Duke hopes to stay away from upsets
TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Jan. 6 (UPI) -- The No. 1 Duke Blue Devils will take the court today as the only unbeaten team remaining in Division I following an outbreak of carnage on the first big Saturday of conference action.
No. 4 Virginia, No. 5 Oklahoma State and No. 21 Miami all went into Saturday's play unbeaten and all lost. No. 7 Illinois, No. 8 Kentucky, No. 9 Iowa and No. 12 Boston College were victims as well.
Duke will try to avoid the rash of surprises when it puts its 12-0 record on the line at Florida State.
There were 18 members of the top 25 in action Saturday and they posted an 8-10 record. Those in the top 12 went 4-6, with No. 2 Florida, No. 3 Kansas, No. 10 Syracuse and No. 11 Oklahoma managing to win.
The highlight of Saturday's reshuffling of the top 25 came in Stillwater, Okla., where the Cowboys fell to Texas, 70-61.
Not only did the Longhorns stun the Cowboys, 70-61, but the game was marred by an ugly incident involving Texas players and the home fans.
Texas (9-4, 1-0 Big 12) limited Oklahoma State to one basket in the final eight minutes and made nine three-pointers, one short of a season high. James Thomas added 13 points.
The game will be remembered most, however, for an incident with 18 seconds remaining.
Texas freshman T.J. Ford and Ivey both chased a loose ball into the stands and Ford inadvertently knocked over a female fan. The point guard tried to help the fallen fan but the enraged husband of the fan tried to choke Ford as Ivey attempted to come to his teammate's rescue.
Other Texas players tried to help Ford and Thomas appeared to throw a punch as the fans congregated. Texas was assessed a technical foul and the fan that went after Ford was escorted from Gallagher-Iba Arena.
Virginia fell at home to North Carolina State, 81-74, and previously unbeaten Miami was defeated by Connecticut, 76-75. Illinois dropped a 72-66 decision to Wisconsin; Kentucky was defeated in overtime by Mississippi State, 74-69; Iowa was defeated by Ohio State, 72-62; and Boston College lost to Pittsburgh, 77-74.
Last playoff spots up for grabs
The last two playoff berths in the AFC also will be determined during a schedule of games postponed from the second week of the season due to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
The defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens (9-6), the New York Jets (9-6) and Seattle Seahawks (8-7) are fighting for the two remaining postseason spots.
Ten teams already have clinched playoff berths and four division champions have been crowned. The Chicago Bears (12-3) and New England Patriots (10-5) can go from worst to first in their respective divisions.
After going 11-21 in Jauron's first two seasons, the Bears are on the brink of winning their first NFC Central crown since 1990.
Chicago needs a win or tie Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars (6-9) or a loss or tie by the Green Bay Packers (11-4) against the New York Giants (7-8) to seal the division title and a first-round bye.
If the Bears lose and the Packers win, Green Bay will capture the division title on the basis of a series sweep.
Facing a team trying to avoid an NFL single-season record for consecutive losses, the Patriots need a victory over the Carolina Panthers (1-14) to secure their first AFC East title since 1997.
The Panthers have lost 14 straight games, tying the single season record held by four teams -- the 1976 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the 1980 New Orleans Saints, the 1981 Baltimore Colts and the 1990 Patriots. Carolina has not won since a season-opening 24-13 victory at Minnesota.
Meanwhile, the Patriots have been among the NFL's biggest surprises under Belichick and are 10-3 with Tom Brady, who this week became the fifth quarterback since 1970 to earn a trip to the Pro Bowl in the season of his first career start.
By the time they take the field at 4 p.m. EST, the Miami Dolphins (10-5) should know if an AFC East title is still within reach when they meet the Buffalo Bills (3-12). If the Patriots win, they claim the AFC East based on a better division record than Miami.
But if the Patriots lose and Miami wins, the Dolphins would not only win the division but secure a first-round bye.
The Jets could have clinched a playoff berth last week, but lost at home to lowly Buffalo. Now the Jets have to beat the AFC West champion Oakland Raiders (10-5) to assure themselves of a postseason spot.
This scenario is eerily familiar for the Jets, who lost their final three games last season and finished out in the cold. To make matters worse, the Jets are 0-8-1 in Oakland since 1962 and have lost seven of their last eight meetings with the Raiders.
If the Jets lose, they will need the Seahawks to lose to the Kansas City Chiefs (6-9) to seal a wild-card berth. Ironically, the Chiefs are coached by Dick Vermeil, who is Jets coach Herman Edwards' former mentor.
Spurs keep division lead
DALLAS, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Terry Porter hit two free throws with five seconds left and Steve Nash missed a potential game-winning three-pointer Saturday night as the San Antonio Spurs stayed atop the Midwest Division with a 105-103 victory over the Dallas Mavericks.
After Steve Smith hit a three-pointer to give the Spurs a 101-91 lead with 3:17 remaining, the Mavericks went on a 12-2 run to tie it before Porter scored the final two of his season-high 22 points.
Tim Duncan had 29 points and 17 rebounds before fouling out with 1:49 left and the Spurs ahead, 103-95. Dirk Nowitzki hit two free throws and a jumper to cut the deficit to 103-99, then drew a charge on David Robinson with 44 seconds remaining.
Eduardo Najera hit a reverse layup with 36 seconds left. After Porter missed a jumper, Nowitzki tipped in his own miss to tie the game with 9.3 seconds to go.
Nash was called for a blocking foul on Porter and, after the veteran hit his free throws, Nash front-rimmed his three-pointer and San Antonio escaped with the win.
San Antonio came in with a half game lead over Minnesota and a one-game edge over Dallas, which won at San Antonio, 126-123 in overtime, on Dec. 26. The Spurs could have fallen out of first place after the Timberwolves defeated Atlanta earlier Saturday night, but Porter would not allow it.
Other NBA results: Minnesota 112, Atlanta 96; New Jersey 89, Chicago 80; Detroit 101, Cleveland 91; Boston 90, New York 81; Orlando 118, Golden State 109; Utah 113, Chicago 111 in overtime; Indiana 81, Houston 79; Sacramento 118, Phoenix 112; Portland 96, Philadelphia 88; Los Angeles Clippers 86, Milwaukee 83.
Red Wings rally past Avalanche
DETROIT, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Igor Larionov and Brendan Shanahan scored less than two minutes apart in the third period Saturday as the Detroit Red Wings rallied past the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, 3-1.
After collecting his 15th assist to help tie the game after two periods, Larionov scored the go-ahead goal on a breakaway. Detroit recorded its sixth straight victory at Joe Louis Arena.
Shanahan fired a one-timer past goaltender David Aebischer 4:51 into the third period to move within two of 1,000th career points.
Larionov and Shanahan were members of the Red Wings teams that won back-to-back Stanley Cups in 1997 and 1998. With this win, Detroit opened a nine-point lead over the idle Chicago Blackhawks for the best mark in the Western Conference and the Central Division lead.
Aebischer had his second strong game for Colorado in relief of the flu-ridden Patrick Roy, making 32 saves.
Martin Skoula scored his sixth goal 3:39 into the contest to give the Avalanche the early lead, but Colorado lost for just the second time in 15 games this season when leading after 20 minutes (12-2-1-0).
Other NHL results: St. Louis 5, Dallas 2; Boston 7, Washington 4; Pittsburgh 4, New York Rangers 1; Toronto 3, Ottawa 1; New Jersey 2, Carolina 1; Montreal 4, Calgary 2; Los Angeles 3, New York Islanders 0; Vancouver 4, Edmonton 3.
Verplank, Perry share lead
KAPALUA, Hawaii, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Scott Verplank and Kenny Perry shared the lead after three rounds of the Mercedes Championship Saturday on a day that Tiger Woods suffered through a second straight over-par round.
Other than in major championships, it marked the first time since March of 1999 that Woods had played two consecutive rounds without at least matching par.
Verplank battled back from a double bogey at the par-4 14th to fire a 3-under 70 and share the lead with Perry at 13-under 206. Perry shot a 71.
Chris DiMarco and David Toms were at 12-under 207 while Mark Calcavecchia was alone in fifth at 209. Sergio Garcia and David Duval were at 210 -- four shots off the pace heading into the final round of the opening event of the year on the PGA Tour.
Woods, who triple bogeyed the opening hole on Friday, double bogeyed the same hole Saturday and eventually shot his second straight 74 for a 3-under 216 total. Woods failed to shoot par two days in a row last year at the U.S. Open and he did so as well in the 1999 U.S. Open and British Open.
But in a non-major event, he had not done so since the 1999 Players Championship -- a span of almost three full years.
Americans upset in Hopman Cup
PERTH, Australia, Jan. 6 (UPI) -- Spain, led by teenager Tommy Robredo, upset the United States Saturday to win its second Hopman Cup.
With the top-seeded Americans leading 1-0 after Monica Seles posted a 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) victory over Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario, Robredo rallied past Jan-Michael Gambill, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-2) and teamed with his countrywoman for a 6-4, 6-2 triumph in the mixed doubles.
The 19-year-old Robredo, who did not lose a match in his Hopman Cup debut, saved two match points as Gambill served at 5-4.
Sanchez-Vicario, 30, became the first player in 14 years of this event to win the trophy twice. She also won in 1990 with her brother Emilio. In addition, Spain became the third nation to win the cup twice, joining Switzerland and Germany.