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BC-AP Sports Digest

December 28, 2018

The supervisor is Fred Lief, followed by John Nicholson at 5 p.m. and Bob Lentz at 1 a.m. The New York sports desk can be reached at 800-845-8450, ext. 1630. Sports photos, ext. 1918; graphics, ext. 7636; agate, ext. 1635. For up-to-the-minute information on AP’s coverage, visit Coverage Plan at https://newsroom.ap.org For access to AP Newsroom and other technical issues, contact AP Customer Support at apcustomersupport@ap.org or 877-836-9477. All times EST.

Gracious winners, brave losers and a homecoming queen with a kick top the list of PodcastOne Sports Now’s most heartwarming moments of 2018. Sister Jean, the 99-year-old nun who commanded the Final Four, recounts Loyola’s improbable run and reminds us what we like most about sports. Listen at podcastonesports.com, the podcastone app and apple podcasts. https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-weekly-podcast

TOP STORIES

FBC--CFP-ORANGE BOWL PREVIEW

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. — Alabama, which has played in all five years of the College Football Playoff, resumes its quest for another title Saturday. The top-ranked Crimson Tide (13-0) play No. 4 Oklahoma (12-1) in the semifinals at the Orange Bowl, with Alabama going for its third championship in four years. By Tim Reynolds. SENT: 700 words, photos. With capsule.

FBC--CFP-COTTON BOWL PREVIEW

DALLAS — Dabo Swinney has built No. 2 Clemson into the program that No. 3 Notre Dame once was and that Brian Kelly hopes he is closer to achieving. The Fighting Irish, making their first College Football Playoff appearance, try to upset the Tigers, who have been in four straight CFPs, in the Cotton Bowl. By College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 4 p.m. With capsule.

BKL--WNBA CROSSROADS

NEW YORK — The WNBA ends 2018 at a crossroads. The play on the court has never been better and TV ratings were up more than 30 percent. But that has yet to fatten anyone’s wallet. The WNBA says it has lost significant money the last 22 years, including $12 million last season. By Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg. UPCOMING: 850 words, photos by 4 p.m.

SPORTS SHOWCASE

BKC--MID-MAJOR SCHEDULING SHAKEUP

Conference USA has radically altered its league basketball schedule in an effort to get more teams into the NCAA Tournament and get better seeds. The conference is one of a handful of mid-major leagues rethinking schedules in hopes of more success on Selection Sunday. By David Brandt. SENT: 850 words, photos.

COMMENTARY

FBN--ON FOOTBALL-OFFBEAT AWARDS

The AP will hand out its individual NFL awards on the night before the Super Bowl in Atlanta. Until then, here are some off-the-beaten track honors to consider. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. SENT: 1,300 words, photos. For weekend use.

YEAR-END STORIES

YE-SPORTS DEATHS

Sports deaths in 2018 were marked by the losses of three touchstones from the 1960s: Stan Mikita, the embodiment of powerful Chicago Blackhawks teams; Jim Taylor, the punishing Green Bay Packers fullback; and big-hitting Willie McCovey of the San Francisco Giants. By Fred Lief. SENT: 1,700 words, photos. With abridged version (900 words, photos), list.

YE--GAMES OF THE YEAR

From the college football championship to the women’s Olympic gold medal game to an 18-inning marathon at the World Series, this was a year when some of the most memorable contests required working overtime. By National Writer Paul Newberry. SENT: 1,150 words, photos.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

College Football Playoff:

FBC--CFP-RECRUITING NATIONALLY

ARLINGTON, Texas — No. 3 Notre Dame has players who were signed to scholarships out of high school by the Irish from 24 states, plus Washington D.C. and Canada, the most far-flung roster of College Football Playoff semifinalists. These days, though, Notre Dame’s approach is not uncommon — especially among top programs. By College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo. SENT: 1,000 words, photos.

Friday Bowls:

FBC--MUSIC CITY BOWL

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Purdue (6-6) and Auburn (7-5) meet for the first time in the Music City Bowl, with Jarrett Stidham playing his last game for the Tigers before leaving for the NFL draft. Auburn has lost its last two bowl games. By Teresa M. Walker. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. Game started 1:30 p.m.

FBC--CAMPING WORLD BOWL

ORLANDO, Fla. — Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey closes his career when the Orange (9-3) take on former Big East rival West Virginia (8-3) in the Camping World Bowl. Syracuse can reach 10 wins for the first time since 2001. West Virginia has been beaten in bowls the past two years. By Tim Reynolds. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. Game starts 5:15 p.m.

FBC--ALAMO BOWL

SAN ANTONIO — Iowa State (8-4) looks to cap one of its best seasons in decades with an Alamo Bowl victory. After a 1-3 start, the Cyclones finished third in the Big 12. Washington State (10-2) is trying to rebound from a loss to rival Washington that knocked the Cougars out of the Pac-12 title game. By Jim Vertuno. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. Game starts 9 p.m.

Other Saturday Bowls:

FBC--PEACH BOWL PREVIEW

ATLANTA — There may be no better way for No. 10 Florida to conclude its comeback season under first-year coach Dan Mullen than to beat No. 8 Michigan in the Peach Bowl. Michigan is 4-0 in the series, including a runaway win in the 2017 season-opening game. By Charles Odum. SENT: 750 words, photos. With capsule.

— Also:

— FBC--BELK BOWL PREVIEW — South Carolina vs. Virginia at Atlanta. By Steve Reed. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 6 p.m. With capsule.

— FBC--ARIZONA BOWL PREVIEW — Arkansas State vs. Nevada at Tucson, Ariz. By John Marshall. SENT: 500 words, photos. With capsule.

NFL

FBN--BILLS-WILLIAMS RETIRING

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — Defensive tackle Kyle Williams is retiring at age 35 after 13 seasons, a decision that leaves the Buffalo Bills without their most respected leader and longest-active tenured player. Buffalo’s season finale against Miami on Sunday will be his last game. By John Wawrow. SENT: 500 words, photo. UPCOMING: 700 words, photo by 5 p.m.

FBN--EAGLES-FOLES

PHILADELPHIA — Eagles quarterback Nick Foles plays with a strong sense of inner peace because he doesn’t allow success or failure to define him. Win or lose, he’s the same guy. His team can earn the NFC’s final wild-card berth with a victory over Washington and a loss by the Vikings. By Pro Football Writer Rob Maaddi. SENT: 550 words, photos.

— Also:

— FBN--PATRIOTS-BRADY — UPCOMING: 550 words, photos by 4 p.m.

— FBN--JETS-ENUNWA EXTENSION — By Pro Football Writer Dennis Waszak Jr. SENT: 150 words, photos.

NBA

BKN--CLIPPERS-LAKERS

LOS ANGELES — LeBron James is unlikely to play because of a groin injury when the Lakers face the Clippers in this season’s first game between the Staples Center co-tenants. Both teams are off to winning starts, separated by a half game in the Pacific Division. By Greg Beacham. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos. Game starts 10:30 p.m.

— With:

— BKN--LAKERS-RONDO SURGERY — Lakers’ Rajon Rondo out four to five weeks after finger surgery. SENT: 250 words, photos.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

BKC--PAC-12 PREVIEW

PHOENIX — No. 17 Arizona State enters conference play on a roll. Most of the Pac-12, however, missed on early opportunities. The league could have as few as two NCAA Tournament bids unless a few more teams pick up the pace during the Pac-12 season. By John Marshall. SENT: 850 words, photos.

— Also:

— BKC--UCONN-OLLIE — UConn asks federal court to dismiss complaint by ex-coach Kevin Ollie over firing. By Pat Eaton-Robb. SENT: 350 words, photos.

— BKC--HAWAII PACIFIC-PLAYER DEATH — Hawaii Pacific player dies after collapsing; game with TCU canceled. SENT: 140 words.

SOCCER

SOC--BROWNS-CREW PURCHASE

CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Browns agree to buy the operating rights to the Columbus Crew, guaranteeing the soccer team will not relocate. Before the NFL team’s ownership became involved there was a strong chance the Crew, one of the MLS’s founding franchises, would move to Austin, Texas. By Tom Withers. SENT: 400 words, photos by 3 p.m.

UFC

MMA--UFC 232

INGLEWOOD, Calif. — UFC 232 is on track to sell out the Forum six days after the end-of-the-year show was moved from Las Vegas. That’s a testament to the quality of a card headlined by Jon Jones’ return against Alex Gustafsson and Cris “Cyborg” Justino’s superfight with fellow champion Amanda Nunes. By Greg Beacham. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 9 p.m.

SKIING

SKI--WCUP-WOMEN’S GS

SEMMERING, Austria — Petra Vlhova of Slovakia wins a World Cup giant slalom for the first time, overtaking first-run leader Mikaela Shiffrin. Shriffin, the Olympic champion who had won five straight races, made mistakes in the second run and dropped to fifth. By Eric Willemsen. SENT: 550 words, photos.

SKI--WCUP-MEN’S DOWNHILL

BORMIO, Italy — Dominik Paris and Christof Innerhofer give Italy a 1-2 finish before home fans in a demanding World Cup downhill on the Stelvio course. Bryce Bennett of the U.S. is fourth. Slovenia’s Klemen Losi crashes and is airlifted to a hospital with suspected facial trauma. SENT: 550 words, photos.

CAPSULES

— BKN--NBA CAPSULES

— HKN--NHL CAPSULES

— FBC--BOWL CAPSULES

— BKC--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

— BKW--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

___

Friday Time Schedule (EST)

NBA

Brooklyn at Charlotte, 7 p.m.

Chicago at Washington, 7 p.m.

Detroit at Indiana, 7 p.m.

Toronto at Orlando, 7 p.m.

Atlanta at Minnesota, 8 p.m.

Cleveland at Miami, 8 p.m.

Dallas at New Orleans, 8 p.m.

Oklahoma City at Phoenix, 9 p.m.

San Antonio at Denver, 9 p.m.

L.A. Clippers at L.A. Lakers, 10:30 p.m.

NHL

Montreal at Florida, 7 p.m.

Toronto at Columbus, 7 p.m.

Ottawa at N.Y. Islanders, 7 p.m.

College Football

Music City Bowl at Nashville, Tenn.: Purdue vs. Auburn, 1:30 p.m.

Camping World Bowl at Orlando, Fla.: West Virginia vs. Syracuse, 5:15 p.m.

Alamo Bowl at San Antonio: Iowa State vs. Washington State, 9 p.m.

College Basketball (Top 25)

Men

No. 7 Gonzaga vs. North Alabama, 9 p.m.

No. 10 Virginia Tech vs. Maryland-Eastern Shore, 7 p.m.

No. 11 Texas Tech vs. Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 7 p.m.

No. 18 Marquette vs. Southern University, 8 p.m.

No. 20 N.C. State vs. Loyola (Md.), 7 p.m.

Women

No. 4 Maryland at Penn State, 7 p.m.

No. 10 Tennessee vs. Murray State, 7 p.m.

No. 12 Minnesota vs. Wisconsin, 9 p.m.

No. 24 Miami vs. Florida A&M, 7 p.m.

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