TALKING POINTS | Sports | – Antelope Valley Press

US weighs Beijing Olympics boycott with partners, allies

WASHINGTON — The State Department said Tuesday the Biden administration is considering a possible boycott of the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics to protest China’s human rights record.

Department spokesman Ned Price said the U.S. is consulting with like-minded countries around the world to determine how to proceed. Price says the administration is discussing China strategy, including participation in the Olympics, with a number of partners and allies in order to present a united front.

“Part of our review of those Olympics and our thinking will involve close consultations with partners and allies around the world,” he told reporters. “We have consistently said when it comes to our concerns with the government in Beijing, including Beijing’s egregious human rights violations, its conduct of genocide in the case of Xingjiang, that what the United States does is meaningful, what the United States does will have impact, but everything we do that brings along our allies and partners will have all the more influence with Beijing.”

Human rights groups are protesting China’s hosting of the Games, which are set to start in February 2022. They have urged a diplomatic or straight-up boycott of the event to call attention to alleged Chinese abuses against Uyghurs, Tibetans, and residents of Hong Kong.

Price declined to say when a decision might be made, but noted there is still almost a year until the Games are set to begin.

Scioscia to manage US in Olympic baseball qualifying

Mike Scioscia has the tough task of reaching the Olympic baseball tournament with a U.S. roster likely to include players cut during spring training and prospects not needed by their clubs this summer.

Scioscia was hired Tuesday by USA Baseball as the third manager of the U.S. baseball team in this Olympic qualifying cycle and will try to get the Americans to the tournament in Japan this summer.

The former Los Angeles Angels manager will lead the U.S. at the pandemic-delayed second-chance qualifying event, the Baseball Americas Qualifier, to be played in June in Florida.

Only players not on 26-man major league rosters and injured lists will be eligible to play.

“I’m very, very comfortable that we’re going to put together the type of team, particularly a pitching staff, that’s going to be able to carry us through a short series,” Scioscia said. “We’re going to look within and play the way we need to play with this group of guys.”

Scioscia said he has had a good response from general managers about making players available.

“There’s naturally guys that are on the roster or close to the roster that they’re going to hold tight for common-sense reasons,” he said. “But I think the response has been terrific. It is incumbent on every general manager of every team to worry about their organization first, but that being said, the guys — I think the GMs recognize the great opportunity they have to move some players forward, and they’ve been very, very cooperative.”

Joe Girardi quit as U.S. manager in October 2019 to pursue a major league managing job — he was hired by the Philadelphia Phillies — and Scott Brosius took over.

COVID-hit Nats make many moves before 1st game of season

WASHINGTON — Starting pitchers Jon Lester and Patrick Corbin, closer Brad Hand and four position players expected in the lineup — left fielder Kyle Schwarber, first baseman Josh Bell, second baseman Josh Harrison and catcher Yan Gomes — were put on the 10-day injured list by the Washington Nationals on Tuesday.

Backup catcher Alex Avila and reserve infielder Jordy Mercer also went on the IL before Washington played its first game of the season at home against the Atlanta Braves.

The Nationals’ first four games on the schedule were postponed because of a coronavirus outbreak within the team. Four players tested positive for COVID-19, and an additional seven were placed under quarantine after contact tracing found that they might have been exposed to the illness.

The Nationals have not publicly identified the 11 players involved. The team’s announcement of those nine players on the IL did not specify why they are sidelined.

A 10th player who was put on the injured list on Tuesday, reliever Will Harris, was taken off the active roster for what the team said was right hand inflammation.

About 17 million view Baylor’s championship win over Gonzaga

NEW YORK — Even an NCAA championship matchup between two widely acknowledged as the best men’s college basketball teams in the country wasn’t enough to set the television world afire.

An estimated 16.92 million people watched Baylor win the national championship title by routing previously unbeaten Gonzaga on Monday, the Nielsen company said.

That’s down nearly 14% from the 2019 title game between Virginia and Texas Tech. Last year’s NCAA basketball tourney was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Viewership declines are hardly unusual in today’s world. Awards show ratings have been cratering. Given that this year’s NCAA football championship saw its ratings plummet 27% percent, the basketball ratings weren’t half bad.

This was the first men’s Final Four with no teams from the Eastern time zone, where nearly half of the country’s television viewers are located.

Saturday’s men’s semifinal — already considered a classic — where Gonzaga beat UCLA in overtime on a last-second shot was seen live by just under 15 million people.

On Sunday, the women’s NCAA championship, where Stanford edged Arizona, was seen by 4.08 million people, Nielsen said.

Woman alleges she was terrorized by assault from Texans QB

HOUSTON — The first woman to accuse Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson of sexual assault and harassment in a lawsuit spoke publicly on Tuesday, alleging she was terrorized by her encounter with the NFL player and that he needs to be held accountable for his actions.

During a news conference, Ashley Solis said she was assaulted and traumatized when she tried to give Watson a massage in March 2020. The Associated Press usually does not name victims of sexual assault, but Solis has chosen to publicly identify herself.

“I come forward now so that Deshaun Watson does not assault another woman… I am seeking justice not just on behalf of myself but for all survivors… This is about having my voice heard,” a tearful Solis said as she read a statement, adding she was no longer afraid to speak out. Watson has been accused of sexual assault or harassment in lawsuits filed by 22 women.

Solis’ description of her encounter with Watson, in which he allegedly touched her with his penis during the massage session, mirrors the accusations made by the other women in their lawsuits. They accuse Watson of exposing himself, touching them with his penis or kissing them against their will while he got a massage. At least one woman has alleged Watson forced her to perform oral sex during a massage in December. All of the women who have sued Watson are either licensed massage therapists or worked in a spa or similar business. The first lawsuit — from Solis — was filed on March 16 and the most recent one was filed Monday.

Watson’s attorney, Rusty Hardin, has called the allegations “meritless” and questioned the claims against Watson, alleging they were made following a failed attempt to blackmail his client for $30,000.

UMass loses 4 players to COVID at Frozen Four

Massachusetts will be without four players when the Minutemen face Minnesota Duluth on Thursday night at the Frozen Four in Pittsburgh due to COVID-19 contact tracing protocols, UMass announced Tuesday.

Top goal-scorer Carson Gicewicz, forward Jerry Harding, and goaltenders Filip Lindberg and Henry Graham will miss the game. Head coach Greg Carvel calls the situation “hard to comprehend” but something the team has to accept.

The Minutemen will meet two-time defending champion Minnesota Duluth in the national semifinals in a rematch of the 2019 NCAA championship game. The winner advances to Saturday’s national championship game against either St. Cloud State or Minnesota State.

US Olympic swim trials to allow 50% capacity

The U.S. Olympic swimming trials will allow about 50% capacity for the June competition in Omaha, Nebraska.

A temporary pool will be installed at the CHI Health Center arena, which is to host the trials for the fourth straight time.

The arena near downtown Omaha normally seats about 14,000 for swimming, but that will be cut in half to mitigate the potential spread of the coronavirus.

Since more than 90% of tickets were sold for the trials in their original date in 2020, USA Swimming plans a complete refund. An entirely new sale will begin April 16.

The governing body already took the unprecedented step of dividing the trials into two parts. Lower-ranked swimmers will compete June 4-7. The top finishers from that group advance to the second part June 13-20, which will feature the country’s top-ranked swimmers and leading medal contenders for the Tokyo Games.

USA Swimming split the meet to lessen the number of competitors and support personnel on the main pool desk and practice facilities.

Tokyo Olympic organizers postpone water polo test event

TOKYO — Tokyo Olympic organizers on Tuesday postponed a water polo test event set for this weekend and said it might be rescheduled for May or June.

Reports in Japan say technical officials were unable to go to Japan because of strict procedures to enter the country. Organizers did not confirm that but said in a statement: “Considering the schedule of each stakeholder under the current global COVID-19 conditions, it was felt that postponing the event was necessary.”

The news comes less than four months before the opening of the postponed Olympics and could be a setback as organizers and the International Olympic Committee attempt to hold the Tokyo Games in the middle of a pandemic. The Olympics are to open on July 23.

Two other test events also appear to be off.

Swimming governing body FINA said on its website that a diving World Cup event set for April 18-23 in Tokyo had been canceled, and it reported the same for an artistic swimming event for May 1-4.

NCAA baseball, softball regional hosts to be predetermined

INDIANAPOLIS — The NCAA Division I baseball and softball tournaments will have predetermined sites for regionals and super regionals as a safeguard against COVID-19.

In a recent memo to Division I baseball and softball administrators, NCAA sports directors said schools are invited to bid to be among 16 regional hosts in each sport. Those sites will be announced the week of April 26 for softball and the week of May 10 for baseball.

Eight super-regional sites will be selected from among the 16 regional sites.

Traditionally, regionals are awarded to the top 16 seeds announced the day before the 64-team tournament fields are announced. The eight highest advancing seeds typically host super regionals.

The rationale for predetermining sites, according to the memo, is that additional time is needed to prepare them for COVID-19 testing procedures.

Braves acquire infielder Arcia from Brewers for 2 pitchers

MILWAUKEE — The Atlanta Braves have acquired infielder Orlando Arcia from the Milwaukee Brewers for right-handed pitchers Chad Sobotka and Patrick Weigel.

Arcia had been the Brewers’ starting shortstop from 2018-20, but was expected to split time between shortstop and third base this year in more of a utility role.

This move clears the way for Luis Urías to take over as the Brewers’ everyday shortstop. The Brewers had acquired the 23-year-old Urías along with pitcher Eric Lauer from San Diego in a November 2019 trade that sent outfielder Trent Grisham and pitcher Zach Davies to the Padres.

Arcia brings infield depth to the Braves.

The 26-year-old Arcia has gone 1 for 11 so far this season after hitting .260 with five homers and 20 RBIs in 59 games last year. He has batted .244 with a .293 on-base percentage, 42 homers and 180 RBIs in 542 regular-season games.

Infielder Rougned Odor traded from Rangers to Yankees

NEW YORK — Infielder Rougned Odor was traded Tuesday from the Texas Rangers to the New York Yankees for minor league outfielders Antonio Cabello and Josh Stowers.

The 27-year-old Odor did not make the Rangers’ opening day roster and was designated for assignment on April 1. He is a left-handed hitter, and the Yankees have a mostly right-handed lineup.

“Hopefully we can help him get that talent out that we’ve seen flash over the years,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said.

Odor is a second baseman but also played third at spring training.

He has two guaranteed seasons at $12 million each remaining as part of a $49.5 million, six-year contract. The deal includes a $13.5 million team option for 2023 with a $3 million buyout. Texas will pay the Yankees cash to cover most of what Odor is owed.

Odor has a .237 career average with 146 homers and 458 RBIs in seven major league seasons. He hit .167 with 10 homers and 30 RBIs in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season and batted .200 with two homers and five RBIs in 35 spring training at-bats for the Rangers.

Sabres sitting Taylor Hall in anticipation he’ll be traded

BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Buffalo Sabres are taking the precautionary step of scratching forward Taylor Hall for their game at New Jersey on Tuesday in anticipation the NHL’s 2018 MVP will will be traded in the coming days.

Team spokesman Chris Dierken announced that Hall will not be in the lineup in providing the update shortly after interim coach Don Granato called it a possibility before concluding his teleconference call with the media on Tuesday.

The decision to sit Hall comes in the final week before the NHL’s trade deadline on Monday, and with the slumping Sabres in sell-off mode. Buffalo sits last in the overall NHL standings and is all but mathematically certain to extend its playoff drought to an NHL record-matching 10th consecutive season.

Syracuse men’s soccer team ends season

The Syracuse University men’s soccer team has decided to end its season after a positive COVID-19 test and subsequent quarantining in the program.

The Orange (2-7-4) had one game left on the regular-season schedule, at home against Wake Forest on Friday.

The cancellation is the second straight and sixth of the season. The Orange also canceled a home exhibition match with Virginia last September, a week before the season started.

University officials say the school is working closely with state and local health officials and the Atlantic Coast Conference Medical Advisory Group to determine the appropriate next steps.

Madrid beats Liverpool 3-1 in 1st leg of CL quarterfinals

MADRID — Vinícius Júnior scored a goal in each half as Real Madrid defeated Liverpool 3-1 in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday.

Marco Asensio also scored for Madrid, which took full advantage of Liverpool’s defensive blunders in the first half to take a commanding lead ahead of the second leg in England.

Mohamed Salah netted the lone goal for Liverpool early in the second half before Vinícius Júnior sealed the victory for the hosts.

The game was a rematch of the 2018 Champions League final won by Madrid, which since then was eliminated in the tournament’s round of 16 two years in a row. Liverpool won the title following the loss to Madrid but was also eliminated in the round of 16 last season.

Manchester City defeated Borussia Dortmund 2-1 at home in the other quarterfinal on Tuesday.

Alvarez, Mighty Mouse back on US TV with One Championship

LOS ANGELES — Demetrious Johnson and Eddie Alvarez have never gone this long without a proper fight in their lengthy mixed martial arts careers.

Sure, they both missed competition when they couldn’t get it in 2020. But these former UFC champions both believe they’re emerging from the coronavirus pandemic as better fathers and smarter fighters.

“I got a chance to see who I am outside of fighting,” said Alvarez, the 37-year-old former UFC and Bellator lightweight champ. “I got to hang out with my family and truly be there with my family, because I didn’t have to worry about a promoter calling me or something. It was some well-needed time, and I enjoyed it.

“But there’s a time for peace and there’s a time for war, and the time for peace is over.”

That time arrives Thursday morning when Johnson and Alvarez headline One Championship’s latest show from Singapore. Johnson takes on Adriano Moraes for the One flyweight title, while Alvarez meets Iuri Lapicus.

The Asia-centered One promotion is staging cards for U.S. broadcasts on TNT for the next four consecutive Wednesday nights, which means the fights are breakfast shows at Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Although the UFC and Bellator dominate the North American MMA market, One is hoping to continue carving out a slice with these TNT shows, which are scheduled to follow a popular professional wrestling series each week.

Vanderbilt fires women’s basketball coach Stephanie White

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Vanderbilt has fired women’s basketball coach Stephanie White after five seasons and a 46-83 record.

Athletic director Candice Lee announced Tuesday that White will not return. Lee thanked White and her staff for helping the players navigate the challenges during the coronavirus pandemic over the past year.

“As I continued my evaluation of the program, I ultimately concluded that change is needed at this time,” Lee said in a statement. “I wish Stephanie and her family the best.”

A national search for the next head coach will begin immediately.

White went 13-54 in the Southeastern Conference. Vanderbilt opted out this season after a 4-4 start and 0-3 in the SEC in a decision announced Jan. 18. They had dealt with three cancellations with two SEC games postponed.

Senior Isaiah Whaley to return to UConn for another year

STORRS, Conn. — UConn senior Isaiah Whaley has decided to take advantage of the extra year of eligibility being offered to athletes by the NCAA and will return for a fifth year with the Huskies, the school announced Tuesday.

The Big East’s co-defensive player of the year, who is on track to graduate in May with a degree in Urban and Community Studies, averaged eight points, 6.2 rebounds, and 2.6 blocks for the Huskies (15-8), who appeared in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years, losing to Maryland in the first round.

UConn guard Anna Makurat to transfer from Huskies

STORRS, Conn. — UConn guard Anna Makurat has decided to transfer.

The sophomore from Poland played 48 games during her two seasons with the Huskies, averaging 6.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and three assists per game.

She was a member of the 2020 American Athletic Conference All-Freshman Team but played in only 16 games as a sophomore, missing 13 games after being diagnosed in January with a stress fracture in her right leg.

Villanova forward Cole Swider transferring to Syracuse

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Villanova forward Cole Swider has signed a financial aid agreement with Syracuse and will join the men’s basketball program after three seasons with the Wildcats, the Orange announced Tuesday.

The 6-foot-9, 225-pound Swider appeared in 77 games with 17 starts for the Wildcats and has two years of eligibility remaining. He averaged 5.7 points, 3.1 rebounds, and converted 35 of 87 (40.2%) from the arc this past season.

Villanova finished 18-7 and was ranked No. 18 in the final AP poll in mid-March. The Wildcats won NCAA Tournament games against Winthrop and North Texas before losing to eventual champion Baylor in the round of 16.

San Jose State hires Tim Miles as basketball coach

SAN JOSE — San Jose State has hired former Nebraska coach Tim Miles to take over the Spartans’ struggling program.

Athletic director Marie Tuite announced the decision Tuesday, pointing to Miles’ experience building programs at Colorado State and Nebraska.

Miles ended NCAA Tournament droughts at both those schools and had a 187-202 record in five seasons at Colorado State and seven at Nebraska. He also coached at lower levels at Mayville State, Southwest Minnesota State and North Dakota State, which made the transition to Division I under his leadership.

Miles has a 399-334 career record in 24 seasons.

Miles took Colorado State to its first NCAA Tournament in nine years in his final season with the Rams in 2012 and then led Nebraska to its first tournament trip in 16 years in his second season with the Cornhuskers.

Barry Alvarez, AD who reshaped Wisconsin sports, to retire

MADISON, Wis. — Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez is retiring after a three-decade run in which he transformed the university’s football team and later guided the Badgers to their greatest all-around sports success in school history.

The 74-year-old Alvarez said Tuesday he would retire on June 30.

“It has been an honor to be a part of Wisconsin athletics and I take great pride in all we have accomplished over the last three decades,” Alvarez said in a statement. “From championships, to improvements on campus, to impacting thousands of student-athletes, it’s been a great ride.”

Alvarez arrived at Wisconsin in 1990 as football coach and turned one of the Big Ten’s weakest programs into one of its strongest. He became athletic director in 2004 and briefly served in a dual role before stepping down as football coach after the 2005 season.

Player helping start up new women’s flag football division

Adrienne Smith needs a massive spreadsheet to manage her time. It’s not easy helping start a women’s flag football division while still playing for two different football teams too.

“That’s probably why I’m so tired,” Smith said. “I love the sport and I can still play and I want to contribute. And there’s no complaints. I’m living my best life.”

That’s why the American Flag Football League tabbed the New York City woman to oversee football operations of its new women’s division.

Smith loved football so much she used to tackle a stuffed bear while watching the NFL on TV as a child. She has been a top wide receiver playing tackle football since 2006 winning three women’s titles, and she currently plays for the Boston Renegades.

Struff saves 5 match points to advance at Sardegna Open

CAGLIARI, Sardinia — Fifth-seeded Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany saved five match points to overcome Joao Sousa 1-6, 6-1, 7-5 in the first round of the Sardegna Open on Tuesday.

Struff saved three match points at 5-2 in the third set and two more at 5-4 — then needed five match points of his own in the 12th game before finally sealing the win.

Struff will next face Liam Broady, who beat fellow qualifier Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-1, 6-3.

Sixth-seeded John Millman of Australia beat Federico Coria 7-6 (5), 3-6, 6-3, while Italian Lorenzo Musetti needed just 53 minutes to sweep past Dennis Novak of Austria 6-0, 6-1.

Another Italian is also through to the next round after Marco Cecchinato beat compatriot Thomas Fabbiano 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, but Stefano Travaglia lost 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Gilles Simon.

Jozef Kovalik rallied past Indian qualifier Sumit Nagal 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 and fellow Slovakian Andrej Martin overcame Jiri Vesely 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.

North Korea says it won’t participate in Tokyo Olympics

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea became the first country to drop out of the Tokyo Olympics because of coronavirus fears, a decision that underscores the challenges facing Japan as it struggles to stage a global sporting event amid a raging pandemic.

A website run by North Korea’s Sports Ministry said its national Olympic Committee during a meeting on March 25 decided not to participate in the Games to protect athletes from the “world public health crisis caused by COVID-19.”

The pandemic has already pushed back the Tokyo Games, which were originally scheduled for 2020, and organizers have scrambled to put in place preventive measures, such as banning international spectators, to ensure the safety of athletes and residents.

However, there’s still concern that the Olympics could worsen the spread of the virus and Japan’s rising caseload and slow vaccine rollout have raised public questions about whether the Games should be held at all.