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BC-AP Sports Digest

December 20, 2018

The supervisor is Bob Lentz, followed by Fred Lief at 9 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.

Emmy award-winning broadcaster Ernie Johnson delivers a behind-the-scenes look at friend and “Inside the NBA” colleague Charles Barkley in the latest PodcastOne Sports Now episode. Johnson joins hosts Jim Litke and Tim Dahlberg to discuss the friendship between former NBA star Barkley and Chinese immigrant Lin Wang, who shrugged off his own considerable achievements by calling himself “a cat-litter scientist.” Listen at podcastonesports.com, the podcastone app and apple podcasts.

https://www.podcastone.com/ap-sports-weekly-podcast

TOP STORIES

FBC--EARLY SIGNING PERIOD

Zach Harrison choosing to stay home and play for Ohio State and new coach Ryan Day was maybe the most intriguing development of what can now be considered the new signing day. This is year two of the early signing period in college football and just like last year, most of the scholarships have been scooped up. Alabama has already wrapped up another recruiting title. By College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo. SENT: 879 words, photos.

BKN--WARRIORS-JAZZ

SALT LAKE CITY — Playing strong defense has typically proven to be a winning formula for Utah. Getting to that point has taken more turns and detours than the Jazz anticipated this season. Beating the defending NBA champions offers evidence that Utah is finally finding the defensive form the team and its fans took for granted at the end of last season. SENT: 920 words, photos.

BKN--WIZARDS-ROCKETS

HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Rockets were on the cusp of NBA history, just one 3-pointer away from setting the league record for most 3s in a game. The crowd chanted: “Three, Three, Three,” every time Houston got the ball and let out a collective moan after each of four straight misses as the clock ran down. With just 31.1 seconds remaining, Michael Carter-Williams made history. SENT: 880 words, photos.

HKN--PENGUINS-CAPITALS

WASHINGTON —The calendar said December. The intensity felt like late spring. The third meeting this season between longtime rivals Pittsburgh and Washington featured tight checking, strong goaltending and more than a few punches. The Penguins won 2-1 on Wednesday night, yet the Capitals appreciated the ferocity with which the game was played. By David Ginsburg. SENT: 790 words, photos.

FBN--LINDSAY’S RISE

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Denver Broncos running back Phillip Lindsay says he was too busy making his mark and forcing teams to regret not drafting him to ever consider that he’d make the Pro Bowl. Lindsay is the first undrafted offensive player ever named to the NFL’s all-star team. He says he hopes his story inspires overlooked underdogs everywhere. By Football Writer Arnie Stapleton. UPCOMING: 750 words, photos by 3 a.m.

SPORTS BETTING-FEDERAL REGULATION

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Two U.S. senators are proposing that the federal government take back control of sports gambling in America, the first formal move by Congress after a Supreme Court ruling reopened a complex debate over fans betting on games and who controls the action. The federal bill introduced Wednesday would have the U.S. Justice Department set minimum standards for states to offer sports betting. It does not explicitly provide the sports leagues the cut of gambling revenue they have been seeking, so-called integrity fees, but does not prohibit them, either. By Wayne Parry. SENT: 800 words, photos.

NFL

FBN--INSIDE THE NUMBERS

There’s hope in 2019 for the Jaguars, Raiders, Giants and other teams who will finish last in the division this year. The Chicago Bears already won the NFC North to complete a worst-to-first turnaround and the Houston Texans are on the verge of securing the AFC South to become the second team to do it this season. By Football Writer Rob Maaddi. UPCOMING: 470 words, photos by 3 a.m.

— FBN--SAINTS-ANEMIC OFFENSE — By Brett Martel. SENT: 770 words, photos.

— FBN--TITANS-HENRY — By Pro Football Writer Teresa M. Walker. SENT: 700 words, photo.

— FBN--PANTHERS-NEWTON — Panthers sitting QB Cam Newton; Taylor Heinicke to start vs. Falcons. By Steve Reed. SENT: 730 words, photos.

— FBN--CHIEFS-HEALTH CHECK — Chiefs on shaky injury ground heading to Seattle showdown. By Dave Skretta. SENT: 740 words, photos.

— FBN--PRO PICKS — Ravens and Chargers both chasers as they meet Saturday. By Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner. SENT: 620 words, graphic.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

FBC--CFP-ALABAMA-HURTS’ POPULARITY

TUSCALOOSA, Ala — They cheered Jalen Hurts as he picked up his diploma, and applauded his every big play this season. Sometimes, Alabama fans gave their backup quarterback a nice hand for even stepping on the field — especially for his fifth game, which assured that he wasn’t aiming to redshirt. By John Zenor. UPCOMING: 700 words, photos by 3 a.m.

FBC--CFP-CLEMSON-EXPERIENCE MATTERS

CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson All-American tackle Christian Wilkins is prepping for his fourth appearance in the College Football Playoff and probably knows his coach’s practice plans better than they do. The second-ranked Tigers certainly have the edge on experience over No. 3 Notre Dame at Cotton Bowl. By Pete Iacobelli. UPCOMING, 600 words, photos by 3 a.m.

With:

— FBC--CFP-ALABAMA-TAGOVAILOA — By John Zenor. SENT: 500 words, photos.

FBC--FRISCO BOWL

FRISCO, Texas —Ohio running back A.J. Ouellette doesn’t think of Frank Solich as the oldest head coach in FBS. He sees him as the guy who stuck around a smaller program long enough to run it for going on 15 years. Ouellette gave Solich and the Bobcats a little something to build on in his final game. By Schuyler Dixon. SENT: 835 words, photos.

Also:

— FBC--GASPARILLA BOWL PREVIEW CAPSURE — Marshall looks to improve to 6-0 in bowl games under coach Doc Holliday when the Thundering Herd face South Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl. USF enters on a five-game losing streak after opening the season 7-0 and climbing into the Top 25. SENT: 430 words.

NBA

BKN--SUNS-CELTICS

BOSTON— It appears the Phoenix Suns have finally figured things out. Devin Booker had 25 points and eight assists, and rookie Deandre Ayton added 23 points and 18 rebounds to lead the suddenly resurgent Suns past the Boston Celtics 111-103. It was the fourth consecutive victory for the Suns since opening the season 4-24. Phoenix has its first four-game winning streak since March 2015. SENT: 710 words, photos.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

BKC--SYRACUSE SKID

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — His head covered mostly by a hoodie to shield his emotions after a second straight home loss, Syracuse point guard Frank Howard could barely be heard as he responded to questions about what went wrong. And that was in a locker room where one could have heard a pin drop. By John Kekis. UPCOMING: 600 words, photos by 3 a.m.

BKC--T25-AUBURN-NC STATE

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina State has another big win against a ranked opponent under Kevin Keatts. Markell Johnson had career highs of 27 points and five 3-pointers to help the Wolfpack upset No. 7 Auburn 78-71 on Wednesday night, improving to 4-1 against top-10 teams under the second-year coach. By Aaron Beard. SENT: 790 words, photos.

BKC--T25-VIRGINIA-SOUTH CAROLINA

COLUMBIA, S.C. —Virginia also won its first nine games last season, and then got stung by defensive-minded West Virginia. This time, the Cavaliers made it a perfect 10. By Pete Iacobelli. SENT: 570 words, photos.

BKW--T25-UCONN-OKLAHOMA

NORMAN, Okla. — Connecticut fell behind Oklahoma by 12 points in the second half, and Huskies coach Geno Auriemma couldn’t have been happier. The challenge, he believes, snapped his players back into reality. By Cliff Brunt. SENT: 720 words, photos.

Also:

— BKC--T25--DUKE-WILLIAMSON — By Joedy McCreary. SENT: 620 words, photos.

— BKC--NORTH CAROLINA-WILLIAMS — UNC gives hoops coach Roy Williams 8-year contract extension. SENT: 330 words, photos.

— BKC--WINLESS MONMOUTH — Monmouth still battling after surprising 0-11 start. SENT: 740 words.

BASEBALL

BB0--MLB-CUBA AGREEMENT

HAVANA — Major League Baseball, its players’ association and the Cuban Baseball Federation reached an agreement that will allow players from the island to sign big league contracts without defecting, an effort to eliminate the dangerous trafficking that had gone on for decades. By Michael Weissenstein and Ronald Blum. SENT: 1,100 words, photos.

With:

— BBO--CUBAN DEFECTIONS-HISTORY — By Noah Trister. SENT: 480 words, photos.

Also:

— BBA--ASTROS-BRANTLEY — By Kristie Rieken. SENT: 660 words, photos.

OLYMPICS

OLY--SEX ABUSE-SOLUTIONS

While Olympic powers struggle to put together a comprehensive list of bad actors and banned coaches in the wake of a wide-ranging sex-abuse crisis, an entrepreneur with a passion for youth sports is undertaking what could be an even more important task: helping families discover coaches who should be working with kids. By National Writer Eddie Pells. SENT: 820 words, photos.

SOCCER

SOC--MAN UNITED-SOLSKJAER’S CHALLENGE

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has landed his dream job as Manchester United manager after a whirlwind 24 hours, and it will take some time for the euphoria to fade. Once it does, it will quickly dawn on him just how big a challenge he has taken on. By Steve Douglas. SENT: 840 words, photos.

WINTER SPORTS

SKI--WCUP-WOMEN’S SUPER-G

SELVA DI VAL GARDENA, Italy — Slovenian skier Ilka Stuhec overcame an error in the middle of her run to win a World Cup super-G and sweep the speed races on the Saslong course. Following up her downhill victory from Tuesday, Stuhec finished a slim 0.05 seconds ahead of Tina Weirather of Liechtenstein and Nicole Schmidhofer of Austria, who tied for second. By Andrew Dampf. SENT: 660 words, photos.

Also:

— SKI--WCUP-MEN’S GS — SENT: 130 words, photos.

OTHER

— SWM--MISSY FRANKLIN RETIRES — SENT: 450 words, photos.

— OLY--ANTI-DOPING LEGISLATION — By National Writer Eddie Pells. SENT: 580 words, photos.

— SOF--MO’NE DAVIS-COLLEGE —SENT: 130 words, photo.

CAPSULES

— BKN--NBA CAPSULES

— HKN--NHL CAPSULES

— BKC--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

— BKW--T25-TOP 25 CAPSULES

___

Thursday Time Schedule (EST)

NBA

Houston at Miami, 8 p.m.

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

NHL

Minnesota at Pittsburgh, 7 p.m.

Detroit at Carolina, 7 p.m.

Anaheim at Boston, 7 p.m.

New Jersey at Columbus, 7 p.m.

Florida at Toronto, 7 p.m.

Nashville at Philadelphia, 7 p.m.

Chicago at Dallas, 8:30 p.m.

Montreal at Arizona, 9 p.m.

Tampa Bay at Calgary, 9 p.m.

St. Louis at Vancouver, 10 p.m.

N.Y. Islanders at Vegas, 10 p.m.

Winnipeg at San Jose, 10:30 p.m.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall vs. South Florida, 8 p.m.

TOP 25 BASKETBALL

Men

No. 2 Duke vs. No. 12 Texas Tech at Madison Square Garden, 7 p.m.

No. 21 Houston vs. Utah State, 8 p.m.

Women

No. 3 Louisville at Central Michigan, 7 p.m.

No. 4 Mississippi State at Washington, 10 p.m.

No. 5 Maryland at Delaware, 3 p.m.

No. 7 Oregon vs. Air Force, 2 p.m.

No. 11 Oregon State vs. Duke, 10 p.m.

No. 12 Texas at Texas-Rio Grande Valley, 8 p.m.

No. 17 Arizona State vs. Fresno State, 4 p.m.

No. 20 DePaul at Loyola of Chicago, 8 p.m.

No. 21 Gonzaga vs. Idaho, 9 p.m.

No. 22 Michigan State vs. FAU, 7 p.m.

No. 24 Miami vs. Vanderbilt at Warden Arena, Winter Park, Fla., 8:30 p.m.

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