National Sports Briefs
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. ó Rutgers and North Carolina State looked nothing like teams bound for bowls halfway through the 2008 season.
The Scarlet Knights of the Big East and the Wolfpack of the ACC survived terrible starts, then rode the their rejuvenated quarterbacks to late-season rallies and berths in the Papajohns.com Bowl.
Rutgers (7-5) takes a six-game winning streak into today’s game at Birmingham’s Legion Field. North Carolina State (6-6) closed the season with four straight wins, and needed every one to become bowl eligible.
It was also a roller coaster season for the Wolfpack, who were 2-6 after a 27-24 loss to Maryland on Oct. 25.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson led the revival for second-year coach Tom O’Brien’s team, passing for 1,769 yards and 16 touchdowns. He’s thrown 226 consecutive passes without an interception, a school record.
The strong finish has North Carolina State fans already anticipating a big 2009 season.
“I’m just excited about the bowl game. I’m just excited about going in here and playing against a Rutgers team that is playing real well right now,” Wilson said.
O’Brien has a personal streak of seven consecutive bowl victories, all with Boston College from 1997-2006.
After losing his first bowl game at Boston College, O’Brien said he changed the way his teams practiced and prepared for bowl games and has followed that pattern since.
“We got into a rhythm,” he said.
CLEVELAND ó Not even Dwyane Wade can humble the Cavaliers at home.
LeBron James scored 33 points ó four more than good buddy Wade, the NBA’s leading scorer ó and Cleveland remained the league’s only unbeaten team on its own floor with a 93-86 win over the Miami Heat on Sunday night.
Nuggets 117, Knicks 110
NEW YORK ó Carmelo Anthony scored 32 points after missing three games with a bruised right elbow, leading Denver over the defenseless Knicks.
Mavericks 98, Clippers 76
LOS ANGELES ó Josh Howard had 29 points, nine rebounds and a career-best seven assists, leading Dallas over Los Angeles
Hornets 105, Pacers 103
INDIANAPOLIS ó Chris Paul scored 11 points in the final 3:36 and David West made a 17-foot fadeaway jumper with 2.5 seconds remaining to help New Orleans rally for a victory.
ST. PAUL, Minn. ó Dustin Byfuglien led Chicago to its franchise-record ninth straight victory, scoring two goals and adding an assist in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 decision over the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night.
Bruins 2, Thrashers 1
ATLANTA ó Michael Ryder broke a tie with 6:04 left, and Boston won its eighth straight to tie San Jose for the overall NHL lead with 58 points.
Capitals 4, Maple Leafs 1
WASHINGTON (AP) ó Alex Ovechkin scored two goals, including the tiebreaker with 10 seconds left in the second period, Brooks Laich also scored twice, and Washington improved its home record to an Eastern Conference-best 15-1-1.
Ducks 4, Blues 3
ST. LOUIS ó Bobby Ryan scored on a power play with 7:11 to play, and Scott Niedermayer had a goal and an assist to help Anaheim snap a three-game losing streak.
Rob Niedermayer and Steve Montador also scored.
COLLEGE HOOPSMINNEAPOLIS (AP) ó Ralph Sampson III scored a career-high 17 points and Minnesota, off to its best start in 60 seasons, beat High Point to improve to 12-0.
Eugene Harris led High Point (4-8) with 18 points, and Steadman Short added 13.
Minnesota coach Tubby Smith beat his alma mater for the fourth time without a loss.
No. 10 Purdue 59, Valpo 45
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind ó E’Twaun Moore scored 14 points to help Purdue beat Valparaiso for its sixth consecutive victory.
No. 13 UCLA 78, La. Tech 55LOS ANGELES ó Josh Shipp returned from a two-game absence to score 16 points, and UCLA never trailed in beating outmanned Louisiana Tech.
Freshman guard Jrue Holiday added 12 points, a career-high 10 rebounds and five assists.