Was Kentucky the best team all along?

 

Aaron Harrison lifts Kentucky to Championship game.

Aaron Harrison lifts Kentucky to Championship game.

By Jake Chapman

ARLINGTON, Texas (UTC/The Loop/AP) — No, this was not an instant replay, though it certainly is turning into a highlight loop that Aaron Harrison and his Kentucky teammates could get used to watching.

Harrison took a pass from his twin brother, Andrew, spotted up from NBA range and watched the ball rattle in for the lead with 5.7 seconds left Saturday night to lift the Wildcats to a 74-73 victory over Wisconsin in the Final Four.

It was a near carbon copy of his game-winner last weekend in the regional final against Michigan. It was every bit as big as the 3 he made the game before that to help Kentucky take the lead for good in the Sweet 16 against Louisville.

“You can’t be scared to miss, and you want to be that guy that wants to take the big shots,” Aaron Harrison said.

“He has that clutch gene,” Wisconsin’s Sam Dekker said.

Traevon Jackson had a last-second shot to try to beat the Wildcats (29-10), but the desperation jumper rimmed out, and once again Harrison found himself at the bottom of a dog pile at center court. Sophomore Alex Poythress’ leg bent backward in the scrum. He was icing his left knee afterward but said he’d be OK for Monday’s final.

Eighth-seeded Kentucky will play seventh-seeded UConn — the highest seed total to play for the title since they started putting numbers by the names back in 1979. The Wildcats, who missed March Madness last year, haven’t lost a tournament game since the 2011 semifinal against UConn.

“I know how good they are, but I don’t know how they play,” Kentucky coach John Calipari said of his next opponent.

Second-seeded Wisconsin (30-8) set a Final Four record by going 95 percent from the free-throw line — 19 for 20. But that one miss cost the Badgers dearly. Jackson got Andrew Harrison to jump into him while attempting a 3-pointer with 16.4 seconds left. His first free throw rimmed out, and — after he made the next two — Wisconsin had a 73-71 lead and Kentucky had the ball.

Any doubt where it was going?

“Coach said wanted me to take the shot, my teammates have confidence in me, and I just fed off that,” Harrison said.

Against Louisville in the regional semifinal, Harrison was open in the corner when Julius Randle found him. He hit the go-ahead 3 with 39.1 seconds left on the way to a 74-69 win.

Two nights later, there were 2.3 seconds on the clock and Harrison was a few steps right of where he was Saturday when he took the pass from his brother. Michigan’s Caris LeVert hit Harrison’s hand as he shot from about 24 feet but the ball went in anyway. After that one, the freshman calmly backpedaled before his teammates reached him to congratulate.

This time, it was Josh Gasser in his face at around 25 feet — a big step back from where the NBA line would be. The ball clanged in and Harrison turned around and raised his hands over his head before running to the other end of the court.

A few minutes later, he was hugging his mom in the stands.

“He was pretty deep out there,” Gasser said. “He hadn’t really looked to pull up for a shot the entire game. I saw him start to rise up, and I tried to contest the best I could. I thought I did a good job, but he made another good shot.”

It was Harrison’s only attempt from 3 all night; the Wildcats went only 2 for 5 as a team.

James Young went to the rim hard in the first half and led Kentucky with 17 points. Randle finished with 16, but only five boards to snap his string of three straight double-doubles.

But Kentucky did damage in other ways on the inside, finding the answer for Wisconsin’s do-everything 7-footer, Frank Kaminsky, who was held to eight points and five rebounds.

Ben Brust and Dekker had 15 each for the Badgers, who came up a game short of their first appearance in the final since 1941.

Instead, it’s Kentucky going for its ninth national title and second in three years, with an almost completely rebuilt roster from 2012. It’s the way Calipari does it, like it or not, and it hasn’t all been easy sailing. The team that was ranked first in the preseason poll fell out of it completely for the start of March Madness.

Who wins it tonight: UCONN or Kentucky?

Only then, did the Wildcats start playing to their potential.

“They know I believe in them. Aaron knows,” Calipari said. “If you’ve watched us, we have a bunch of stars on this team.”

Harrison is the biggest of them in this tournament. If he chooses to leave after Monday, he’ll have first-round potential, though it won’t be his final numbers in this game — eight points, three rebounds — that will impress the scouts as much as his final shot.

“He was smiling, like he knew he was going to make it,” Andrew Harrison said. “He’s a big-time player. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Virginia, Tennessee cruise to Sweet 16.

By Jake Chapman

 

Chattanooga, TN (AP/The Loop) — The ACC’s national championship hopes now come down to one school: Virginia.

Meanwhile, Tennessee — one of the three SEC schools still in the field — came to Tobacco Road and turned it into Raleigh Top.

The Cavaliers and Volunteers cruised into the NCAA tournament’s round of 16 with lopsided victories Sunday night: Tennessee routed Mercer 83-63 before Virginia beat Memphis 78-60.

No. 11 seed Tennessee (24-12) will play second-seeded Michigan in a Midwest Regional semifinal Friday night in Indianapolis.

Virginia (30-6), the top seed in the East Region, will face fourth-seeded Michigan State in a semifinal that night in New York.

The Volunteers and Cavaliers restored some semblance of order after an unpredictable first day in the heart of ACC country.

It began Friday when Mercer beat Duke for the signature upset of the tournament, included Tennessee’s 19-point victory over Massachusetts and continued through Memphis’ tight win over George Washington.

The Vols had an easy time beating those Bears on Sunday and ended Mercer’s pursuit of a second straight Sweet 16 appearance for a tournament darling from the low-major Atlantic Sun Conference.

With “Rocky Top” echoing throughout PNC Arena all night, Tennessee outrebounded the Bears 41-19 — 24-4 in the first half — led by Jarnell Stokes, who broke the school’s NCAA tournament rebounding record he set two days earlier against Massachusetts.

Stokes had 17 points and a career-high-tying 18 rebounds against Mercer, after grabbing 14 boards against UMass.

“Any time we have Jeronne (Maymon) and Jarnell wearing Tennessee orange,” teammate Jordan McRae said, “we always feel like we have the advantage.”

Tennessee’s win helped the football-first SEC improve to 7-0 in this tournament. The Vols joined No. 1 overall seed Florida and Kentucky in the regional semifinals.

“I’ve been hearing that the SEC has been a football conference for a long time, but I don’t know how you can still say that when you’ve got three SEC schools in the Sweet 16,” McRae said.

Mercer was trying to match last year’s Florida Gulf Coast team in parlaying an Atlantic Sun title into a spot in the NCAA tournament’s second weekend, and become the first No. 14 seed to make the round of 16 since Chattanooga in 1997.

But the senior-laden Bears (27-9) trailed by double figures for the entire second half and couldn’t conjure another fantastic finish.

“I think hopefully by the time (reality) sets in, we’ll all be able to put a smile on and realize that what we’ve been able to do at our school, and for the city, has been phenomenal,” forward Jakob Gollon said. “It’s kind of hard to see right now.”

Mercer’s win over Duke was the most surprising in a series of losses this weekend for the ACC, which has only one team left standing — and it’s not traditional power North Carolina or heavyweight newcomer Syracuse.

“Lot of pride” in that, guard Malcolm Brogdon said.

The league champion Cavaliers were in control throughout against Memphis, leading by 15 at halftime and going up by 27 late while earning their first regional semifinal appearance since 1995.

Joe Harris scored 16 points and Anthony Gill added 13 for the Cavaliers, who hold a No. 1 seed for the first time since Ralph Sampson wore orange and blue.

Austin Nichols scored 15 points for the Tigers (23-10), whose season ended on the opening weekend of the tournament for the fourth straight year.

“Virginia came out, played Virginia basketball, out-toughed us, out-aggressived us,” Memphis guard Goren Johnson said. “They made shots. Every time we made a mistake, they capitalized on it with a bucket. There’s no excuses.”

___

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Mayor Berke’s Pension Plan Makes It Through First Reading

By Jake Chapman 

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (UTC/ The Loop-Chattanooga) The City Council ok the new pension reform plan for the fire and police department proposed by Mayor Andy Berke in the first reading.

“As many of you know, we’ve been sued by a number of employees with regards to problems that we have in our police department with pay issues,” Berke told the council. “But we are able to look at retirees in the eye and tell them they are going to get the benefits that they expect.”

The proposed pension plan will end up saving the taxpayers of Chattanooga over $227 million over the next 26 years. Berke’s pension plan will be able to secure retirement from their pension holders such as employees of the Chattanooga Fire and Police Department.

Mayor Berke discusses new pension plan to press.

Mayor Berke discusses new pension plan to press.

Berke mentioned that this new pension plan has brought together many new stockholders and groups. Both of which have united in order to get this plan under way and benefit the firefighters and police officers of Chattanooga.

Such a proposal is favored by the majority of the Chattanooga City Council, receiving a unanimous vote at the recent City Council meeting. The new pension plan will have to go through more readings and votes in order for it to be placed in effect.

Majority of the people of Chattanooga are excited about the new pension plan and are happy that the city’s employees will finally receive the benefits that they deserve;but some are still questioning whether or not this plan is going to last long.

“This solution is set to where we don’t have to have this conversation in the future. When I took office, I wasn’t able to tell people you’re going to get the benefits that you expect. By making this change tonight, we are able to tell people ‘Yes. In fact, this will be secure in the long run.’”

Berke believes that in order for the people who work for the Fire and Police Department of Chattanooga and receive the benefits that they were promised, then some changes will have to be made.

The pension plan is set to begin as soon as it is set by the Board and will run until June 30, 2015. Beginning July 1, 2015, and continuing until June 30, 2016, each Member will be assessed a contribution to the Fund in an amount, fixed by majority vote of the Board, not less than ten percent (10%) of the Member’s Base Salary. Eventually, each board member will give 1/10th of their salary to the pension to make the pension more stable.

 

The pension plan has been approved on the first round of reading, but will not go into effect until after the next few readings. The new pension plan will have to go through more readings and votes in order for it to be placed in effect.

Phillip Seymour Hoffman: A Great Actor and Friend

PHILIP-SEYMOUR-HOFFMAN-02By Jake Chapman

 

NEW YORK (UTC/The Loop)(AP) — He was only 46, busy as ever and secure in his standing as one of the world’s greatest actors.

There were no dissenters about the gifts and achievements of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose death Sunday in New York brought a stunning halt to his extraordinary and unpredictable career.

An Oscar winner and multiple nominee, Hoffman could take on any character with almost unnerving authority, whether the religious leader in command of his every word in “The Master,” a trembling mess in “Boogie Nights,” or the witty, theatrical Truman Capote in “Capote.”

Fearless in his choices, encyclopedic in his preparation, he was a Shakespearean performer in modern dress, bringing depth and variety to charlatans, slackers, curmudgeons and loners.

“Hearing that Philip Seymour Hoffman passed away came as much as a shock to me as to anyone else I’d imagine,” says Anton Corbijn, director of “A Most Wanted Man,” one of two films (the other being “In God’s Pocket”) starring Hoffman that premiered last month at the Sundance Film Festival.

He was not only the most gifted actor I ever worked with,” Corbijn added, “…he had also become an incredibly inspiring and supportive friend.”

Friends, peers, family members and his countless fans were in grief after Hoffman was found in his Greenwich Village apartment with what law enforcement officials said was a syringe in his arm.

The two officials told The Associated Press that glassine envelopes containing what was believed to be heroin were also found with Hoffman. Those items are being tested.

  • 8 Glassine envelopes were found with Hoffman; 6 empty, 2 filled with what’s believed to be heroin.
  • 50 packets of heroin were found in Hoffman’s apartment.
  • 4 men have been arrested under the suspicion that they sold Hoffman the heroin.
  • Hoffman was found by screenwriter Andy Katz and his personal assistant Isabella Wing-Davey.

The law enforcement officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak about evidence found at the scene, said the cause of death was believed to be a drug overdose.

Police will only say the investigation is continuing. An autopsy is planned for Monday, according to medical examiner spokeswoman Julie Bolcer.

Besides his Oscar win for “Capote,” the stage-trained Hoffman received four Academy Awards nominations and several nominations for theater awards, including three Tonys. He was equally acclaimed and productive, often appearing in at least two to three films a year, while managing an active life in the theater. He had been thriving for more than 20 years and no one doubted that a long, compelling run awaited him.

Like Laurence Olivier or Meryl Streep, his appeal was not bound by age or appearance or personality. He was not an actor whom audiences turned to for youth and romance. Heavy set with a lumpy build and limp, receding blond hair, he was a character actor with the power to play the lead, in movies that screened in both art houses and multiplexes.

“No words for this. He was too great and we’re too shattered,” said Mike Nichols, who directed Hoffman in “Charlie Wilson’s War” and on stage in “Death of a Salesman.”

Hoffman spoke candidly over the years about past struggles with drug addiction. After 23 years sober, he admitted in interviews last year to falling off the wagon and developing a heroin problem that led to a stint in rehab.

The law enforcement officials said Hoffman’s body was discovered in a bathroom at his Greenwich Village apartment by a friend who made the 911 call and his assistant.

Late Sunday, crime-scene technicians carrying brown paper bags went in and out of Hoffman’s building as officers held back a growing crowd of onlookers.

Hoffman’s family called the news “tragic and sudden.”

“We are devastated by the loss of our beloved Phil and appreciate the outpouring of love and support we have received from everyone,” the family said in a statement.

With a range and discipline more common among British performers than Americans, Hoffman was convincing whether comic or dramatic, loathsome or sympathetic, powerless or diabolical.

In one of his earliest movie roles, he played a spoiled prep school student in “Scent of a Woman” in 1992. A breakthrough came for him as a gay member of a porno film crew in “Boogie Nights,” one of several movies directed by Paul Thomas Anderson that Hoffman would eventually appear in. He played comic, off-kilter characters in “Along Came Polly” and “The Big Lebowski.” He bantered unforgettably with Laura Linney as squabbling siblings in “The Savages.” He was grumpy and idealistic as rock critic Lester Bangs in “Almost Famous.” He was grumpy and cynical as baseball manager Art Howe in “Moneyball.”

In “The Master,” he was nominated for a 2013 Academy Award for best supporting actor for his role as the charismatic, controlling leader of a religious movement. The film, partly inspired by the life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, reunited the actor with Anderson.

He also received a 2009 supporting nomination for “Doubt,” as a priest who comes under suspicion because of his relationship with a boy, and a best supporting actor nomination for “Charlie Wilson’s War,” as a CIA officer.

Many younger moviegoers know him as the scheming Plutarch Heavensbee in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and he was reprising that role in the two-part sequel, “The Hunger Games: Mockingjay,” for which his work was mostly completed. The films are scheduled for November 2014 and November 2015 releases.

Just weeks ago, Showtime announced Hoffman would star in “Happyish,” a new comedy series about a middle-aged man’s pursuit of happiness.

Born in 1967 in Fairport, N.Y., Hoffman was an athletic boy, but a neck injury sustained while wrestling ended any hopes for a career in sports. He soon became interested in acting, mesmerized at 12 by a local production of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.” He studied theater as a teenager with the New York State Summer School of the Arts and the Circle in the Square Theatre. He then majored in drama at New York University.

In his Oscar acceptance speech for “Capote,” he thanked his mother for raising him and his three siblings alone, and for taking him to his first play. Hoffman’s parents divorced when he was 9.

On Broadway, he took on some of the stage’s most ambitious parts — Willy Loman in “Death of a Salesman,” Jamie in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” and both leads in “True West.” All three performances were Tony nominated.

Last year, Hoffman crossed to the other side of the footlights to direct Bob Glaudini’s “A Family for All Occasions” for the Labyrinth Theatre Company, where he formerly served as co-artistic director. Hoffman has also directed “Jesus Hopped the A Train” and “Our Lady of 121st Street” for the company and received Drama Desk Award nominations for both productions.

Hoffman is survived by his partner of 15 years, Mimi O’Donnell, and their three children.

___

Associated Press writers Tom Hays and Deepti Hajela, AP film writer Jake Coyle and AP Drama Writer Mark Kennedy in New York, and Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Coach K Gets 900th Win at Duke

 

By Jake Chapman

DURHAM, N.C. (AP/UTC The Loop) — Rodney Hood scored 18 points to help No. 18 Duke beat Florida State 78-56 on Saturday, giving Hall of Fame coach Mike Krzyzewski his 900th victory at the school.

Jabari Parker added 14 points for the Blue Devils (16-4, 5-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who won their fourth straight game and extended the nation’s longest active home winning streak to 28 games. Duke used an 11-0 run late in the first half to build a 20-point lead and never let the Seminoles get the margin back to single digits again.

Duke won despite shooting 31 percent, but converted 17 FSU turnovers into 29 points and dominated the offensive glass to score 29 second-chance points against the Seminoles (13-6, 4-3).

VKFZEAFGHLUUMBH.20140125201955

Coach Krzyzewski shows emotion as Duke starts to rally.

Krzyzewski is the all-time leader in career victories in men’s Division I with 973. He joins Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim as the only coaches with at least 900 wins at one program.

Okaro White scored 14 points for Florida State, which shot 50 percent but couldn’t protect the ball or keep the Blue Devils off the boards. Duke finished with a 47-24 rebounding advantage, including 27-7 on the offensive glass.

FSU, which won in its last trip here on a last-second 3-pointer two years ago, led by one point for about 1 minute in the first half. But key scorer Aaron Thomas, who was coming off a 20-point effort against Notre Dame, finished with two points on 1-for-7 shooting before fouling out with 5:13 left.

It wasn’t a vintage Duke performance. Krzyzewski was animated and often unhappy with his team in the early minutes, slamming down a chair during an early timeout and shedding his suit jacket by the 12-minute media timeout.

Then, after Duke looked to be in cruise control, the Blue Devils went nearly 7½ minutes without a basket in the second half. They stayed in control by hitting free throws after FSU got as close as 11 points on Montay Brandon’s layup with 6:51 to play. Quinn Cook ended the drought with a driving basket that made it 71-54 with 3:25 left.

Duke made 34 of 43 free throws for the game, including 20 of 27 after halftime to offset a 6-for-27 shooting performance (22 percent) in the second half.

Hood was a last-second scratch from the starting lineup. Krzyzewski said Hood was sick, though Hood told reporters he had to change after spilling Gatorade on his uniform. Hood missed his first five shots, but he scored 14 points after halftime.

Duke also got a boost from reserve big man Marshall Plumlee, who posted career-highs of seven points and seven rebounds — with each rebound coming on the offensive glass.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

49ers Crabtree Brings New Element to Seahawks Rematch

By Jake Chapman

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Ap/UTC The Loop) — Michael Crabtree only had three catches for 26 yards in San Francisco’s 23-10 NFC divisional playoff win over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday.

His numbers, however, hardly told the whole story of his contribution.

The 49ers (14-4) made it seven straight wins since Crabtree returned from a torn Achilles on Dec. 1.

Anquan Boldin said Crabtree was one of the reasons he was able to spring free and catch eight passes for 136 yards, saying the Panthers turned their attention to double-covering Crabtree after his big game the previous week in a wild-card win at Green Bay.

“I guess they thought they were going to try and take Crab out of the game,” Boldin said. “That’s the good part about our offense — we have weapons all around. Try and take one guy out, we still have two, three guys left who can make big plays.”

The Panthers did a number on the 49ers in the last meeting.

They limited Kaepernick to 91 yards passing, 16 yards rushing and sacked him six times in a 10-9 win over the 49ers on Nov. 10.

But that was without Crabtree.

“It makes me very comfortable,” Kaepernick said of having his full complement of receivers. “It opens the offense up. It spreads the defense out and they can’t just key in on one player.”

All that stands in the way of the 49ers returning to the Super Bowl is beating the Seahawks in Seattle next Sunday.

That’s no easy task.

Seattle beat the 49ers 29-3 this season, although that was without Crabtree in the lineup.

“Honestly we know it’s going to be a fight,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “Any way you look at it Seattle is a good football team. They won our division this year. Hopefully we can have a great week of practice and go up there and win the game that counts the most. We look forward to it. We are embracing it.”

Five things we learned from San Francisco’s 23-10 win over Carolina:

EXPERIENCE MATTERS: The 49ers have been to the playoffs before and it showed.

The 49ers kept their composure while the Panthers struggled with mental errors. Carolina was penalized eight times for 73 yards including two unnecessary roughness penalties and an unsportsmanlike conduct.

In all the 49ers picked up five first downs on Carolina penalties.

“Guys played smart,” Boldin said. “We played right up to the edge. In these games, you don’t want to hurt your team. That’s the thing you don’t want to do. You saw guys out there taking swings at guys. That’s just stupid.”

Said Panthers coach Ron Rivera: “We have to learn and understand (that) we have to maintain our composure — and that falls on me.”

OFFICIATING QUESTIONED: Several Panthers expressed concern over the officiating in Sunday’s game.

Safety Mike Mitchel took exception to a couple of calls, including the officials’ decision to penalize teammate Captain Munnerlyn for head-butting Crabtree in the first half, but not throwing a flag when Boldin did the same thing to him later on.

“I mean, it’s just ridiculous. A couple of things that weren’t called the same way,” Mitchell said. “I made a good play taking his legs out and he’s gets up in my face and head butts me, which is the same exact thing that you saw Captain Munnerlyn do. … I mean, it was the exact same play. One team gets the call, another team doesn’t.”

Mitchell also disputed an unnecessary roughness penalty called on him when he hit Vernon Davis after a tipped pass. That penalty, like the one on Munnerlyn, led to San Francisco field goals.

STEVE SMITH IS TOUGH: We knew this, of course, but Steve Smith is one tough guy.

The Panthers 34-year-old receiver battled back from a sprained knee ligament and had four catches for 74 yards and a touchdown despite not being close to 100 percent.

49ERS CAN RUN IT TOO: They aren’t the New England Patriots, but the 49ers proved again they can run the football in the playoffs. Frank Gore ran for 84 yards on 17 carries and San Francisco racked up 126 yards against the league’s second-ranked defense.

HARBAUGH CAN COACH: Jim Harbaugh continues to make the right calls in the postseason. Harbaugh became the first NFL coach since the AFL-NFL merger to lead his team to the conference championship game in each of his first three seasons as a coach.

Even though Harbaugh ran on the field during a play to argue a call and cost his team 15 yards, his players said they have his back.

“He’s passionate,” Kaepernick said. “I can’t be mad at him for trying to get a call and trying to get things right. He’s a great coach to play for.”

___

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.