Noah returns,but Bulls DEFENSELESS in Toronto

TORONTO—This wasn’t the way the wanted to welcome Joakim Noah back to the lineup. It wasn’t much of a way to warm up for Thursday’s meeting with Miami, either.Andrea Bargnani and DeMar DeRozan each scored 24 points, Jose Calderon had 17 assists and the Toronto Raptors beat the Bulls 118-113 on Wednesday night, snapping the Visitors four-game winning streak and spoiling Noah’s return from thumb surgery.Derrick Rose scored 19 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter and added 10 assists, and Carlos Boozer had 24 points for the Bulls, who had won 10 of their previous 12.Amir Johnson scored 17 points, Leandro Barbosa had 13 and Sonny Weems 12 as the Raptors beat the Bulls for the first time in three meetings. Toronto had won just two of its last 20 but shot 58.1 percent against the Bulls, the best showing by one of their opponents this season.The Bulls, who host the Heat on Thursday night, don’t have much time to sort out what went wrong.Joakim Noah returned to the starting lineup after missing 30 games because of surgery to repair a torn ligament in his right thumb. The Bulls had gone 22-8 in his absence.Thibodeau said he would use Noah in 6-to-8 minute increments as he worked to regain his conditioning. Noah finished with seven points and had 16 rebounds in 24 minutes.The Bulls got 19 points from Luol Deng and 11 from Ronnie Brewer.After Brewer missed a free throw that would have tied the game at 92 with 8:27 left, Toronto answered with a pair from the line by Weems, a baseline jumper from Barbosa and an alley-oop pass from Calderon to Johnson, forcing the Bulls to call timeout with 6:14 left and the Raptors up 98-91. Rose stopped the run with a three-point play before Toronto pushed its lead to eight.Boozer scored on a layup and a hook shot as the Bulls scored six of the next eight points, making it 104-100 with 3:04 remaining. Barbosa’s three-point play gave Toronto a seven-point lead, but Rose made four straight free throws, then tied the game at 107 on a 3 with 1:59 left.DeRozan and Rose each made layups, then each made a pair from the line. DeRozan made two more free throws with 49 seconds left and, after Rose missed a jumper at the other end, a layup by Johnson gave the Raptors a 115-111 lead with 16 seconds to play.Noah missed all four shots he took in the first quarter but did pick up 10 rebounds, and Deng scored 10 points as the Bulls led 27-21 after one quarter. The Raptors battled back to tie it at 43-all late in the first half, but the Bulls reclaimed the lead thanks to seven points from Boozer. An alley-oop from Calderon to DeRozan cut the Bulls lead to 58-55 at the half.Toronto led 81-72 on a jump shot by Davis with 2:37 left in the third but the Bulls ended the quarter with a 9-4 run to trail 85-81 heading into the fourth.Acquired from the Bulls on Monday in exchange for a first-round draft pick in 2011, James Johnson made his first start of the year against his former team. He finished with nine points.

NOTES—Philadelphia shot 56.3 percent on Jan. 7, beating the Bulls 105-99…..The Bulls are now 13-13 on the road…..Before the game, James Johnson spoke about the trade giving him a “fresh start” and explained how he chose his new jersey number, zero. “I wanted to start from zero and work my way up,” he said.

St.Johns blows out Demons 76-51

NEW YORK—St. John’s avoided the trap.The 23rd-ranked Red Storm were playing their first game as a ranked team in more than 10 years and it was against DePaul, a team that has managed just one Big East win this season.That is the perfect description of what are called trap games.But Dwight Hardy continued his scoring streak with 21 points and St. John’s dominated the Blue Demons throughout a 76-51 victory Wednesday night.Hardy, who came in averaging 26.0 points on 50 percent shooting, including 53.3 from 3-point range over the last five games, didn’t have to come up with any late-game heroics like he did Saturday in a 60-59 win over No. 4 Pittsburgh.The Red Storm (18-9, 10-5 Big East) controlled the game inside, in transition and on the backboards to win for the eighth time in nine games, a streak that got them in the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since November 2000.Freshman Cleveland Melvin had 16 points for the Blue Demons (7-20, 1-14), who have lost 14 of 15. This was DePaul’s 29th consecutive loss to a ranked team and eighth this season.St. John’s used a 12-0 run — with Hardy and Kennedy each getting five points — to take a 33-14 lead with 3:08 left in the half.Brandon Young hit a 30-footer at the buzzer to pull the Blue Demons to 37-22. St. John’s started the second half on a 9-2 run for a 46-24 lead with 16:59 to play and it only got worse from there for DePaul, which trailed by as many as 30 points – 61-31 on a jumper by Hardy with 10:39 to play.Paris Horne added 12 points and Kennedy had 11 points and 10 rebounds for St. John’s, which has won four straight over the Blue Demons, including a 90-82 triple-overtime game last season when Kennedy had 32 points, nine rebounds and seven assists.Hardy’s tightrope walk along the baseline and his underhanded scoop with 1.2 seconds to play gave the Red Storm the win over Pittsburgh, their fifth over a ranked team this season. All five of the teams — Georgetown, Notre Dame, Duke, Connecticut and Pitt — were ranked 13th or higher when St. John’s faced them.The Red Storm’s 2-3 zone had DePaul frustrated about getting the ball inside and forced them to take long perimeter shots. The Blue Demons finished 17 of 55 from the field (30.9 percent). St. John’s, meanwhile, got the ball inside often and effectively, outscoring DePaul 42-18 in the paint. That also helped the Red Storm to 54.4 percent shooting (31 of 57) and they finished with a 43-29 rebound advantage.It was the 500th game played at Carnesecca Arena, the 50-year-old on-campus gym. St. John’s is now 420-80 in the building named for its Hall of Fame coach, who retired in 1992 and was in the sellout crowd of 5,602.

Irish overcome 52 by Brooks, edge Providence 94-93

PROVIDENCE—Notre Dame appeared to be in total control, then all of a sudden the Fighting Irish were lucky time ran out on Marshon Brooks.Ben Hansbrough scored a career-high 32 points and Tim Abromaitis had a season-high 28 as No. 9 Notre Dame hung on for a 94-93 victory against struggling Providence on Wednesday night despite a Big East-record 52 points by Brooks.The Irish (22-5, 11-4 Big East) are off to their best start ever in 11 seasons under coach Mike Brey. Notre Dame, in second place in the conference, has won eight of nine.Brooks’ 52 points was the most ever scored against Notre Dame, which hadn’t allowed a 40-point scorer since Danny Manning in 1987. Brooks, only the third player in Providence history to score 40 points or more twice in a season, surpassed the previous high of 45 by Michigan State’s Julius McCoy on Dec. 21, 1955. The previous Big East record was 48 points by Eric Murdock — another Providence player — against Pittsburgh in 1991.The Irish had opened an 81-70 lead on Tyrone’s Nash’s layup with just under six minutes to play. Then, Brooks started an incredible run to cap his 35-point second half.He scored 15 of his points in the closing 2:57, narrowing the deficit to two points on three occasions and to the final margin with a 3-pointer with two seconds left.Providence (14-14, 3-12) has lost six of seven after beating then-No. 19 Louisville and No. 8 Villanova four days apart in late January.The Irish, who led by 10 at halftime, pushed it to 55-39 on Abromaitis’ fourth 3-pointer 2½ minutes into the second half. They maintained a double-digit advantage until the Friars closed to 72-64 on Duke Mondy’s 3 from the left corner with 9:22 to play.Notre Dame, which lost 72-58 at West Virginia on Saturday, shot 58.2 percent, including 9 of 21 on 3-point attempts. The Irish won their eighth straight against the Friars.

#2 Buckeyes too much, despite good three point shooting by Illini

COLUMBUS—For a half, David Lighty was almost invisible.Then it was as if he was invincible, refusing to let No. 2 Ohio State falter again.Lighty scored 17 of his 21 points in the second half and William Buford had all 17 of his in the first to lead the Buckeyes to a big bounce-back win after two recent losses, beating Illinois 89-70 on Tuesday night.During one remarkable 3-minute span, Lighty scored all 13 of Ohio State’s points (to just two for the Illini) and had three steals.The Illini scored 11 of the first 13 points of the second half to pull within 49-43 before Lighty took over.He scored Ohio State’s next 13 points to build the lead back to 62-45.Just that quick, the Illini responded with an 8-0 run to narrow the gap to 62-53.Lighty then fed substitute forward Deshaun Thomas, caught in a recent shooting slump, for a 3-pointer. Seconds later, Lighty missed a jumper and Thomas fought off a defender for the rebound and converted it into a three-point play for a 68-53 lead.Between them, Lighty and Thomas accounted for all 19 Ohio State points over a span of 7 1/2 minutes.The lead never dipped below double figures again.Jon Diebler had 13 points, Aaron Craft 12 and Jared Sullinger 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Buckeyes (26-2, 13-2 Big Ten), who had lost two of three after winning their first 25 games. hio State shot 53 percent from the field to end Illinois’ string of 37 consecutive games holding an opponent under 50 percent. The last team to reach 50 percent was also Ohio State, which shot 53.1 against the Illini on Feb. 14, 2010.The Buckeyes had just three turnovers – they forced 16 turnovers, including getting nine steals.Mke Davis scored 18 points, Mike Tisdale 14 and Jereme Richmond 11 for Illinois (17-11, 7-8), in dire need of more wins to make the NCAA tournament field. Demetri McCamey, the 12th-leading scorer in the Big Ten at 14.5 points a game, did not start for the Illini but finished with 15 points and six assists.The Buckeyes had lost at Wisconsin on Feb. 12, beat Michigan State at home last week and then dropped the game to the Boilermakers. With four games left and a one-game lead in the Big Ten, they knew they couldn’t afford another slip.

ISU sweeps I-74 Series from Bradley on late basket by Hill


NORMAL—Austin Hill’s basket with 3 seconds remaining lifted Illinois State past Bradley 51-50 on Tuesday night.Illinois State (12-17, 4-13) completed a season sweep of Bradley and knocked the Braves (10-19, 3-14) into last place in the Missouri Valley Conference. Each team has one regular-season game remaining.Jackie Carmichael had 19 points and 13 rebounds for the Redbirds, and his basket with 1:09 left gave ISU its first lead at 47-46. Bradley led by 11 points twice in the first half.Dyricus Simms-Edwards scored 15 points for Bradley. His jumper with 10 seconds to play put the Braves ahead 50-49.Both teams struggled from the field. The Redbirds shot 37 percent while Bradley made 32 percent of its shots. Illinois State was 2 for 19 from 3-point range and the Braves made 2 of 15 from long distance.

Four goal burst in second period carries Hawks to big win in St.Louis

ST. LOUIS—Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane keyed a four-goal second period with a goal and assist apiece, and goalie Corey Crawford had a strong game for the second straight day as the Blackhawks beat the St. Louis Blues 5-3 on Monday.Andy McDonald scored his third goal in two games for the Blues, who couldn’t hold a two-goal first-period lead to end a three-game winning streak. Ben Bishop made his fourth career start and first since Dec. 18, 2008, but was yanked after surrendering four goals on eight shots in for him a shaky second period.Crawford made 31 saves a day after thwarting Pittsburgh in a shootout. Toews has seven multi-point games in his last 11.Marian Hossa added an empty-goal with less than a second to go for the Blackhawks who are 3-1 without ailing coach Joel Quenneville, recovering from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by an ulcer.The Blues built on momentum from a 9-3 rout over Anaheim in the first period with McDonald’s 13th of the season giving them four power-play goals in six chances and Brad Boyes adding his 12th at 16:49.Goals one minute apart by Victor Stalberg and Dave Bolland tied it early in the second and Kane’s 20th rang off the far post and in for the lead at 6:29. Toews scored his 20th at 12:40, poking a rebound past Bishop on a power play only 25 seconds after David Backes was whistled for slashing.Alex Pietrangelo cut the gap to one midway through the third for St. Louis, giving him seven points the last four games. T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund each earned their second assist on the play.Assistant coach Mike Haviland again filled in for Quenneville as the Blackhawks ended a three-game losing streak in St. Louis, took a 3-2 season series lead and moved five points ahead of the Blues and among a group of Western Conference playoff contenders.

NOTES—The Blackhawks are the last team to shut out the Blues on Dec. 16, 2009. St. Louis’ 108-game streak without being blanked since then is the NHL’s longest current run. … Toews has 43 points this month on 16 goals and 27 assists, and has seven points in five games vs. St. Louis this season. … Bolland’s 13th ended a seven-game goal drought, but he has seven points the last five games.

West hold off East in NBA All-Star Game. Rose scores 10

LOS ANGELES—Kobe Bryant won his record-tying fourth All-Star Game Most Valuable Player award to the delight of his hometown fans, scoring 37 points and propelling the West to a 148-143 victory over the East in the NBA’s midseason showcase on Sunday.The Los Angeles Lakers’ veteran guard put on another show among stars at the 60th All-Star Game, also grabbing 14 rebounds and overcoming LeBron James’ triple-double for the East.Clearly pushing for another trophy against an East roster stacked with rival Celtics and Heat, Bryant matched Bob Pettit’s NBA record with his fourth MVP award in just 10 years.Although the protracted courtship of West starter Carmelo Anthony dominated much of the All-Star weekend discussion, Kobe gave the Los Angeles crowd another memory to go with Clippers rookie Blake Griffin’s dunk contest win on Saturday.James had 29 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists for the East, but Miami teammate Dwyane Wade limped off in the third quarter. Wade finished with 14 points.Bryant didn’t score in the final 6:48, falling short of Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star Game record of 42 points in 1962.Bryant won the All-Star MVP trophy in 2002 and 2007 before sharing it with Shaquille O’Neal in 2009. Pettit won four MVP awards with the St. Louis Hawks from 1956-62.NBA scoring champion Kevin Durant had 34 points for the West, and New York’s Amar’e Stoudemire had 29 for the East.The Bulls Derrick Rose had 11 points,five assists and three rebounds. The West maintained a steady lead against an East team with a combined seven players from Boston and Miami, arguably the top contenders to replace the back-to-back champion Lakers. Back-to-back baskets by Amar’e Stoudemire and James trimmed the margin to 142-140 in the final moments. Bryant then missed a jumper, but Lakers teammate Pau Gasol tipped home the rebound.After two free throws by Chris Paul, Boston’s Ray Allen hit a 3-pointer with 9.9 seconds left, but Durant finished it with two free throws.Boston placed a record-tying four players on the squad, led by 14-time All-Star Kevin Garnett, while the Heat sent league MVP James alongside Bosh and Wade, last season’s All-Star MVP in the East’s two-point win at Cowboys Stadium.Anthony had eight points and seven rebounds in less than 23 minutes as a West starter — and perhaps the NBA’s most hottest property was a bit distracted.The Nuggets forward apparently spent the weekend working on his agonizingly protracted separation from Denver. Los Angeles was abuzz with rumors of talks with management from New York and New Jersey throughout the weekend, but the ‘Melodrama had no resolution before the game.Anthony also picked up three early fouls – no small feat in a game where officials typically swallow their whistles.Anthony even got a smattering of boos in the first quarter when he chose a layup over a dunk on a breakaway. Bryant remedied that moments later, hovering underneath the rim before throwing down a two-handed jam on the other side.

Hawks get past Pens in Shootout as Sharp remains sharp.

Patrick Kane scored the only goal in the shootout to lift the Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. Patrick Sharp and Bryan Bickell scored in regulation for the Blackhawks in their third straight game without coach Joel Quenneville, who is recovering from gastrointestinal bleeding caused by an ulcer. Assistant coach Mike Haviland was in charge in Quenneville’s absence. Corey Crawford had 24 saves and stopped all three in the shootout. Matt Cooke had a short-handed score for Pittsburgh, and Brett Sterling fired in a rebound from the edge of the crease with 3:18 left in the third period to tie it at 2. Marc-Andre Fleury finished with 29 saves, including a point-blank glove save on a shot by Michael Frolik.Kane connected in the third round of the shootout after Fleury stopped Jonathan Toews and Sharp. Crawford blocked shots by Kris Letang and Tyler Kennedy after Pascal Dupuis hit the post on the Penguins’ first attempt.The Penguins played without nine injured players, including star forwards Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Crosby hasn’t played since Jan. 5 due to a concussion and Malkin is recovering from knee surgery.Sharp scored the only goal of the first period at 10:07 as the Hawks top line of Sharp, Toews and Kane used a series of quick passes to exploit Pittsburgh’s coverage breakdown. Sharp fired in his team-leading 31st goal — five shy of his career best set in 2007-08 — on a one-time shot from the slot after taking a feed from Toews.Cooke’s short-handed goal with 6:08 left in the second period tied it at 1. Cooke completed a 2-on-1 break by taking Maxime Talbot’s feed and firing it past Crawford after Brent Seabrook had sprawled to try to break up the pass.Bryan Bickell’s screened goal 1:09 into the third period put the Hawks ahead 2-1. He surprised Fleury with a floating 45-foot wrist shot from the left boards as Penguins defenseman Zbynek Michalek apparently blocked Fleury’s view.Crawford stopped a shot by Kennedy late in the third, but the Blackhawks were unable to clear the loose puck and Sterling got the tying goal into an open net.

NOTES—Blackhawks team physician Dr. Michael Terry said in a statement that Quenneville’s condition was brought on by aspirin and that he is resting at home following his release on Saturday from a the hospital. No date has been set for the coach’s return. … Ryan Johnson returned after missing three games with a concussion. … Pittsburgh forward Nick Johnson missed his first game with an upper-body injury. … The crowd of 22,195 was the Blackhawks’ largest this season.

Bayne youngest to win Daytona 500 which was marred by 14 car wreck

DAYTONA BEACH—Trevor Bayne finally made a mistake. Fortunately for him, it didn’t happen until he missed the turn pulling into Victory Lane at the Daytona 500.The youngest driver to win the Great American Race gave the historic Wood Brothers team its fifth Daytona 500 victory — its first since 1976 with David Pearson — and Bayne did it in a No. 21 Ford that was retrofitted to resemble Pearson’s famed ride.The victory for NASCAR pioneers Leonard and Glen Wood ended a 10-year-losing streak, and came the week of the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt’s fatal accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.This was only the fourth win in the past 20 years for Wood Brothers, which hasn’t run a full Sprint Cup season since 2006.And there were no plans to do so with Bayne, who drove in the Daytona 500 on a loaner from Roush-Fenway Racing. Bayne came onto the NASCAR scene in late 2009 with Michael Waltrip Racing but bolted late last year when the team couldn’t promise a sponsor for this season.He hooked up with Roush and planned to run for the Nationwide Series title this season, and a deal was made to get him some seat time in the Cup Series with the Wood Brothers for 17 races. It wouldn’t be for points, and he wasn’t eligible to run for rookie of the year.But the stunning Daytona 500 win might change everybody’s plans.Bayne could potentially retract his decision to run for the Nationwide title, and the fat Daytona 500 payday could provide the funding the Woods need to become competitive again. Bayne, whose official website says “Coming Soon,” never even allowed himself to daydream about such a magical finish.Sunday’s race had a record 74 lead changes among 22 drivers, and a record 16 cautions that wiped out many of the leaders, including Earnhardt Jr. on the first attempt at NASCAR’s version of overtime. It put Bayne out front with a slew of unusual suspects.David Ragan, winless in 147 career starts, was actually leading the field on NASCAR’s first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. But he was flagged for changing lanes before the starting line, then an accident that collected Earnhardt in the middle of the pack brought out the caution, and Bayne inherited the lead.But he had two-time series champion Tony Stewart, now winless in 13 career Daytona 500s, lurking behind with veterans Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch, who had collected two previous wins over Speedweeks. All were chomping at the bit for their first Daytona 500 title, but Bayne never blinked, holding his gas pedal down wide open as he staved off every challenge over the two-lap final shootout.

Hendrick Motorsports had a rough start to the Daytona 500.Three of the team’s four cars, including five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, were involved in a 14-car wreck early in the 500-mile race Sunday.Four-time series champ Jeff Gordon, who started on the front row, and veteran Mark Martin also sustained damage in the melee.The fourth Hendrick entry, fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr., avoided the mess and was running with the leaders. His teammates weren’t as fortunate.Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet was crumpled front and back, forcing the team to the garage area for major repairs. He returned to the race 30 laps down, essentially running for points while extending his winless streak to 66 races.

NU gets second(ever)win in IU Assembley Hall in three years.

BLOOMINGTON, Ind.—Juice Thompson scored 22 points and John Shurna finished with 19 to lead Northwestern past Indiana 70-64 on Saturday night.The Wildcats (16-10, 6-9 Big Ten), winners of two in a row, won for only the second time in school history at Assembly Hall. They also swept the Hoosiers for the second time in three years.Indiana (12-15, 3-11) was led by Verdell Jones with 18 points and Jordan Hulls with 14.It wasn’t easy for Northwestern, which built a 10-point halftime lead and then had to stave off Indiana’s second-half rally.The Hoosiers tied the score twice in the final 10 minutes, at 52 and again at 57. But Thompson broke the second tie with two free throws and Drew Crawford followed that with a 3 to make it 62-57 with 5:50 left.