Sports briefs: Jan. 14

January 14, 2014 

UK sports Women's indoor track team's pre-season ranking its best ever

The Kentucky women's track and field team will open the indoor season as the nation's No. 6 team — the highest rating in school history — after the United States Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association announced its pre-season rankings Monday.

UK's previous best ranking in the poll was No. 15 early in the 2008 season, the first year of the poll.

UK finished the 2013 indoor season — Edrick Floréal's first as head coach in Lexington — ranked No. 20, and earned the same finish at the NCAA Championships.

UK returns three athletes who earned All-America status last indoor season: Morganne Phillips, Chelsea Oswald and Allison Peare.

The Cats have also been bolstered by the nation's fifth-ranked women's recruiting class, according to Track & Field News. Headlining that group are transfers Dezerea Bryant, Kendra Harrison and Leah Nugent, who have earned a combined 17 USTFCCCA All-America honors between them in addition to 16 individual college conference titles.

College football Gators going up-tempo on offense

After the program's worst season since 1979, Florida Coach Will Muschamp is making significant changes — and not just to his staff. Muschamp introduced three new coaches Monday — offensive coordinator Kurt Roper, offensive line coach Mike Summers and special teams coordinator Coleman Hutzler — and announced plans to install a hurry-up offensive scheme that will include spread elements.

"We needed more tempo, we needed to create more snaps, we needed to create more space plays," said Muschamp, who grew increasingly frustrated with every loss last season. "I felt like being in the gun would help some of our personnel, and that's where we're headed."

The Gators lost their final seven games in 2013, finished 4-8 and missed a bowl game for the first time since 1990. The offense was the primary problem, finishing 113th in the nation in total yards.

Summers worked under current Florida receivers coach Joker Phillips at Kentucky from 2010 to 2012. The former Tates Creek and Georgetown College standout began his coach career at Kentucky as a graduate assistant at UK (1980-81) and his other coaching stops have included Louisville, Arkansas, Texas A&M and Southern Cal.

■ Former Cumberlands linebacker Matt Rhymer was hired to take over as the school's head football coach. Rhymer, who played for the Patriots from 2003 to 2007, most recently was the head coach at South Laurel. Cumberlands finished 13-1 this past season with its only loss coming in the NAIA national championship game.

■ Kentucky linebacker Avery Williamson will play in the National Football League Players Association Collegiate Bowl on Saturday in Carson, Calif. He was the Cats' leading tackler for the second straight season.

High school basketball Sayre boys win at Menifee County

Quinn Pergande scored 18 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots and Sayre's boys pulled away in the second half to defeat host Menifee County 55-41. Down one at halftime, the Spartans outscored the Wildcats by 10 in the third quarter and held on from there. Martin Durmov added 15 points and seven rebounds.

Peyton Woods scored 20 of his career-high 42 points in the first quarter of Wayne County's 89-63 win against visiting Garrard County. The Cardinals, 16th in Dave Cantrall's Rating the State, improved to 15-0.

Girls' highlights:

■ Elizabethtown, No. 1 in Cantrall's girls' ratings, outrebounded Bullitt Central by 30 in a 77-35 victory at home. Erin Boley scored 22 points and Reauna Cleaver had 17 points, 12 rebounds and five blocked shots for the Lady Panthers.

NBA

Jones gets 11th double-double in win

Dwight Howard had 32 points and 10 rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat Boston 104-92 on Monday night to send the skidding Celtics to their ninth consecutive defeat. Terrence Jones added 12 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots — his 11th double-double of the season — for Houston.

Celtics Coach Brad Stevens said before the game that there is "nothing concrete" on a return date for rehabbing All-Star guard Rajon Rondo, but allowed that it would be "sooner rather than later." Speculation on his return has has ranged from Friday against the Los Angeles Lakers to after the All-Star break.

Tony Parker capped a 27-point outing with several clutch layups in the final minutes, and the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth straight game, 101-95 over the New Orleans Pelicans. Anthony Davis had 22 points, 11 rebounds and two blocked shots.

John Wall and Nene had 19 points apiece and the Washington Wizards beat the Chicago Bulls 102-88. The Wizards led by 13 early in the fourth quarter and hung on after Chicago made one final push. Wall also had seven assists.

Patrick Patterson scored 18 points and the Toronto Raptors beat Milwaukee 116-94 to hand the struggling Bucks their sixth straight loss. Toronto has won eight of its last nine games.

Australian Open Tennis

Azarenka, Wozniacki both advance

Victoria Azarenka began her bid for a third consecutive Australian Open title with a 7-6 (2), 6-2 win over Johanna Larsson as the start of a predicted heat wave arrived at Melbourne Park.

Conscious of the time and the temperature, former No. 1-ranked Caroline Wozniacki and No. 11 Simona Halep raced to straight-set wins in their first-round matches on the other show courts.

Second-ranked Azarenka had a tougher time on Rod Laver Arena against Larsson, who twice had chances to serve for the first set but lost it in a tiebreaker. "Yeah it was a tough set first. The match was going to be tricky ... the weather was not helping," Azarenka said. "I had to play a little bit and find my rhythm."

Temperatures hit 104 degrees early on the second afternoon of the tournament and were expected to rise.

No. 13 John Isner, the only seeded American man in the draw, retired after losing the first two sets 6-2, 7-6 (6) against Martin Klizan. He called for the trainer after the tiebreaker, tapped his racket on the ground three times while deliberating whether to go back out, and only played on for a few minutes in the third set. Tournament officials said he retired with a foot injury — Isner won the title last weekend at Auckland, where he was playing with an injured right ankle.

Soccer Cristiano Ronaldo wins FIFA award

Cristiano Ronaldo won the FIFA Ballon d'Or award for 2013, ending Lionel Messi's four-year run as the world's best player.

Ronaldo scored 69 goals for Real Madrid and Portugal last year, and his stunning hat trick against Sweden in a decisive World Cup playoff was perhaps the defining individual performance.

"There are no words to describe this moment," said Ronaldo, who was sobbing in tears after accepting the trophy with his young son, also named Cristiano, beside him on stage.

He beat out Barcelona's Messi and France winger Franck Ribery, who helped Champions League winner Bayern Munich to a sweep of major titles. Germany dominated the other major awards, with goalkeeper Nadine Angerer named women's player of the year ahead of United States forward Abby Wambach, last year's winner, and Marta of Brazil.

The last word

Tennis star Li Na on her research ahead of her first-round Australian Open win over 16-year-old Ana Konjuh:

"I tried to find her game in YouTube."

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