UConn’s AP top five streak ends

Times-Herald (Vallejo) - - SPORTS -

NEW YORK >> UConn’s record streak of top five ap­pear­ances in The As­so­ci­ated Press women’s bas­ket­ball poll is over. The Huskies fell to sixth on Mon­day, end­ing a run of 253 con­sec­u­tive weeks as one of the first five teams in the Top 25. That his­toric stretch dated back to Feb. 5, 2007. Con­necti­cut’s run dwarfs the No. 2 all-time mark of 96 set by Louisiana Tech in the 1980s.

The long­est cur­rent streak is now held by No. 1 South Carolina at 11. The Game­cocks had a hand in end­ing the Huskies’ run by rout­ing UConn last Mon­day night. The Huskies’ three losses this sea­son have come to the Game­cocks, No. 2 Bay­lor and third-ranked Ore­gon. South Carolina earned 27 first-place votes from the na­tional me­dia panel. Bay­lor re­ceived two and Ore­gon one.

UConn’s streak may have con­tin­ued had fourthrank­ed Stan­ford not had a mir­a­cle fin­ish to beat Colorado on Sun­day. The Car­di­nal moved up four spots in the poll. Louisville moved into fifth af­ter knock­ing off then-No. 4 N.C. State on Thurs­day.

NCAA Bas­ket­ball

TOP OF AP POLL STEADY AS BAY­LOR, KANSAS SET COL­LI­SION COURSE >> Bay­lor and Kansas just keep win­ning, set­ting up a mon­u­men­tal show­down Satur­day be­tween the top-ranked Bears and No. 3 Jay­hawks that could help de­cide not only the Big 12 ti­tle but the No. 1 over­all seed for the NCAA Tour­na­ment. The two teams were sep­a­rated once again by Gon­zaga in the lat­est col­lege bas­ket­ball poll from The As­so­ci­ated Press on Mon­day. The Bears (23-1) had 48 first-place votes from the 63-mem­ber me­dia panel, while the Bull­dogs (26-1) had 14 first-place nods and the Jay­hawks (22-3) had the only re­main­ing first­place vote.

NBA

RATINGS FOR NBA ALL-STAR GAME RISE BY 8 PER­CENT >> Ratings for the NBA All­Star Game were up 8% over last year, with an av­er­age of 7.3 mil­lion view­ers watch­ing Sun­day night’s broad­cast on TNT. About 8 mil­lion view­ers were tuned in for the end of the game, where LeBron James’ team de­feated Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo’s team 157-155 in the first tar­get-score for­mat in All-Star his­tory. The fourth quar­ter was un­timed and was broad­cast com­mer­cial-free.

TNT’s pregame cov­er­age, which in­cluded tributes to Kobe Bryant, av­er­aged 6.3 mil­lion view­ers. That fig­ure rep­re­sented a 19% in­crease over view­er­ship for the same show last year.

For the week­end — in­clud­ing Fri­day’s Ris­ing Stars game and Satur­day’s show­ing of the Skills Com­pe­ti­tion won by Mi­ami’s Bam Ade­bayo, the 3-point con­test won by Sacra­mento’s Buddy Hield and the dunk con­test won by Mi­ami’s Der­rick Jones Jr. — Turner Sports said ratings were up 15% from last year.

WNBA

WNBA FI­NALS MVP EMMA MEESSE­MAN IS STAY­ING IN WASH­ING­TON >> The Wash­ing­ton Mys­tics re-signed the for­ward on Mon­day. She av­er­aged 13.1 points, 4.2 re­bounds and a ca­reer-best 3.2 as­sists last sea­son while shoot­ing 55% from the field. She raised her game in the play­offs, av­er­ag­ing 19.3 points to help Wash­ing­ton win its first ti­tle. A na­tive of Bel­gium, Meesse­man re­turned to the Mys­tics last sea­son af­ter miss­ing all of the 2018 sea­son to play for the Bel­gium na­tional team. She helped them qual­ify for the Olympics ear­lier this month. Meesse­man was drafted 19th by the Mys­tics in 2013. Wash­ing­ton re­signed league MVP Elena Delle Donne last week to a four-year deal, but lost star guard Kristi To­liver to free agency.

Run­ning

TOKYO MARATHON LIM­ITED TO ELITE RUN­NERS BE­CAUSE OF VIRUS >> Tokyo Marathon or­ga­niz­ers dras­ti­cally re­duced the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants for this year’s race on Mon­day out of fear of the spread of the virus com­ing from China. The gen­eral pub­lic is be­ing barred from the race on March 1. It will now be lim­ited to a few hun­dred elite par­tic­i­pants, or­ga­niz­ers said. The marathon is the lat­est large sports event to be im­pacted by the virus. Al­most all sports events in China over the next few months have been called off, in­clud­ing next month’s world in­door track and field cham­pi­onships and a For­mula One race in April.

The can­cel­la­tions in China have a domino ef­fect on Olympic qual­i­fy­ing, both in China and else­where, and mud­dle the pic­ture for thou­sands of hope­ful Olympians, fam­i­lies, and their travel plans.

LPGA

MICKEY WRIGHT, GOLF GREAT AND EARLY LPGA FORCE, DIES AT 85 >> Mickey Wright, the golf great with a mag­nif­i­cent swing who won 13 ma­jors among her 82 vic­to­ries and gave the fledg­ling LPGA a cru­cial lift, died Mon­day of a heart at­tack. She was 85. She had been hos­pi­tal­ized in Florida the last few weeks af­ter a fall, said her lawyer, So­nia Pawluc.

Wright joined the LPGA in 1955 and the Hall of Famer’s 82 wins place her sec­ond on the all-time list be­hind Kathy Whit­worth, who won 88. The As­so­ci­ated Press in 1999 named Wright the Fe­male Golfer of the Cen­tury and Fe­male Ath­lete of the Year in 1963 and 1964.

A Golf Magazine poll of ex­perts in 2009 called her the best fe­male golfer ever, and men’s cham­pi­ons Ben Ho­gan and By­ron Nel­son said Wright had the best swing they ever saw. in 1952 at 17 won the USGA Girls’ Ju­nior Cham­pi­onship. In 1954, she won the World Am­a­teur.

She stud­ied psy­chol­ogy for a year at Stan­ford be­fore drop­ping out in 1955 to pur­sue a pro­fes­sional golf ca­reer.

NAS­CAR

DAY­TONA 500 >> The Day­tona 500 re­sumed Mon­day af­ter­noon af­ter “The Great Amer­i­can Race” was post­poned for just the sec­ond time in 62 years. Rain halted the event at just 20 laps, with pole-sit­ter Ricky Sten­house Jr. out front the en­tire way at Day­tona In­ter­na­tional Speed­way. They did get a chance to race, an un­event­ful 20lap pa­rade in which the top five never changed po­si­tions. Then the rain came again. Mon­day, the race be­gan on­ce­more.

SCOTTS­DALE, ARIZ. >> Gabe Kapler stood in front of all 72 play­ers in Gi­ants camp on Mon­day with the op­por­tu­nity to give his first “Let’s shock the world,” speech.

In­stead of giv­ing a pas­sion­ate, fiery ad­dress to a team that’s in a re­build­ing phase, Kapler said he kept his mes­sage “short and sweet,” and al­lowed some of his vet­eran play­ers to ad­dress the room too.

The first full-squad work­out is tra­di­tion­ally a chance for a man­ager to set the stage for spring train­ing, in­spire his play­ers and in­tro­duce the main themes of camp. Kapler stressed ver­sa­til­ity, com­pe­ti­tion and en­ergy to the Gi­ants and his coach­ing staff, but didn’t feel com­pelled to turn his open­ing mes­sage into a long-winded State of the Fran­chise.

“I think the one fo­cus this camp for us is go­ing to be, if I had to use one word, I would say unity,” vet­eran third base­man Evan Lon­go­ria said.

Lon­go­ria was Kapler’s team­mate with the Tampa Bay Rays from 2009-2010 and said he was one of the play­ers who vouched for Kapler when Gi­ants pres­i­dent of base­ball op­er­a­tions Farhan Zaidi asked for his in­put about hir­ing him. Af­ter Kapler was fired from his first gig fol­low­ing a two-year stint with the Philadel­phia Phillies, he was brought in to suc­ceed Bruce Bochy and lead a Gi­ants team through a chal­leng­ing tran­si­tional phase.

At Mon­day’s team meet­ing, Kapler made a point to in­tro­duce play­ers to mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­hind the scenes in­clud­ing front of­fice per­son­nel, mi­nor league coaches and oth­ers to em­pha­size how the Gi­ants’ suc­cess de­pends on more than just what tran­spires on the field at Or­a­cle Park.

One of the pri­mary rea­sons Kapler kept the meet­ing to about 35 min­utes was be­cause he knows the team will meet four-to-five times a week be­fore work­outs any­way and play­ers are hun­gry to hit the field. EARLY BAT­TING PRAC­TICE IM­PRES­SIONS >> Gi­ants po­si­tion play­ers took bat­ting prac­tice on the main field at Scotts­dale Sta­dium for the first time Mon­day and it was easy to see why so many mem­bers of the or­ga­ni­za­tion be­lieve in Jaylin Davis’ abil­ity.

Davis, who was ac­quired from the Twins at last year’s trade dead­line, hit 35 home runs in the mi­nor leagues last sea­son but strug­gled in lim­ited op­por­tu­ni­ties with the Gi­ants in Septem­ber. The power Davis showed last year is le­git­i­mate and it was on dis­play dur­ing an im­pres­sive bat­ting prac­tice Mon­day. Davis launched balls as high as the lights on the tower in out­field and landed a few balls be­yond the trees on the left field berm.

The big­gest ques­tion Davis will face is whether he can con­sis­tently hit ma­jor league pitch­ing, but it’s un­likely any­one in Gi­ants camp can hit the ball far­ther than the rookie out­fielder.

“We have a lot of faith in Jaylin’s abil­ity to drive the base­ball,” Kapler said.

An­other stand­out from Mon­day was Pablo San­doval, who swung ex­clu­sively from the left side of the plate as he con­tin­ues his re­cov­ery from Tommy John surgery. San­doval whacked pitches all over the di­a­mond and showed the all-field ap­proach that has made him so suc­cess­ful through­out his ca­reer.

The Gi­ants have said they hope San­doval will be ready to take a few at-bats in Cac­tus League games by the end of spring train­ing and based on Mon­day’s show­ing, it wouldn’t be a sur­prise to see him hit ear­lier than ex­pected.

It’s of­ten hard to spot slight ad­just­ments play­ers are mak­ing to swings with the naked eye, but free-agent signee Hunter Pence’s swing looks much more com­pact than it did dur­ing his 2018 sea­son with the Gi­ants. Pence ap­pears to be quicker through the zone and seems to have cut down on some of the pre-pitch move­ments he used to do in the bat­ter’s box.

“I think it’s im­pres­sive when play­ers who are es­tab­lished and have had long track records of suc­cess are will­ing to make ad­just­ments,” Kapler said. BILLY HAMIL­TON'S WORST MO­MENT >> New Gi­ants out­fielder Billy Hamil­ton spoke to re­porters Mon­day for the first time since sign­ing a mi­nor league deal with the club this off­sea­son.

Hamil­ton has hun­dreds of sto­ries of ter­ror­iz­ing pitch­ers with his world-class speed on the basepa­ths, but the for­mer Reds cen­ter fielder opted to share a more hu­mor­ous mem­ory when asked if he can re­mem­ber any in­ter­ac­tions with cur­rent Gi­ants starters.

When vet­eran Jeff Sa­mardz­ija pitched for the Cubs, Hamil­ton re­called an at-bat in which he reg­is­tered the worst swing of his ca­reer.

“When he was with the Cubs, he threw a pitch and it was 3-2 in a bat­tle and it was one of those ones I thought would come in,” Hamil­ton said. “And I just dropped the bat. The ball was al­ready in the mitt. I didn’t want to go down with a back­ward K, so I just tried to throw the bat down.”

Hamil­ton’s swing was so non-com­pet­i­tive that the Cubs’ TV broad­cast showed re­plays from three dif­fer­ent an­gles. It also ended up on ESPN for the whole base­ball world to see.

“It was funny, they had it on ESPN for like the next three or four days,” Hamil­ton said with a laugh. “That’s what I re­mem­ber about Sa­mardz­ija.”

A NEW CLUB­HOUSE FEA­TURE >> Dur­ing the first full­squad work­out, the Gi­ants planned to con­tinue ev­ery player’s fa­vorite spring tra­di­tion of prac­tic­ing bunt de­fense.

When play­ers ar­rived at Scotts­dale Sta­dium on Mon­day, most of the tele­vi­sions in the club­house dis­played a com­puter an­i­ma­tion show­ing ex­actly how the coach­ing staff wanted play­ers to de­fend bunts. The an­i­ma­tion in­cluded var­i­ous sce­nar­ios in­clud­ing where de­fen­sive play­ers would ro­tate when hit­ters bunted up the first base line or third base line and where they should go when dif­fer­ent bases were oc­cu­pied by run­ners.

The an­i­ma­tions in­cluded in­struc­tions in English and Span­ish and while a play un­folded, speak­ing bub­bles ap­peared next to cer­tain play­ers such as the catcher to sim­u­late the com­mu­ni­ca­tion that’s ex­pected to take place.

Af­ter the an­i­ma­tion fin­ished, videos of ma­jor league teams —in­clud­ing the Gi­ants— putting suc­cess­ful bunt de­fense in ac­tion played to pro­vide play­ers with an­other visual com­po­nent.

Bunt de­fense an­i­ma­tions are a small de­tail, but an­other ex­am­ple of the ways the new coach­ing staff is try­ing to use tech­nol­ogy as a teach­ing tool.

AROUND THE DI­A­MOND >> When the Gi­ants lined up for in­field drills on the main field Mon­day, all of the team’s in­cum­bent starters and re­turn­ing play­ers as­sumed their reg­u­lar po­si­tions. Buster Posey was be­hind the plate, Evan Lon­go­ria lined up at third, Bran­don Crawford manned short­stop and Bran­don Belt played first.

The Gi­ants had Mauri­cio Dubón and non-ros­ter in­vi­tee Yolmer Sánchez split reps at sec­ond base while free-agent signee Wilmer Flores and cor­ner in­fielder Pablo San­doval took reps be­hind Belt at first base. Half­way through the drill, Sánchez moved over to play be­hind Lon­go­ria at third while Flores also played some sec­ond base.

It’s too early to say the Gi­ants have es­tab­lished an un­of­fi­cial depth chart, but in­field­ers Abi­atal Avelino, Dono­van Solano and Kean Wong were all pre­sum­ably work­ing on the same drill on one of the team’s back fields.

The Gi­ants didn’t do much out­field work on the main field Mon­day, but Dubón and Mike Yas­trzem­ski took fly­balls in cen­ter field af­ter each player hit dur­ing bat­ting prac­tice.

MIKE CARL­SON — THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Con­necti­cut head coach Geno Auriemma re­acts dur­ing the sec­ond half of an NCAA col­lege bas­ket­ball game against South Florida, Sun­day, in Tampa, Fla.

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