Wildcats (30-0)


As Kentucky exhaled after its first close call in a while, a Wildcats fan held up a sign that said it all: ”UK. The Unbeatables.”

Make it 30-0.

Facing the largest second-half deficit of its so-far perfect season, No. 1 Kentucky clamped down defensively, ripped off a 14-0 run and put away pesky Georgia 72-64 on Tuesday night to remain unbeaten heading into the regular-season finale.

”You have kids here who have a will to win, they believe they’re going to win, and they made the plays they needed to make,” coach John Calipari said.

The Wildcats, improving to 17-0 in the Southeastern Conference, had won their previous five games by an average of 24 points.

They were really challenged in this one by Georgia (19-10, 10-7), which had the sellout crowd roaring when Yante Maten tipped in a miss of his own shot on the second attempt to put the Bulldogs up 56-47 with just over 9 minutes remaining.

Kentucky has survived a few tight finishes along the way, most notably consecutive overtime wins over Mississippi and Texas A&M at the start of SEC play back in January. Twice this season, they have trailed by as many as 11 points, but both of those deficits were in the first half, when the Wildcats still had plenty of time to seize control.

Georgia, using its quickness to offset Kentucky’s huge size advantage, had the Wildcats on the ropes after Maten’s hustle play capped a 17-4 spurt.

Did losing cross their minds?

”We were never thinking about that,” freshman Karl-Anthony Towns said. ”We were just thinking what we needed to do at any given point to win the game.”

Andrew Harrison knocked down a 3-pointer from the corner to turn the tide, but Kentucky was still in some trouble when Nemanja Djurisic scored on the inside and Marcus Thornton hit two free throws to make it 62-56 with 5 1-2 minutes to go.

That was Georgia’s last gasp. The Wildcats began pounding the ball inside to the 6-foot-11 Towns, who managed to stay in the game until the closing seconds after picking up his fourth foul. He led the team with 19 points, all but two coming in the second half.

What the Duck???? Chip Kelly Gambles

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Chip Kelly’s latest bold move is another example of his coaching philosophy: “Culture beats scheme.”

Two people familiar with the deal told The Associated Press the Philadelphia Eagles have agreed to trade star running back LeSean McCoy to the Buffalo Bills for linebacker Kiko Alonso. Both people spoke under condition of anonymity on Tuesday because the teams had not announced the deal.

Kelly hasn’t won a playoff game in two seasons in the NFL, but he isn’t afraid to make unpopular decisions.

Last year, he cut three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver DeSean Jackson after a career season. Now, he’s trading away a two-time All-Pro for a talented but injury-prone player.

ESPN first reported the trade. It can’t be completed until the 2015 league season begins next Tuesday. McCoy, who played high school, college and pro football in Pennsylvania, could refuse to go to Buffalo.

Since taking full control of all personnel moves away from former general manager Howie Roseman in the offseason, Kelly has been busy reshaping a team that won 10 games in each of his first two seasons. He released longtime starting offensive lineman Todd Herremans and third-string tight end James Casey last week. He cut starting cornerback Cary Williams hours before the McCoy trade.

Trading McCoy is a big risk for Kelly, who firmly believes players in his system are replaceable. McCoy thrived in Kelly’s up-tempo offense in 2013, leading the NFL with a franchise-record 1,607 yards rushing. His production, along with the rest of the offense, slipped in 2014 and he finished with 1,319 yards. Inconsistency and injuries on the offensive line were a major factor.

It was never clear how much the 26-year-old McCoy and Kelly got along. McCoy said Kelly pushed him harder than any coach he had. “Chip is constantly on me,” McCoy said last August. Kelly later created a stir when he said McCoy sometimes practices “not so great.”

It is clear, however, that Kelly wants guys who buy everything he’s selling. He has a unique approach that includes practice on Tuesdays — an off day for every other team in the league — and tougher practices instead of walkthroughs the day before the game.

Whatever the relationship with Kelly, McCoy is gone. Kelly gets another player he’s quite familiar with in Alonso. The 24-year-old played for Kelly at Oregon. He had an outstanding rookie year after Buffalo selected him in the second round in 2013. But he tore the ACL in his left knee and missed the 2014 season. Alonso tore the ACL in his right knee at Oregon in 2010. He also had hip surgery last offseason.

Kelly could be gearing up to make a run at another one of his former players. Talk about Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota coming to the Eagles has dominated conversations in Philadelphia. The Eagles would have to trade up from No. 20 in the first round of the draft to get the Oregon quarterback, who is projected to go as high as No. 1 or 2.

A blockbuster deal to get Mariota was highly unlikely when Roseman was the GM because he values draft picks. But with Kelly calling the shots, anything is possible.

The Eagles currently have about $41 million available under the adjusted 2015 salary cap, so expect them to be quite active when free agency begins next week. They now need a new running back, two starting cornerbacks and plenty of defensive help.

Overall, they saved nearly $21 million under the salary cap on four moves: $7.5 million for McCoy, $6.5 million for Williams, $4 million for Casey and $2.8 million for Herremans. More money-saving cuts are expected. Releasing linebackers DeMeco Ryans ($6.9) and Trent Cole ($8.4 million) would save an additional $15.3 million.

Harden for MVP??


James Harden grabbed the NBA MVP on Sunday. Well, he grabbed four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, locking elbows with the Cleveland Cavaliers forward on a drive to the basket and refusing to let go while the referees awkwardly watched.

The play embodied this season for Harden, the Houston Rockets guard who has pushed, prodded and kicked his way to the front of the 2014-15 NBA MVP race. He took the lead for the first time in USA TODAY Sports’ weekly poll, edging Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry 50-49 in points.

That one-point margin at the top doesn’t begin to explain this tense race. Four players — Harden, Curry, James and New Orleans Pelicans forward Anthony Davis — received votes, while Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook was ahead of at least one of those players on nine of the 10 ballots. (Ten NBA journalists pick their top five, with points distributed on a 7-5-3-2-1 basis.)

This five-man race is the best we’ve had in at least nine seasons, since the 2005-06 scrum that ended with Steve Nash’s second Maurice Podoloff Trophy and a flurry of consternation. And with six weeks left in the season, each of these candidates has the opportunity to make the award theirs.

But mostly, it’s Harden vs. Curry. And choosing, for better or worse, seems to require a stance on basketball morals.

Harden is a professional jaywalker. He declared himself the best basketball player in the world before this season, and he has spent the year perfecting his acerbic style. The 6-5, 225-pound shooting guard flings himself into the lane, daring opponents to block his flailing shots without fouling him in the process. When he gets a clean look, he seems surprised. Flopping and offensive fouls are against the rules, but Harden knows their penalties and has accepted the risk of punishment. That bore out Monday, when he was suspended one game by the NBA for kicking James in the groin while on the ground.

His game is a shortcut, then, but it’s usually in the best of ways. Harden represents a culmination of trends in basketball analytics. Nearly 70% of his field goal attempts are either at the basket or behind the three-point arc, the kinds of high-yield shots advocated by Rockets general manager Daryl Morey. The result: An All-Star caliber talent has grown into an MVP front-runner.

He had his moment Sunday. He stood toe-to-toe with the best player in the world (yes, that’s still James), came out on top and even had the Rockets’ Twitter feed dub him “King James,” a direct shot fired at the Cavaliers star.

But Curry’s moments came against Harden. They came in a 4-0 sweep by the Warriors, particularly in the two games in Houston

…A New King james..??


James Harden has been putting up MVP-caliber numbers all season for the Houston Rockets.

Given the chance to go head to head with one of his biggest competitors for the award, Harden and the Rockets came out on top.

Harden scored 33 points and Cleveland star LeBron James missed a pair of free throws with 4.2 seconds left in overtime, helping the Rockets hold on for a 105-103 win over the Cavaliers on Sunday.

Harden dismissed any talk that the performance was some sort of statement about the league’s MVP award.

“Every game is a statement for me,” said Harden, who leads the NBA in scoring. “I’m just out here trying to prove myself — trying to win games.”

It’s worked well so far. Harden has led the Rockets to five straight wins, a 41-18 record and the third seed in the Western Conference with fellow star Dwight Howard out with a knee problem.

James hit a 3-pointer with 43.5 seconds left to get Cleveland within one. Harden and James got tangled up on Houston’s next possession, but no foul was called and the shot clock expired.

James drove into the lane and was fouled by Josh Smith, but he missed both free throws to finish 3 for 11 at the line.

“There is no excuse. I missed free throws,” James said. “I missed the two biggest ones of the game to put us up with seconds on the clock and I didn’t come through. I failed my teammates.”

Harden, who had his 26th 30-point game this season, added a free throw and Cleveland missed a 3 at the buzzer.

Wildcats (29-0)


Kentucky remains the unanimous No. 1 during a tumultuous week in The Associated Press Top 25.

The Wildcats (29-0) received all 65 first-place votes from a media panel on Monday.

Virginia remained at No. 2, but the next three spots changed after Gonzaga and Wisconsin lost.

Duke moved up one to No. 3, Villanova climbed two spots to No. 4 and Arizona was up two to No. 5.

Wisconsin dropped at spot to No. 6 and Gonzaga fell four places to No. 7.

Wichita State moved back into the top 10 at No. 8 and Kansas dropped to No. 9 after losing to Kansas State.

Maryland moved into the top 10 for the first time since 2003 and No. 25 Murray State is ranked for the first time since 2012.

Jordan -Billionaire


 Michael Jordan and two other NBA owners have joined Forbes’ annual list of the world’s billionaires.

Forbes released its list of billionaires on Monday and noted that Jordan’s net worth is estimated at $1 billion, thanks to his well-timed investment in the Charlotte Hornets.

Houston Rockets owner Leslie Alexander, with a net worth of $1.6 billion, and the Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf, worth $1.3 billion, also made the list.

The net worth of NBA franchise values increased this past year after the sale of Los Angeles Clippers to Steve Ballmer for $2 billion.

The 52-year-old Jordan, a Hall of Fame player who won six NBA championships with the Bulls, reached billionaire status last June, according to the magazine. This is his first year on Forbes’ annual list which typically is released in March