Kentucky coach Dennis Felton to succeed the embattled Harrick, who resigned two weeks ago amid allegations of academic fraud within the program.
Citing sources close to the program, the newspaper said Felton, 39, will be named in the next day or two.
A Georgia spokeswoman said no news conference was planned and would not comment on the report.
Felton has posted a five-year record of 90-54 at Western Kentucky, leading the Hilltoppers to three straight NCAA Tournament appearances. Prior to taking the Western Kentucky job, Felton served as an assistant at Delaware, Tulane, St. Joseph's, Providence and Clemson.
Harrick stepped down on March 27, less than three weeks after an academics scandal shamed the school into withdrawing from postseason play.
Harrick had been suspended with pay since March 10, when Georgia president Michael Adams and athletic director Vince Dooley announced the Bulldogs would not participate in the Southeastern Conference tournament, effectively ending the season for a team almost certainly headed for the NCAA Tournament.
The drastic move came amid allegations of academic fraud and improper benefits that prompted an investigation by the school, SEC and NCAA. That investigation is ongoing.
Franchitti injured in motorcycle accident
TOKYO, April 8 (UPI) -- Dario Franchitti will miss Sunday's Honda Indy 300 after suffering injuries in a motorcycle accident.
The mishap occurred in his native Scotland.
The former CART star is one of the headline drivers for Andretti/Green Racing in the IRL Indy Car Series and has competed at the 1 1/2-mile Twin Ring Motegi when this event was on the CART schedule. Sunday's race will mark the first time the IRL will stage an event outside the United States.
England's Dan Wheldon will replace Franchitti in the Dallara-Honda.
Soriano named AL player of the week
NEW YORK, April 8 (UPI) -- New York Yankees second baseman Alfonso Soriano was named Tuesday as the first American League Player of the Week for the 2003 season.
Soriano batted .452 with major league-leading totals of 14 hits and 28 total bases in six games to lead the Yankees to a 5-1 start. He also tied for the league lead with three home runs, including a grand slam in an 8-4 win at Toronto on Opening Day.
For the week, Soriano recorded a .903 slugging percentage, a .485 on-base percentage, eight runs, three doubles, one triple and 10 RBI. Soriano also won the award once last season.
Others considered for the award included Anaheim's Garret Anderson, Hank Blalock of Texas, Boston's Shea Hillenbrand and Kansas City's Brent Mayne. Pitchers Runelvys Hernandez of Kansas City, Minnesota's Kyle Lohse and New York's Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte also were candidates.