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Peyton Manning's Denver Broncos and Richard Sherman's Seattle Seahawks were the NFL's best all season, so it's fitting that they'll meet in the Super Bowl.

Nobody scored as many points or gained as many yards as the Broncos.

Nobody allowed as few points or gave up as few yards as the Seahawks.

And nobody won as many games as those clubs, either.

What a way to finish the season. When the AFC champion Broncos (15-3) play the NFC champion Seahawks (15-3) on Feb. 2 at what could be a chilly MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., it will be the first Super Bowl since 1991 pitting the league's highest-scoring team in the regular season against the team that was scored on the least, according to STATS.

It's also only the second time in the last 20 Super Bowls that the No. 1 seed in each conference reached the NFL championship game.

"It will be a great matchup," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I think it's an extraordinary opportunity to go against a guy that set all the records in the history of the game."

That, of course, would be Manning, the 37-year-old quarterback who is the only four-time NFL MVP - and no one would be surprised if No. 5 arrives the night before the Super Bowl. He established marks by throwing for 55 touchdowns and 5,477 yards, helping Denver lead the league with 37.9 points and 457.3 yards per game. Manning is an inescapable pitchman, too, seen Sunday after Sunday during TV commercials. Hey, there he was selling cars during breaks in the broadcast of the NFC title game. Expect even more face time now.

Manning's oft-told tale, certain to be repeated a million times in the coming days, includes his comeback from a series of surgical procedures to his neck, attempts to cure problems that led him to sit out the entire 2011 season. That also led the Indianapolis Colts to send him packing despite two Super Bowl appearances with that club, including a title in 2007.

"It's certainly well-documented what my journey the past 2 1/2 years has been," said Manning, who could become the first starting QB to lead two franchises to titles, "but this team's overcome a lot of obstacles this year."

None more serious, perhaps, than coach John Fox's absence for about a month because of a heart operation. Other issues included the fax faux pas that precipitated the departure of pass rusher Elvis Dumervil, star linebacker Von Miller's drug-testing suspension and season-ending knee injury, and the losses of a handful of other starters on defense.

"Being in my 16th season, going to my third Super Bowl - I know how hard it is to get there," Manning said.

He threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns in a 26-16 victory over Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the AFC championship game Sunday. Manning's offense scored on six consecutive possessions, accounted for more than 500 yards, had zero turnovers and zero sacks.

Ol' No. 18's opposite number in two weeks, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson, provides a real contrast as he seeks his - and the Seahawks' - first Super Bowl trophy.

Wilson is 6 inches shorter, 12 years younger, a skilled scrambler in only his second pro season after slipping to the third round of the draft; he's a guy who had to transfer colleges to get playing time and thought about pursuing a baseball career instead.

"Any time you get to the Super Bowl," Wilson said after Seattle beat the San Francisco 49ers 23-17 on Sunday, "it's a special time."

Other members of the Seahawks getting the chance to introduce themselves to a wide audience include rugged running back Marshawn Lynch - fans tossed packs of his favorite candy, Skittles, onto the field after a 40-yard TD run in the third quarter - and Carroll, a rah-rah sort who was a title-winning college coach at Southern California.

And maybe, just maybe, some of Manning's less-heralded defensive teammates - the ones who clamped down on New England's running game Sunday and limited Brady much of the afternoon - will get their chance to shine, too.

Seattle's defense, led by Sherman, allowed an average of 14.4 points and 273.6 yards, and topped the NFL in takeaways.

On Sunday, the Seahawks forced three turnovers in the fourth quarter alone, including a victory-sealing interception by Malcolm Smith after Sherman stretched his left hand to tip Colin Kaepernick's pass away from receiver Michael Crabtree in the end zone.

"I'm the best corner in the game," said Sherman, an All-Pro. "When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that's the result you're going to get."

Seattle's only other trip to the big game ended with a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2006. Denver will be playing in its seventh Super Bowl and eyeing a third title, to go with those from 1998 and 1999, when current executive John Elway was the QB.

In addition to Elway, Manning can match his younger brother Eli with a second Super Bowl crown. Eli, a spectator on Sunday in Denver, won two trophies with the New York Giants, whose stadium hosts this year's Super Bowl, the first to be played outdoors at a cold-weather site.

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Follow Howard Fendrich on Twitter at HTTP://TWITTER.COM/HOWARDFENDRICH

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AP NFL website: WWW.PRO32.AP.ORG

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Monday, 20 January 2014 09:29
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DENVER (AP) -- Peyton Manning stuffed the football into his helmet and handed it to an equipment man for safekeeping.
 
The connection: Flawless, as usual.
 
The keepsake: Certainly one he'll want to hang on to.
 
The Broncos quarterback had an answer for everyone Sunday - from Tom Brady to the New England defense to anyone who thought he couldn't win the big one.
 
Manning is taking the Broncos on a trip to New York for the Super Bowl after another of his impeccably crafted victories - this time, a 26-16 win over the Patriots on Sunday in the AFC title game.
 
"Being in my 16th season, going to my third Super Bowl, I know how hard it is to get there," Manning said.
 
Especially this time.
 
Only three years ago, he could barely grip a football as he started the long comeback from surgeries that ravaged his neck and nerve endings. And only 53 weeks ago, he suffered a devastating loss to Baltimore in the divisional playoffs that derailed what looked like a Super Bowl trip in his comeback season.
 
But Manning will get his chance for a second Super Bowl ring, after all. He'll try to become the first starting quarterback to win one with two different teams, at the Meadowlands on Feb. 2 against the Seattle Seahawks, who beat San Francisco 23-17 in the NFC title game.
 
"He's been remarkable," said Broncos coach John Fox, off to his second Super Bowl as a head coach. "It's unprecedented what he did."
 
After packing away his football, Manning ran to the 30-yard line to shake hands with Brady. A bit later in the locker room, he celebrated with his father, Archie, and brothers Cooper and Eli, the Giants quarterback who surprised Peyton much the way Peyton surprised him by showing up at the NFC title game two years ago.
 
The Indy-turned-Denver quarterback improved to 5-10 lifetime against Brady, but is now 2-1 in AFC title games.
 
"I have a lot of respect for him," Brady said. "Certainly, he's a great player and he played great today."
 
Though Manning threw for 400 yards, it was more dink-and-dunk than a fireworks show in this, the 15th installment between the NFL's two best quarterbacks of a generation. Manning set up four field goals by Matt Prater and put his stamp on this one with a pair of long, meticulous and mistake-free touchdown drives in which nothing came cheap.
 
He geared down the no-huddle, hurry-up offense that helped him set records for touchdown passes and yardage this season and made the Broncos the highest-scoring team in history. The result: 93- and 80-yard touchdown drives that each lasted more than seven minutes; they were the two longest, time-wise, of the season for the Broncos (15-3).
 
The Broncos held the ball for 35:44. They were 7 for 13 on third-down conversions.
 
"To keep Tom Brady on the sideline is a good thing," Manning said. "That's something you try to do when you're playing the Patriots."
 
Manning capped the second long drive with a 3-yard pass to Demaryius Thomas, who got inside the overmatched Alfonzo Dennard and left his feet to make the catch. It gave Denver a 20-3 lead midway through the third quarter.
 
From there, it was catch-up time for Brady and the Pats (13-5), and they are not built for that - at least not this year.
 
"We got in a hole there," Brady said. "It was just too much to dig our way out."
 
A team that averaged more than 200 yards on the ground the last three games didn't have much quick-strike capability. Brady, who threw for most of his 277 yards in comeback mode, actually led the Patriots to a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns. But they were a pair of time-consuming, 80-yard drives. The second cut the deficit to 26-16 with 3:07 left, but the Broncos stopped Shane Vereen on the 2-point conversion and the celebration was on in Denver.
 
"Losing is never easy," Patriots defensive lineman Rob Ninkovich said. "But when you have somebody as talented as (Manning), who puts in as much work and effort, and has done it for so long, it's a little bit easier to swallow."
 
The trip to New York, where it figures to be at least a tad cooler than Sunday's 63-degree reading at kickoff, will come 15 years after John Elway rode off into the sunset with his second straight Super Bowl victory.
 
The Broncos have had one close call since - when they lost at home to Pittsburgh in the 2005 season's AFC title game - but what it really took was Elway's return to the franchise in 2011. He slammed the door on the Tim Tebow experiment and signed Manning to a contract, knowing there were risks involved in bringing to town a thirty-something quarterback coming off multiple operations to resurrect his career.
 
Even without Von Miller on the field, Elway put enough pieces in place around Manning to move within a game of the championship.
 
Thomas. Wes Welker (four catches, 38 yards). Eric Decker (5-73). Tight end Julius Thomas (8-85).
 
"It's been a terrific group," Elway said as he hoisted the AFC championship trophy. "They worked their tail off all year."
 
Manning knows how to make the most of all the options he's been given.
 
This game started getting out of hand at about the same time Patriots cornerback Aqib Talib went out with a knee injury. Nobody else could cover Thomas, and Manning, who finds mismatches even under the toughest of circumstances, found this one quickly.
 
"Talib's an excellent player," Manning said, "but Demaryius was going to be a big part of the game plan, either way."
 
Thomas finished with seven catches for 134 yards, including receptions of 26 and 27 yards that set up a field goal for a 13-3 lead before the half.
 
Denver got the ball to start the third quarter and Manning hit Thomas for 15 and 4 yards as part of the 80-yard, 7:08 touchdown drive that gave Denver the 17-point lead.
 
It was 23-3 before Brady began the comeback that came up short.
 
"Peyton Manning is Peyton Manning," Patriots defensive end Andre Carter said. "He's a smart player and able to make adjustments when he needs to."
 
New England came up a win short of the Super Bowl for the second straight year.
 
The thought this week was that Bill Belichick's team was playing with house money, having well exceeded expectations for a team that lost a number of stars - Aaron Hernandez, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski - and has been plagued by injuries all year.
 
But a loss is a loss and facts are facts. Belichick is stuck on three titles and hasn't won one since the NFL busted him for the Spygate videotaping scandal.
 
"There were a lot of opportunities in the game that, if we were able to coach better, play better, execute better in any of those areas, it would have given us a chance," Belichick said.
 
Manning said Belichick is the best coach he's ever had to go against. The quarterback insisted this week's showdown against Brady was more Broncos vs. Patriots than Manning vs. Brady. He lets others decide who's the greatest at this or that.
 
But he earned a chance to improve on his already-sterling legacy - one that figures to leave him holding his fifth MVP trophy come Super Bowl week.
 
A win at MetLife Stadium in two weeks would put him in the same company brother Eli, along with Elway, Roger Staubach and a few others as a two-time Super Bowl winner.
 
Two weeks for Manning to prepare might feel like a lifetime.
 
At times, his long, difficult comeback has felt like a lifetime, too.
 
"We've definitely come a long way in two years," Manning said. "And bouncing back from last year's playoff loss to put ourselves in this position, it definitely feels very gratifying."
 
Sunday, 19 January 2014 23:48
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Golden Tate grabbed a 12th Man flag and circled the field with it.
 
Even team owner Paul Allen made an appearance and gave a victory speech.
 
The Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Big Apple for the Super Bowl.
 
"To see all our work that we put in - the mornings, the nights, the weights, all your life, as a young player and in the NFL," Malcolm Smith said after his end zone interception with 22 seconds remaining clinched the 23-17 victory over the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday. "It's amazing."
 
Seattle's top-ranked defense forced three fourth-quarter turnovers, and Russell Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass on fourth down for the winning points. Seattle will meet Denver (15-3) for the NFL title in two weeks in the New Jersey Meadowlands. It's the first trip to the big game for the Seahawks (15-3) since they lost to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season.
 
The conference champs had the best records in the league this year, the second time the top seeds have gotten to the Super Bowl in 20 seasons. It also is a classic confrontation of Denver's record-setting offense led by Peyton Manning against the NFL's stingiest defense. Denver opened as a 1-point favorite over Seattle on the Glantz-Culver Line.
 
"It will be a great matchup," coach Pete Carroll said. "I think it's an extraordinary opportunity to go against a guy that set all the records in the history of the game."
 
Moments after Sherman tipped Colin Kaepernick's pass to Smith for the interception, the All-Pro cornerback jumped into the stands behind the end zone, saluting the Seahawks' raucous fans. With 12th Man flags waving everywhere, and "New York, New York" blaring over the loudspeakers, CenturyLink Field rocked like never before.
 
"That's as sweet as it gets," said Sherman, who also went into several rants about 49ers wideout Michael Crabtree, whom he called a "sorry receiver."
 
"This is really special," added Carroll, who has turned around the Seahawks in four seasons in charge. "It would really be a mistake to not remember the connection and the relationship between this football team and the 12th Man and these fans. It's unbelievable."
 
San Francisco (14-5) led 17-13 when Wilson, given a free play as Aldon Smith jumped offside, hurled the ball to Jermaine Kearse, who made a leaping catch in the end zone.
 
Steven Hauschka then kicked his third field goal following Kam Chancellor's pick, and Smith intercepted in the end zone on the 49ers' final possession.
 
"This feels even sweeter, with the amazing support we have had from the 12th Man," Allen said, comparing this Super Bowl trip to the previous one.
 
Until Seattle's top-ranked defense forced a fumble and had two interceptions in the final period, the game was marked by big offensive plays in the second half. That was somewhat shocking considering the strength of both teams' defenses.
 
And those plays came rapidly.
 
Marshawn Lynch, in full "Beast Mode," ran over a teammate and then outsped the 49ers to the corner of the end zone for a 40-yard TD, making it 10-10.
 
Kaepernick then was responsible for consecutive 22-yard gains, hitting Crabtree, then rushing to the Seattle 28. His fumble on the next play was recovered by center Jonathan Goodwin, who even lumbered for 2 yards.
 
Anquan Boldin outleapt All-Pro safety Earl Thomas on the next play for a 26-yard touchdown.
 
Then, Doug Baldwin, who played for 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh at Stanford, stepped up - and through San Francisco's coverage - on a scintillating 69-yard kickoff return that made the stadium shake for the first time all day.
 
That set up Hauschka's 40-yard field goal. And a frantic finish.
 
Seattle took its first lead on Wilson's throw to Kearse with 13:44 left, and CenturyLink rocked again.
 
The place went silent soon after when Niners All-Pro linebacker NaVorro Bowman sustained an ugly left knee injury midway and was carted off. Bowman, who was having a huge game, had forced a fumble at the San Francisco 1, but Lynch recovered.
 
"I never heard him yell like that, or even stay down for a moment," teammate Patrick Willis said of Bowman.
 
The Seahawks had gotten their first turnover moments earlier when Cliff Avril stripped Kaepernick and Michael Bennett recovered. But Lynch and Wilson botched a handoff on fourth down on the play after Bowman's injury.
 
It took only two plays for Chancellor to haul in Kaepernick's underthrow to Boldin, and Hauschka's 47-yarder ended the scoring.
 
But not the excitement.
 
Kaepernick, who rushed for 130 yards, got San Francisco to the Seattle 18 with his arm. But his pass for Crabtree was brilliantly tipped by Sherman to Smith.
 
"We knew it would come down to us in the back end to win this thing," Sherman said.
 
The final play was similar to last year's Super Bowl ending, when Kaepernick missed Crabtree in the end zone from the 5 and Baltimore survived.
 
"It's tough. Any time you get this close to the Super Bowl and lose, it's pretty upsetting," tight end Vernon Davis said. "We just didn't get it. We've been down this road before in the same kind of situation. It's hard."
 
Whether it was nerves or just a great play by Aldon Smith, Wilson fumbled on Seattle's first snap. Smith got credit for a sack and a recovery, too - a defender's dream - at the Seahawks 15.
 
More staunch defense followed, this time by Seattle, which held and only gave up Phil Dawson's 25-yard field goal.
 
Seattle simply had no answers for Kaepernick's runs, looking either flat-footed or plain-out lost when he took off. He gained 98 yards on the ground in the first half, including a 58-yard second-quarter run, the longest of his three-year career and the longest Seattle's defense allowed all season.
 
But he was less effective in the second half and was plagued by turnovers.
 
Wilson came up with a huge improvisation of his own moments after Kaepernick's long jaunt. Wilson avoided the rush with some nifty scrambling before spotting Baldwin behind the defense for a 51-yard pickup.
 
All it resulted in was Hauschka's 32-yard field goal, making it 10-3.
 
Baldwin finished with six receptions for 106 yards.
 
And now it's on to New Jersey, where Carroll once coached the Jets for a season. That didn't end well - he was fired so the team could hire Rich Kotite. He heads back with a chance to add a Super Bowl crown to two national titles as coach at Southern California.
Sunday, 19 January 2014 23:47
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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Jabari Brown tied a career high with 24 points and Johnathan Williams III grabbed 14 rebounds to help Missouri defeat Alabama 68-47 on Saturday.
 
Missouri (14-3, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) entered the game having lost two of three, including a 78-75 setback at Vanderbilt on Thursday. The Tigers only led 31-30 at the break against the Crimson Tide, but opened the second half with a 14-4 run to create some breathing room.
 
After shooting 52.6 percent in its 80-61 win against Mississippi State on Wednesday, Alabama converted 29.2 percent of its shots from the field against Missouri and couldn't pull closer than 13 points in the final 10 minutes.
 
Shannon Hale scored 12 points and Retin Obasohan added 11 points for the Crimson Tide (8-9, 2-2), which is 0-7 away from home this season.
 
Missouri benefited from the return of Jordan Clarkson in the second half after he sat the final 12 minutes in the first. Averaging 18.8 points per game, Clarkson scored four points before the break but finished with 16.
 
The Tigers yielded only five 3-pointers — one game after allowing 12 to Vanderbilt — and limited Alabama to 25 percent shooting from behind the arc. Coach Frank Haith had lamented the Tigers' inability to make several layups against Vanderbilt, and the team missed several more against the Crimson Tide.
 
Missouri shot 42.6 percent overall, including 52.4 percent (11 for 21) in the second half.
 
For its part, Alabama wasn't much better around the basket. Trevor Releford, a senior guard from Kansas City, Mo., leads the Crimson Tide with 18.9 points per game but tied a season low with 10 points on four of 16 shooting.
 
After its initial run after halftime, Missouri gradually kept pulling away in front of a season-high attendance of 11,003. Before the game, fans could receive autographs from six members of the St. Louis Cardinals, headlined by NL championship series MVP Michael Wacha.
 
The Tigers hoped to put their troubles behind them by scoring the first seven points of the game, but Alabama scored 12 of the next 14. The teams then traded baskets until Williams' jumper put Missouri ahead 31-30 with 53 seconds remaining before halftime.
Saturday, 18 January 2014 22:56
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Ryan Getzlaf scored his 25th goal, and rookie Frederik Andersen made 34 saves as the Anaheim Ducks got back to their winning ways with a 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
 
Anaheim, which had an eight-game winning streak snapped on Friday in Chicago, has won 19 of 21. The Ducks have won nine of their last 11 on the road and lead the NHL with 79 points. They are 20-0-2 at home.
 
Matt Beleskey and Cam Fowler also scored for the Ducks, who have a league-best 37 points on the road. Andersen (12-2) has won three straight.
 
Barret Jackman and Jaden Schwartz scored third-period goals for St. Louis, which has lost back-to-back games in regulation for just the second time this season.
 
Anaheim scored three times on its first 11 shots against Brian Elliott, who had a franchise-record, 13-game home winning streak snapped.
 
Getzlaf scored off a pass from Corey Perry 5:27 into the game. Getzlaf, who added an assist, has 14 points in his last nine games.
 
Beleskey squeezed a shot through Elliott early in the second period. Elliott made the initial save, but the puck trickled through his legs into the net.
 
Fowler tallied on the power play with a shot from the top of the circle to push the lead 3-0 midway through the second period.
 
Schwartz got the Blues to within 3-2 with a power-play goal at 14:31 of the third.
 
St. Louis is 1-7 against California teams this season.
 
NOTES: St. Louis LW Alexander Steen returned to the lineup after missing 11 games because of a concussion. ... The Blues have an NHL-best, plus-55 goal differential. ... Anaheim RW Teemu Selanne didn't play in the second of back-to-back games, as usual. The Ducks lost 4-2 in Chicago on Friday. ... RW Chris Stewart played in his 200th game with the Blues. ... The Ducks are 22-3-4 in games in which they score first.
 
Saturday, 18 January 2014 22:55
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Vanderbilt Commodores are so short-handed right now that they have a no room for error. Hitting a season-high 12 3-pointers helps.
 
Rod Odom scored a career-high 24 points, hitting six 3-pointers, and the Commodores beat Missouri 78-75 Thursday night in the Tigers' first visit to Memorial Gym as a member of the Southeastern Conference.
 
"That 3-point shot is a great equalizer," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.
 
Vanderbilt (9-6, 1-2) snapped a two-game skid by avoiding foul trouble and hitting a season-high 12 3-pointers. The Commodores are down to seven scholarship players after leading scorer Eric McClellan first was suspended from the university, then kicked off the team for good last week. They lost their first two games without McClellan and desperately needed a league win with three of the next four on the road.
 
"I'm really extremely proud of our team and just really, really proud of them because they had to dig in deep against a very good team to get this victory and they did," Stallings said. "And I'm very happy for them."
 
Missouri (13-3, 1-2) now has lost two of three. The Tigers were looking for their third road win this season trying to work their way back into the Top 25. Coach Frank Haith kept thinking after the game of a handful of easy layups his Tigers missed that could have been the difference.
 
"I think what really hurt us we missed at least seven chippies around the hoop," Haith said.
 
Kyle Fuller added 22 points for Vanderbilt. Dai-Jon Parker had 11, and Damian Jones added 10. Odom, Fuller and Parker all played 40 minutes.
 
"For me personally, playing 40 minutes is always OK," Odom said. "That's why you come to college is to play. We both have a great opportunity to play more than anybody could imagine."
 
Fuller laughed when asked if knowing Stallings has little option but to keep the senior guard on the floor. He had five assists with three turnovers. Fuller said he'll play as long as Stallings needs him to play.
 
"I'm just thankful we came out with a win today," Fuller said.
 
Jabari Brown scored 22 points for Missouri, while Jordan Clarkson had 18 and Ross 11.
 
The Tigers opened the second half by scoring the first eight points in taking their first lead since the opening bucket on a layup by Williams at 40-39. The teams swapped the lead back and forth before Fuller finished off a fast-break with a layup for Vanderbilt putting the Commodores back ahead 45-44 with 13:30 to go. That started a 10-2 spurt featuring a pair of 3s from Odom, the second giving Vandy a 53-46 lead with 10:52 remaining.
 
Misssouri pulled within 60-57 on a jumper by Brown with 4:17 left. First Fuller hit a 3-pointer, then Odom added his sixth 3 to push the lead to 66-59 with 2:00 left. The Tigers couldn't get closer than the final score on a 3-pointer by Clarkson with 2 seconds left as Vanderbilt went 6 of 7 at the free throw line in the final 40 seconds with Fuller hitting all six of attempts at the line to seal the win.
 
These are two of the SEC's best shooting teams and the league's best defending against the 3-pointer with Vanderbilt (27.8 percent) just ahead of Missouri (28.6 percent). The Commodores shredded Missouri's defense as they knocked down 3 after 3 and finished 12 of 32 (37.5 percent) — both season-highs allowed by the Tigers. That more than made up for Missouri outrebounding Vanderbilt 45-35 and the Tigers' 36-16 scoring edge in the paint.
 
Haith said they knew Vanderbilt is a good 3-point shooting team and were well aware of how well Parker and Odom can hit from outside.
 
"They made them," Haith said. "They shot them and made them. You've got to give them credit. They made some tough ones too."
 
Missouri opened the game with a 3 by Brown for the Tigers' biggest lead of the game.
 
Then Vanderbilt went on a 17-2 run started by a 3-pointer from Odom and Parker. Missouri countered with its own 14-4 run to get close. But the Commodores led 39-32 at halftime because they shot better from beyond the arc than they did inside as they hit 8 of their first 16 3-pointers.
Thursday, 16 January 2014 22:38
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Trevor Lewis gave Los Angeles some unexpected offense with two goals early in the third period of the Kings' 4-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.
 
Lewis scored the tiebreaker on a deflection off a Blues player's skate, then got his second goal of the season on a short-handed wraparound, capitalizing on goalie Jaroslav Halak's stick-handling goof.
 
Jonathan Quick had 28 saves as the Kings snapped a five-game road losing streak in the opener of a five-game trip.
 
T.J. Oshie scored his first career goal on a penalty shot in the second period for the Blues, who snapped a five-game home winning streak. Oshie has 11 goals on the season and has five goals and four assists in his last six home games.
Thursday, 16 January 2014 22:35
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LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Clayton Kershaw agreed Wednesday to a $215 million, seven-year contract with the Los Angeles Dodgers, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press, a deal that makes the two-time Cy Young Award winner baseball's first player with a $30 million average salary.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the agreement had not yet been announced.

Kershaw receives the most lucrative deal for a pitcher, breaking the mark of $180 million set by Justin Verlander last March for his seven-year contract with Detroit.

Kershaw would have been eligible for free agency after the upcoming season if the new deal hadn't been reached. He was eligible for salary arbitration, and those figures were set to be exchanged on Friday. He was coming off a two-year, $20 million deal that included $200,000 in bonuses in 2012, a $500,000 escalator to his 2013 base salary, and $300,000 in bonuses last year.

General manager Ned Colletti said last week that both sides had been negotiating.

"It's our desire to sign him here for a very long time," Colletti said.

The average salary of $30.7 million tops the previous high of $27.5 million, set by the New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez as part of a 10-year agreement from December 2007. While Roger Clemens had a contract with a listed salary of $28 million with the Yankees in 2007, he joined the team in June and actually made $17.4 million.

The Dodgers had baseball's second-highest payroll at the end of the regular season last fall - more than $236 million.

Kershaw's agreement, first reported by ESPN.com, is baseball's seventh of $200 million or more. Among current contracts, it trails only the agreements of Rodriguez, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto ($251.5 million over 12 years), Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols ($240 million over 10 years) and Seattle second baseman Robinson Cano ($240 million over 10 years).

A left-hander who turns 26 in March, Kershaw won NL Cy Young Awards in 2011 and 2013. He was 16-9 for the NL West champion Dodgers last year and led the league with 232 strikeouts, and his 1.83 ERA was the best in the major leagues since Pedro Martinez's 1.74 for Boston in 2000. He has led the NL in ERA in each of the last three years.

Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis tweeted: "Big winner today......me. I am blessed to catch best in the game for foreseeable future God willing. Congrats Kersh!"

Teammate Matt Kemp chimed in, tweeting, "Congrats 2 the best pitcher in baseball and great teammate (at)ClaytonKersh22 on his deal!"

Kershaw has been a powerful, yet low-key, presence on the team. In the offseason, the Dallas native has worked to build a charitable legacy alongside his wife, Ellen. The couple has made yearly trips to Africa, where his foundation that focuses on helping at-risk children built an orphanage.

The deal signifies further stability for a club that was in turmoil under former owner Frank McCourt, who sold the team to a group that includes Magic Johnson in 2012. The Dodgers signed manager Don Mattingly to a three-year deal last week and now have locked up their ace.

Last year, Kershaw pitched a career-high 259 innings between the regular season and the playoffs. The season ended on a sour note when he pitched a rare clunker in the Dodgers' 9-0 loss to St. Louis in the NL championship series that eliminated them.

Still up for discussion this winter is a new deal for Hanley Ramirez, who hit a team-leading .345 and played hurt during the NLCS. He has one year left on his contract.

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this story.

© 2014 THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. THIS MATERIAL MAY NOT BE PUBLISHED, BROADCAST, REWRITTEN OR REDISTRIBUTED. Learn more about our PRIVACY POLICY and TERMS OF USE.

Thursday, 16 January 2014 08:28
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ST. LOUIS (AP) -- T.J. Oshie scored twice and Jaroslav Halak made 20 saves to lead the St. Louis Blues to a 2-1 win over the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday night.
 
The Blues have won eight of nine and improved to 7-1-1 against the Coyotes since the start of the 2011-2012 season.
 
Phoenix lost its season-high fourth consecutive game.
 
Oshie recorded his second two-goal game in the last six contests since he was named to the U.S. Olympic team.
 
Halak improved to 19-6-3 with his second successive win after missing five games due to illnesses. He robbed David Moss from close range with a stick save early in the third period.
 
Oliver Ekman-Larsson scored for Phoenix, which has been outscored 16-6 during the four-game skid.
 
Oshie, who has 10 goals, ripped a shot behind Mike Smith midway through the first period off a back pass from Alex Pietrangelo. Oshie scored on the power play in the second period. Jaden Schwartz provided a screen on Oshie's shot from just inside the blue line.
 
Ekman-Larsson scored a power play goal on a high wrist shot with 48 seconds left in the second period. The Blues had killed their previous 21 penalties.
 
Phoenix RW Radim Vrbata hit the crossbar with 4:16 remaining the game.
 
St. Louis, which has won its last five home games, has a plus-61 goal differential, the best in the NHL.
 
Notes: St. Louis D Roman Polak returned after missing 10 games with a fractured ankle. ... Phoenix C Mike Ribeiro left Monday's contest against Winnipeg with a lower body injury but returned on Tuesday. ...The Coyotes remain the only team in the NHL without a short-handed goal this season. ...St. Louis public address announcer Tom Calhoun worked his 1,200 consecutive home game. ... Blues LW Vladimir Sobotka, who has seven goals and 24 points, missed the game with a fever. ...St. Louis C Patrik Berglund played in his 400th NHL game. ....Phoenix RW Shane Doan is two assists shy of 500.
 
Tuesday, 14 January 2014 23:29
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NEW YORK (AP) -- Alex Rodriguez sued Major League Baseball and its players' union Monday, seeking to overturn a season-long suspension imposed by an arbitrator who ruled there was "clear and convincing evidence" the New York Yankees star used three banned substances and twice tried to obstruct the sport's drug investigation.

As part of the complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, Rodriguez's lawyers made public Saturday's 34-page decision by arbitrator Fredric Horowitz, who shortened a penalty originally set at 211 games last August by baseball Commissioner Bud Selig for violations of the sport's drug agreement and labor contract.

Horowitz, a 65-year-old making his second decision as baseball's independent arbitrator, trimmed the discipline to 162 games, plus all postseason games in 2014.

"While this length of suspension may be unprecedented for a MLB player, so is the misconduct he committed," Horowitz wrote.

Horowitz concluded Rodriguez used testosterone, human growth hormone and Insulin-like growth factor-1 in 2010, 2011 and 2012 in violation of baseball's Joint Drug Agreement. He relied on evidence provided by the founder of the now-closed Biogenesis of America anti-aging clinic in Florida.

"Direct evidence of those violations was supplied by the testimony of Anthony Bosch and corroborated with excerpts from Bosch's personal composition notebooks, BBMs (Blackberry messages) exchanged between Bosch and Rodriguez, and reasonable inferences drawn from the entire record of evidence," Horowitz wrote. "The testimony was direct, credible and squarely corroborated by excerpts from several of the hundreds of pages of his composition notebooks."

While the original notebooks were stolen, Horowitz allowed copies into evidence.

Rodriguez's suit accused the Major League Baseball Players Association of "bad faith," said its representation during the hearing was "perfunctory at best" and accused it of failing to attack a civil suit filed by MLB in Florida state court as part of its Biogenesis investigation.

His lawyers criticized Michael Weiner, the union head who died from a brain tumor in November, for saying last summer he recommended Rodriguez settle for a lesser penalty if MLB were to offer an acceptable length.

"His claim is completely without merit, and we will aggressively defend ourselves and our members from these baseless charges," new union head Tony Clark said in a statement. "The players' association has vigorously defended Mr. Rodriguez's rights throughout the Biogenesis investigation, and indeed throughout his career. Mr. Rodriguez's allegation that the association has failed to fairly represent him is outrageous, and his gratuitous attacks on our former executive director, Michael Weiner, are inexcusable."

The suit also claimed MLB engaged in "ethically challenged behavior" and was the source of media leaks in violation of baseball's confidentiality rules.

Rodriguez's lawyers said Horowitz acted "with evident partiality" and "refused to entertain evidence that was pertinent and material." They faulted Horowitz for denying Rodriguez's request to have a different arbitrator hear the case, for not ordering Selig to testify and for allowing Bosch to claim Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination in refusing to answer questions during cross-examination.

They also said Horowitz let the league introduce "unauthenticated documents and hearsay evidence ... obtained by theft, coercion or payment," wouldn't allow them to examine Blackberry devices introduced by MLB and was fearful he would be fired if he didn't side with management.

Rodriguez asked the court to throw out Horowitz's decision and find the league violated its agreements with the union and that the union breached its duty to represent him. The case was assigned to U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos.

Supreme Court decisions have set narrow grounds for judges to vacate arbitration decisions, instances such as corruption or not following the rules agreed to by the parties.

The three-time AL MVP admitted five years ago he used performance-enhancing substances while with Texas from 2001-03, but the third baseman has denied using them since. MLB's Biogenesis investigation was sparked after the publication of documents last January by Miami New Times.

Bosch agreed in June to cooperate with MLB and testified during the hearing, which ran from September until November. Rodriguez's lawyers attacked his credibility because of that deal, which included reimbursement by MLB for costs of lawyers, up to $2,400 daily for security, insulation from civil suits and a promise to tell law enforcement he was cooperative.

"The benefits accorded to Bosch under that arrangement did not involve inducements that the panel considers to be improper," wrote Horowitz, who chaired a three-man panel that included MLB Chief Operating Officer Rob Manfred and union General Counsel David Prouty.

Horowitz cited the credibility of Bosch's "unrebutted testimony - testimony which was corroborated by substantial documentary evidence," and he described how Bosch and Rodriguez communicated in code, referring to banned substances as "food."

"Once when Bosch sent a message telling Rodriguez that he was going to pick up Rodriguez's `meds,' Rodriguez replied `Not meds dude. Food,'" the arbitrator wrote.

Rodriguez did not testify in the grievance, walking out after Horowitz refused to order Selig to testify.

At a brief hearing Monday, MLB said it would not discipline Rodriguez for including the decision in his lawsuit. U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III brushed aside concerns from the union about confidentiality concerns.

"Given the intense public interest in this matter and Commissioner Selig's disclosures last night on `60 Minutes,' it's difficult to imagine that any portion of this proceeding should be under seal," Pauley said.

The arbitrator noted Bosch and Rodriguez exchanged 556 text messages and had 53 telephone calls in 2012. He said all records of text messages were produced by Bosch, while lawyers for Rodriguez said the Blackberry he used to communicate with Bosch was deactivated last March and Rodriguez no longer had it.

The arbitrator said Rodriguez instructed Bosch in one message to "erase all these messages."

Horowitz recounted how Rodriguez was introduced to Bosch after a Yankees game in Tampa, Fla., in July 2010 by A-Rod's cousin, Yuri Sucart, who knew Bosch through Jorge "Oggi" Velazquez.

Horowitz wrote MLB was justified in citing violations of the collective bargaining agreement because Rodriguez "played an active role in inducing Bosch to issue his own public denial on Jan. 29" and "attempted to induce Bosch to sign a sworn statement on May 31" saying he never supplied the player.

In determining the length of the penalty, Horowitz cited a 2008 decision in a grievance involving Neifi Perez in which arbitrator Shyam Das ruled "separate uses are subject to separate disciplines." He said under the discipline system for positive tests, Rodriguez would be subject to at least 150 games for three violations of 50 games. Still, Horowitz thought Selig's initial penalty was too severe.

"A suspension of one season satisfies the structures of just cause as commensurate with the severity of his violations," he wrote.

Rodriguez's lawyers claimed at worst the case should involve one first violation with a penalty of 50 games, and they said including the 2014 postseason was beyond the scope of Selig's original discipline. Horowitz rejected Rodriguez's argument that the lack of a positive test was proof of innocence.

"It is recognized Rodriguez passed 11 drug tests administered by MLB from 2010 through 2012. The assertion that Rodriguez would have failed those tests had he consumed those PES as alleged is not persuasive. As advanced as MLB's program has become, no drug-testing program will catch every player," Horowitz wrote.

In Selig's notice of discipline to Rodriguez on Aug. 5, he said MLB actively is investigating allegations he received banned substances in 2009 from Dr. Anthony Galea, who pleaded guilty in 2011 to a federal charge of bringing unapproved drugs into the United States from Canada.

---

Online:

Lawsuit and arbitrator's decision:

HTTP://HOSTED.AP.ORG/SPECIALS/INTERACTIVES/-DOCUMENTS/AR-COMPLAINT.PDF

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Tuesday, 14 January 2014 08:43
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