URI loses in overtime in N.I.T. semis

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URI loses in overtime in N.I.T. semis

Associated PressNEW YORK -- North Carolina wrappedup last season by cutting down the nets during a championshipcelebration, and the goal all along has been to do it again this year.
Box score
The Tar Heels will have their chance Thursday night, under much different circumstances.Deon Thompson had 16 points and 13rebounds, helping North Carolina survive a frantic final few secondsand defeat Rhode Island 68-67 in overtime Thursday night in the NITsemifinals.Will Graves added 14 points and TylerZeller had 13 for the Tar Heels (20-16), who will try to makebittersweet history against Dayton by becoming the first school tofollow a national title with an NIT championship at Madison SquareGarden."We enjoyed playing the last Mondaynight last year, and you know, we play the last Thursday night thisyear," coach Roy Williams said. "Playing the last Monday night isbetter, there's no question about that. But I do believe that if you'replaying - if they keep playing until there's only one team standing -it's very important to be that one team."The Tar Heels have played with asense of desperation during the NIT, almost as if they have a chip ontheir shoulder, and that was borne out when they scored the final fivepoints of regulation to force overtime.In the extra session, North Carolinahad possession with about 5 seconds left and the shot clock about toexpire when Larry Drew II forced up a shot. The rebound eventuallywound up in the hands of Rhode Island's Lamonte Ulmer, who lost controlof the ball as he rushed up court moments before the buzzer sounded,never coming close to getting off a shot.Rhode Island coach Jim Baron thoughthe had been tripped and a foul should have been called, an opinion thatNorth Carolina coach Roy Williams readily supported."We got the rebound and we wereaiming to push it down the other end," Baron said. "I thought there wassome contact and he tripped."Ulmer finished with 18 points and 10rebounds for Rhode Island (26-10), which was trying to reach the NITchampionship game for the first time since the 1945-46 season. KeithCothran scored 23 points and Delroy James finished with 13."Those guys played with a tremendousamount of heart," Baron said. "That's why I told them how proud I was,they put it all out there."The final seconds of overtime mirrored a frenetic end to regulation.The game was tied 59-all when Jamesmissed two free throws with 28.6 seconds left. North Carolina trackeddown the rebound and, after a timeout, Drew allowed the shot clock torun down to 6 seconds before taking a closely guarded 3-pointer thatnever had a chance."One of the players said in the locker room, 'Sometimes it helps to win ugly,' " Williams said, "and we did win ugly today."Defense played a big part in it.The Tar Heels ended up with 27offensive rebounds and 60 total, compared to 45 for the Rams. RhodeIsland also turned the ball over 18 times, including that criticalmiscue with the seconds ticking down in overtime."We didn't execute very well and youhate to end the game like that in such an ugly way," Drew said, "butsometimes that's how it is in the game of basketball."It sure was a strange sight to seeNorth Carolina, the bluest of the bluebloods, playing on a Tuesdaynight at Madison Square Garden - especially when the most importantgames are being played at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.Injuries and inexperienced combinedto send the Tar Heels' season spiraling out of control, and they didn'trecover until their chances of making the NCAA tournament - anddefending the title they earned by beating Michigan State last March -had disappeared entirely.Relegated to playing in a tournamentfor also-rans, the Tar Heels went on the road to defeat MississippiState and Alabama-Birmingham before knocking off a Rhode Island teamthat had the best RPI of any program that failed to make the NCAAtournament.The season still ended up being asuccess for Rhode Island, which could have matched the school recordfor wins in a season had it won the NIT championship.The Rams' faithful certainly turnedout in droves for the semifinals, easily outnumbering the Tar Heelsfans clad in baby blue. They kept cheering until the final turnover inovertime, imploring a veteran team for one more night in the spotlight.Instead, it will be North Carolina playing for yet another championship.Even if it's not what anybody expected."You know, I have a greatappreciation of this tournament, I have a great appreciation of thetradition, the history of the NIT," Williams said. "If you win thistournament, you have to feel good about it."

Andrew Hawkins celebrates joining Patriots with 'Ballers' spoof

Andrew Hawkins celebrates joining Patriots with 'Ballers' spoof

Andrew Hawkins' situation isn't far off from a character in HBO's "Ballers." And he played into those connections with a video on Twitter.

The slot receiver, who signed with the Patriots on Wednesday, shares some similarities with the fictional football player Rickey Jerret, a veteran receiver who wades through interest from a number of teams, including New England, during free agency. Because of those similarities, Hawkins spoofed on a scene from "Ballers" where Jerret works out with Patriots receivers Julian Edelman and Danny Amendola. Hawkins imposes his face over Jerret's.

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

Coyotes hire Craig Cunningham as scout

The Coyotes have hired former player Craig Cunningham as a pro scout, keeping the 26-year-old in hockey after a cardiac episode ended his playing career this season. 

Drafted by the Bruins in the fourth round of the 2010 draft, Cunningham played 34 games for Boston over parts of two seasons before he was waived and claimed by Arizona. He totaled 19 games for the Coyotes, but served as captain of the Tucson Roadrunners, the team’s AHL affiliate. 

Cunningham was hospitalized after he collapsed during pregame warmups on Nov. 19. He was kept alive by continual CPR, but had his lower left leg amputated the next months due to an infection from the episode. 

Known as a high-character player who was popular with his teammates, Cunningham’s transition to scouting lets him further his career after a scary break. 

"I'm very excited to begin the next chapter of my life with the Coyotes," Cunningham said in a statement released by the team. "I'm very grateful to John Chayka, Dave Tippett, the Coyotes and Roadrunners organizations, and all of the great fans across Arizona for the incredible support I've received over the past year. I'm looking forward to helping the Coyotes and I can't wait to get started in my new role."

Said Chayka, the team’s general manager: ”We're thrilled to have Craig join our hockey operations department as a pro scout. Craig was a smart, hard-working player with an incredible passion for the game. We're confident that he will bring those same qualities to the Coyotes in his new role and that he will be an invaluable asset to our organization. We look forward to Craig helping us in several areas and are excited that he is staying with the club."