Undefeated San Diego St, Auburn rise in Top 25; Butler No. 6
San Diego State survived a big test by beating a talented Utah State team on the road. Auburn kicked off the SEC season by winning at Mississippi State for the third time in its last 18 tries.
As the calendar flipped to a new year, the Aztecs and Tigers are the only undefeated Division I teams left.
Both moved up in The Associated Press poll released Monday.
The top three spots remained unchanged. No. 1 Gonzaga received 54 first-place votes from a 65-member media panel, with No. 2 Duke getting nine and No. 3 Kansas two. Baylor was No. 4.
Auburn (13-0) climbed three spots to No. 5, its highest ranking since reaching No. 2 in 1999-00. San Diego State (15-0) moved up six places to No. 7, the Aztecs’ highest ranking since hitting No. 5 six years ago.
The Tigers have a new cast of characters this season after a surprising Final Four run a year ago. Even without Bryce Brown, Jared Harper and Chuma Okeke, Auburn has continued to find ways to win.
The Tigers blew through their nonconference schedule before opening SEC play at Humphrey Coliseum, where they’ve struggled since 2001. Auburn pulled away in the second half of the 80-68 victory and was led by J’Von McCormick, a bit player on last year’s team who scored 28 points.
Swat team: Lakers block 20 shots, hold off Pistons 106-99
LOS ANGELES (AP) — After Dwight Howard blocked Andre Drummond’s shot with a perfect combination of timing and athleticism, he wagged a Mutombo finger at the uproarious Staples Center crowd.
The rest of the Lakers took off on a fast break that left them with a double-digit lead over Detroit in the fourth quarter.
Although that lead vanished and the game got a whole lot scarier, the Lakers’ historically huge block party propelled them to another win.
LeBron James had 21 points, 14 rebounds and 11 assists, and Anthony Davis had eight of the Lakers’ 20 blocked shots in their fifth straight victory, 106-99 over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.
By the time the Lakers’ three big men were done swatting almost everything they could get their hands on, the Lakers had blocked more shots than any NBA team since March 2001.
“We were just protecting the paint,” said Davis, who finished two blocks shy of his career high. “Last game (against New Orleans), we gave up 60-something points in the paint. It’s something we don’t like doing, and we tried to make an emphasis tonight on protecting the paint.”
Clippers get 30-plus from 3 players, beat Knicks 135-132
LOS ANGELES (AP) — A day after a 26-point loss to Memphis in another matinee, the Clippers had a least three players score at least 30 points for the first time in franchise history.
Montrezl Harrell scored 34 points off the bench, reserve Lou Williams scored 32 to match starter Paul George, and Los Angeles beat the New York Knicks 135-132 on Sunday.
It was the first time in the Clippers’ history that three players scored at least 30 points. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the first time two players have scored 30 points off the bench in a regulation NBA game since the 1970-71 season.
“Montrezl and Lou were fantastic. History is good. Someone has to make it,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said.
Harrell didn’t say much after tying a career high and producing the seventh 30-point game of his four-year career. One day after saying the Clippers were “not a great team” following the embarrassment by Memphis, Harrell walked past reporters with a smile on his face and said, “You all have a good Sunday.”
AP source: Cowboys pick McCarthy to replace Garrett as coach
The Dallas Cowboys didn’t take long to settle on Mike McCarthy as their coach after waiting a week to announce they were moving on from Jason Garrett.
McCarthy, who won a Super Bowl at the home of the Cowboys nine years ago as Green Bay’s coach, has agreed to become the ninth coach in team history, a person with direct knowledge of the deal said Monday.
The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hasn’t announced the decision.
McCarthy interviewed over the weekend, before the Cowboys made the announcement Sunday that Garrett wouldn’t return after 9½ seasons.
Dallas missed the playoffs at 8-8 with high expectations in a make-or-break season for Garrett, whose contract expires next week.
LA Rams fire veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips
THOUSAND OAKS (AP) — Veteran defensive coordinator Wade Phillips has been fired by the Los Angeles Rams after three winning seasons.
Phillips announced Monday on Twitter that the Rams are not renewing his contract. The 72-year-old says he wants to stay in coaching.
The Rams finished 9-7 this season, missing the playoffs for the first time in Phillips’ three-year partnership with Sean McVay. Although Phillips’ distinctive 3-4 defense finished near the top of the NFL in many advanced metrics again this season, McVay has decided to shake up his coaching staff for a third consecutive offseason.
Phillips and the offense-minded McVay joined the Rams together in 2017, with the veteran coordinator serving as an experienced counterpoint and adviser to the youngest head coach in modern NFL history. Phillips also ran a defense that backstopped the Rams to 33 regular-season victories, two NFC West titles and four playoff games in three seasons.
The Rams won the NFC championship last season, and Phillips’ defense held New England to 13 points in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl ever. But McVay’s offense scored only three points against the Patriots, and its fall from the league’s elite continued this season.
Phillips’ defense remained largely solid this season, as it had been for his entire tenure in Los Angeles. Led by Aaron Donald, the Rams finished near the middle of the league this season in points and yards allowed, but the defense’s bad games were glaring debacles that inflated the statistics of an otherwise above-average unit.
Phillips has coached in the NFL since 1976, working for 11 franchises. The son of famed coach Bum Phillips was a head coach at Denver, Buffalo, Dallas, New Orleans, Atlanta and Houston.
Henrique, Getzlaf power Ducks to 5-4 SO win over Predators
ANAHEIM (AP) — The Anaheim Ducks started shooting early, and they never stopped. It was a successful formula, one they want to use more often.
Adam Henrique had two goals and an assist, Ryan Getzlaf got the deciding goal in the fifth round of the shootout and also had three assists, and the Ducks beat the Nashville Predators 5-4 Sunday night.
“I think it was another one of those things where we’re shooting the puck first, ask questions later,” said Henrique, who had his first three-point game of the season. “And I thought we got the chemistry going there. It was good, certainly good to get on the score sheet and a good night for us.”
Daniel Sprong had a power-play goal and an assist, and Cam Fowler also scored to help the Ducks end a three-game losing streak. John Gibson made 22 saves.
Craig Smith scored twice, and Rocco Grimaldi and Austin Watson each had a goal for the Predators, who have lost four of five. Juuse Saros made 43 saves.
Grimaldi, Smith help Predators beat Kings 4-1
LOS ANGELES (AP) — If the Nashville Predators are going to get back into playoff contention, star defenseman Roman Josi will likely lead the way.
Josi had two assists to extend his point streak to a career-high nine games, and Rocco Grimaldi and Craig Smith each had a goal and an assist to help the Predators beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-1 Saturday night to end a three-game losing streak.
“Obviously, we’re not happy with the way we’re playing the last three games, and yeah, it was a big win,” Josi said after tying Shea Weber for the longest point streak in franchise history by a defenseman. “And you saw it, everybody bought in, and that’s what we need.”
Ryan Johansen and Yakov Trenin also scored for Nashville, and Pekka Rinne made 23 saves.
Alex Iafallo scored on the power play and Jack Campbell made 34 saves for the Kings, who have lost five of seven.
AP-NORC poll: 66% favor endorsement money for NCAA athletes
As the NCAA grapples with how to provide athletes opportunities to be compensated for their fame, about two-thirds of Americans support college players being permitted to earn money for endorsements.
That’s according to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. Support for the NCAA allowing college athletes to cash in on their names, images and likenesses is especially high among young adults, as well as black Americans and Hispanics, though majorities of white Americans and older adults are also in favor.
NCAA officials and college sports leaders broadly agree, too.
“The opinions of the public in general are very important because they are reflected in the attitudes of universities, who are the ones that actually make the rules,” NCAA President Mark Emmert told AP.
How to make this work within the current framework of college athletics while also guarding against corruption in recruiting is what they are trying to sort out.
“That’s the challenge that we have,” Atlantic Coast Commissioner John Swofford said.
The NCAA board of governors voted in October to permit athletes to benefit from their names, images and likenesses, and directed its 1,100 member schools to have legislation ready for implementation by January 2021.