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Penn State hires O’Brien as new coach

Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson, right, and Miami Heat forward Shane Battier, left, go up hard to battle for a rebound. (Associated Press)
Atlanta Hawks guard Joe Johnson, right, and Miami Heat forward Shane Battier, left, go up hard to battle for a rebound. (Associated Press)

College football: New England Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien will be Penn State’s first new head football coach in nearly a half-century, according to multiple reports.

ESPN, citing unnamed sources, first reported Thursday night that an official announcement would be made Saturday, and that O’Brien would continue as an assistant with the Patriots the rest of the postseason.

Penn State coaches contacted by the Associated Press said they had not received any word late Thursday night about O’Brien or anything else related to the two-month long search to replace Hall of Famer Joe Paterno. The Nittany Lions’ leader for 46 seasons was fired Nov. 9 in the aftermath of child sex abuse charges against retired defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky.

This was O’Brien’s first year coordinating the Patriots’ high-scoring offense, but he has coached Tom Brady since 2009 and spent 2008 coaching receivers.

Ball, Jones to return for senior seasons: Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is coming back for his senior season.

Ball told reporters that NFL evaluators informed him he would likely be a third-round draft pick and he thinks he can improve his stock. He acknowledged he’s taking a huge gamble that he will make it through his senior season without a serious injury or a drop-off in his statistics.

Quarterback Landry Jones, the Sooners’ all-time leading passer with 12,389 yards, has decided to come back for his senior year at Oklahoma, saying “there is still a lot more to do.”

Sooners defensive end Ronnell Lewis, meanwhile, said he plans to skip his senior year and enter the NFL draft.

• New Hampshire’s Evans wins Buchanan: New Hampshire junior linebacker Matt Evans won the Buck Buchanan Award as the Football Championship Subdivision’s outstanding defensive player.

Towson running back Terrance West won the inaugural Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman. West ran for 1,294 yards and an FCS-high 29 rushing touchdowns.

Also, Towson coach Rob Ambrose won the Eddie Robinson Award as the coach of the year.

Hobbled Heat hold off Hawks in 3 OTs

NBA: Chris Bosh scored 33 points and the Miami Heat, playing without injured stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-109 in triple overtime on Thursday night in Atlanta.

Mario Chalmers had 22 of his 29 points after the third quarter, including five in the third overtime.

Wade missed his second straight game with a sore left foot and James was held out after he turned his left ankle late in the third quarter of Wednesday night’s 118-83 win over Indiana. Neither star was in uniform.

• Kings fire Westphal, bring in Smart: The Sacramento Kings fired coach Paul Westphal, cutting ties after two-plus seasons amid a slow start and an escalating dispute with young center DeMarcus Cousins.

Assistant Keith Smart, let go by the Golden State Warriors this summer after one season, signed a deal to become the team’s head coach and the Kings defeated the Bucks 103-100 in his debut.

Tar Heels earn 2-OT win over Cavaliers

Women’s basketball: Chay Shegog had 23 points and 11 rebounds to lift No. 25 North Carolina (12-2, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) over Virginia (12-4, 0-2) 78-73, in double-overtime.

The Tar Heels outscored the Cavaliers 9-4 in the second overtime, including three free throws in the final 17 seconds.

• Gamecocks upset Commodores: Aleighsa Welch had a career-high 19 points and South Carolina (13-2, 2-0 SEC) upset No. 24 Vanderbilt 65-55 to win its seventh straight game.

Vanderbilt (12-2, 0-1) was held to its fewest points of the season and committed 26 turnovers.

No. 12 Hoosiers edge No. 16 Wolverines

Men’s basketball: Christian Watford had 25 points, and Verdell Jones broke a late tie with four straight points to lead the No. 12 Indiana Hoosiers (14-1 2-1 Big Ten) over No. 16 Michigan 73-71 in Bloomington, Ind.

Tim Hardaway Jr. had 19 points for Michigan (12-3, 2-1).

• Mississippi’s Nelson dismissed: Mississippi scoring leader Dundrecous Nelson has been dismissed from the basketball team for a “violation of team rules” a day after he was arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia by the Oxford (Miss.) Police Department.

Backup guard Jamal Jones also was dismissed.

Rangers’ Gaborik nets overtime winner

Hockey: Marian Gaborik scored 3:29 into overtime for the New York Rangers, who outlasted the Florida Panthers 3-2 and moved to the top of the NHL standings with their eighth win in nine games.

Gaborik took a drop pass from Derek Stepan in the high slot and slapped in a drive for his 23rd goal of the season. Martin Biron, starting for the fourth time in nine games to give No. 1 goalie Henrik Lundqvist a lighter workload, made 19 saves.

• Four Senators make All-Star squad: Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson led all vote-getters in fan balloting, and captain Daniel Alfredsson and fellow forwards Milan Michalek and Jason Spezza also were elected for the NHL All-Star game which they will host on Jan. 29 in Ottawa.

The NHL said they will be joined by Toronto defenseman Dion Phaneuf and Boston Bruins goalie Tim Thomas in this year’s game.

The remaining 36 All-Stars will be chosen later this month, and the two team rosters will be determined for a second straight year by the fantasy draft during All-Star weekend.

Fisher interviewing for vacant Rams’ spot

NFL: Jeff Fisher is interviewing for the St. Louis Rams coaching job after previously meeting with the Dolphins.

The team said that initial interviews are taking place in Denver, with owner Stan Kroenke a “heavily involved” participant.

Fisher has a career head coaching record of 142-120 and led the Titans to at least 12 wins four times.

• Chargers replace Manusky with Pagano: The San Diego Chargers fired defensive coordinator Greg Manusky after just one year on the job and replaced him a few hours later with linebackers coach John Pagano.

Austria’s Hirscher wins WC night slalom

Skiing: Austria’s Marcel Hirscher overcame a rapidly deteriorating course in warm weather to win a World Cup night slalom in Zagreb, Croatia, and take first place in the overall standings.

Hirscher led after the first run and finished in a combined time of 1 minute, 51.84 seconds.

Hirscher has 525 points, followed by Aksel Lund Svindal of Norway with 456, Ted Ligety of the United States with 403 and Kostelic with 389.


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