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National sports briefs: UNC plays at Arizona today

Associated Press

TUCSON, Ariz. — If you want to make Arizona point guard Mustafa Shakur laugh, ask him if he has any tickets for the 17th-ranked Wildcats’ showdown with No. 4 North Carolina today.

“Sometimes, random people on campus have said, ‘Hey, man, you got an extra ticket?’ ” Shakur said with a smile. “I say, ‘C’mon, man.’ ”

And don’t hit up forward Ivan Radenovic. He said he has had more than 30 requests for tickets, by far the most in his four years with the Wildcats.

“It’s crazy,” he said.

On a hoops-mad campus, this midwinter visit by a fabled Tobacco Road powerhouse has become one of the most anticipated games in McKale Center history. The game pits Hall-of-Fame coaches — Arizona’s Lute Olson and Carolina’s Roy Williams — with national championships on their resumes.

Williams agreed to the home-and-home series but isn’t sure it was a good idea to fly across the country in the middle of the grinding ACC season.

“If you’re just going to be concerned about your conference and how you’re doing that, it’s probably not the smartest thing to do,” he said. “But we do try to look at a bigger picture, a national television game against somebody like Arizona, it’s going to get a lot of attention, so it’s a positive thing.

“I have mixed emotions, but it must be OK or I wouldn’t continue to do it,” Williams said.


MELBOURNE, Australia — The logic goes like this: Fernando Gonzalez can beat Rafael Nadal, and Nadal has beaten Roger Federer. Why can’t Gonzalez upset Federer in the Australian Open final?

The facts go like this: Gonzalez is 0-9 against Federer.

Still, Gonzalez is not without hope Sunday against a No. 1 player who won three majors last year and is going for his 10th Grand Slam title.

Gonzalez has a strong forehand, plenty of nerve and a revitalized game under a new coach. He is ranked No. 10, and he’s not called Speedy for nothing.

Gonzalez overpowered Tommy Haas 6-1, 6-3, 6-1 in the semifinals Friday, winning the first 11 points and not making an unforced error in the first and third sets to reach his first Grand Slam final.

Federer routed No. 6 Andy Roddick 6-4, 6-0, 6-2 Thursday night, calling it his best match ever in Melbourne.


IRVING, Texas — San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips interviewed Friday with the Dallas Cowboys about replacing retired head coach Bill Parcells.

Phillips, the former head coach at Denver and Buffalo who also had interim stints in New Orleans and Atlanta, said he had a “very encompassing talk” with Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones.

Phillips has a 48-39 coaching record.

Jones also plans to talk to San Francisco offensive coordinator Norv Turner, a former head coach for Washington and Oakland, and New Orleans defensive coordinator Gary Gibbs. Both are former Dallas assistants.


RALEIGH — North Carolina State completed its coaching staff Thursday by hiring assistants Andy McCollum and Mike Reed.

McCollum, the former head coach at Middle Tennessee, will coach linebackers and Reed is leaving the Philadelphia Eagles’ staff to coach State’s defensive backs.


MOBILE, Ala. — Chris Leak won the national championship and Troy Smith bagged the Heisman Trophy.

Now they’re vying for NFL success.

After facing off for a national title nearly three weeks ago, the quarterbacks will share the field again today in the Senior Bowl and cap a weeklong NFL audition.

Florida’s Leak and Ohio State’s Smith are all about business, not one-upping each other.

“I don’t have anything to prove,” said Smith, who won the Heisman Trophy but lost the title game. “I have a lot to gain and (can) better myself. I have to just be myself. Hopefully that takes me a long ways. It’s taken me this far.”


ROUND ROCK, Texas — Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan was hospitalized Friday and in good condition with an undisclosed ailment, his son said.

The 59-year-old strikeout king checked into Round Rock Medical Center for treatment of recurring symptoms from a pre-existing medical condition, Reid Ryan said.


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