In Sports from United Press International

April 19, 2003 at 12:04 AM
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Vancouver avoids playoff elimination

VANCOUVER, April 19 (UPI) -- Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund scored second-period goals Friday night, carrying Vancouver past St. Louis, 5-3.

Vancouver kept its season alive, reducing the Blues' advantage in their Western Conference quarterfinal series to three games to two.

One of the top lines in hockey, Bertuzzi, Morrison and Naslund had been silenced in the first four games as they combined for just one goal. But with the Canucks facing elimination in Game 5, they rose to the occasion.

Bertuzzi snapped a 1-1 tie with 11:24 left in the middle period. Morrison scored at 16:24 and Naslund tallied on the power play just over two minutes later, making it 4-1. The four goals matched the Canucks' total through the first four games of the series.

The Canucks needed the offense as the Blues nearly rallied in the third period, pulling within 4-3 with 56 seconds remaining on Martin Rucinsky's third goal of the series.

But just seven seconds later, Sami Salo blasted a slap shot by Blues goaltender Chris Osgood.

In Tampa, Martin St. Louis scored his fourth goal of the playoffs with 8:07 left in the third period Friday night to boost Tampa Bay to a 2-1 win over Washington. The Lightning took a three games to two lead in the series.

It marked the first time in this series that the home team has led in a game, let alone win.

The Capitals won the first two games here last week, but the Lightning have rebounded to win three straight and need just one more win to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Game 6 will be played Sunday in Washington.

Vincent Lecavalier set up the go-ahead goal by chasing down a dump-in pass behind the net. He spun around in the left corner and found Stan Neckar, who feathered a perfect cross-ice feed to St. Louis for a tap-in goal.

It sent a record crowd of 21,324 at the St. Pete Times Forum into a frenzy.

On Saturday Colorado and Dallas will try to advance to the Western Conference semifinals while Philadelphia will host Toronto in a series that is tied at 2-2. Colorado has a 3-1 lead in its series and will host Minnesota. Dallas is ahead, 3-2, and will visit Edmonton.

Tubby Smith signs huge contract

LEXINGTON, Ky., April 19 (UPI) -- Kentucky Coach Tubby Smith signed an eight-year contract Friday that makes him the highest-paid college basketball coach in the country.

Smith will receive $2.5 million a season in a deal that replaces a previous agreement that ran through 2006-07. The new pact automatically extends two years to 2013 if the team makes it to any Final Four in the next eight seasons.

"Money has never yet made a man rich," said Smith, who guided the Wildcats to a national championship in 1998 and a No. 1 seed in this year's NCAA Tournament. "What makes you rich is the people you have the privilege of working with."

Smith, 51, was speaking of the school's athletic director, Mitch Barnhart, and president, Dr. Lee Todd. They showed their confidence in someone they say is "committed to the right things about college basketball."

"I think there's been a lot of difficult things going on in the game of college basketball and Tubby Smith represents all the right things about college basketball," Barnhart said. "This shows our commitment to that."

While his name popped up in possible jobs in the NBA or college, Smith maintained that he wanted to stay at Kentucky, where he has spent the last six years.

NBA playoffs open Saturday

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J., April 19 (UPI) -- The 2003 NBA playoffs begin Saturday with five first-round series openers that should last nearly 13 hours.

There are three more openers Sunday, completing a marathon weekend schedule.

The Eastern Conference is considered weak and wide open while the Western Conference has the three-time defending champion Los Angeles Lakers in the lower half of the bracket.

The first round has been expanded from best-of-five series to best-of-seven, which may give a team that loses a home game early in the series more time to regroup.

"I think a seven-game series benefits us because I think it will be tough for any team to beat us four times in seven games," said Sacramento Kings guard Mike Bibby, whose team hosts the Utah Jazz in the finale of Saturday's extravaganza.

Saturday's busy day begins at 12:30 p.m. EDT with New Jersey hosting Milwaukee and there will be a game played every 2 1/2 hours after that.

Boston will be at Indiana beginning at 3 p.m., San Antonio hosts Phoenix at 5:30 p.m., Dallas will be at home against Portland at 8 p.m. and Sacramento entertains Utah at 10:30 p.m.

The team that looks most ready to play is San Antonio, which stormed to the best record in the NBA.

Led by reigning MVP Tim Duncan, the Spurs (60-22) went 41-9 after Jan. 1 to catch the Dallas Mavericks for the Midwest Division title, the league's top mark and home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

San Antonio made a similar run in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 campaign, when it won 31 of its last 36 games to claim the best record and 15-2 in the postseason en route to its only NBA title.

Rookie delivers Royals game-winner

KANSAS CITY, April 19 (UPI) -- Rookie Ken Harvey homered to start the 11th inning Friday night, boosting Kansas City past Detroit, 4-3.

Closer Matt Anderson grooved an 0-2 pitch to Harvey and the Kansas City designated hitter blasted it over the left field fence.

The Royals have won all six of their home games and are off to their best start ever at 12-3. Following the dramatic voctory, fans stayed on their feet, chanting Harvey's name as he gave a television interview on the field.

The Tigers have lost all seven of their road games and are 1-14 overall. It was Detroit's first extra-inning contest.

Kansas City loaded the bases in the 10th inning, but Anderson (0-1) retired Carlos Beltran, Mike Sweeney and Raul Ibanez to escape the jam.

D.J. Carrasco (1-0) pitched two scoreless innings to record his first major league win.

Ibanez tied the game in the sixth inning with a homer to left-center field off Tigers starter Nate Cornejo. In seven innings, Cornejo allowed three runs and six hits. He struck out two and walked two.

Cornejo squandered the 3-0 lead that Detroit built against Kansas City starter Darrell May. The Royals' lefthander gave up a homer to Bobby Higginson and a run-scoring single to Craig Monroe in the third inning before surrendering an unearned run in the fourth.

Other American League results: Baltimore 9, Tampa Bay 7; Boston 7, Toronto 3; Chicago 5, Cleveland 3; New York 11, Minnesota 4.

Braves capitalize on Phillies' miscues

ATLANTA, April 19 (UPI) -- Ricky Ledee misplayed a fly ball by Vinny Castilla into a two-run double in the sixth Friday night, boosting Atlanta past Philadelphia, 5-4.

Phillies starter Randy Wolf cruised into the sixth with a 4-1 lead before being let down by his defense.

Marcus Giles opened the sixth for the Braves by hitting a routine grounder that eluded third baseman for Tyler Houston for an error. Gary Sheffield singled and Chipper Jones drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases.

Wolf (2-1) got Andruw Jones to pop out, but Julio Franco came through with a two-run single into right field to bring the Braves within 4-3.

Carlos Silva relieved and Castilla greeted him with a line drive into center field. Ledee first broke in, then turned the wrong way and the ball landed over his head, allowing the Braves to take a 5-4 lead.

Kevin Gryboski (1-1) retired the only batter he faced in relief of Greg Maddux to get the win. Maddux went 5 2/3 innings and allowed four runs and eight hits.

Ray King and Roberto Hernandez each worked a scoreless inning and John Smoltz struck out two in a perfect ninth for his sixth save.

The Braves' four relievers combined on 3 1/3 hitless innings.

Other National League results: Chicago 7, Pittsburgh 2; New York 6, Florida 3; St. Louis 6, Arizona 2; Houston 11, Milwaukee 5. Cincinnati's game with Montreal in Puerto Rico was rained out and they will attempt to play a day-night doubleheader Saturday.

Cink leads The Heritage

HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C., April 19 (UPI) -- Stewart Cink earned the lead Friday midway through The Heritage, shooting a 6-under-par 65 at the Harbour Town Golf Links.

Cink has had three top-six finishes in his last six starts after admittedly having two bad years, never placing higher than third. It took therapy to figure out what was wrong.

"I went through a stretch where I was just playing with a lot of fear and very tentative," said Cink, the 2000 champion who leads at 10-under 132.

Cink has not been the only 2002 American Ryder Cup member struggling.

Battling back problems and a sleeping disorder, Hal Sutton has not had a top-10 finish in 50 starts since his victory in Houston two years ago. He also had a flaw in his swing, which Nick Price brought to his attention Tuesday.

The adjustment has helped Sutton, who was second Friday at 9-under 133. By concentrating on keeping his shoulder in the shot longer, Sutton has fixed his iron play, which he called a "deplorable" part of his game.

"It seemed technical when he first told me about it, but after I did it a few times, it was like a new-found old friend," Sutton said. "I knew that's what I had done a lot in my life."

Sutton was a stroke ahead of Price and Chad Campbell. Four-time Heritage winner Davis Love III, world No. 2 Ernie Els of South Africa, Mark Calcavecchia and Geoff Ogilvy of Australia shared fifth at 7-under 135.

WNBA, union extend negotiations

NEW YORK, April 19 (UPI) -- Citing "substantial progress," the WNBA and its players' union agreed Friday to continue negotiations during the weekend.

If those negotiations are not successful, the league's 2003 season will be wiped out.

While nothing has been signed, WNBA President Val Ackerman sounded cautiously optimistic.

"Substantial progress has been made toward a new collective bargaining agreement and negotiations will continue over the weekend," Ackerman said. "WNBA events, such as the 2003 Draft, will remain on hold until an agreement is signed."

NBA commissioner David Stern said last week that the WNBA and its union had until Friday to iron out their differences or the upcoming season will be canceled.

Luke Ridnour to test pro waters

EUGENE, Ore., April 19 (UPI) -- Pac-10 Player of the Year Luke Ridnour announced Friday he has submitted a letter requesting early entry into the NBA draft.

He said, however, he will not be signing with an agent, which will allow him to return to school if he decides to before the June 19 deadline.

Teammate Luke Jackson, meanwhile, said he is staying in school for his senior season.

A 6-2 point guard, Ridnour became only the second player in conference history to be named Player of the Year and tournament MVP. He was second in the league with 19.7 points per game and first with 6.6 assists per contest.

Ridnour set or matched three school records this past season. He established a Pac-10 mark by hitting 62 consecutive free throws, set a school record with 218 assists and tied another with 63 steals.

On the school's all-time lists, Ridnour ranks ninth in scoring (1,399 points), third in assists (500), second in steals (150) and third in three-pointers (203).

Ridnour's favorite target has been Jackson, a versatile 6-7 guard who was the only player in the Pac-10 this past season to rank among the top 10 in scoring, rebounds, assists and steals.

Franchitti to miss Indy 500

INDIANAPOLIS, April 19 (UPI) -- Dario Franchitti will miss at least the Indianapolis 500 following a recent motorcycle wredk.

The former CART star who is one of the headline drivers for Andretti/Green Racing. The team made the announcement Friday, two weeks after Franchitti broke a vertebra during a crash in his hometown of Edinburgh, Scotland.

The fracture does not require surgery, but Franchitti will wear a brace for some three months.

Franchitti will miss the marquee event in open-wheel racing and the first for the Andretti team. He also might be sidelined for the three IndyCar Series events in June.

"I'm pretty devastated right now, between not being able to compete in the Indy 500 and possibly missing a couple of the other races," he said. "I'm going to work hard to get back in the car as fast as possible."

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