National Sports Headlines from NBC Sports

SOCHI: Bowman wins halfpipe gold as Canadian skier is remembered

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Sarah Burke's parents looked up the hill and saw the halfpipe workers making one last trip down in the formation of a heart.

They looked the other direction and saw the scoreboard: Maddie Bowman of the United States won gold, Marie Martinod of France took silver and Ayana Onozuka of Japan took bronze.

All around them Thursday, Burke's parents saw their late daughter's dreams play out on a crisp, clear night in the mountains above Sochi -- a night her dad, Gord Burke, called "perfect." His daughter had succeeded not only in bringing women's halfpipe skiing to the Olympics, but also to the world.

"Far beyond what I thought it would be," said Gord Burke, who traveled to Russia from Toronto and spent the entire night smiling. "I never really imagined so much love for one person. So much passion and energy."

Burke was the Canadian freeskiing icon -- a four-time winner of the Winter X Games -- who fought hard, first to get women involved in her sport, then to take it to the highest level.

"If she wasn't skiing in the pipe, progressing the sport, she was talking to the right people and sending the right emails," said Burke's husband, Rory Bushfield. "Gracefully is how she did it."

The International Olympic Committee added halfpipe and slopestyle skiing to the program in 2011. Less than a year later, Burke died after suffering fatal injuries during a training run in the halfpipe. She was 29 and would have almost certainly been the favorite in this event had she been here.

This was still her night, and none of the 23 skiers who dropped into the pipe could argue with that.

Including the gold-medal winner, Bowman. The 20-year-old from South Lake Tahoe, Calif., felt like an outsider when she started in the sport and called meeting Burke "the coolest moment of my life."

"The first time she met Sarah, she was off by herself," said Bowman's mom, Susan. "Sarah saw that she was by herself and brought her over, introduced herself and brought her into the group. It was pretty amazing."

The silver medalist, Martinod, quit the sport seven years ago. She had a daughter, Melirose, and worked at a nightclub back home in France. One day about three years ago, Burke came knocking on her door, telling her she needed to un-retire, because the show was going to the Olympics and she wanted to make sure all the best women were there.

"I'm thinking of Sarah every day," said the 29-year-old Frenchwoman, who painted snowflakes on her fingernails to match the tattoo Burke had on her foot. "I think I didn't say goodbye to Sarah yet and I still have to do it, and now I feel I'm able to do it because I did what she asked me to do."

The bronze medalist, Onozuka, was an Alpine skier before Burke helped get her version of freestyle skiing into the Olympics. That opened up opportunities in Japan, which has won three medals in the halfpipe at the Sochi Games -- the other two came in men's snowboarding.

"I decided to take up a new profession," Onozuka said.

Burke's mom, Jan Phelan, wore a bright purple jacket over an aqua T-shirt that said "Dream Without Fear" -- a credo the family uses to promote the Sarah Burke Foundation, which funds winter sports athletes who need a boost.

For a while now, Bushfield, Phelan and Gord Burke have known this trip was coming. They didn't hesitate to make it.

"It was Sarah's dream to be here, so, we're here," Phelan said. "The halfpipe is opening for the women and I miss her like crazy. It really hasn't been too hard until right now. The moment."

Burke's father spent the contest shifting attention between the action in the halfpipe to the people who came to meet him and shake his hand. He shared stories, including a few about the early days, when his daughter would head to men-only contests and ask, politely, if she could sign up.

"They'd say, `We'd love to have you but we can't give you a girl's event if there are no girls," Burke said. "So, she'd ski against the guys. Then, she'd be out there encouraging her friends to get involved. She just had that dream that the girls could have fun out there, too."

They had fun Thursday night. Bowman was the star.

Her runs were technically precise and high flying. The winning score of 89 came thanks to one straight-air jump more than 10 feet above the halfpipe, followed by a pair of 900-degree spins, along with two 720-degree spins, one of which she landed backward.

But the most winning moment may have come a few minutes after her first run, when one of Bowman's main competitors, American Brita Sigourney, fell hard and scraped her face on the bottom of the pipe, leaving a nasty gash in her nose. Sigourney's coaches and medical staff rushed out to help her. Rushing up right behind them in her ski boots was the woman wearing bib No. 2 -- Bowman.

"I think all the girls came out here and showed the world who we are and what we do," she said. "I think everyone should be proud of that tonight."

Long after Bowman had sealed her win and the music and the fanfare had ebbed, Burke's parents lingered in the stands, going over the evening.

The consensus: A beautiful night.

"The spirit here was so good," Phelan said. "Sarah would've loved it."

SOCHI: Russian Sotnikova wins gold in women's figure skating

SOCHI, Russia -- Russia's cupboard was so bare of world-class female figure skaters that the sport's most dominant nation had to turn to the kids a few years ago.

Among those youngsters was Adelina Sotnikova, who won a national championship in 2009, when she was just 12.

She was too young to compete at the 2010 Olympics. When she finally got to the games this year, she was overshadowed by an even younger teammate. But on Thursday night, the 17-year-old Sotnikova looked comfortable and unburdened by the pressure of the host nation, becoming Russia's first gold medalist in women's Olympic figure skating.

In the signature moment of the games for Russians, Sotnikova defeated defending champion Yuna Kim of South Korea. Both women skated nearly flawless programs, but Sotnikova completed one more decisive triple jump.

"I first dreamed to be at the Olympics after the nationals in 2010," Sotnikova said. "And when I watched the games in Vancouver, I really wanted to qualify for the next games. I knew it won't be easy. There are so many new talented girls around."

Well, not really in Russia. Not until Sotnikova and 15-year-old Julia Lipnitskaia developed into junior world champions.

And while much-heralded Lipnitskaia was stumbling in Sochi, Sotnikova soared. When she won the free skate, she further confirmed Russian command of the sport.

"This is the happiest day in my life," Sotnikova said. "I simply stepped on the ice today and realized how much I like what I'm doing and skated really good."

The Russians have won three figure skating gold medals at these Olympics: women's, pairs and team.

Sotnikova did not skate in the team event, and that provided incentive for her in the individual competition.

"When I found out that I was not in the team, it was hurtful. I felt ugly inside," she said. "Maybe it is all for the best -- an advantage for me to make me so mad."

Sotnikova was considered a long shot against the likes of Kim, who announced her retirement after the free skate; Italy's Carolina Kostner, who took bronze; Japan's Mao Asada; and even Americans Gracie Gold and Ashley Wagner.

But she won it all, giving Russia or the Soviet Union 27 Olympic gold medals in the sport. They own five men's golds, 13 in pairs, seven in ice dance, and took the first team event this year.

Sotnikova was watching the scores on a monitor in the media area when she realized she won. She ran waving her arms in the air before finding her coach for a warm hug. When she got onto the podium for the flower ceremony, to raucous chants of "Ro-ssi-ya," she jumped up and down like a teenager whose Olympic goal had come true.

"It's the Olympics. And it was a long way for me," she said. "To compete at the Olympic Games, I dreamed of any medal, but frankly speaking, I wanted a gold one."

Lipnitskaia was fifth.

"I wanted to skate my best today but it didn't work," she said. "I've lost control over my jumps- tiredness and emotions."

Asada was third in the free skate after finishing 16th in Wednesday's short program and wound up sixth.

Sotnikova trailed Kim by just .28 going into Thursday, and she overcame that by winning the free skate 149.95 to Kim's 144.19. The final totals were 224.59 for Sotnikova, 219.11 for Kim and 216.73 for Kostner.

Skating last, Kim needed a repeat of her Vancouver performance to hold onto the gold. She nailed six triple jumps, one less than Sotnikova, and Kim's artistry couldn't make up the difference.

"At that time I could die for gold in the Olympics," she said of 2010. "But that desire, that strong wish, was not as present. The motivation was a problem, I think."

Gold finished fourth, Wagner seventh and 15-year-old American Polina Edmunds ninth.

Wagner didn't complain about her score, but criticized a scoring system that invites skepticism. Nine judges score each skater, and the individual judges' scorecards are not released.

"People do not want to watch a sport where they see someone skate lights out and they can't depend on that person to be the one who pulls through," Wagner said. "We've all been on the receiving end of it, and we've all been on the side where you don't really get the benefit of the doubt. People need to be held accountable.

"They need to get rid of the anonymous judging."

Kostner, 27, skated to the sport's iconic musical piece "Bolero." From beginning to end, she owned the music -- and by the finish, she owned much of the crowd, too.

She patted her heart when she was done, and her 142.61 was a season's best.

"This medal is absolutely worth gold," said the first Italian to win an Olympic figure skating singles medal. "I will cherish it in my heart. It feels so great that patience and sacrifice and hard work and faith are paid at the end."

Sotnikova, whose interpretation marks surpassed Kostner's but not Kim's, skated a routine filled with action and pace, and she hit seven triple jumps. There wasn't much interaction with the music, but the energy sold the program.

That left only Kim with a shot at gold. She couldn't match the feat of Katarina Witt or Sonja Henie, who both won back-to-back Olympic titles.

To chants of "Jul-i-a, Jul-i-a," Lipnitskaia took the ice first in the last group, knowing her chances to win were ruined with a fall in the short program. Again she struggled in the second half of her routine, stepping out of one jump and falling on another. She showed little emotion when she finished, in direct contrast to when she helped Russia win the team gold.

With a slight frown, she left the ice, waved weakly to the crowd from the kiss-and-cry area, and wound up fifth, far below expectations.

But Sotnikova made up for it for Russia.

SOCHI: Canada women stun US women, take hockey gold

SOCHI, Russia -- The puck skittered the length of the ice on its way toward the empty Canadian net before clanging off the post and stopping in front of the crease.

It was -- for a few more seconds, at least -- still a one-goal game.

Then Marie-Philip Poulin scored with 54.6 seconds left in regulation, completing Canada's comeback from a two-goal deficit and sending the game into overtime. Once there, she added the gold medal-winning goal to beat the United States 3-2 -- the fourth consecutive Olympic women's hockey title for the sport's birthplace.

"I think it always gets better, for sure," Poulin, who also scored twice in the Vancouver final four years ago, said Thursday night with her second gold medal draped around her neck. "It's so hard to get here and to bring it back (home) is amazing."

Shannon Szabados made 27 saves for Canada, which has won 20 straight Olympic games since the Nagano final in 1998. That was the only gold medal for the United States, which lost in the Olympic final to Canada in all three tries since then and earned a bronze in 2006.

Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter scored for the Americans. Jesse Vetter made 28 saves, shutting the powerful Canadians down for 56 minutes, 34 seconds before Brianne Jenner knocked a seemingly harmless shot off a defender's knee and into the net.

With Szabados pulled for an extra skater, U.S. forward Kelli Stack sent a clearing shot down the ice, missing a potential game-clinching empty-net goal by inches.

Even after insisting her confidence never wavered, Canada defenseman Jocelyne Larocque's eyes grew wide when asked about the near clincher.

"I was freaked out at that point," she said. "It hit the post and I went, `You know, it happened for a reason. We're going to get that goal."

Stack said she could see the puck had the wrong angle, but she didn't worry because the U.S. still had a 2-1 lead with just over a minute to play.

About 30 seconds later, with the goalie still off, Poulin tied it and sent the game into overtime.

"It would have given us a bigger cushion," said Stack, who played at Boston College. "I've done that once before in college, and it's the worst feeling in the world."

After six tense minutes of the extra period, the U.S. picked up a power play when Catherine Ward was sent off for cross-checking. But five seconds later, Jocelyne Lamoureux was called for slashing for swiping at the Szabados' pads after a save.

And during a sloppy player change by the Americans, five-time Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser got free on a breakaway before Hilary Knight caught her from behind and she went sprawling.

It could have been called a penalty shot.

It could have been no call. (Knight denied making any contact at all. And, when asked about the officiating, U.S. coach Katey Stone issued only a terse, "No comment.")

But Knight was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking. With the 4-on-3 advantage, the Canadians worked the puck around and over to Poulin, who knocked it into the open net and set off the celebration on the bench and among the Maple Leaf-waving fans.

"Unfortunately, when you let other factors come in, it can bounce either way. That's what happened today," Knight said. "It's heartbreaking, and you go four years, and you think you've got the game in the bag, and something happens. It's unfortunate, but this group has represented our country at an outstanding level. So can't really be too heartbroken about it."

Switzerland beat Sweden earlier Thursday for the bronze medal at the Bolshoy Ice Dome, where the women moved after playing the preliminaries at the smaller Shayba Arena next door. Switzerland goalie Florence Schelling, who led the tournament with 253 saves in six games, was named Most Valuable Player.

The 10,639 fans at the final included the Canadian men's team that completed a sweep the hockey gold medals in Vancouver four years ago. The Canadian women also beat their southern neighbors three times in a pre-Olympic tour this fall before coach Dan Church quit unexpectedly in December and the Americans won four straight times heading into the Olympics.

Then, in a rare round-robin matchup between the sports' two top powers, the Canadians won 3-2. They extended their Olympic winning streak over the U.S. to four consecutive games.

"For us, it's just a great feeling," said coach Kevin Dineen, who replaced Church. "And for me, it's even more special because it's the first one."

Less than 24 hours before the Canadians and Americans were to meet in the same rink in the men's semifinals, fans wearing Maple Leaf sweaters and Stars and Stripe scarves tried to outshout each other -- with a healthy number of locals chanting "Ro-ssi-ya!" for their long-departed hockey teams.

The pro-Canada crowd grew louder after the first goal, but the second one quieted them until the flurry at the end of regulation.

The hard-hitting first period featured five penalties and no goals. It was still scoreless when Duggan took a drop pass from Lamoureux at the left circle and wristed the puck into the top corner of the net past a screened Szabados.

The U.S. scored on a power play early in the third when Tara Watchorn was sent off for the third time in the game and, with just seconds left in the tripping penalty, Hilary Knight threaded a pass through Canadian defenseman Laura Fortino's legs to Carpenter at the far side of the crease.

She deflected it past Szabados and off the post to make it 2-0.

Locker room culture in spotlight as combine begins

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) This could be as good a time as there has ever been for an openly gay player in the NFL. The league will be watching.

In the wake of the bullying scandal in Miami, executives from teams around the league who gathered for the annual scouting combine spoke Thursday about being on guard to ensure their locker rooms are respectful and tolerant - especially with Michael Sam, expected to soon become the first publicly revealed homosexual in the NFL.

Predictably, general managers and coaches said a culture of respect was already in place with their clubs before Richie Incognito, the Dolphins offensive lineman who led the extreme hazing detailed last week in an NFL-ordered report, became an infamous name. But while there haven't been many major signs of response to the scandal, some tangible signs of change have at least emerged.

Teams have begun to include language in coaches' contracts that forces assistants to act with more tolerance than some of the Dolphins staff did. The move is designed to limit a team's liability if another Miami-like situation were to emerge with another club.

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman confirmed that change, first reported by ESPN.

"I think because it's so much in light right now, that you have to monitor the locker room," Spielman said. "It'll be interesting to see once we get down to the owners meetings in March. I'm sure that'll be a subject that'll be talked about."

Dolphins coach Joe Philbin, drawing an overflow crowd of reporters in his first appearance since the report came out, forcefully reiterated his responsibility for all that happens to his team and promised a "better workplace."

"I have to do a better job. I'm going to look at every way - the way we educate, the way we communicate, the way we talk to one another," Philbin said. "I'm going to look at every avenue."

Reaction from the other 31 teams to the bullying report was far more muted, though other coaches - Dennis Allen of the Oakland Raiders among them - acknowledged the importance of keeping a better handle on locker room dynamics.

Everyone, though, must deal with the questions about Sam, the Missouri defensive end projected to be drafted in the middle rounds.

The NFL recently reminded teams of laws against asking draft prospects about their sexuality and the guidelines for interviewing players this week in Indianapolis. A year ago, three players complained they were asked inappropriate questions they believed were intended to seek details about their sexual orientation.

Talking about harmony is easy in the offseason, of course, but maintaining an atmosphere of respect and tolerance is another story once dozens of players are thrown together. With a 53-man roster, no coach can come close to hearing every word.

"It's hard. You try to set a good culture and a good environment in your building and hope for the best," Denver Broncos coach John Fox said.

Clearly, this issue will be scrutinized this year, with Sam entering the league, and the Dolphins trying to repair their image.

"What happened there has nothing to do with what we are doing in Tampa Bay," new Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith said. "The locker room has been there all along. You have to have strong veteran leadership in the locker room. As the head football coach I have to have a pulse on what is going on in the locker room. Rely on a lot of people. Have a relationship were information comes to me.

"No, we are not going to change what we've done. Our program has always been about acceptance. Everybody feeling like they are part. Everybody feeling good about coming to work every day in an environment where they can do their best."

That is what this next class of rookies is counting on.

"In every locker room you go there's going to be conflict," Memphis punter Tom Hornsey said. "That's just the nature of the game. It's very competitive. It's got a lot of testosterone flowing through. ... But it's not a concern. I'm pretty laid back and just take it as it is."

So what's the secret, then, to making sure the boys-will-be-boys culture that still exists doesn't become the dominant vibe of the locker room?

Well, like with many issues, the Super Bowl champions are usually a good place to start.

"Everybody puts pressure on themselves, and we try to create a culture that's outgoing, fun, aggressive," Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "Life's too short to stress yourself out and stress other people out."



AP NFL website:

Tight end evolution creating new look for NFL

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Eric Ebron exuded confidence from the moment he walked into Lucas Oil Stadium on Thursday.

The top-rated tight end in this year's draft class quickly explained how he could catch passes over the middle, contend with bigger defenders and even improve his blocking.

Yes, Ebron promised to do anything that any NFL team asked - if the club is smart enough to draft him in May.

"If you need me, if you need a tight end, I'm here on the draft board," he said with a daring smile Thursday at the NFL's annual scouting combine.

At 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, five pounds heavier than his college playing weight, Ebron typifies the modern day tight end.

They aren't just pass-catching or blocking specialists anymore.

Instead, teams are increasingly looking at multi-dimensional players who can really challenge defenses.

This rookie class is rife with possibilities.

In addition to the incredibly athletic Ebron, there's the bulky 6-foot-2, 262-pound Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who considers himself a playmaking receiver, and Trey Burton, who was recruited by Florida as a quarterback and wound up playing receiver and returning kicks before his college career ended.

After playing last season at 222, he still looks out of place with a handful of the other 22 tight ends in Indy tipping the scales at 260 or more.

As the position has evolved, though, guys such as Ebron and Seferian-Jenkins have become increasingly valuable commodities.

"It does put stress on your defense if you've got a guy who can in-line block and create bad matchups for your safeties and linebackers," said new Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith, who spent most of his career coaching as a defensive assistant. "I think it's safe to say they are getting bigger and bigger, and that's an area we're obviously looking at. It seems like every team is looking for that perfect tight end, and once you get one, it's pretty special."

For some teams, such as the Buccaneers, finding the right guy will be a priority over the next 2 1/2 months.

There are plenty of options to consider.

Some of this year's combine invitees have backgrounds playing basketball, running track or competing in other sports. Others have prominent bloodlines. Jake Murphy's father, Dale, is a former Major League All-Star, and his brother Shawn was once with the Denver Broncos.

Yet it's the uniquely talented Ebron, who currently is on top of the rankings.

"I'm very fast and very different," said Ebron, a projected first-round pick who compared himself to San Francisco's Vernon Davis. "I play the tight end position like no one else. I just do things that other tight ends don't do."

The transition of moving from bulky blocking tight ends to fleeter, more athletic guys can be traced to the late 1990s and early 2000s when former college basketball players Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates made it big. Since then, players such as Davis and Jimmy Graham, who are known for stretching the field, have become all the rage.

But now things seem to be shifting again.

Teams are now telling draft hopefuls that they want big, fast guys and it is making an impact on how these guys build their bodies.

Ebron says he feels stronger and more comfortable at 250 pounds.

He isn't alone. California moved Richard Rogers from tight end to slot receiver after he trimmed down from 275 pounds to 245, but the 6-foot-4, tight end weighed in this week at 257.

Based on Rogers' size and blocking background, it could give him one distinct advantage heading into draft weekend - teams already know what they're getting from Rogers as a receiver and a blocker.

"I haven't done a lot of it (blocking) this past year but my first two years I was always in a three-point stance, or the majority of the time," he said. "So I am definitely comfortable with it."

Ebron, on the other hand, is trying to fill out the final piece of his resume.

He has already proven he can run and catch, and if he can show scouts he is capable of opening holes and sealing the edge, too, he knows teams will view him as the most skilled tight end in this class.

"It's become more demanding," Ebron said of the position. "There's become more of a need for talent, speed, and athleticism rather than big bulky just blocking tight ends. It's become a need of special people to play that position in order to create different mismatches and better offenses, so I feel like I fit right in."

GM King confirms Nets work out Jason Collins

NEW YORK (AP) Looking to add a big man, the Brooklyn Nets have worked out center Jason Collins, who would become the first openly gay active NBA player if signed.

General manager Billy King did not attend the workout in Los Angeles during the All-Star break that was reported by, but said Thursday on a conference call he was told Collins is "in shape."

Collins revealed at the end of last season he is gay. The 35-year-old Collins played in 38 games for Boston and Washington in 2012-13 and hasn't been particularly productive in recent years, but has a number of former teammates on the Nets, including coach Jason Kidd.

Michael Sam, the SEC defensive player of the year from Missouri, recently revealed he is gay and is taking part in this weekend's NFL draft combine.

The Nets have an opening for a big man after trading Reggie Evans along with Jason Terry to Sacramento on Wednesday for guard Marcus Thornton.

King said he and Kidd have a list of players they will consider, and Collins will be on it. He said the players considered will range from those who have been bought out by other NBA teams to those who have been playing in China or the NBA Development League.

Collins played with Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce last season in Boston, and Nets guard Joe Johnson in Atlanta. The well-respected veteran attended the State of the Union address as a guest of first lady Michelle Obama.

King said the Nets wouldn't be concerned about any extra attention the signing of Collins would provide.

"We're going to bring in a basketball player," King said. "It's not about marketing or anything like that."

King said the Nets tried to find another deal for a big man before Thursday's deadline. If they do sign one, he said he wasn't sure if it would be for the rest of the season or on a 10-day contract, adding that would depend on the player.

NJ police: Ravens' Rice knocked out fiancee

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) A police complaint alleges Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocked out his fiancee during an argument at an Atlantic City casino.

Police charged both Rice and Janay Palmer with simple assault in the incident Saturday at the Revel Casino.

A police complaint says Rice struck her with his hand, "rendering her unconscious." Palmer is also accused of striking Rice with her hand.

Palmer's attorney, Robert Gamburg, said Thursday he's certain neither person committed a crime. Rice's attorney, Michael Diamondstein, has said he hopes the case is shown to be a misunderstanding.

TMZ Sports released a video of what it says shows Rice dragging a seemingly motionless woman out of a Revel Casino elevator.

Diamondstein told The Press of Atlantic City "this is obviously edited video." Neither he nor Palmer's attorney would comment about the video to The Associated Press.

Thunder G Russell Westbrook to return vs. Heat

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook will play Thursday against the Miami Heat.

The team announced the decision a few hours before tipoff. Westbrook has missed 27 games since having a procedure on Dec. 27 to deal with swelling in his injured right knee - the third operation on the knee in nine months. Westbrook made it through a full practice Wednesday for the first time since his most recent surgery, and coach Scott Brooks said he looked good.

Westbrook, a three-time NBA All-Star, tore the lateral meniscus in the knee during the playoffs last April. He underwent an operation after that injury and had another procedure on Oct. 1 to remove a loose stitch.

Oklahoma City went 20-7 after Westbrook's latest setback.

No. 4 Arizona escapes with 67-63 win at Utah in OT

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Gabe York and Nick Johnson each scored 15 points, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson added 13 and No. 4 Arizona escaped with a 67-63 overtime victory against Utah on Wednesday night.

The Wildcats (24-2, 11-2 Pac-12) beat Utah for the ninth straight time since a loss in the 1998 NCAA tournament. Arizona also held onto sole possession of first place in the Pac-12, one game ahead of UCLA.

Brandon Taylor had 13 points and Dallin Bachynski and Delon Wright each scored 12 for the Utes (17-9, 6-8), who lost at home for the second time this season.

The score was tied at 58 before Hollis-Jefferson made two baskets to give the Wildcats a four-point lead with 1:52 left in overtime. His second bucket came after Taylor, an 86 percent free throw shooter, missed three straight from the line to prevent Utah from taking the lead.

Wright made a pair of free throws to cut it to 62-60, but threw the ball away with 33.9 seconds left. Johnson and T.J. McConnell each made free throws to help secure the victory in the final seconds.

Utah lost despite outrebounding Arizona 37-31 and finishing with a 34-23 edge in points in the paint.

Arizona started strong, making its first four field goal attempts and taking a 9-8 lead.

Utah kept pace by hitting seven of its first 10 shots from the field. Princeton Onwas stole the ball from Hollis-Jefferson and dunked it on the other end to cap a 6-0 spurt.

Arizona went on a 14-0 run later in the half. York capped the surge by hitting a 3-pointer and then taking his own steal from Taylor in for a layup, giving the Wildcats a 25-16 lead.

Utah briefly trimmed the deficit to five after baskets from Taylor and Bachynski. Arizona quickly answered, pushing the lead to double digits with 3s from York and Hollis-Jefferson that made it 35-24.

The Utes cut it to single digits again when Onwas took another steal in for a dunk to make it 35-26. Arizona had a chance to take a 12-point lead into the locker room when Jordin Mayes nailed a 3-pointer at the buzzer, but the officials waved it off during halftime.

Utah cut the lead to 40-33 when Taylor stole the ball from Johnson and took it in for a layup. The Wildcats thwarted the rally for a time, going back up by 12 on McConnell's jumper.

But the Utes ripped off a 10-2 run to get back into the game. A pair of big baskets from freshman Ahmad Fields cut the deficit to 48-44. Arizona endured a short cold spell after a layup from McConnell made it 52-44 with 6:41 left, going 3:13 without a field goal.

Utah took advantage with an 11-2 run and went ahead 55-54 on a runner from Jordan Loveridge with 3:09 remaining.

Arizona regained a one-point lead on Johnson's jumper with 2:21 left. Utah tied it when Loveridge made one of two free throws with 28 seconds to go. McConnell had a chance to win it for the Wildcats in regulation, but missed a runner in the lane as time expired.

Boston College stuns No. 1 Syracuse 62-59 in OT

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) Olivier Hanlan and Patrick Heckmann hit 3-pointers in overtime, Lonnie Jackson made four straight free throws in the final 26.2 seconds, and lowly Boston College stunned top-ranked Syracuse 62-59 on Wednesday night, ending the Orange's unbeaten season.

Boston College (7-19, 3-10 Atlantic Coast Conference), which had lost five straight, rallied from a 13-point second-half deficit to pull off the improbable upset.

Syracuse (25-1, 12-1) travels to No. 5 Duke on Saturday night.

The loss leaves No. 3 Wichita State, which was playing at Loyola of Chicago on Wednesday, as the lone unbeaten in Division I.

The Eagles came to town with heavy hearts and a good dose of determination. Longtime basketball media contact and sports information assistant Dick Kelley died last week after a two-year battle with ALS. His funeral was Tuesday and the Eagles, who often visited his apartment, were wearing "DK" patches on their uniforms.

The Eagles, whose only conference wins this season were over Virginia Tech, beat a No. 1-ranked team for the third time and first since the 2008-09 season.

Syracuse, which had won its last two games by a combined three points, shot a season-low 32.2 percent from the field including going 2 of 12 from 3-point range.

Tied at 50 after two halves played at Boston College's deliberate pace, Hanlan and Heckmann hit from long range to give BC a 56-52 lead with 2:56 left, but Tyler Ennis's driving layup knotted the score at 56 with 2:09 to play.

A free throw by Ennis gave the Orange a one-point lead, but Heckmann's backdoor layup put the Eagles back in front with 43.5 seconds left.

After a timeout, Ennis threw a pass toward C.J. Fair in the right corner that sailed out of bounds. After the officials initially ruled it was Syracuse's ball a video review with 32.5 seconds left re-affirmed the call. It didn't matter when Fair missed a drive and Jackson sealed the victory with his clutch free throws.

Hanlan finished with 20 points and Jackson had 10. Ryan Anderson had nine points and 14 rebounds, but the Eagles won it by going 11 of 22 from behind the arc.

Fair finished with 20 points on 7-of-23 shooting and had 11 rebounds. Ennis had 14 points and six assists and Jerami Grant finished with 11 points.

Syracuse beat won 58-56 at Pittsburgh a week ago and 56-55 over North Carolina State in the Carrier Dome on Saturday night - as the Orange had walked a tightrope much of the season.

Economist: College game like NFL - but for no pay

CHICAGO (AP) Major colleges run their football teams just like those in the NFL, relying on players to generate millions of dollars in revenue, an economist testified Wednesday before a federal agency that will decide whether Northwestern football players may form the first union for college athletes in U.S. history.

"The difference would be ... the NFL pays their players," Southern Utah University sports economist David Berri told the National Labor Relations Board on the second day of a hearing in Chicago that could stretch into Friday. That colleges don't pay their football players, he said, likely boosts their programs' profitability further.

The NLRB is considering whether Wildcats' football players can be categorized under U.S. law as employees, which would give them rights to unionize. The university, the Big Ten Conference and NCAA have all maintained college players are student-athletes, not employees.

Attorneys for Northwestern began presenting their case opposing unionization, endeavoring to show that the newly formed College Athletes Players Association would provide little tangible benefit to the Northwestern players.

Asked whether one of CAPA's stated goals - to improve football-player graduation rates - made any sense for Northwestern, the university's associate athletic director, Brian Baptiste, noted the school's rate was already No. 1 in the nation - at 97 percent.

"I guess you can increase 97 percent," he said wryly.

Union supporters say they would be able to force schools to better protect football players from head injuries. Baptiste suggested that only the NCAA, with oversight power across the country, was in position to address that.

"That has to be done on a national level," he said. "Northwestern wouldn't have control over that."

Supporters argue a union would provide athletes a vehicle to lobby for greater financial security. They contend scholarships sometimes don't even cover livings expenses for a full year.

Baptiste said NCAA rules tie Northwestern's hands, and they would bar it from assenting to demands from an on-campus football union, including calls to increase the value of scholarships. He said the NCAA caps scholarship amounts.

Berri, the economist, was called to testify on behalf of the proposed union, which is pushing the unionization bid with support from the United Steelworkers. He sought to illustrate how the relationship between Northwestern and its football players was one of employer to employees.

Profit numbers attest to the program being a commercial enterprise, he told the hearing,

Northwestern's football program reported a total profit of $76 million from 2003 to 2012, with revenues of $235 million and costs of $159 million, Berri testified. The numbers were adjusted for inflation for the private school.

Berri conceded he didn't know that maintenance of the Wildcats' stadium was not included in the expense numbers. And he said he also did not know if football profits made up for losses in other, less popular school sports.

Schools with revenue-generating football teams were in the business of entertainment, Berri said. Asked who provided those services, he responded, "Players are the ones you are watching."

Northwestern attorney Alex Barbour pressed Berri about whether he was trying to say the school exploits its football players.

"There is an economic definition of the word `exploitation,"' he responded. "A worker is exploited ... if their economic value is greater than their wages. ... By that definition, they are exploited."

Barbour had said during his opening statement that allowing a college athletes' union to collectively bargain would be "a Rube Goldberg contraption that would not work in the real world" and would fundamentally change college sports.

Berri, though, pointed to the NFL and its embrace of a union, saying unionization in its case "did not cause the professional sport to collapse."

Whether the economist should have been allowed to testify was a point of contention in the morning, with Barbour complaining that Berri's analysis was irrelevant to the central question: Are college football players employees?

But after allowing the sides to debate the issue, the hearing officer overseeing the case, Joyce Hofstra, agreed to let Berri speak, saying the hearing was "novel" and she would err on the side of admitting evidence.


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Reds, Homer Bailey agree on $105M, 6-year deal

GOODYEAR, Ariz. (AP) Starter Homer Bailey agreed to a $105 million, six-year contract on Wednesday that avoids arbitration and will help the Cincinnati Reds with their cash flow by deferring some of the salary for short periods.

The deal includes a $25 million mutual option for 2020 with a $5 million buyout.

Bailey was the final major league player left in arbitration this year and reached the agreement a day before his scheduled hearing in Florida. He made $5.35 million last season and had asked for $11.6 million in arbitration. The Reds had offered $8.7 million, their biggest gap among their players in arbitration.

The 27-year-old Texan was coming off a season that included his second no-hitter.

Bailey gets salaries of $9 million this year, $10 million in 2015, $18 million in 2016, $19 million in 2017, $21 million in 2018 and $23 million in 2019. In an unusual twist, much of the annual salary will be deferred until the November after each season.

Bailey will be paid in-season amounts of $3 million this year, $4 million next year, $11 million in 2016, $12 million in 2017, $14 million in 2018 and $15 million in 2019.

If he is traded, his new team would have to pay all of the salary amounts during the season. Also, the $5 million buyout would be paid when either side decides not to exercise the option rather than having it deferred until November 2020.

The Reds planned to discuss the deal on Thursday. Bailey declined to comment on the agreement after a workout on Wednesday.

Teams won two of three cases that went to hearings, with the Indians beating pitchers Vinnie Pestano and Josh Tomlin and pitcher Andrew Cashner winning his case with San Diego. Owners have a 293-215 margin since arbitration began in 1974.

Bailey went a career-best 13-10 with a 3.68 ERA in 2012, completing his breakthrough season by throwing a no-hitter in Pittsburgh on Sept 28. He followed that with the 16th no-hitter in franchise history last June, a 3-0 win over San Francisco at Great American Ball Park.

Bailey went 11-12 with a 3.49 ERA last year, leaving him in line for a big salary increase in arbitration or a long-term deal. The Reds' rotation includes five players under the age of 30 - Johnny Cueto (28), Mat Latos (26), Bailey (27), Mike Leake (26) and left-hander Tony Cingrani (24).


AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.


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No. 5 Duke, UNC ready for delayed rivalry game

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) North Carolina coach Roy Williams went into last week's pregame meal thinking a winter storm wouldn't prevent Duke from getting to the Smith Center for the latest installment in the fierce rivalry.

Eight days later, the No. 5 Blue Devils are finally making their way to Chapel Hill.

The storm that paralyzed area roads with snow and ice kept Duke's bus from even making it to Durham to pick up the team for the 11-mile drive to Chapel Hill. That forced the game's postponement to Thursday night, creating a four-games-in-eight-days stretch for both teams that's particularly challenging for Duke with No. 1 Syracuse visiting Saturday night.

"The frustrating thing is that you go through all the junk on game day and the stress and everything and then you don't get to play," Williams said Wednesday. "So you've got to do it twice for only one game. That's not fair. We did it last week and we'll do it again tomorrow."

At least there shouldn't be any weather delays this time around.

Temperatures reached 70 degrees Wednesday afternoon, though piles of snow were still stubbornly refusing to melt around the Smith Center even amid the spring-like conditions.

A week earlier, roads were snow-covered parking lots littered with abandoned cars of people who gave up trying to drive ice-slickened highways and headed out on foot. Still, UNC officials insisted the game would be played as scheduled most of the afternoon even as they cautioned fans to stay off the roads.

It wasn't until Duke couldn't even board the bus, let alone try to make its way through the gridlocked U.S. 15-501 that runs between the campuses, that the game was finally postponed about 3 1/2 hours before tipoff.

Now both teams are in the middle of a jumbled stretch of the schedule.

"We did some conditioning on the couple of days that we had off, just to stay in shape," Duke sophomore Rasheed Sulaimon said after Saturday's win against Maryland. "These next few days we just have to take care of our body, focus on one game at a time, not look ahead, and just really get our reps. This coming week is really going to be a big week for our program."

Both the Blue Devils (21-5, 10-3 ACC) and Tar Heels (18-7, 8-4) have won twice since the postponement.

After edging Maryland at home Saturday, Duke beat Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Tuesday night for its fourth straight win. The Tar Heels beat then-No. 25 Pittsburgh on Saturday then won at Florida State on Monday for their seventh straight win.

The win against Pitt was particularly big for the Tar Heels, who dug their way out of an 0-3 ACC start primarily by beating teams standing at sixth or lower in the standings.

"We were still pretty confident, we had won a couple going into the first date for the Duke game," UNC sophomore Marcus Paige said. "But I think, yeah, this gives us a little more confidence. The Pitt game was a big game for us. We thought we really got better that game. We're a little more confident, but I know they've been playing well, too."

While UNC hosts struggling Wake Forest on Tuesday, the Blue Devils will have to regroup quickly before hosting the Orange in a rematch of the overtime classic won by Syracuse in the Carrier Dome on Feb. 1.

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski compared the two games to being in the Final Four, though he has emphasized looking at the games individually instead of as a four-game stretch.

"I think you can get ahead of yourself with the buildup that people will give for the Thursday night game and the Saturday game," Krzyzewski said this week. "... You can have a tendency of not giving each game the value of emotion, the mental, physical and emotional preparation that's needed. That's why were' trying to look at it in that way."


AP Sports Writer Joedy McCreary in Durham, N.C., contributed to this report.


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Showing no emotion, Jeter says 'time is right'

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Derek Jeter spoke for 25 minutes, 44 seconds and answered 26 questions about his decision to retire at the end of this season.

He said "it's time," "the right time" and "the time is now." Twice more he added "the time is right."

Jeter will be leaving the major leagues the way he entered: accessible, yet opaque; approachable, but distant.

So why is Jeter retiring?

"He just said `it's time,' but he didn't really say," Yankees general manager Brian Cashman concluded after Jeter reported to spring training Wednesday for his 20th and final major league season.

One week earlier, the Yankees captain surprised and saddened teammates with his announcement, revealed by posting a 15-paragraph, 644-word statement on his Facebook page, one relatively few people were aware he even had.

"You can't do this forever. I'd like to, but you can't do it forever," he said to a crowded room filled with Yankees management and players in addition to media.

Jeter, who turns 40 in June, was limited to 17 games last season, hitting .190 with one homer and seven RBIs after breaking his left ankle in the 2012 AL championship series opener. While he returned last July, he wound up on the disabled list three more times because of leg ailments caused by a lack of strength after the ankle healed.

"It wasn't fun because I wasn't playing. I think it forced me to start thinking about, well, how long do I want to do this? And that's how I came to my decision," he said. "It just became a job last year."

He sounded much like Joe DiMaggio, who left the Yankees in December 1951 saying, "when baseball is no longer fun, it's no longer a game."

Just two years ago, Jeter led the big leagues with 216 hits. And after an offseason of intensive workouts, Jeter is confident he will regain his productivity this year and be an everyday shortstop - only the fourth in big league history in the season they turned 40.

Wearing a navy Yankees pullover and shorts, and a New York cap, he spoke directly and dispassionately, much like during every interview since he first reached the major leagues in 1995. He kept his arms crossed in front of him for much of the time, resting them on a table. He flashed those famous white teeth and smiled, displaying not a trace of melancholy.

"Trying to get me to cry?" he said after one question. "I have feelings. I'm not emotionally stunted. There's feelings there, but I think I've just been pretty good at trying to hide my emotions throughout the years. I try to have the same demeanor each and every day."

He's been clear that he doesn't reveal his deepest thoughts publicly, not in the tabloid, talk-radio and Twitter-driven tumult of the Big Apple.

"I know I haven't really been as open with some of you guys as you would have liked me to be over the last 20 years, but that's by design," he said. "It doesn't mean I don't have those feelings. It's just that's the way I felt as though I'd be able to make it this long in New York."

He made the announcement on Facebook to circumvent "cut-and-paste" media, to get out his full message and to draw attention to his Turn 2 Foundation - a pun on middle infielders making double plays and on his uniform No. 2. He is a relic, the last of the single digits to wear a Yankees uniform, the last to be introduced before each at-bat by Bob Sheppard, the Yankee Stadium public address announcer from 1951-07. While Sheppard died in 2010, a recording is played when Jeter walks to home plate.

In the second half of his life, Jeter could have a future in business or even baseball management - he's earned enough to become an owner. He's been among New York's most eligible bachelors.

"There's other things I want to do. I want to have a family. That's important me," he said, without a hint of what "other things" might entail.

Jorge Posada retired after the 2011 season, and Mariano Rivera spoke in the same pavilion behind the third base stands last March and said 2013 would be his final year. Andy Pettitte departed last fall, too, leaving Jeter as the last of the Core Four who helped New York win five World Series titles.

Owners Hal and Hank Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal watched Jeter from the front row, manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman in the second. Teammates, who said his decision shocked and saddened them, were in the rows after that.

Cashman called Jeter "a Secretariat, so to speak, that you can run in as many races as you can and win a lot."

"Right now it's kind of surreal and it's strange to think of the Yankees without him in the lineup. But we're not there yet," said Hal Steinbrenner, the team's managing general partner.

When he spoke with Jeter hours before the Feb. 12 announcement, he didn't lobby for a reconsideration.

"I respect when an individual makes a decision like this because I know how much time and thought they put into it. It's not my place to second guess," he said.

Jeter wouldn't put an exact date on when he made up his mind.

"I wanted to make this announcement months ago. I really did. But people - I don't want to say forced, but they advised me to take my time before I said it," he said.

He kept getting asked about his future.

"Even walking down the street," he said, "people ask because I missed last year: Are you playing this year? How much longer are you going to play? How many years to do you have? You get tired of hearing it."

He enters his 20th big league season with a .312 average, 256 homers and 1,261 RBIs. Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson already has Tweeted "for those booking early" the 2020 induction ceremony is scheduled for July 26. For Jeter, the titles mean more than the statistics. And most of all, he treasures getting to wear the pinstripes.

"The thing that means the most to me is being remembered as a Yankee, because that's what I've always wanted to be, was to be a Yankee," Jeter said. "I have to thank the Steinbrenner family that's here today and our late owner, the Boss, because they gave me an opportunity to pretty much live my dream my entire life. And the great thing with being a Yankee is you're always a Yankee. So in that sense it never ends."

SOCHI: Ligety takes GS for second career Olympic gold

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- This was the race Ted Ligety knew he should win.

So did everybody else.

And that, Ligety explained Wednesday after becoming the first American man in Olympic history with two Alpine skiing gold medals, was precisely what made the feat so tough.

Sometimes, being a popular pick can be overwhelming. Ligety learned that four years ago, and dealt with the matter far better on this day.

Scraping the snow with his gloves and hips while taking wide turns around gates, his body swaying left and right with a pendulum's precision, Ligety finished the two-leg giant slalom with a combined time of 2 minutes, 45.29 seconds, winning by nearly a half-second.

His gold is the first for the U.S. Alpine team at the Sochi Games. Yet Ligety's overriding emotion as he fell to the ground in the finish area was something other than pure joy.

"It was a huge relief," said Ligety, a 29-year-old based in Park City, Utah. "All season long, everybody talks about the Olympics, Olympics, Olympics. At a certain point, I was just like, `Let's do it already. Let's get this thing over with, so we can stop talking about the pressure and everything with it.' So it's awesome to ... finally do it and get the monkey off the back."

He used a perfect first run to open a wide lead of nearly a second, then protected that with a conservative second run that was only 14th-fastest down the Rosa Khutor course as the sun peeked out from behind a nearby peak and through sparse clouds. All in all, much more comfortable conditions than the fog, rain and sleet of a day earlier.

"His first run was flawless, free. He trusted himself. It was his signature skiing," U.S. men's head coach Sasha Rearick said. "The second run was a strategic chess match, which he executed brilliantly."

France earned its first Alpine medals of the Sochi Olympics, with Steve Missilier producing the day's top second leg to earn silver, 0.48 seconds behind Ligety. Alexis Pinturault got the bronze, another 0.16 back. Overall World Cup leader Marcel Hirscher of Austria was fourth, while Bode Miller was 20th in what was his last race of the Sochi Games -- and, given that he'll be 40 in 2018, probably of his Olympic career.

Miller, who has won a U.S.-record six Alpine medals, said other racers try to copy Ligety's revolutionary style in the giant slalom, but "he's so much better at it than everybody else."

Ligety maintains momentum by fluidly linking his turns, one into the next, actually taking a longer path down the slope by steering so far from each gate. Opponents cut much closer to gates, but then lose valuable hundredths of a second each time they jerk their bodies in a different direction.

"He carries so much speed and doesn't make mistakes. Those are the things that separate him," Miller explained. "Other guys carry speed for a couple of turns and struggle a bit. He just carries it smooth from top to bottom."

Asked whether Ligety could have been beaten, Missiller replied: "It is impossible. For me and, I think, for all racers."

The only other American with a pair of Olympic Alpine golds is Andrea Mead Lawrence, winner of the women's slalom and giant slalom in 1952.

Eight years ago, at the Turin Games, Ligety grabbed gold in the combined, the very first Olympic event of his career. Oh, how easy everything must have seemed then. He was 21, went from unknown to champion in a blink.

Then came the disappointment of Vancouver four years ago, when Ligety arrived at the Olympics as early as anyone and "just got stale," as Rearick put it. Expected to shine again, Ligety failed to finish one of his events and came in fifth, ninth and 19th in others.

"Maybe that's one of the things he learned in Vancouver, that you've got to push it. You can't play it too safe," said Ligety's mother, Cyndi Sharp.

Ligety agrees with that assessment. He used what happened in 2010 to drive his tremendous success since, particularly in his best event. He won the giant slalom at the 2011 and 2013 world championships, and he's won nine of 14 GS races in the World Cup over the last two seasons.

So even after his Sochi Games began slowly -- 12th in the super-combined; 14th in the super-G -- he was focused on the giant slalom.

Naturally, the rest of the ski world trained its eyes on him Wednesday.

"Having struggled in Vancouver, having been a little bit of a lackluster Olympics so far up until today, I knew there was a lot of pressure on today," Ligety said, "and I really wanted to perform and ski the way I knew that I could ski."

And, at least at the moment, no one else can.

SOCHI: Bjoerndalen breaks Winter Games records with relay gold

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia -- Ole Einar Bjoerndalen couldn't avoid being in the spotlight, certainly not after becoming the most decorated Winter Olympian of all time and receiving personal congratulations from the king.

The softly-spoken Norwegian tends to keep his thoughts and his emotions in check rather than in the public domain, so it was fitting that his 13th Winter Games medal was a gold in a team event.

The 40-year-old Bjoerndalen helped Norway win the first Olympic mixed relay in biathlon on Wednesday, surging back to form after a couple years of apparent decline.

He broke the total medals record he previously shared with retired cross-country skiing great Bjoern Daehlie at the Winter Games, and also matched fellow Norwegian's record mark of eight golds. It was his second victory in Sochi, coming after his gold in the men's sprint biathlon.

"It's fantastic, I never imagined this would happen," Bjoerndalen said. "Bjoern is still my big hero ... He gave me a lot of motivation. Now I have the same gold as him, and that's cool."

Daehlie won eight gold and four silver medals at the Olympics; Bjoerndalen's haul is now eight gold, four silver ... and one bronze.

And he's got a shot at another medal in Sochi by lining up in the 4x7.5K relay on Saturday.

"It's difficult to realize during the championships what has happened because you try to focus on the races," Bjoerndalen said. "It will only sink in after the Olympics."

King Harald V of Norway was among the first to congratulate him Wednesday on his record-breaking win.

"He knows our sport so well," Bjoerndalen said. "He knows exactly what we have problems with, in the shooting, on the skiing, and he was really happy with my shooting today. Yeah, he was impressed."

Norway's victory came one day after Bjoerndalen missed out on a medal chance in the 15K mass start event, when he was in fourth position when missing four targets in his final shooting.

"My shooting was really good," said Bjoerndalen after hitting all 10 targets in the mixed team event. "I was focused better today. I was really nervous before the race because in a relay you don't go for yourself, you go for your team."

Tora Berger faulted twice, but Tiril Eckhoff and Emil Hegle Svendsen also shot cleanly for Norway. They finished in 1 hour, 9 minutes and 17 seconds.

Czech Republic was 32.6 seconds behind to win silver, and Italy came in 58.2 seconds behind to take bronze -- its first Olympic biathlon medal in 16 years.

"First of all today I'm really happy for my team," Bjoerndalen said. "It was an amazing race for everybody. For myself, it's coming back from some years with bad results, and to be in my best shape almost ever in these Olympics is really good."

Berger praised a veteran teammate: "He's amazing. He's really big for us. Of course we knew before the race he could get the record today but we tried not to think about it."

And Eckhoff described Bjoerndalen as "my idol for my so many years, since I was four years old. So it's amazing to be on the team with him, because he's the king of biathlon."

Svendsen praised his teammate not only for winning medals, but also for his impact on the biathlon sport in Norway.

"It's amazing to be part of biathlon history," Svendsen said. "We take so many things for granted these days in our training and in our race preparation, but much of that we can only do thanks his experience."

Berger led the race before missing twice in the standing shooting and dropping to fifth, but she recovered to regain the lead on the final lap.

Eckhoff lost Norway's lead to Gabriela Soukalova, meaning Bjoerndalen started 1.1 second behind Jaroslav Soukup. He stayed in the Czech's slipstream for the first lap and, when Soukup missed once, Bjoerndalen took an 11.7-second lead leaving the shooting range. He extended the margin to 43.1 seconds before handing over to Svendsen.

A day after his gold-medal victory in the 15K mass start, Svendsen lost time on the track to Ondrej Moravec but held onto a decent margin when his Czech chaser missed twice.

The Norwegian anchor started celebrating after his final shooting, certain of winning a second gold medal in two days.

France, led by two-time gold medalist Martin Fourcade, was well off the pace in seventh and the U.S. was ninth.

The mixed relay is new to the Olympic program but has been an established part of the World Cup circuit for many years and was first included in the annual biathlon world championships in 2005, with Norway winning the title for the past three years.

SOCHI: Canada staves off Latvia, advances to face USA in men's hockey

SOCHI, Russia -- Canada put shots by the dozens on Kristers Gudlevskis, and Latvia's kid goalie stopped nearly everything in a performance that grew from sensational to a bit supernatural.

Late in the third period, Canada finally replaced all that quantity with quality. Shea Weber's slap shot is widely considered the best in hockey, and it put the defending Olympic champions past the lively underdogs -- and into a rematch with their neighbors.

Weber scored a tiebreaking power-play goal with 6:54 to play, and Canada survived an enormous scare from Latvia to advance to the Olympic men's hockey semifinals with a 2-1 victory Wednesday night.

Carey Price made 15 saves for the Canadians, who were stretched to the limit by Gudlevskis. The 21-year-old Tampa Bay Lightning prospect made 55 saves in a spectacular performance, nearly pulling off one of the biggest upsets in hockey history largely by himself.

"That was one of the best goaltending performances I've ever seen," said Price, the Montreal Canadiens' three-time NHL All-Star goalie.

Weber unleashed his peerless slapper late in a power play, and Canada finally took the lead on its 54th shot. An entire hockey-worshipping nation exhaled, and Canada advanced to a semifinal meeting with the similarly unbeaten United States on Friday in a rematch of the gold-medal game in Vancouver four years ago.

"We had a lot of chances, but we knew it was going to be tough," said Weber, who injured Latvia defenseman Oskars Bartulis with his slap shot earlier in the third. "You saw how many shots we had to take. You just have to stay focused and patient and stick to what you do well. Eventually, finally, it paid off for us."

One night after 11th-seeded Latvia recorded its first Olympic victory in 12 years to reach its first quarterfinals, Buffalo Sabres coach Ted Nolan's team improbably tested the champs.

"I play for my teammates, because they play so good every game," said Gudlevskis, who has played mostly for the Lightning's AHL affiliate in Syracuse lately. "They did everything tonight and I just wanted to give them the opportunity to win this game. ... You start to believe and then you just work hard."

Lauris Darzins scored a breakaway goal in the first period for Latvia, which lost all three of its preliminary-round games before surprising Switzerland 3-1 on Tuesday. The Baltic nation of 2 million people has been in the last four Olympic fields after a 66-year absence, but hadn't won a game since 2002.

"It doesn't matter how many shots you get, it's how many go in the net," Nolan said. "So to play them tough the way we did, I'm extremely proud."

Patrick Sharp scored in the first period for the Canadians, who cruised unbeaten through the preliminary round with three victories before running into big trouble in the quarterfinals.

Canada also lost forward John Tavares for the rest of the tournament with a leg injury. The New York Islanders star was checked into the boards by Latvia's Arturs Kulda in the second period, thinning Canada's formidable depth.

Canada, which has won two of the last three Olympic tournaments, is the first defending champion to return to the semifinals since the current Olympic format was introduced in 1992.

A few hours after Russia's Olympic run ended at the Bolshoy Ice Dome with a quarterfinal loss to Finland, Canada created some eerie echoes of the Russians' downfall: Pedigreed forwards failing to score, defensemen making key mistakes and opposing goalies playing phenomenal hockey.

Canada had few major worries about its star-studded team during the first week in Sochi, although fellow semifinalist Finland took the Canadians to overtime. Captain Sidney Crosby's goalless performance and a daily shuffling of the forward lines didn't suggest scoring trouble for such a potent lineup -- particularly not against tiny Latvia.

Rick Nash engineered Canada's first goal with an exceptional play in front of Latvia's net, controlling the puck and circling to find Sharp for a wrist shot through Tavares' screen.

But just 2:04 later, Kulda threaded a long pass through Canada's defense to Darzins, who skated in alone on a prone Price and tied the score with his third goal in two games.

Canada came agonizingly close to scoring on a goal-mouth scramble with 11:33 to play, but defenseman Kristaps Sotnieks reached over his prone goalie's arm to pull the puck off the goal line. The spectacular play would have resulted in a penalty shot if the officials had seen Sotnieks' clever play, but they didn't catch it.

SOCHI: Gold, Wagner in medal contention in figure skating

SOCHI, Russia -- Anxiety and energy. Conviction and courage.

They all combined Wednesday -- along with one stunning fall -- to set up an unpredictable race for the Olympic gold medal in women's figure skating.

Nerves almost got the best of Yuna Kim in the short program Wednesday night. Then she showed she is still the favorite to win another title.

Her lead is almost as slim as it could get, .28 points over a woman from the host country -- no, not Julia Lipnitskaia. Russia's Adelina Sotnikova, with a snappy routine that had the crowd on its feet before she finished her final spin, was second, while Lipnitskaia plummeted to fifth after her fall on a triple flip.

Italy's Carolina Kostner, whose "Ave Maria" program is almost a religious experience for her, was .80 back. Chicago's Gracie Gold was fourth, within striking distance after overcoming a sense of stage fright.

Kim, 23, would become the third woman to win consecutive Olympics, following Sonja Henie and Katarina Witt. But she'll probably need to calm down to step up to the top of the podium.

"I am a human being," she said. "I get nervous all the time. It just doesn't show on my face."

Plenty showed on Lipnitskaia's face: sadness, disappointment, even disbelief -- as if the 15-year-old's dog had just run away.

On a day Lipnitskaia's hockey countrymen flopped out of the games, she couldn't revive Russian hearts. After winning both programs in the team event to help the hosts take the gold, Lipnitskaia fell on a triple flip and then broke down in tears.

"This does not define her career or who she is as an athlete," coach Eteri Tutberidze said through a translator. "She simply made a mistake. That's all. It happens."

When it happened, the crowd was stunned. And Kim had the lead, but barely over Sotnikova.

"Most important is to see your goals, to try and try," said Sotnikova, 17. "If you want it, you achieve it."

Kostner has been trying to achieve something special in the Olympics since the Turin Games, when she was ninth. She was far worse at Vancouver, a dismal 16th, and she began questioning her career goals.

But she kept going.

"I wanted to skate because I love it," she said. "Hard times make you understand what you really want."

In "Ave Maria," she found just the tonic, an elegant program she seems to float through.

"It's just a prayer to everything I've lived and learned through skating," Kostner said.

U.S. champion Gracie Gold, second to Lipnitskaia in the team free skate, had a clean short program to sneak in ahead of Lipnitskaia by 3.4 points.

"To be able to come up here and feel stiff and white as a ghost but stare fear in the face is what I'm all about now," the 18-year-old Gold said.

Ashley Wagner of Alexandria, Va., and Polina Edmunds of San Jose, Calif., were sixth and seventh -- a very strong showing for the United States.

Vancouver silver medalist Mao Asada of Japan had several major mistakes, two on the triple axel that has been her trademark -- and also her curse. She plummeted to 16th.

Kim's program to "Send In The Clowns" was exquisite. She even cracked a smile, perhaps for the first time since arriving in Sochi, after landing her double axel, the final jump of the routine. Every move was timed perfectly to the music in a flowing performance.

She admitted to making a slight mistake on footwork, and the judges gave her only level 3 (out of 4) on it, and on her layback spin. Again, she said, it was anxiety.

"I tried to believe in myself and remember my practices," Kim said. "I thought if I do well in practice, I can do well in the main event."

She could, Lipnitskaia couldn't.

Greeted by cheers of "Ro-ssi-ya" as soon as she emerged from the tunnel before warming up, Lipnitskaia had her shoulders rubbed by her coaches as she waited to take the ice. She looked all business as she smoothly landed her practice jumps.

The crowd switched to chants of "Ju-li-a" when it was her turn to perform. They breathlessly watched her perfectly land her triple lutz-triple toe loop combination. But toward the end of the 2-minute, 50-second routine, she crashed on the triple flip that she pretty much never misses.

Four skaters later, Sotnikova lifted Russian spirits with an energetic program that had her jumping up and down when she finished. Considered a long shot for a medal, she now is in contention for gold.

Lipnitskaia will skate first in the final group Thursday, followed by Kostner, Sotnikova, Gold, Wagner and Kim.

"You just need to live in the moment," Kostner said. "Be courageous, to lean into the discomfort and say, OK, I stand in the beginning position and I'm scared out of my mind. But I just go for it. I just let myself go and it's just amazing."

SOCHI: USA men top Czechs in hockey, faces Canada in semifinals

SOCHI, Russia -- Dustin Brown banged in a go-ahead goal late in the first period and the United States went on to dominate the Czech Republic 5-2 Wednesday, earning a spot in the Olympic hockey semifinals for the second straight time.

The U.S. will play Canada on Friday for a spot in the gold-medal game. The Canadians beat Latvia 2-1.

James van Riemsdyk gave the Americans a lead 1:39 into the game.

They lost it a few minutes later when one of their defenseman, Ryan McDonagh, tried to clear the puck away from the front of the crease and it went off the left skate of Ryan Suter and got past Jonathan Quick.

The Czechs were not as successful scoring on their own against Quick, who started ahead of 2010 silver-medal winning goaltender Ryan Miller.

Ales Hemsky was credited with a goal that two Americans touched after he did. Hemsky legitimately scored his second one, skating to the slot and snapping off a wrist shot that got past Quick's blocker with 7 minutes left in the game.

Brown put the U.S. up 2-1 at the 14:38 mark of the first, and David Backes made it 3-1 with 1.8 seconds in the period.

Zach Parise piled on, pushing the Americans' lead to 4-1 midway through the second period to chase goalie Ondrej Pavelec after he made just eight saves. He was replaced by Alexander Salak.

The Americans shaped their roster with players who skate fast, hit hard, share the puck and score.

The U.S. has been tested only once in a 3-2, eight-round shootout against the host Russians in the preliminary round. The Americans have crushed the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia by a combined score of 17-4.

While the Czechs had to play for a second straight day because they had to beat Slovakia in the qualification round just to reach the quarterfinals, the rested Americans were ready to roll after having two days off.

The U.S. seemed to take advantage of having fresh legs, beating the Czech Republic to loose pucks all night long.

Spurs' Parker out indefinitely with injuries

LOS ANGELES (AP) Spurs guard Tony Parker sat out Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Clippers, and San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich said the six-time All Star will be sidelined for quite some time because of multiple injuries.

Popovich said earlier Tuesday that Parker would be out of action "for the foreseeable future" because of numerous aches and pains involving his back, groin and calf.

The 13-year veteran, who played 11 minutes Sunday in the NBA All-Star game, is the Spurs' leading scorer. He is also the only player averaging at least 30 minutes for Southwest Division-leading San Antonio.

Last season, Parker was the only NBA player to average at least 20 points and seven assists while shooting over 50 percent from the field and 80 percent on free throws.

"I think he's just spent, mentally and physically," Popovich said. "The last five games or so was about 65-70 percent, at the most, and he's developed a little nagging thing every time. He's had a shoulder and a hip and a calf and all this kind of stuff, and now it's his Achilles a little bit.

"All these things have added up, and I think it's affected him mentally, also. I think the last three years have caught up with him - playing a whole NBA season, and for the whole summer qualifying for that European championship that they finally got this year. I'm just looking at the big picture and trying to get him whole for the stretch."

Popovich watched Parker's first 5 minutes during the All-Star game before changing the channel, but didn't think Parker did further damage by playing.

When asked about the minimum number of games Parker would miss, Popovich said: "I don't think about that. I'm just going to go with it and see when I think he's ready to go again," he said. "I'm not going to speculate on how long or how many games, because I don't know."

Spurs forward and defensive stalwart Kawhi Leonard missed his 12th straight game because of a broken bone in his right hand.

"It's still painful for him to catch the ball and shoot the ball," Popovich said. "We want to get him into one-on-ones and two-on-twos and let him get banged around a little bit first in practice situations, rather than throwing him into a game after four weeks, so he can get confident with it.

"He tried to shoot a little bit over the break, and again today. After about 10 or 12 shots, it started to get painful and stiff again. The doctors say it's healed and calcified and that sort of thing, but he's got to get through the pain and get used to the little glove that he's wearing."

Popovich also addressed remarks made by former NBA coach George Karl on ESPN that he "heard whispers" indicating 14-time All-Star Tim Duncan was thinking about retiring after the season despite having a $10.4 million option for next season.

"I guess people say whatever they want to say," Popovich said. "George must have his reasons, I don't know. I haven't talked to George about such things."