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Sports

    There is a lot to love about the NFC heading into Thanksgiving.The Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints have won eight in a row. The Minnesota Vikings have won six straight. The NFC has seven of the top 10 teams in the latest AP Pro 32 poll , including three teams in the NFC South.The Eagles (9-1), who are coming off a 37-9 victory at Dallas on Sunday night, maintained their top spot.'Carson Wentz looks like a modern-day Roger Staubach in crushing the Cowboys, and the Eagles continue to establish themselves as the class of the NFC and a team that could very well finish its season with the first Super Bowl title in franchise history,' Newsday's Bob Glauber said.Philadelphia received 11 of 12 first-place votes for 383 points Tuesday in balloting by media members who regularly cover the NFL.The New England Patriots (8-2), who have won six in a row, received the other first-place vote and remained No. 2.'After a 2-2 start, the Patriots are atop the AFC by Thanksgiving, same as always,' said Jenny Vrentas of The Monday Morning Quarterback.The Pittsburgh Steelers, who have won five in a row, stayed at No. 3.Minnesota, coming off its impressive 24-7 win over the Los Angeles Rams, moved up two spots to No. 4. The Vikings will open Week 12 when they head to Detroit to face the Lions on Thanksgiving.The Saints inched up to No. 5 after rallying for an overtime win over the Washington Redskins.'Drew Brees is throwing less and enjoying it more — that's a distressing equation for the rest of the NFC,' said Ira Kaufman of SB Nation Radio.New Orleans will travel to LA to face Rams, who slid one place to No. 6 in the poll, in a matchup of first-place NFC teams.Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers, coming off a bye, gained a spot to No. 7.'Getting back broadcaster (Greg) Olsen,' Fox Sports' John Czarnecki said of the return of the Panthers tight end who was back at practice this week after missing eight games with a broken foot. Olsen worked as an analyst on the telecast of the Vikings-Rams game.AFC South-leading Jacksonville moved up two spots to No. 8.The Falcons gained three spots to No. 9 after holding off Seattle, which dropped a spot to round out the top 10.The Denver Broncos, who started 3-1, have lost six in a row and are now No. 27 in the poll. They fired Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator on Monday and reportedly will start Paxton Lynch at quarterback for Sunday's game against the Raiders, who fired Ken Norton as defensive coordinator on Tuesday.'The offensive mess wasn't Mike McCoy's fault,' said Alex Marvez of The Sporting News.___For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP_NFL
  • Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred hit the Atlanta Braves with heavy sanctions, including the loss of nine players, on Tuesday for rules violations committed by the team in the international player market.Manfred also placed former Braves general manager John Coppolella on the permanently ineligible list. Former Braves Special Assistant Gordon Blakeley, the team's international scouting chief, is suspended from performing services for any team for one year.Manfred says an investigation conducted by Major League Baseball determined the Braves circumvented international signing rules from 2015 through 2017, by moving bonus pool money from one player to boost another player's contract.Most notable among the nine players the Braves will lose is Kevin Maitan, an infielder from Venezuela who signed for $4.25 million in 2016.Other 'high-value' players the Braves will lose include Juan Contreras, Yefri del Rosario, Abrahan Gutierrez, Juan Carlos Negret, Yenci Peña, Yunior Severino, Livan Soto and Guillermo Zuniga.Additionally, the Braves will be prohibited from signing any international player for more than $10,000 during the 2019-20 signing period and their international signing bonus pool for the 2020-21 signing period will be reduced by 50 percent.Coppolella was forced to resign after the season. Former team president John Hart was moved to a senior adviser role when a new general manager, Alex Anthopoulos, was hired on Nov. 13. Hart left the team on Friday.'The senior baseball operations officials responsible for the misconduct are no longer employed by the Braves,' Manfred said. He also said the Braves 'cooperated throughout the investigation.'The Braves braced fans for the sanctions when team chairman Terry McGuirk apologized to fans 'on behalf of the entire Braves family' for the rules violations at the news conference to introduce Anthopoulos.The Braves said in a statement released Tuesday they 'understand and accept the decision regarding the penalties that have been handed down.'As we expressed last week, our organization has not lived up to the standard our fans expect from us and that we expect from ourselves. For that, we apologize. We are instituting the changes necessary to prevent this from ever happening again and remain excited about the future of Braves baseball.'Manfred said he is confident the Braves management team led by McGuirk, Anthopoulos and vice chairman John Schuerholz 'have and will put in place procedures to ensure that this type of conduct never occurs again and which will allow the club to emerge from this difficult period as the strong and respected franchise that it has always been.'___For more AP baseball coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/MLBbaseball
  • Karim Benzema scored twice in the first half and Cristiano Ronaldo added two goals in the second as Real Madrid thrashed Cypriot team APOEL 6-0 Tuesday to guarantee a spot in the knockout stage of the Champions League.Luka Modric and Nacho Fernandez also scored for the defending champions, which have made it past the group stage for 22 straight seasons.The result eliminated Borussia Dortmund, which lost 2-1 to Tottenham in Germany in the other Group H match.Tottenham heads into the final round with 13 points, three more than Madrid. Dortmund and APOEL stayed on two points each.Tottenham hosts APOEL on Dec. 6, while Madrid hosts Dortmund.Modric opened the scoring with a long-range shot midway through the first half and Benzema and Fernandez added their goals seven minutes apart just before halftime.Ronaldo scored his goals early in the second half.Ronaldo has been struggling in the Spanish league with only one goal after 12 rounds, but he already has eight in the Champions League and is the competition's leading scorer.Madrid won its 12th European title last season, beating Juventus in the final.The Spanish powerhouse is trying to become the first team since Bayern Munich in 1976 to win three consecutive European titles. Ajax did it in 1971-73, and Madrid won four in a row from 1956-60.___More AP Champions League coverage: https://apnews.com/tag/ChampionsLeague
  • New Orleans center DeMarcus Cousins says he was protecting a rebound the way all big men are taught when he was ejected for a flagrant foul during a game against Oklahoma City.Cousins was called for a flagrant-two foul when he raised his right elbow near Thunder guard Russell Westbrook's head during the third quarter of the Pelicans' 114-107 victory Monday night.Cousins, who did not speak about the play until after Tuesday's practice, said Westbrook 'did a good job of selling' the foul in the way he fell to the floor, holding his head.'It's crazy. When you start playing the game of basketball as a big man, they tell you, 'When you get a rebound, keep your elbows high and out,' you know, to protect the ball from guards coming in stripping,' Cousins said. 'All I did was use my fundamentals and I got punished for it.'Cousins, who has a history of on-court emotional outbursts that draw a relatively high number of technical fouls, said he knew officials would not give him the benefit of the doubt when they reviewed the play on a video monitor before ejecting him.'I'm DeMarcus. I expected the ejection. I knew,' said Cousins, who was assessed a league-high 18 technical fouls last season.Cousins added that he's not sure what he can do differently going forward other than 'send the refs a Christmas card — I don't know — the league, too. Send Christmas cards, stuff like that.'The play occurred under the Pelicans' basket in the third quarter after Cousins had secured a rebound. When Cousins raised his elbows near Westbrook's face, the Thunder guard went down.It wasn't clear from replays showed to the crowd whether Cousins caught Westbrook in the head or shoulder, or if the contact was significant.The league office reviews such plays before deciding on fines or additional punishment.Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry agreed with Cousins' comment about rebounding fundamentals, saying that Pelicans coaches also tell their big men to use the positioning of their elbows to help secure rebounds.'I don't think he had any intent on hurting anyone,' Gentry said. 'I don't think there's anything that was done from a malicious or intentional standpoint.'Hard contact is not necessarily required for a flagrant-two foul. Only contact deemed 'unnecessary and excessive,' according to the NBA rule book, which also employs the term 'unsportsmanlike' in the section pertaining to flagrant fouls.In some ways, the play appeared to be an extension of recent Thunder protests about officiating that drew $15,000 fines. Westbrook, Paul George and coach Billy Donovan all were fined for comments about a flagrant foul called against Carmelo Anthony, whose elbow made contact with Jusuf Nurkic's head while Anthony was shooting the ball. Nurkic fell demonstratively to the floor and Anthony was ejected.Russell complained that when he was struck in the head during a game, he didn't receive the same treatment Nurkic did. And Donovan sarcastically said at the time that he 'probably didn't ask Russell to stay down on the court long enough to get it reviewed.'Cousins, meanwhile, said he was aware of how his ejection following contact with Westbrook fit into the Thunder's own recent history with disputed flagrant fouls.'It shows that Russ is coachable,' Cousins said. 'He listens and they got what they've been working on.'___More AP NBA: www.apnews.com/tags/NBAbasketball
  • Leipzig sent Monaco crashing out of the Champions League with a 4-1 victory Tuesday, capitalizing on a comedy of errors in a first-half horror show from last season's semifinalists.The German visitors had a 2-0 lead after just nine minutes, with Monaco's Jemerson at fault in both goals. The Brazilian defender beat his own 'keeper with an own-goal and set up Leipzig's second with a feeble pass from the back that Kevin Kampl pounced on to set up Timo Werner to score.Monaco captain Radamel Falcao then turned bad to worse by conceding a penalty that Werner converted for a 3-0 lead after 31 minutes.Falcao made amends with a headed goal in the closing minutes of the half.But Leipzig's fourth goal moments later from Naby Keita, who easily wriggled past Monaco defender Kamil Glik, extinguished the short-lived glimmer of hope for the home fans.With Monaco eliminated, Leipzig and Porto will battle for the last qualifying spot in Group G in the final round of group-stage matches.Besiktas, which drew with Porto 1-1 in the group's other game Tuesday, has already advanced to the last 16 as top of the group.Besiktas travels to Leipzig on Dec. 6, with Porto hosting Monaco.
  • Louisville says in an appeal that the NCAA's Committee on Infractions imposed 'grossly excessive' penalties in ordering the vacation of its 2013 men's basketball championship and tournament revenue for a sex scandal. The NCAA in June placed Louisville on four years' probation and ordered that it vacate up to 123 victories , including the 2013 title and 2012 Final Four appearance. Its decision followed an investigation into an escort's book allegations that former Cardinals staffer Andre McGee hired her and other dancers for sex parties with players and recruits from 2010-14 . Louisville's Oct. 31 response to the Infractions Appeal Committee said the penalties were 'unfair' for seeking to wipe away players' careers and vacating victories 'because of the participation of a handful of student-athletes who did little wrong.' Louisville's appeal comes after the school's acknowledgement in September that it's been investigated in a federal corruption probe of the sport . Louisville's agreed in its sex scandal appeal with the committee's view that McGee's scheme and the activities — previously described as 'repugnant' by the NCAA — contradicted what college athletics stand for. But the school argued that the infractions committee erred and didn't follow precedence it had established. Louisville stated that the committee had never imposed penalties for situations in which student-athletes weren't culpable for misconduct, didn't receive something of meaningful value and could have easily been reinstated. The school cited NCAA cases against several other schools where strippers were involved and noted the infractions committee didn't penalize those schools. Louisville also contended the committee ignored the school's cooperation and self-imposed penalties such as the 2016 postseason ban and recruiting restrictions — which the appeals committee has said must be 'a significant factor' in determining penalties. Louisville's appeal is the latest step in a process that could extend into early next year. Since the penalties were announced, another crisis has unfolded at the school and changed leadership of the basketball team and athletic program. Hall of Fame coach Rick Pitino, whom the NCAA suspended five games for failing to monitor McGee, was fired Oct. 16 by Louisville's Athletic Association in the wake of the federal probe. He has been replaced on an interim basis by assistant coach and former player David Padgett, whose No. 19 Cardinals host Southern Illinois on Tuesday night. Louisville trustees fired longtime athletic director Tom Jurich on Oct. 18. Vince Tyra is acting AD. ___ For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • Wichita State has multiple players who can score in many ways, its lineup filled with almost interchangeable parts. What sets the No. 6 Shockers apart is their ability to defend tenaciously.They did just that in the second half against Marquette on Tuesday, winning 80-66 to reach the title game of the Maui Invitational.'We've got to create a mindset, play angry. That's been our motto around Wichita State,' said Shockers forward Rashard Kelly, who had two blocks on the same play in the first half. 'Somebody's just got to fall in love with doing the dirty work.'Landry Shamet scored 19 points and Connor Frankamp added 13. The Shockers (4-0) needed a big rally just to get to the semifinals after a slow start against California in its opener. They had no such trouble against Marquette (2-2).Wichita State took control in the second half, holding sharpshooters Markus Howard and Andrew Rowsey in check long enough to build a 10-point lead.The Shockers shot 54 percent and had a 44-33 advantage in the paint to earn a spot in Wednesday's championship game against No. 6 Notre Dame or LSU.Rowsey had 26 points and Howard 25 for the Golden Eagles, who were held to 10-of-33 shooting in the second half after a stellar first 20 minutes.'Of those 10 open 3s we missed, we would normally make four of them because we have a good shooting team,' Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski said. 'Tonight we didn't. So that's why you see the box score looking like it did.'Marquette shot its way into the semifinals behind Rowsey and Howard, who combined for 42 points a 94-83 win over VCU.The Shockers appeared headed to the loser's bracket after falling behind by 18 points early in the second half against Cal. The Shockers turned to a full-court press and forced a string of turnovers to pull out a 92-82 win.The reward for both teams: An early wake-up call (8:30 a.m. local) to play in the semifinals.Neither team seemed, trading 3-pointers, floaters and drives to the basket while hitting a combined 11 of 16 shots.Howard picked up where he left off in the first round, scoring 17 points in the first half. Rowsey had an outstanding four-point play, getting Samajae Haynes-Jones to bite on an up-fake, contorting his body after drawing contact, then making the shot — with his left hand.Wichita State spread it around while hitting 16 of 30 shots, taking a 41-36 lead into the second half.The offensive show continued in the second half, with Rowsey scoring seven quick points. Then the Shockers clamped down on the Golden Eagles, contesting those long 3-pointers by Rowsey and Howard, challenging everything at the rim. Wichita State held Marquette scoreless for nearly six minutes, building a 58-48 lead with a 7-0 run.Marquette made a short run, but Frankamp hit a pair of 3-pointers and the Shockers held off the Golden Eagles the rest of the way.'They're a team that's going to have an outstanding season and is capable of winning a national championship with their talent and their experience and their coaching,' Wojciechowski said.THE TAKEAWAYWichita State flexed its defensive muscles in the second half and was good offensively all game to reach its first Maui title game. The Shockers did it without forward Markis McDuffie (foot), their top scorer and rebounder from a year ago. Marquette showed in the first half it can play with one of the top teams in the country.KELLY'S BLOCKSKelly's two blocks were a spectacular display. He came when he tracked down Marquette's Sacar Anim to block his layup from behind, then sprang to his feet and blocked Anim's putback.'That's my favorite play of the year thus far,' Shockers coach Gregg Marshall said. 'That was a tremendous play.'UP NEXTWichita State faces the winner between No. 13 Notre Dame and LSU in Wednesday's title game.Marquette plays the Notre Dame-LSU loser in the third-place game Wednesday.___For more AP college basketball coverage: http://collegebasketball.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • A sports doctor accused of molesting several girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University will plead guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault and face at least 25 years in prison, a person with knowledge of the agreement said Tuesday.The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the agreement ahead of a Wednesday court hearing for Dr. Larry Nassar in Michigan's Ingham County and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.Nassar, 54, is charged with molesting seven girls, all but one of whom were gymnasts, mostly under the guise of treatment at his Lansing-area home and a campus clinic. He's facing similar charges in a neighboring county and lawsuits filed by more than 125 women and girls.Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar's victims.The plea deal in Ingham County calls for a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, but a judge could set the minimum sentence as high as 40 years. In Michigan, inmates are eligible for parole after serving a minimum sentence.The girls have testified that Nassar molested them with his hands, sometimes when a parent was present in the room, while they sought help for gymnastics injuries.'He convinced these girls that this was some type of legitimate treatment,' Assistant Attorney General Angela Poviliatis told a judge last summer. 'Why would they question him? Why would they question this gymnastics god?'Separately, Nassar is charged with similar crimes in Eaton County, the location of an elite gymnastics club. He also is awaiting sentencing in federal court on child pornography charges.
  • J.T. Barrett helped bring Ohio State a national championship but has heard hysterical fans demanding he be benched. He has broken nearly every school passing and scoring record but isn't considered a top NFL prospect.The quarterback who plays his final regular-season game on Saturday against Michigan is more driven than naturally talented, more analytical than emotional, more pragmatic than go-for-broke. He has struggled with accuracy and his arm strength is mediocre.But he's undeniably a winner.He's 35-6 as a starter at Ohio State and holds 35 school and Big Ten records. If he beats the Wolverines again, which has to happen for the No. 8 Buckeyes to have any shot at getting back to the playoffs, he will tie Art Schlichter for most quarterback wins in school history.Barrett passed four-year starter Schlichter this season in career passing yards, and also holds school records for passing yards per game, completions, completion percentage, touchdown passes, touchdowns responsible for, and total offense. He's second only to Heisman winner Troy Smith in career passing efficiency (157.1 to 153.7).But it's not all about the numbers.'He's one of the best leaders I've ever been around,' Ohio State senior tackle Jamarco Jones said. 'He's also one of the most competitive people I've ever been around. He just wants to win, and he's going to do whatever it takes to win, and that's something that everybody feeds off of.'His coach, Urban Meyer, says part of that makes Barrett exceptional is a desire to win that exceeds physical limitations or ego.I love J.T.,' Meyer said. 'J.T. is a member of the Meyer family and the Buckeye family for the rest of his life.'Yet Ohio State fans haven't appreciated him as much at times.Maybe because he was sitting out with a broken ankle when the Buckeyes won the national championship in 2014. Or maybe because he hasn't managed to be quite as good as that first year. Or maybe because he's been there so long. Barrett is a four-year starter in a sport where the brightest stars rarely stick around.He acknowledged as much during spring practice this year, saying he understood the fascination over newcomer Tate Martell, a flashy freshman quarterback popular on social media.'We live in an era,' Barrett said, 'when everybody wants something new and something fresh.'Barrett, from Wichita Falls, Texas, was barely on Meyer's radar coming out of high school. Nobody from Ohio State had even seen him play in person before he committed.After redshirting a year, Barrett began 2014 camp as the backup to Braxton Miller, who had been the Big Ten Player of the Year. But a shoulder injury to Miller thrust Barrett into the starting role and stardom. He went 11-1 as the starting quarterback, compiling a school-record 3,772 total yards before getting hurt.Barrett broke his right ankle in the fourth quarter of the final regular season game against Michigan. He was on the sideline in a cast as his rifle-armed backup, Cardale Jones, stepped in for three games and led Ohio State to a title.Jones won the starting job before the 2015 season but Barrett eventually was reinstalled, missing a game on suspension after being arrested for drunken driving. Barrett was better in 2016, but passing problems swallowed the Buckeyes in the playoffs against Clemson. Fans started chattering about giving one of the backups a chance to QB in 2017.That talk continued when the Buckeyes lost to Oklahoma, then were surprisingly blown out at Iowa Nov. 4. Barrett was terrible in both games.Now the door to the playoffs has been cracked open a bit again, and Meyer will count on Barrett to beat Michigan and then take down No. 5 Wisconsin next week in the Big Ten Championship. If those things happen, there is a slight chance the Buckeyes could end up back in the playoffs.'Everybody's path is a little different,' Barrett said. 'There are things along the way I didn't expect, (but) God knew what was happening. And I think those things positive or negative, I was able to grow from them. And I think at the end of the day, I'm a better person for things I went through.'Barrett hesitates to talk about his legacy. Maybe there will be time to think about that when it's all over. But the story is still being written.'I think I've done some good things here,' he said. 'Who knows?'___More AP college football at www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25.___Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy
  • A sports marketing company whose owners have been charged with bribing top soccer officials tried to negotiate a sale to an entity associated with Paris Saint-Germain team president Nasser Al-Khelaifi, a witness testified Tuesday in federal court.Santiago Pena, a former executive of the Argentina-based Full Play Group, testified that he spent a lengthy period of time on secret negotiations called the 'New York project,' given the name because the deal for 51 percent of Full Play was valued at $212 million — 212 is a New York City telephone area code.Pena said the talks with Al-Khelaifi and the sovereign wealth fund Qatar Sports Investments ended on May 27, 2015, when U.S. prosecutors unsealed indictments against Full Play's controlling principals, the father and son Hugo and Mariano Jinkis, for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy. They were charged for payments to soccer officials in the Americas allegedly made for broadcast and marketing contracts.Al-Khelaifi and Qatar Sports would have had the right to buy an additional 19 percent at a later date, Pena said.Al-Khelaifi is a criminal suspect in Switzerland for bribery linked to Qatar-owned BeIN Sports' broadcast agreements with FIFA for 2026 and 2030 World Cup rights in the Middle East and North Africa. He met on Oct. 25 with Swiss prosecutors in Bern.Pena said that only he, Hugo and Mariano Jinkis and Full Play accountant Sergio Rabinovich were aware of the negotiations. Pena testified that after the indictments were made public, he deleted emails discussing the potential sale.'I did it in order to protect the company,' he said.Hugo and Mariano Jinkis have not been extradited to the U.S., and Pena said they remain in Argentina. Pena reached an agreement this year with U.S. prosecutors to testify in exchange for not being charged.'I always considered myself a completely small fish in this issue,' he said.Juan Angel Napout, the ex-president of Paraguay's soccer federation; Jose Maria Marin, the former president of Brazil's soccer federation; and Manuel Burga, the ex-head of Peru's soccer federation, are on trial in federal court in Brooklyn for racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy.Pena, who worked for Full Play from 2009-15, testified about a ledger he kept of payments that the Jinkises directed be made to top soccer officials. He said he knew only of what they told him were amounts owed to soccer officials. Pena said Napout was to be paid in cash, not by wire transfer, so he had no knowledge if any money was received.'I simply wrote down the commitments based on other negotiations,' Pena said.Pena completed testimony Tuesday and was followed by the stand by James Haggerty of Bank of America, who explained wire-transfer records, and Daniel Huntley of Hilton Worldwide Holdings, who detailed Napout's reservation records.___AP Sports Writer Graham Dunbar in Geneva contributed to this report.