Illini get past Cats in OT

CHAMPAIGN—Mike Tisdale had a career-high 31 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Illinois spoiled No. 25 Northwestern’s return to the rankings after 40 years with an 89-83 overtime victory Wednesday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.Fellow big man Mike Davis had 20 points and 17 rebounds — his conference-leading seventh double-double — for the Illini (9-4), who beat Northwestern for the 11th consecutive time.John Shurna had 27 points, including four 3-pointers, for the Wildcats (10-2), who moved into the rankings on Monday for the first time since January 1969 when the poll was still a Top 20.The 7-1 Tisdale and Davis combined for 10 of Illinois’ 15 points in the overtime.

Huet shelled, Hawks edged 5-4 by Stars

DALLAS—Steve Ott had two goals, including a tiebreaking power-play tally off a solo rush early in the third period, and the Stars beat the Blackhawks 5-4 on Tuesday to end the Hawks’ three-game winning streak.Ott skated up the middle, found open ice after splitting two defenders, and fired a wrist shot past Antti Niemi to make it 5-4 at 4:07 of the final period.Loui Eriksson and Ott scored for the Stars in a 35-second span early in the second period.Dallas’ Mike Modano picked up his 549th goal in his 1,600th NHL game, tying Ron Francis for 25th on the career list. Mike Ribeiro also scored and Brad Richards had two assists for the Stars, 7-1-2 in their last 10 at home. Patrick Kane scored twice, giving him seven goals in his last five games. Troy Brouwer and Colin Fraser also had goals for the Blackhawks, who’ve lost both meetings with the Stars after sweeping four games from Dallas last season.The Blackhawks nearly tied it at 5 with 5:07 left but Marty Turco made two stops on point-blank attempts by Jonathan Toews.Turco stopped all 11 shots he faced in the final period with the help of five blocked shots by teammates.The Blackhawks started the night as one of the league’s hottest teams, having gone 7-1 in their previous eight games, and the Blackhawks made a strong early push with an 11-0 shots edge in the first five minutes.The Blackhawks capitalized on the game’s first power play when Brouwer fired a rebound past Turco at 3:10 of the opening period.Dallas made it 1-all on its first shot of the game when Modano’s power-play wrister from low in the left circle went in over Cristobal Huet’s left shoulder at 5:14 in the first.The Blackhawks went in front 3-2 on Fraser’s first goal of the season late in the first, set up by a centering pass from Kris Versteeg.Dallas tied it at 3 when Eriksson’s shot dribbled through Huet’s pads and over the goal line 57 seconds into the second.Ott’s fluky goal 35 seconds later that pinballed off the skate of a Hawk defenseman gave Dallas the lead.The Blackhawks tied it at 4 with 3.5 seconds left in the second when Kane knocked a rebound past Turco.The Hawks held a 21-8 shots edge after one period with the help of three power plays, and the Blackhawks capitalized on two man-advantage situations.

NOTES—Turco missed the two previous games with the flu….The Hawks had killed 25 straight power plays before Modano’s goal….Versteeg and D Niklas Hjalmarsson rejoined the Blackhawks after missing a home-and-home weekend set against Nashville with flulike symptoms

Bulls paste Pacers, Vinny gets no vote of confidence

Vinny Del Negro has pledged to forge ahead as speculation about his job security rages.And the Bulls took some of the heat off their coach Tuesday night with their highest scoring game of the season.Derrick Rose scored 28 points, the Bulls recovered after blowing an early 19-point lead and beat the Indiana Pacers 104-95.After blowing a 35-point lead last week against Sacramento, the Bulls made sure they didn’t fade away Tuesday night, even after Indiana took its first lead in the third quarter.Rose had 18 of his points in the second half and the Bulls used a 10-0 run in the third quarter to regain control.Before the game, Bulls GM Gar Forman said it was against the team’s philosophy to comment on reports that Del Negro would be fired. And asked if Del Negro would be the coach for the rest of the season, he said that all evaluations — players, staff and coaches — would be made internally.Del Negro said he was just going to coach.The Pacers, meanwhile, lost their seventh straight. Coach Jim O’Brien got a vote of confidence earlier in the week from team president Larry Bird, but Indiana fell behind by a big margin early for a third straight game.Rose had 18 of his points in the second half. John Salmons added 17 for the Bulls.Roy Hibbert scored 17 for Indiana, which is without injured star Danny Granger. The Pacers also played part of the third quarter and all of the fourth without second leading scorer Troy Murphy, who limped off with a sprained left ankle.Mike Dunleavy hit back-to-back 3-pointers midway through the third as the Pacers got within a point. And when he tried for another from long range, he was fouled by Taj Gibson behind the line and then made three straight free throws as the Pacers took their first lead of the game.But after Murphy went to the locker room with Indiana ahead 72-71, the Bulls ran off 10 straight points as Salmons and Luol Deng connected on 3-pointers. That put them up nine, and the Bulls extended the lead back to 13 with a quarter remaining.The Bulls went up 15 early in the fourth and withstood a last surge by the Pacers that cut it to nine. Rose scored 11 in the final period.Deng and Kirk Hinrich scored 10 each in the first quarter and the Bulls made 10 of their first 14 shots to jump out to a big lead early. The Pacers missed 12 of their first 17 shots.The Bulls pushed the advantage to 34-15 at the end of the period when Brad Miller sank a jumper with about five seconds to go.Josh McRoberts, averaging 1.5 points a game, had a spectacular dunk on an alley-oop pass and also hit a 3-pointer, sparking a 23-8 run that helped the Pacers trim the lead to four by the half.

NOTES—Murphy left with 5:57 to go in the third quarter. He managed only five points, nine under his average. … Pacers rookie Tyler Hansbrough was unable to play because of an inner ear infection. … Solomon Jones got his first start of the season for Indiana and had 13 points. …Tyrus Thomas, in his second game back after missing 22 with a fractured left radius, had 15 rebounds and got the crowd on its feet with back-to-back blocked shots in the fourth quarter.


The Bears pulled off a stunner by edging the Division Champion Minnesota Vikings 36-30 in overtime on Jay Cutlers 39 yard TD bomb to Devin Aromashodu after an Adrian Peterson fumble caused by Hunter Hillenmeyer which Nick Roach fell on.
After each team went three and out to start the game, The Bears started their second drive at their own 40 and Jay Cutler hit Desmond Clark for 27 yards to the 26 and Rashied Davis on a 9 yarder to the Vikes 10, making it first and goal,but the Vikings held,and Robbie Gould kicked a 22 yard chip shot field goal. On the net Minnesota drive,Brett Favre appeared be sacked,but got away with tossing it away near FB Naufahu Tahi for an incompletion,but on the next play, Favre was hit by Israel Idonije and coughed it up.Tommie Harris fell on it at the Vikings 40. Cutler hit Greg Olsen for 16 yards to the Minnesota 40.Cutler then scrambled for 8 to the 33 as the first period ended.The drive continued until Gould booted a 42 yarder to ake it 6-0.The Bears forced a Chris Kluwe punt whih he shanked off the right side of his foot for just 16 yards to the Bears 34 where it went out of bounds. Cutler found Olsen for 24 yards to the Vikes 29.Then Aromashodu made a leaping grab at the Minnesota 7,and from there, Cutler hit Olsen who made a diving grab in the middle of the end zone to make it 13-0 Bears with 5:56 left in the half. The Bears got it back once more and Gould made it 3-3 in the first half with a 41 yarder as tie expired-giving the Bears a 16-0 halftime lead.Favre was 5-8 for just 36 yards in the first half.
On Minnesotas second drive of the third quarter, Favre tried to hit Sidney Rice in the end zone,but he was interferred with by Charles Tillman,and Peterson scored from the one on the next play.Ryan Longwells PAT was blocked by Idonije, keeping the score 16-6 Bears. Danieal Manning returned the ensuing kickoff 57 yards to the Vikes 34. One play later,pass interference was called on Jasper Brinkley for bumping Olsen at the 4.One play later from the 2, Cutler bootlegged and the Vikings bit on it,leaving Clark wide open in the back of the end zone,whom he hit to make it 23-6 with 6:30 left in the third quarter.The Vikings came right back with a 73 yard,10 play drive. Favre finished it with a 6 yard TD pass on a blitz to a wide open Visanthe Shiancoe and it was 23-13 after three quarters.Johnny Knox injured his ankle on the kickoff and had to be carted off. On a third and long Cutler tried to his Earl Bennett,but instead it was intercepted by Cedric Griffin at the Vikes 47. That was Cutler’s League leading 26th of the season.As the fourth quarter started, Tillman hurt his ribs,making a tackle and had to be wheeled off on a stretcher.The Vikes settled for a 41 yard field goal to make it a one possession game at 23-16. That would not stand up either as the Bears had to punt,the Minnesota tied it up by driving 79 yards in 8 plays. The Bears were picked apart this time and Peterson scored fro the one,untouched. 23-23 with 5:49 left. Manning however had a big hole on the kickoff and went 59 yards to the Minnesota 21. After a 1 yard Matt Forte run, Cutler fired a bullet over the middle to Bennett for 20 yards in the end zoner and with 4:55 left,the Bears regained the lead 30-23.The Vikings drove from their own 32 to the Bears 7 and had a first and goal with 1:04 to go. It came down to a fourth and goal from the Bears 6 and Favre lobbed one into the end zone for Rice,who made a leaping grab to tie it 30-30 heading into overtime after Cutler took a knee,which of course drew boos.The Bears won the toss and received the OT kickoff. Bennett returned it to his 32.Cutler hit Aromashodu for 33 to the Vikes 35.Three plays later Gould missed a 45 yarder wide right and the Vikes took over at their own 35.The Bears stopped them three and out,sacking Favre on both second and third down.After Kluwe’s punt,the Bears took oer at their 36 but also failed to pick up a first down and Brad Maynard punted. Minnesota started at their 17.Peterson fumbled on a 16 yard pass from Favre and the Bears took over at the Vikes 39. One play later it was over as was the Bears home schedule for another season.
NOTES—Cutler finished 20-35 for 273 yards,4 TD’s and 1 Int. His passer rating was 108.4…..Favre was 26-40 for 321 yards, 2 TD’s and a passer rating of 106.4….Peterson carried 24 times for 94 yards, Fotre 21 times for 74 yards.

DePaul loses to Pitt, Loyola beats St.Francis

PITTSBURGH—Ashton Gibbs scored 23 points and Pittsburgh bolted to a 13-point lead in the opening 6 1/2 minutes to take control, and the Panthers held off a late rally to defeat DePaul 65-52 on Monday night in the Big East opener for both teams.Gibbs scored three baskets to help Pitt (11-2) surge to a 15-2 lead and the Panthers led by as many as 16 points at 30-14. DePaul (7-6), coming off a 64-61 loss to Florida Gulf Coast, was held to nine points in the opening 10 minutes.Jermaine Dixon, the only returning starter from Pitt’s 31-5 team of last season that reached an NCAA regional final, added 12 points.Will Walker and Mac Koshwal scored 11 points each and Mario Stula had 10 as cold-shooting DePaul lost its fifth in seven games.


Walt Gibler scored 14 points Monday night to lead Loyola to a 63-46 victory over St. Francis of Wheaton.Geoff McCammon scored 12 points, Courtney Stanley 11 and Ben Averkamp 10 for the Ramblers (10-2). Andy Polka had 16 rebounds for Loyola, which held a 47-25 advantage in rebounds.Billy Hubly was the only player in double figures for St. Francis (3-12) with 19 points. The Fighting Saints, who play in the NAIA, led 15-11 with 8 minutes left in the first half before Loyola went on a 19-3 run. Still, St. Francis scored the last seven points of the first half and trailed only by 30-25 at halftime.Loyola didn’t open up a double-figure lead until 9:20 remained in the game.


***Some NFL Coaches don’t learn! In the past,the Indianapolis Colts under Tony Dungey rested players after clinching their playoff seed. In 2005 and in other years the Colts lost in the first round to San Diego in Indy. The Bears wrapped up the #2 NFC seed in 2005,and Lovie Smith rested ton of players in the season finale with Minnesota,and the Bears lost that meaningless game as well as their Divisional Playoff game at Soldier Field to Carolina a couple of weeks later. Let it be remembered that the Bears and Colts played their people in their regular season finale and those two clubs met in the Superbowl. Now first year Coach Jim Caldwell,apparently not learning from his mentor, pulled Payton Manning and others with the Colts ahead in the fourth quarter,and the Jets rallied for an easy win. My prediction is the Colts will lose again early in the post season,especially if Caldwell sits any people next weekend.
***Now that the New Orleans Saints have laid another egg(losing to the awful Buccaneers),they could blow home field advantage to the Vikings,who just happen to be in Soldier Field Monday night.We’ll find out if the Brett Favre-Brad Childress feud is really over.
***After the Blackhawks impressive “home and home” series sweep over the weekend of the second place Nashville Predators,the question must now be asked: Are the Hawks the deepest team in the NHL? They are in the Western Conference at least. Does that mean this team will be an automatic Stanley Cup winner? No, but they are looking much more dangerous than the only other Blackhawk club to win the Presidents Trophy for the most regular season points, in 1990-91. That Hawks club with Jeremy Roenick,Eddie Belfour,Dirk Graham,Chris Chelios and Steve Larmer to name a few was ousted in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs by the team with the fewest points to qualify for the post season, the Minnesota North Stars who went all the way to the Finals that year before losing to Pittsburgh. Ironically,the Blackhawks,who were having a so so regular season in 1991-92,got hot AFTER a two week lockout late in the campaign and they beat St.Louis,Detroit and Edmonton to go to the Finals for the last time to date,and they also lost(in four straight)to the Penguins.
***The Northwestern Wildcats are already in Tampa for this coming Friday’s Outback Bowl against Auburn. We’ll be down there starting late Tuesday to cover that event as the Cats try to halt a 6 game Bowl losing streak. In fact, NU’s only ever Bowl win was in 1948 when they beat favored Cal 20-14 in the Rose Bowl. That was the Cats last Bowl game until 1995 when Gary Barnett took the “Purple to Pasadena” only to lose a tough game to Keyshawn Johnson and USC.
***So now,the Chicago Tribune is reporting that the Bulls have been in contact(again)with Doug Collins abut returning to the Bulls as Coach. Collins was Bulls Head Coach from 1987-88 through 1989-90. Hmmmmm!

Hawks struggle, then beat Preds anyway 5-4

OK, after this one,you would have to think that THIS IS the Blackhawks year. The Hawks returned home after a 4-1 win in Nashville Saturday night and the same Predators outplayed the Hawks for much of the rematch Sunday evening, but that did not matter. Nashville scored first, took a 2-1 lead into the third period, then rallied for two quick goals to wipe out a 4-2 Hawk lead. Didn’t matter! Patrick Kane’s second goal of the game with :44 left was the game winner as the Blackhawks beat Nashville again, this time 5-4 to increase their Central Division lead to eight points over the second place Preds. Antti Niemi had a rough night,yet he made some huge saves and also got a break or two. Marcel Goc put Nashville ahead with a tip in just 1:35 into the game. But Kane tied it on a tough angle shot at 6:55. The Predators regained the lead with the only goal of the second period by Martin Erat off a nice feed from former Blackhawk Steve Sullivan at the :47 mark. Then came a wild third stanza. John Madden took over the game with the tying goal on a breakaway pass from Andrew Ladd and he deked Dan Ellis for his 6th of the season. Madden then gave the Hawks the lead for the first time with a slap shot that went through Ellis’s “five hole” at 12:12. The Hawks went on the power play when Dan Hamhuis was sent off for tripping at 13:15 and Brian Campbell made it 4-2 with his 4th of the season which seemed to put the Hawks in total control. But these Preds battled back with two goals within :57 of one another.First Hamhuis tipped in a Jason Arnott shot at 15:38, then Cody Franson tied it and stunned the sellout crowd with a slap shot that went past a screened Niemi at 16:35. It looked like overtime was likely until Jonathan Toews held the zone,passed to Duncan Keith who fired it toward the net,and Kane wristed it past Ellis for the game winner.

NOTES—The capacity crowd was 21,746…..The Hawks next play the Stars in Dallas Tuesday evening.


Badgers rout Flames 79-43

MADISON—Jon Leuer scored 13 of his game-high 17 points in the first half as Wisconsin defeated UIC 79-43 on Sunday.Leuer, who has averaged 15.8 points over the past five games, was 6 of 8 from the field against the Flames (3-8) and also had a career-high five assists and seven rebounds.The Badgers (10-2) got off to a sluggish start but closed the first half with a 21-9 run for a 35-19 lead. Leuer and Jason Bohannon combined for 15 points during that stretch. Wisconsin also hit 7 of 11 3-pointers in the first half.Robo Kreps led UIC with 13 points, including a 40-foot 3-pointer that swished in at the first-half buzzer.Bohannon added 15 points while Trevon Hughes had 12, Jordan Taylor 11 and Ryan Evans 10.

Hawks take front end of home & home from Preds 4-1

NASHVILLE—Cristobal Huet made 25 saves, and Dustin Byfuglien, Patrick Kane, Andrew Ladd and Patrick Sharp scored in the Blackhawks’ 4-1 victory over the Nashville Predators on Saturday night.Jonathan Towes and Tomas Kopecky each had two assists for the Western Conference-leading Hwks. Martin Erat scored for Nashville.The Predators were hit with back-to-back minor penalties in the first period. After killing off the first penalty, the Predators were unable to stop the Blackhawks on the second. Byfuglien scored with a wrist shot through traffic from just inside the blue line at the 9:44 mark against Pekka Rinne.Erat tied it at 7:38 of the second, beating Huet on a breakaway.The Blackhawks scored two goals in a 1:10 span of the second period to take a 3-1 lead. Kane scored first, beating Rinne to his right side with a wrister from the left point. Ladd scored on a backhander at 13:36.With 1:13 left in the second, Sharp gave the Blackhawks a 4-1 edge off a rebound.


Byfuglien has three goals in five games against Nashville. … Huet has started all five games against Nashville this season, going 3-2.

Bulls get post Christmas gift from Noah(17 pts,18 boards)-beat Hornets

Tyrus Thomas returned from injury to score 21 points, Joakim Noah added 17 points and 18 rebounds, and the Bulls capped an eventful week with a 96-85 victory over the New Orleans Hornets on Saturday night.Thomas, back after missing 22 games with a broken left forearm, was active from the moment he entered to a nice ovation 3:09 into the game. He finished 10 for 17 from the floor and also had nine rebounds.Kirk Hinrich replaced slumping John Salmons in the starting lineup and scored 14 points and Derrick Rose also had 14 for the Bulls, who on Monday blew a 35-point, second-half lead in losing to Sacramento. The next night, they fell to New York despite erasing most of a 22-point deficit.And coach Vinny Del Negro spent much of the week dealing with rumors that he soon would be fired.Devin Brown scored all of his 22 points in the first half for New Orleans, which had only nine third-quarter points and fell to 2-12 on the road.Brown’s sixth 3-pointer in six attempts gave the Hornets a 42-31 lead with seven minutes left in the half and got the United Center crowd grumbling.The Bulls then outscored New Orleans 42-13 over the next 18 minutes to take a 73-55 lead late in the third quarter. Noah had 10 points and 10 rebounds during the surge.This time, the Bulls didn’t collapse, holding a double-digit lead most of the fourth quarter. After the Hornets’ Darren Collison scored to make it 94-85 with 1:30 to play, Noah had a rebound basket and then blocked Collison’s layup, ending all hope of a New Orleans comeback.Chris Paul, who had averaged 24.3 points and 10.7 assists in seven career games against the Bulls, had 15 points and seven assists Saturday.


Luol Deng scored 12 points, snapping his string of 20-point games at five. … Among those who have played in at least 20 games, Noah is the only NBA player to have pulled down at least seven rebounds in every game. … The Hornets had been 6-0 when Brown scored 11 or more points.