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News, Scores, Teams, Stories & More on Northeast OH Sports on cleveland.com

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    Cinderella's slipper would never fit Ohio State because of the Buckeyes' long years as an elite program. But terrible defense is probably too much to overcome against Michigan.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - How many times did you shout, "Oh, my God!" (or, of course, worse) while watching the team formerly known as Ohio State beat Maryland, 52-51, last Saturday in overtime?

    The Buckeyes won only because Maryland's quarterback missed an open receiver on a game-deciding 2-point conversion play.

    The average fan's meltdown total - somewhere between 1,223 times for the two teams' total offense and 54 for their total first downs - probably resembled that of the Arctic ice shelves. Fifty-four would've shown great restraint, in my view.

    Other than Cinderella, aka Cardale Jones, and the Little Lowest Seed That Could in 2014, Ohio State has seldom been a plucky underdog.

    But the Buckeyes will be Saturday at the Horseshoe against Michigan's top-ranked defense. 52-51 is not an option.

    Revenge of the patsies

    Even when Ohio State was losing to Michigan with coach John Cooper and getting taunted (Desmond Howard's Heisman pose) in the process, the Buckeyes routed everyone else.

    As my friend and former Houston Chronicle columnist Fran Blinebury said while the Ohio State band performed "Script Ohio" before OSU fried Rice, 70-7, in 1996, "That guy down there dotting the 'i' is better than anybody Rice has."

    The sousaphone player is a linebacker for Ohio State now. 

    No team with a loss of 20 points or more has ever made the College Football Playoff. Purdue beat Ohio State by 29 in October. 

    Did you know Purdue apparently has a campus in Maryland?

    Cooper's party poopers

    The Buckeyes lost The Game under Cooper on a fluke (Shawn Springs' slip), and they lost it on bad, bad, baaaad judgment (Stan Jackson's pick-six pass). 

    Jackson was so close to the ground on a sack when he threw the ball that you couldn't have put a Block O cap between his facemask and the Big House turf for Woody Hayes to stomp to death.

    One of the Buckeyes' surreal Michigan moments under Cooper was a tie.  Former school president E. Gordon Gee, whose bow tie obviously had been knotted too tight, declared it "one of our greatest wins."

    The Buckeye century

    Ohio State is 15-2 since 2001 against Michigan. Urban Meyer is unbeaten in six tries.

    It's usually close. Even with Luke Fickell as the interim coach in 2011 and players in and out of the lineup because of suspensions, Michigan only won, 40-35.

    Unbeaten Ohio State only won, 42-41, when Wolverines coach Brady Hoke emptied out the playbook in vain in his last Game. 

    Hate's spur.

    If Michigan won the Big Ten and beat Ohio State, Michigan fans didn't care if Ohio State won its other games. 

    Ohio State loathes Michigan, though -- yesterday, today and tomorrow,  now and forever, amen.

    "Here's my dream: We're up big, we score late, go for two, make it, and then we onside kick," said Steve Snapp, the late Ohio State football sports information director."I think it would enhance the rivalry,"

    When it came to Michigan, "Snapper" was nuttier than any tree in Buckeye Grove. Ohio State officials once subjected the entire Michigan traveling party to all but body cavity searches before a game at the Horseshoe, thus throwing the Wolverines' warm-ups off.

    "We have to make sure everybody is safe," Snapp said sweetly.

    The year of the alphabet's 13th letter?

    Michigan is so reviled at Ohio State that every letter "m"  on signs at the Woody Hayes Center is taped over this week. Typography is only a modest inspiration, however.

    It's not permissible for Michigan fans to sing" Hail to the Victors" yet. But they can hum it.


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    It was simply a case of an organization asking at what point a lengthy list of missteps and continued attitude problems combined with erratic play become too much.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Prior to the season tipping off, before lengthy losing streaks, injuries, horrible body language, complaints over playing time and overall disharmony shattered the Cavaliers' original plan to compete this season, one member of the organization stood underneath one of the baskets inside Cleveland Clinic Courts and spoke highly of JR Smith.

    My rebuttal was pointed: What happens when things start to go bad? Will you still be raving about his attitude when he's removed from the rotation because two years of poor play quickly turns into three?

    "That's a question no one can answer," he replied.

    Until now.

    In a move that both sides needed, Smith is gone. The team announced Tuesday that the testy shooting guard, who had publicly requested a trade earlier this season and reiterated that once again following Monday's blowout loss, "will no longer be with team as the organization works with JR and his representation regarding his future."

    The Cavs will try to pursue a deal. They are hopeful that Smith's unique contract structure, with only $3.8 million guaranteed next season, will allow some team to overlook his countless flaws and trade for the on-paper version of Smith rather than the one who has been a disaster on the court for the last two-plus years.

    It won't be easy. It hasn't been to this point. Who wants a problematic 33-year-old shooting guard who is only tolerable when things go well?

    Perhaps in the new year some desperate franchise wants to escape the luxury tax and needs to send out a burdensome contract along with a draft pick to get there. That would mean taking on Smith's shorter contract, which won't hamper the salary cap as much. Maybe there's a team that wants to free up cap space for the star-studded 2019 free agent class and Cleveland is one of the few teams that's willing to take a bad contract back if it comes with another asset. That's where Smith could come into play.

    There won't be a buyout. The Cavs won't cut him. Smith will stay away from the team, working out on his own where he can no longer bring morale down.

    Smith's comments to The Athletic late Monday night played a role in the "amicable" parting between the two sides. But only someone not paying close enough attention would believe it was the sole reason.

    Tuesday's move was simply a case of an organization asking at what point a lengthy list of missteps and continued attitude problems combined with erratic play become too much.

    Was this really the kind of guy the Cavs wanted around youngsters Collin Sexton, Cedi Osman, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and others with an actual future in Cleveland?

    In the press release sent out Tuesday afternoon, the Cavs thanked Smith for his contributions to Cleveland's 2016 championship and wished him well. His two 3-pointers in the second half of Game 7 ignited Cleveland's comeback, helping the Cavs erase a halftime disadvantage while becoming the first team in NBA history to overcome 3-1 series hole in the NBA Finals.

    On the surface, Smith appeared to be the perfect redemption story for Clevelanders to clutch. He embraced the fans and the city and his tattooed body turned into a shirt.

    None of those moments can ever be taken away. But somehow they have become justification for his nonsense.

    The Cavs traded for Smith at a time when the rest of the NBA wanted nothing to do with him. That was his fault, a reputation earned by past actions. The Cavs supported him after he received a suspension by losing his temper in the 2015 Playoffs. The Cavs gave him a huge contract, one above market value that was always a risk, as a reward for helping transform the team after arriving from New York. Smith followed that up by shooting 40 percent or worse the next three seasons.

    They stood by him through countless slip-ups -- both on and off the court. Some that have been reported and others that haven't. They put him back in his old starting spot after throwing soup at assistant coach Damon Jones last season. They still had his back after a massive Finals blunder led to a sweep, as he forgot the score of a tie game in Game 1 at the end of regulation while the ball was in his hand.

    But with Smith, every team has reached a breaking point. There's a reason for that. Beneath a funny, quirky, energetic exterior lies a drain on a franchise. 

    Sure, the Cavs could have done plenty different this season and maybe this is just more evidence of a dysfunctional group trying to -- unsuccessfully to this point -- find its way back after James' departure. The Cavs have earned plenty of criticism. But it's tough to say they did anything wrong here.

    They were transparent with Smith and his reps about a potential lack of playing time heading into the season. Coming off two of the worst statistical seasons of his career, ranking 62nd out of 89 shooting guards and 404th out of 521 total players in NBA Real Plus-Minus last year, this was an important training camp for Smith. Instead, he missed time with injuries and did nothing to earn his spot.

    It was never fully about veterans vs. youngsters. If that was truly the case, then why didn't the Cavs have an issue with George Hill getting playing time before he injured his shoulder? Hill is averaging 26.5 minutes this season, the fifth-most on the team. Why weren't they playing young big Ante Zizic over Tristan Thompson? 

    It was about Smith and a lack of production. 

    Why was bumping him -- one of the league's worst players the past two seasons -- so problematic? How is that evidence of tanking? How is that viewed as some sort of widespread youth movement? 

    If anything, it should have been a sign of them playing to win. Smith on the bench meant not having to deal with ridiculous shot selection and lazy defense -- the kind that sent him to the bench in the second half of the Detroit game Monday.

    This season was always going to be hard, especially for the veterans who were forced to accept a new reality when LeBron James joined the Lakers.

    Smith, Thompson, Kevin Love and Channing Frye were all part of that 2016 title team. Kyle Korver had only known winning since arriving in a trade midway through the 2016-17 season. Larry Drew was riding high for four years as Tyronn Lue's wingman, going to four straight NBA Finals. An unprecedented run became the Cavaliers' norm and resetting expectations has proven tough.

    But everyone else has found a way. 

    In the midst of a messy 2-13 start, only one player expressed a desire to be traded. Only one repeatedly complained about a lack of playing time. Only one started to show his true colors when things went awry. Only one attacked the front office. 

    That was Smith, the same guy who played the victim when Dwyane Wade arrived at the start of the 2017-18 season and forced him to accept a reduced role.

    Frye has every reason to be annoyed. He hasn't been given a shot to play. Smith was somehow getting 20.2 minutes per night while averaging 6.7 points and shooting a ghastly 34.2 percent from the field and 30.8 percent from beyond the arc -- the second-lowest percentage of his 15-year career.

    Haven't heard complaints from Frye. Only Smith. 

    Instead of being the leader that he promised to be, Smith created more turbulence. Instead of accepting responsibility for his poor play, handling adversity in a more professional manner -- the same way in which his other teammates have -- Smith blamed the organization and accused them of tanking.

    Is that setting the right example for the young players? Is that acceptable from a leader?

    There were numerous times the Cavaliers could've fined Smith for detrimental conduct during the first month of this season but chose otherwise. General manager Koby Altman became so concerned at one point that he gave Smith a choice to stay with the team or take a leave of absence. Those conversations don't happen flippantly.

    At that time, Smith promised he would be a positive influence.

    He said the same in the summer and in training camp. But leadership isn't measured during the easy times. It's when things get tough.

    Drew said this new situation isn't for everyone. It's clearly not for Smith. So what's the point in keeping him around if he's not helping the team and will continue to show his unhappiness?

    There's no sense that the Cavs will go on a big winning streak now that Smith is gone. They aren't good enough.

    But they are better without him. They have one less problem.


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    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers (2-13) will welcome LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers (9-7) to The Q for their lone visit on Wednesday night.  When: 8 p.m.  Where: Quicken Loans Arena TV: ESPN Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM. Online: Watch ESPN  Last meeting: The Cavs lost to the Lakers 127-113 on March 11, 2018. ...

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cleveland Cavaliers (2-13) will welcome LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers (9-7) to The Q for their lone visit on Wednesday night. 

    When: 8 p.m. 

    Where: Quicken Loans Arena

    TV: ESPN

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: Watch ESPN 

    Last meeting: The Cavs lost to the Lakers 127-113 on March 11, 2018. 

    Cavs minute: Wednesday marks the first of four games in a six-day stretch for the Cavaliers. ... It's one of two meetings between the Cavs and Lakers this season, with the second coming on Jan. 13 in Los Angeles. ... The Cavs are 7-1 in their last eight meetings against the Lakers. ... During Monday's loss against the Pistons, the Cavs had six players reach double figures in scoring. ... Cleveland has had that happen nine times in 15 games. ... Collin Sexton has started the last five games for an injured George Hill. Sexton is averaging 18.2 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.8 assists in 33.2 minutes during that stretch. ... Jordan Clarkson has scored in double figures in 14 of Cleveland's 15 games and ranks 4th among all NBA bench players, averaging 15.4 points. ... The Cavs rank last in 3-pointers made, averaging just 8.2. Last season, the Cavs averaged 12.0 makes to rank third in the NBA. 

    Lakers minute: Los Angeles has rebounded from a slow start, winning five of its last six games. ... James, playing his first game against his old team, is coming off a season-high 51 points on Sunday night in Miami. ... James is second in the NBA in scoring, averaging 28.8 points. ... Earlier this season, James became the first player in Lakers history to total at least 265 points, 75 rebounds and 75 assists in his first 10 games with the team. ... Lakers newest addition Tyson Chandler currently ranks third on the NBA's career field goal percentage list (.596). ...  Kyle Kuzma hit more 3-pointers last season than any Lakers rookie in franchise history (159). Kuzma has only made 24 this season and is shooting 29.6 percent from deep. ... The Lakers rank second in points in the paint, averaging 56.8. ... Los Angeles is also second in fastbreak points, averaging 21.6. 

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Cedi Osman

    F Larry Nance Jr.

    C Tristan Thompson

    G Rodney Hood

    G Collin Sexton

    Lakers

    F LeBron James

    F Kyle Kuzma

    C JaVale McGee

    G Brandon Ingram

    G Lonzo Ball


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    Since the NFL loosened its stance on touchdown celebrations, players got creative after scoring in 2018. Watch video

    Since the NFL loosened its stance on touchdown celebrations, players got creative after scoring in 2018. Recently, the Seattle Seahawks broke out a play what appeared to be a baseball player getting pegged and charging the mound. However, two Cleveland Browns players broke out the "Dragon Ball Z" fusion dance, much to the delight of anime fans. Which touchdown celebration was the best in 2018?

    PERSPECTIVES

    Don't you just love it when sports cross over?

    FUUUUUU. SION. HAAAAAAA!

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

     

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    The veteran point guard started his post-shootaround work with a few midrange jumpers before trying to simulate different two-on-two game situations with a trio of assistant coaches, including player development ace Mike Gerrity. Watch video

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- George Hill took the next step in his recovery from a shoulder injury on Wednesday morning, returning for more on-court activities. 

    Hill had worked out in recent days, dribbling around cones and working on driving finishes with both hands -- mostly his left. But Wednesday he stepped it up a bit more, under the watchful eye of trainer Steve Spiro. 

    The veteran point guard started his post-shootaround work with a few midrange jumpers before trying to simulate a variety of two-on-two game situations with a trio of assistant coaches, including player development ace Mike Gerrity. 

    Hill has missed the past five games with a sprained right shoulder suffered late in the game against Orlando on Nov. 5.

    At the time of the injury, it was announced that Hill was expected to miss two weeks. That could mean Hill returns on Nov. 23 against Philadelphia. There is, however, no official word on that and Hill has already been ruled out for Wednesday night's highly-anticipated matchup against LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    Hill is averaging 12.6 points, 3.0 assists and 1.9 rebounds in 26.5 minutes. Head coach Larry Drew said he wasn't sure if Hill would return to his starting spot. 


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    When watching football or gorging on food, bear in mind that the essence of the holiday is being grateful.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - Thanksgiving really isn't a tryptophanatic's feast day or a football junkie's day-long fix. It's the best holiday of the year at our house.

    I say that in the face of a Christmas season that begins before Halloween and lasts until Ralphie pummels Scut Farkus in the last showing of the "A Christmas Story" marathon. 

    The painting

    Instead  of Coca-Cola ads showing Santa as a red-faced symbol of incipient cardiac infarction, my favorite holiday picture is the one Norman Rockwell painted for the Saturday Evening Post magazine at Thanksgiving 1942 during World War II. 

    Although the most prominent feature in it was an improbably large turkey that apparently escaped from the Macy's parade in vain, it was no ode to gluttony. It depicted home and family, the familiar memories that sustained warriors and made battle in faraway lands and on hostile shores worth it.

    The day's purpose

    We surely miscast Thanksgiving by building it around the NFL games.  How thankful are we supposed to be for the Detroit Lions' intrusion into the living room  every Thanksgiving afternoon, anyway?

    The ideal we try to observe at our house is in the message on a sign my wife Marilyn placed in the kitchen long ago: "Gratitude turns what we have into enough."

    This is a tough sell in sports, where winning is supposed to be the only thing.

    How can enough be defeat? Not when fans hold up foam rubber hands with a "We're No. 1" finger aimed skyward, like a player who just scored a touchdown pointing upward to thank Touchdown Jesus where he really lives and not at Notre Dame.

    No one who does his best is ever diminished by the numbers on a scoreboard that becomes a blank slate by the next day.

    Games come and go. As the philosopher George "Sparky" Anderson said, "Every 24 hours the world turns over on someone who was sitting on top of it."

    Character stays.

    How much is enough?

    Sparky's life was baseball, and that was enough for him even without the World Series rings.

    I was a newspaperman for 47 years in three cities in three different areas of the country, the last 34 years here. It was like that for me.

    I loved it (and how many get to say that about a job?) and still do as a part-timer, deadlines and all. Maybe deadlines especially.

    There was an energy in the rattle of typewriter keys and later in the clacking of laptops in a press box after a big night game that could make catching lightning in a bottle seem like a candle in the wind.

    There was only one championship in four Cavaliers' trips to the Finals in LeBron James' second tour with the team. But does that mean watching, in the worst case, the second-best player ever, was meaningless?

    Were three Indians' World Series appearances in a quarter century nothing?

    Was it pointless watching Omar Vizquel light up the baseball diamond like, to paraphrase a LeBron simile, a Vegas showroom?

    Was it empty seeing angry Albert Belle smash almost every mistake pitch he saw?

    The blessing

    What's more, we share these moments with our kids, just as we pass along the green bean or sweet potato casserole at the table on Thanksgiving Day.

    In the same way, we sportswriters tried to put readers there with us, in the arena, amid the tumult.

    I call it all a blessing, and I'm thankful for it.


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    Wednesday marks LeBron James' first return to Quicken Loans Arena since leaving the Cavaliers a second time in free agency. Watch video

    INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson opted for the canned answer when asked about the importance of Wednesday night's game against the Los Angeles Lakers. 

    "Just another game. Another game on the schedule," Thompson said following shootaround. "Another opportunity for us to play at home and compete and be on our floor."

    Only it's not. Wednesday marks LeBron James' first return to Quicken Loans Arena since leaving the Cavaliers a second time in free agency.

    Promos have been playing for weeks on ESPN. It's one of two games nationally televised for the Cavaliers this season. This is the one fans have had circled on the calendar since it was released. 

    Eight years ago James came back to Cleveland as the villain. It was Dec. 2, 2010, when a sellout crowd was eager to unleash its rage on him. There were orchestrated chants that began during pregame warmups. Many of the insults were personal and vitriolic. It was an atmosphere unlike NBA players had ever seen -- or felt -- before.

    That's not the expected reception this time. More than likely, James will receive a positive welcome home. It's possible he even gets a standing ovation. That would be fitting for the franchise's greatest player, the guy most responsible for Cleveland's title drought ending in 2016. 

    "I think he will get a great reception," Thompson said. "I think at the end of the day Cavs fans are very appreciative of him coming back and fulfilling the 'prophecy' of bringing a championship to the city and it was great what he did, doing for this community and how he helped Cleveland economics and brought money back into the city so it should be nothing but praises. Should be nothing but love and respect."

    Thompson spent four years around James. The two share the same agent. When asked whether he was able to get together with James on Tuesday night, Thompson turned quiet, smirked and replied that he will see James during the game.

    But the bonds built the last four years are lasting. The Cavs became brothers, friends and family members. 

    Those lessons learned during the most dominant four-year stretch in Cavaliers history won't soon be forgotten either.

    "How to be an ultimate pro," Thompson replied when asked what stood out about James. "Not just what you do on the court, but what you do off the court, in the weight room and I think him being the first guy in the gym after Labor Day and bringing guys together to do group workouts, doing those team dinners and all those things create winning mentality and create a winning environment. That's what we try to do now and since he's been gone.

    "Obviously we know how great he is on the court and what he does for the game of basketball but it's the things you guys don't see every day. That's what separates him from the rest and that's how you build a culture. That's what we're trying to do."

    The Cavs are planning a video tribute early in the game. Thompson said that's pretty "dope" and he will likely have his eyes fixed on the giant screen above center court.

    But when tipoff comes shortly after 8 p.m., James will be on the other side wearing a different jersey. He's coming off a 51-point outburst against another one of his former teams, the Miami Heat, and the Lakers have started to surge while the Cavs have plummeted to the basement of the Eastern Conference. 

    "Hopefully he shot all his good bullets in Miami and he's missing shots tonight, especially those step-back 3's he likes to take on the left wing," Thompson said. 

    Like Thompson, Cedi Osman also grew close to James over the last year. The second-year swingman will be making another start in LeBron's old spot Wednesday night. But admitted following shootaround that he won't get the first crack at guarding the four-time MVP.

    That will be David Nwaba, who is stepping into the starting lineup while Larry Nance Jr. goes back to the bench.

    Still, Osman will have plenty of chances throughout the game. 

    "That's actually a matchup I was thinking (about) since the beginning of the year, looking forward to it," Osman said. "Guarding him is going to be a challenge for me. I'll try to do my best and we'll see if I'm going to be successful or not. The more important thing is to be successful as a team. We'll try to get that win tonight."


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    If she can manage the Department of State, the NFL should be a piece of cake.

    It was reported that former Secretary of State was under consideration for the open Cleveland Browns head coaching position. While both sides have downplayed the rumor, Rice's level of leadership has many fans thinking she can run the NFL better than Roger Goodell. If she can manage the Department of State, the NFL should be a piece of cake. Others think the NFL is a completely different monster that she would have trouble controlling. What do you think? 

    PERSPECTIVES

    No one should take the Rice-Browns rumors seriously. Not because it's out of the realm of possibility, but because being a head coach is beneath her. If anything, her experience managing high-stakes negotiations and managing overblown egos in the federal government would make her perfect for the NFL Commissioner position. Here is Roxanne Jones of CNN with more:

    Here's a woman who sat on the National Security Council as director of Soviet and East European Affairs -- in the Cold War '80s. She was George W. Bush's national security adviser, then his secretary of state for four years. She's brokered Middle East peace deals and ceasefires, stared down drug lords and terrorists, expanded democracy around the globe.

    It's ridiculous, and the epitome of chauvinism, to question whether a woman of her caliber could handle leading a team of 53 men in tights to win football games.

    Hey, remember when Rice oversaw one of the worst boondoggles in American history with the war in Iraq, was accused of lying about the pretenses behind that decision and was generally a polarizing Secretary of State? While the current state of the NFL might welcome that kind of failure, they should look to move in another direction. Let's not reward someone for doing a bad job. Rice should stay out of the NFL.

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

     

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    Cleveland's hero was back. Getting the reception he deserved. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The sellout crowd inside Quicken Loans Arena rose to its feet and roared as LeBron James was announced last during Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup introductions. 

    "A 6-foot-8 forward from St. Vincent-St. Mary High School," shouted Sean Peebles, the in-arena PA announcer. "Welcome home! No. 23 LeBron James."

    Cleveland's hero was back. Getting the reception he deserved. 

    The atmosphere inside The Q was positive for this James return, nothing like Dec. 2, 2010, when James came back as the villain following what fans felt was a betrayal. 

    There was no reason to beef up security for the angry environment. There were no orchestrated chants of "Akron Hates You" or "Scottie Pippen." There were no boos -- those saved for Lonzo Ball, JaVale McGee and other members of the Lakers. The Star Wars Imperial March didn't play underneath the intros like it did eight years ago -- the Cavs' way to portray James as the bad guy. 

    This night wasn't about hate or fury. It wasn't the platform for Cavaliers fans to take out their frustrations from a miserable 2-13 start on James, who left Cleveland for the second time in free agency this summer and sent the franchise spiraling into chaos.

    It was a night to celebrate James' numerous accomplishments. A chance to thank him for bringing a title -- and so much more -- to the region. 

    James raced out onto the floor for the first time with 11:11 remaining on the pregame clock. That was the first chance for fans to get off their seats and shower him with adulation. They took full advantage, setting the tone for the rest of the night.

    James was again shown on the big screen hovering above midcourt during some of the pregame shooting drills. Once again, cheers echoed through the arena. 

    Prior to tipoff, he greeted his old teammates and bear-hugged Channing Frye at the scorer's table before moving toward Larry Nance Jr. There was even a special handshake between James and buddy Tristan Thompson. Cedi Osman, who grew close with James last year, shared a warm embrace as well.

    When a touching tribute video played during the first extended timeout barely four minutes into the game, fans looked on and saluted James before he returned the favor.

    "Yeah, a little bit of the last part," James said. "Luke (Walton) was actually drawing up a play so I had to pay attention slightly. I didn't want to miss that and mess up the play coming out of timeout. But I was able to catch some of it at the end."

    The video featured highlights of some of his most memorable plays, James holding the championship trophy, at his I Promise School -- where he spent the morning -- and at an Indians game. It included the message "Thank you for what you did on the court, but we all know it's bigger than basketball."

    "To come here tonight and go out and hear the fan's reception, 11 years playing here I just try to do ... to be the best basketball player, the best role model, the best leader I could be both on and off the floor and lead by example for this franchise and they showed their appreciation," James said. "Not only for myself, but for my friends and family that were at the game tonight it was a great moment."

    The backdrop was the Cavaliers and Lakers. Cleveland's next game on the schedule and a chance to snap a two-game losing streak.

    But Wednesday night was about so much more than a simple basketball game. The night belonged to James, the city's ultimate champion.

    While he may be playing thousands of miles away, wearing the purple and gold, James will always be Northeast Ohio's own. 


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    Inside his palace, playing beneath the countless banners he was responsible for hanging, including the one from the 2016 NBA title, the kid from Akron led the Lakers to a come-from-behind win.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Just as he had done so many other times throughout the course of his remarkable career, LeBron James lifted his team on his burly shoulders and carried them to victory.

    Only this time, it was the Los Angeles Lakers. Against his old team.

    Inside his familiar palace, playing beneath the countless banners he was responsible for hanging, including the one from the 2016 NBA title, and with a feisty Cavaliers bunch looking to spoil his homecoming, the kid from Akron led the Lakers to a 109-105 come-from-behind win.

    James re-entered at the 8:27 mark of the fourth quarter with the Lakers trailing by three. Five minutes later, he buried a cold-blooded triple in front of Cedi Osman to tie the game at 99. Then James pointed to the bench. Just like old times.

    Moments later, after a wild attempt by Jordan Clarkson, James hit two free throws to push the Lakers into their first lead since the 10:04 mark of the fourth quarter. 

    During a four-minute stretch, when the Lakers wiped away Cleveland's advantage, James scored or assisted on all 12 points. 

    That's James. The league's ultimate closer. 

    He finished with 32 points, including 11 in the fourth quarter, on 11-of-20 shooting and 2-of-6 from 3-point range to go with 14 rebounds and seven assists. 

    "That's my safe haven right there," James said. "That's my sanctuary once I step on the floor, the main thing is the main thing and that's to go out and execute offensively and defensively and try to get a win."

    While he was burying outside jumpers and bulldozing his way to the rim, the Cavs' offense crumbled, having nowhere to turn. 

    The night started with James receiving a standing ovation when his name was announced last during Lakers pregame introductions -- a welcome fit for a king.

    "I appreciate these fans, just as much as they appreciate me," James said. "Every single night we stepped on the floor, they always showed their appreciation to not only myself but to my teammates over these 11 years, especially the last four years those championship runs that we were making, so that was just my salute to them for them appreciating what I was able to accomplish with my teammates and coaches along those four years."

    There was an emotional video tribute at the initial timeout during the first quarter. A few of James' old teammates stared up to watch while James caught a glimpse of the end. He saluted the crowd, pointing to all corners of the building and pressing his hands together and returning the gratitude -- all while the Drake song "Forever" played over the loud speakers. 

    "Last name: Ever, first name: Greatest." A fitting tribute.

    Those boisterous cheers briefly turned into boos late in the fourth quarter, as the sellout crowd that came ready to show its appreciation for the hometown hero, tried fueling the Cavs to an improbable win. 

    But when the final buzzer sounded, after Kyle Korver missed an open 3-pointer that would've tied the game with 17 seconds left and Lakers shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope canned a pair of free throws to clinch the win, the Northeast Ohio son walked off the floor to a few more embraces. 

    It was another unforgettable night in Cleveland. Another chapter in his legacy. 

    Jordan Clarkson's revenge

    In a game that was about a player going up against his old team, former Laker Clarkson didn't want to be left out. Clarkson, who played three full years in Los Angeles before being traded to the Cavs at the deadline last February, tallied 20 points and spearheaded the Cavs' early fourth-quarter assault.

    During an early stretch in the final quarter, Clarkson scored or assisted on 13 straight points before running out of gas and taking some out-of-rhythm shots that killed possessions. 

    Cedi Osman holds his own

    Few players were as geeked for James' comeback as Osman, who formed a tight bond with James during their one season together and is now starting in that old small forward spot.  

    Osman poured in 21 points on 7-of-13 from the field, including 5-of-7 from beyond the arc. 

    Cavs accept Larry Drew's challenge in first half

    Drew made his team aware of the stats ahead of the game. The Lakers entered the night ranked second in the NBA in fastbreak points -- a problem area for Cleveland's defense in the first month of the season. 

    The best way to combat that: not turning the ball over. That was the Cavs' No. 1 priority. They accomplished it in the first half. 

    The Cavaliers went the first 24 minutes without a miscue, becoming the first team in the NBA to accomplish that feat. It was the first time Cleveland has done that in any half since Feb. 3, 2016.

    That kept the Lakers from running, finishing the half with zero fastbreak points. 

    Up next

    The Cavs will head to Philadelphia for the first game of a back-to-back against the 76ers on Friday night. They will then host the Houston Rockets on Saturday. 


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    Cleveland fans paid their respect to LeBron James, the city's ultimate champion.

    CLEVELAND,Ohio -- Cleveland fans paid their respect to LeBron James, the city's ultimate champion.  

    It was a night to celebrate James' numerous accomplishments.  A chance to thank him for bringing a title -- and so much more -- to the region.  While he may be playing thousands of miles away, wearing the purple and gold, James will always be Northeast Ohio's own.

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    LeBron James returned to Cleveland as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, Nov. 21. He scored 32 in a victory over the Cavaliers.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers scored 32 in a 109-105 victory at Cleveland, and Russell Westbrook of the Oklahoma City Thunder had a triple-double in a 123-95 victory at Golden State, as part of NBA highlights for Wednesday, Nov. 21.

    James Harden of the Houston Rockets scored 43 in a 126-124 home victory over Detroit.


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    Making his first trip back to Cleveland since leaving for the second time as a free agent, James had just put the finishing touches on another masterpiece, scoring 32 points on 11-of-20 from the field to go with 14 rebounds and seven assists. He led the Lakers back from a fourth-quarter deficit, tallying 11 of his 32 in the final 8:27. Watch video

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- LeBron James scarfed down a Galley Boy from Swenson's and sipped a large banana milkshake while greeting a few old friends, including Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman who made the lengthy stroll down the hallway for a bro-hug and brief chat.

    James was sitting inside the visitor's locker room at Quicken Loans Arena, an unfamiliar place. Yet, he felt right at home.

    Making his first trip back to Cleveland since leaving for the second time as a free agent, James had just put the finishing touches on another masterpiece, scoring 32 points on 11-of-20 from the field to go with 14 rebounds and seven assists. He led the Lakers back from a fourth-quarter deficit, tallying 11 of his 32 in the final 8:27.

    "My 11 years I played for this franchise I just tried to give everything I could both on the court and off the court," James said following the Lakers' 109-105 win. "I just tried to be the best basketball player, the best role model, the best leader I could be both on and off the floor and lead by example for this franchise. They showed their appreciation and not only for myself, but for my friends and family that were at the game tonight it was a great moment."

    James knew this reception was going to be different. He felt a contrasting vibe when the team plane touched down Tuesday afternoon.

    The anger that built up ahead of his 2010 return with the Miami Heat and the venom fueled by the Cavs' handling of it, including The Imperial March that played during introductions eight years ago to portray him as the villain, didn't exist this time.

    It was the proper welcome. The one that he deserved.

    "How it's supposed to be," Tristan Thompson said, repeating that same phrase three times. "They did it the right way. I think everyone understood and was almost like, We appreciate this guy, he's given us so much, he's given us everything he's got, so we appreciate it. If he wants to move on and start another chapter in his life, we're all for it.' I wouldn't say, it's almost like, when two people grow apart, it's fine. Still friends at the end of the day. I'm going to love you just like how you love me, but we're going to love each other from afar."

    Thompson was at Chili's watching on TV eight years ago when James walked into the hostile environment, with charged-up fans only in attendance to make his night miserable. It was only fitting considering that's the way Clevelanders felt when James announced his decision to join the Heat in a made-for-TV special that created a wound that took years to heal. For some, it hasn't fully. 

    His heartfelt letter announcing his return in 2014 helped. The recent four-year stretch, which included the championship drought ending and an unforgettable parade to the streets of downtown Cleveland, did as well. His departure to Los Angeles didn't sting as much this time. There wasn't a feeling of betrayal. No scathing signs. 

    "I'm a different person. We're all different from eight years ago, I think, both good and bad," James said. "But more importantly, this experience has been great. So it's all about growth and we all have grown from that moment eight years ago. So I kind of leave the past in the past and always focus on the present and see what happens in the future."

    The Lakers cancelled shootaround so James could spend the morning at his I Promise School, which the LeBron James Family Foundation helped open earlier this summer. He surprised the kids on Grandparent's Day and walked in each of the six classrooms with his third and fourth graders, sharing a few of the touching moments on Instagram. That actually seemed to resonate with him more than the night's main event. 

    James arrived at the arena shortly before 6 p.m. He did most of his pregame work in private. When he raced onto the floor for the first time with 11:11 left before tipoff, James received plenty of love from his adoring fans.

    Then came his pregame introduction, as the deafening cheers nearly drowned out in-arena announcer Sean Peebles when he saved James' name for last.

    The most memorable moment wasn't a thunderous dunk. It wasn't a timely 3-pointer that tied the game at 99 late in the fourth quarter. It wasn't a typical on-target bullet pass that landed right in his teammate's shooting pocket. It was the heartfelt video tribute that played during the first timeout.

    There were highlights from the 2016 title run and video clips with James clutching the championship trophy. There were moments showing his work in the community, including footage from his school.

    Then came the climax. With a black screen as the backdrop and white lettering to make the words pop, there was a simple message for the hometown hero.

    "THANK YOU, LeBRON."

    James' former teammates stood up to watch. Thompson even leaned against the scorer's table at center court to get the perfect view.

    James wanted to look too. Only he couldn't.

    "Luke (Walton) was actually drawing up a play so I had to pay attention slightly," James said. "I didn't want to miss that and mess up the play coming out of timeout. But I was able to catch some of it at the end."

    The part he saw was most important. It's what Wednesday night was all about.

    This was a chance for fans to show their appreciation for the best player in franchise history. It was a chance to celebrate the world's greatest who came back after leaving Cleveland once to deliver on his promise.

    A chance to thank him for everything he did during 11 incredible years.

    In that moment, nothing else mattered. Not his decision to leave for Los Angeles -- even though he said in 2014 he wouldn't bolt again -- that has led to the Cavs' horrible 2-14 record. Not his role in Kyrie Irving's trade demand that was "the beginning of the end."

    As the sellout crowd again rose to its feet, James pointed to different sections of the arena before putting his hands together to return the favor.

    "I appreciate these fans, just as much as they appreciate me," James said. "Every single night we stepped on the floor, they always showed their appreciation to not only myself but to my teammates over these 11 years, especially the last four years those championship runs that we were making, so that was just my salute to them for them appreciating what I was able to accomplish with my teammates and coaches along those four years."

    Before play resumed, Drake's "Forever" played through the speakers.

    "Last name: Ever, first name: Greatest."

    It was an emotional night. For James, his former teammates and fans everywhere.

    While some might have expected a smattering of boos, those didn't come until late in the fourth quarter when the Cavs were trying to pull off the improbable upset. At that point, James briefly became the enemy, as he was the primary obstacle in Cleveland's desired outcome. 

    In an ironic twist, the Cavs' missed James' clutch gene, leaving the primary question about Cleveland's go-to guy in late-game situations unanswered, just as it has been since James went to LA. 

    A night the Cavaliers fought until the end and played really well against one of league's title contenders was also a grim reminder of what they lost this summer and how far the climb is back to the top.

    When it was all over, James exited. He's got a title to chase.

    The Cavs, well, they will attempt to pull themselves from the rubble following his exodus. It hasn't been easy and it won't be. It may take years, if it ever happens. 

    James' relationship with these fans will always be a little bit complicated. But Wednesday night also proved how truly unique it is.


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    Every year, there are a few players who announce their arrival as superstars in the sports arena. Watch video

    Every year, there are a few players who announce their arrival as superstars in the sports arena and 2018 was no different. Donovan Mitchell didn't waste any time in the NBA, becoming a bonafide stud in his rookie year. But announcing his arrival at the World Cup was Kylian Mbappe, whose breakneck speed made him the star of stars in the planet's most popular tournament. Who was the breakout star of 2018?

    PERSPECTIVES

    It didn't take Donovan Mitchell too long to gain a foothold in the NBA and it doesn't like he's leaving anytime soon. 

    In his first year, Mitchell made Gordon Hayward's departure look like an afterthought, averaging over 20 points a game and helping the Jazz clinch a playoff spot. The former Louisville Cardinal is going to be a stud for years to come.

    The World Cup features some of the best players in the world, but it's also a place for lesser known talents to nab the spotlight. Kylian Mbappe was already a talented soccer player, but he became a superstar at the 2018 World Cup. 

    Mbappe scored four goals as a teenager, including one in the final -- a feat only soccer legend Pele has achieved. He was the true breakout athlete of 2018.

    The Tylt is focused on debates and conversations around news, current events and pop culture. We provide our community with the opportunity to share their opinions and vote on topics that matter most to them. We actively engage the community and present meaningful data on the debates and conversations as they progress. The Tylt is a place where your opinion counts, literally. The Tylt is an Advance Local Media, LLC property. Join us on Twitter @TheTylt, on Instagram @TheTylt or on Facebook, we'd love to hear what you have to say.

     

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    The Cavaliers (2-14) will play the first game of a back-to-back against the Philadelphia 76ers (13-7) on Friday night.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cavaliers (2-14) will play the first game of a back-to-back against the Philadelphia 76ers (13-7) on Friday night. 

    When: 7:30 p.m.

    Where: Wells Fargo Center

    TV: FoxSports Ohio 

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: FoxSports Go apps

    Last meeting: The Cavs were edged by the 76ers 132-130 on April 6, 2018. 

    Cavs minute: Friday marks the first meeting between the two teams. They will also meet on Dec. 16 in Cleveland and March 12 in Philadelphia. ... Cleveland is 11-2 in the last 13 matchups against the 76ers, including 5-1 in the last six in Philly. ... In the Cavs' most recent game, a loss against the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday night, they committed just three turnovers, which was their lowest total in a single game since March 9, 2009 vs. Portland. The Cavs had zero miscues in the first half against the Lakers, becoming the first team to go an entire half without one this season. ... The Cavs tied their season-high with 13 3-pointers against Los Angeles. ... Cedi Osman scored 21 points in Wednesday's loss. It was his third time scoring at least 20 in a game this season. ... Tristan Thompson has registered a double-double in five of the last seven contests. ... Since becoming the team's starting point guard, Collin Sexton is averaging 17.5 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 33.7 minutes per game. He has reached double-digits in all six of those games. 

    76ers minute: Center Joel Embiid ranks fourth in the NBA in scoring, averaging 28.1 points. ... Embiid also leads the league in double-doubles with 17. ... Now in his third season, Embiid has been held in single digits just once in a game in which he logged more than 10 minutes. It came on Dec. 14, 2016. ... Jimmy Butler arrived in a blockbuster trade recently. In five games with the Sixers, Butler is averaging 17.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.4 assists in 35.0 minutes. ... The 76ers have won three straight games. It's the team's longest winning streak of the season. ... Philadelphia has out-rebounded its opponent in 16 of 20 games. ... Ben Simmons is averaging 7.7 assists. He has dished out at least five helpers in 15 of 20 contests. ... The 76ers are undefeated at home this season. 

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Cedi Osman

    F David Nwaba

    C Tristan Thompson 

    G Rodney Hood

    G Collin Sexton

    76ers

    F Jimmy Butler

    F Wilson Chandler

    C Joel Embiid

    G JJ Redick

    G Ben Simmons


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    Check here for updates, scoring from The Match -- Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson -- on Friday, Nov. 23. Phil was 1-UP through five holes.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson face each other for 18 holes in The Match, a pay-per-view event Friday, Nov. 23, from Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas. The winner-take-all stakes: $9 million, not including side bets.

    Tiger vs. Phil updates via cbssports.com

    Tiger vs. Phil updates via pgatour.com

    DMan stopped drinking white-chocolate mochas for a week and saved money to purchase the PPV. Here is DMan's hole-by-hole report:

    Note: PPV broadcast said all money earned in challenges will go to charity.

    379-yard Par-4 1st: Woods missed short birdie putt. Mickelson missed 9-foot birdie putt, lost $200,000 challenge to Woods because of failure to birdie. (In the run-up to the match, Mickelson put up $100,000, claiming he would birdie the first hole; Woods doubled it.) AS

    430-yard Par-4 2nd: Mickelson made short par putt. Woods stunned onlookers by lipping-out short par putt. (While walking the third hole, Phil told his caddie that he was "half-a-second'' from giving Tiger the putt.) Phil 1-UP thru 2

    476-yard Par-4 3rd: Mickelson missed medium-range birdie putt, given par by Woods. Woods made short par putt -- barely. Phil 1-UP thru 3.

    564-yard Par-5 4th: Woods' second errant drive of match, to a side-hill lie. Woods third-shot approach, from 107 yards, to within 5 feet of flag stick. Mickelson told Woods to pick up his ball, then Woods told Phil to do same from similar distance. Phil 1-UP thru 4.

    137-yard Par-3 5th: Mickelson tee shot to 7 feet, 10 inches. Tiger on green but not close. Phil earned $100,000 from Tiger's closest-to-pin challenge.) Phil left birdie putt short. Woods made short par putt. Phil 1-UP thru 5.

    516-yard Par-4 6th:

    **

    Woods, 42, is on the short list of greatest golfers ever. He ranks second all time with 80 PGA Tour victories, including 14 majors. He has earned $115+ million on the course in PGA Tour events.

    Mickelson, 48, though never No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, is the second-best player of his generation. He owns 43 PGA Tour victories, including five majors. He has earned $88+ million on the course in PGA Tour events.


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    The Cavaliers (3-14) will host the Houston Rockets (9-8) in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams on Saturday night.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- The Cavaliers (3-14) will host the Houston Rockets (9-8) in the second game of a back-to-back for both teams on Saturday night. 

    When: 7:30 p.m.

    Where: Quicken Loans Arena

    TV: FoxSports Ohio 

    Radio: WTAM 1100 AM; WMMS 100.7 FM, La Mega 87.7 FM.

    Online: FoxSports Go apps

    Last meeting: The Cavs lost to the Rockets 120-88 on Feb. 3, 2018. 

    Cavs minute: The Cavs snapped their three-game losing streak with a win against the 76ers on Friday night. It was Cleveland's first road win of the season. ... Tristan Thompson recorded his eighth double-double of the season during Friday's game against Philadelphia. Thompson had just three double-doubles in 53 games last season. ... Jordan Clarkson scored 19 points, all of them in the second half, on Friday night. It's the 16th time he has scored double figures in the first 17 games. ... The Cavs have made 24 3-pointers over the last two games, the most they've hit in a two-game stretch all season. ... After tallying 23 points in Friday's win, Collin Sexton has scored at least 12 in every game as a starter. 

    Rockets minute: The Rockets had their five-game winning streak snapped on Friday night, losing to the Detroit Pistons 116-111 in overtime. ... After a poor start to the season, the Rockets have won five of six to get back over .500. ... James Harden is the NBA's leading scorer, averaging 29.2 points. ... The Rockets, despite struggling on defense this season, have Harden and Chris Paul currently ranked first and second in steals. ... The Rockets have made at least 13 triples in five consecutive games. They have failed to hit double-digit 3s just once this season. 

    Probable starters:

    Cavs

    F Cedi Osman

    F David Nwaba

    C Tristan Thompson

    G Rodney Hood

    G Collin Sexton

    Rockets

    F James Ennis

    F P.J. Tucker 

    C Clint Capela

    G James Harden

    G Chris Paul 


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    Cinderella's slipper would never fit Ohio State because of the Buckeyes' long years as an elite program. But terrible defense is probably too much to overcome against Michigan.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio - How many times did you shout, "Oh, my God!" (or, of course, worse) while watching the team formerly known as Ohio State beat Maryland, 52-51, last Saturday in overtime?

    The Buckeyes won only because Maryland's quarterback missed an open receiver on a game-deciding 2-point conversion play.

    The average fan's meltdown total - somewhere between 1,223 times for the two teams' total offense and 54 for their total first downs - probably resembled that of the Arctic ice shelves. Fifty-four would've shown great restraint, in my view.

    Other than Cinderella, aka Cardale Jones, and the Little Lowest Seed That Could in 2014, Ohio State has seldom been a plucky underdog.

    But the Buckeyes will be Saturday at the Horseshoe against Michigan's top-ranked defense. 52-51 is not an option.

    Revenge of the patsies

    Even when Ohio State was losing to Michigan with coach John Cooper and getting taunted (Desmond Howard's Heisman pose) in the process, the Buckeyes routed everyone else.

    As my friend and former Houston Chronicle columnist Fran Blinebury said while the Ohio State band performed "Script Ohio" before OSU fried Rice, 70-7, in 1996, "That guy down there dotting the 'i' is better than anybody Rice has."

    The sousaphone player is a linebacker for Ohio State now. 

    No team with a loss of 20 points or more has ever made the College Football Playoff. Purdue beat Ohio State by 29 in October. 

    Did you know Purdue apparently has a campus in Maryland?

    Cooper's party poopers

    The Buckeyes lost The Game under Cooper on a fluke (Shawn Springs' slip), and they lost it on bad, bad, baaaad judgment (Stan Jackson's pick-six pass). 

    Jackson was so close to the ground on a sack when he threw the ball that you couldn't have put a Block O cap between his facemask and the Big House turf for Woody Hayes to stomp to death.

    One of the Buckeyes' surreal Michigan moments under Cooper was a tie.  Former school president E. Gordon Gee, whose bow tie obviously had been knotted too tight, declared it "one of our greatest wins."

    The Buckeye century

    Ohio State is 15-2 since 2001 against Michigan,8-0 at home.  Urban Meyer is unbeaten in six tries.

    It's usually close. Even with Luke Fickell as the interim coach in 2011 and players in and out of the lineup because of suspensions, Michigan only won, 40-35.

    Unbeaten Ohio State only won, 42-41, when Wolverines coach Brady Hoke emptied out the playbook in vain in his last Game. 

    Hate's spur.

    If Michigan won the Big Ten and beat Ohio State, Michigan fans didn't care if Ohio State won its other games. 

    Ohio State loathes Michigan, though -- yesterday, today and tomorrow,  now and forever, amen.

    "Here's my dream: We're up big, we score late, go for two, make it, and then we onside kick," said Steve Snapp, the late Ohio State football sports information director."I think it would enhance the rivalry,"

    When it came to Michigan, "Snapper" was nuttier than any tree in Buckeye Grove. Ohio State officials once subjected the entire Michigan traveling party to all but body cavity searches before a game at the Horseshoe, thus throwing the Wolverines' warm-ups off.

    "We have to make sure everybody is safe," Snapp said sweetly.

    The year of the alphabet's 13th letter?

    Michigan is so reviled at Ohio State that every letter "m"  on signs at the Woody Hayes Center is taped over this week. Typography is only a modest inspiration, however.

    It's not permissible for Michigan fans to sing" Hail to the Victors" yet. But they can hum it.


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    Star quarterback D'Angelo Fulford returns from injury

    ALLIANCE, Ohio - Defending national champion Mount Union was so dominant in building a 44-point lead in Saturday's 51-35 Division III football playoff win over Centre College, it created a film study dilemma for coach Vince Kehres and his staff.

    In that context, the Purple Raiders' offense kept scoring too quickly in tallying all of its points before halftime. And with backups playing almost all of the second half, the offense had little to show the rest of the way.

    "We ran 51 plays (on offense) and they ran 87," a business-like Kehres said about the Purple Raiders coasting to the second-round victory after leading, 51-7, at the half. "We've got to evaluate all 51 plays we were in there, what we did right and what we did wrong on those 51, and all 87 they ran."

    Mount Union (12-0), seeking its 14th national championship - all of them beginning with the 1993 season - will play Muhlenberg (Pa.) next Saturday at a site to be determined on Sunday. The Purple Raiders need to win that game and a national semifinal to play in their 21st title game. Centre, of Danville, Kentucky, finished 10-2.

    Quarterback D'Angelo Fulford returned to action after missing Mount Union's 60-0 first-round playoff win over Dennison last Saturday with an undisclosed injury. He played most of the first half, completing 5 of 10 passes for 85 yards and two touchdowns, before being replaced by backup Jake Keeney with the Purple Raiders ahead, 44-7.

    Fulford began the game with the second-highest passer rating of any quarterback in the nation, regardless of division, behind only Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa.

    Mount Union doesn't discuss injuries. Asked what he thought of Fulford's performance, Kehres would only say "good." Fulford wasn't available for comment.

    The Purple Raiders scored all eight times they had the football in the first half, building a 51-7 lead.

    Josh Petruccelli had touchdown runs of 75 and five yards, and two others from one yard. His 75-yarder, rambling over the right side behind blocks by guard Jonny Todd and tackle Brendan Klaus, put Mount Union ahead, 21-7.

    "The line was dominating up front," Petruccelli, who rushed for 162 yards on 18 carries, said of the long run. "I probably wasn't touched until their safety was there about 10 yards downfield. I just had to make the one guy miss."

    Linebacker Danny Robinson then made two plays which broke the game open. He intercepted a pass to set up Cory Barnett's 40-yard field goal on the last play of the first quarter. Then, Robinson blocked a Centre punt, with Edwin Reed grabbing the football and taking it 14 yards to the Colonels' 1, setting up a Petrucelli score and a 31-7 Purple Raiders lead.

    Fulford threw two first-half touchdowns: hitting Jared Ruth in stride just beyond the goal line on a 42-yarder, and connecting with Justin Hill for a 12-yarder - which followed Ruth's 42-yard punt return.

    Purple Raiders safety Trevor Cox intercepted two Colonels passes in the second quarter, returning them a combined 56 yards, and a Jalen Griffin pick of a Centre pass led to Keeney's 14-yard pass to Demarco Haynes for the final touchdown of the half.

    Kehres has led the Purple Raiders to two of their national titles. The other 11 were won when his father, Larry Kehres, was Mount Union's coach. Larry remains as the school's athletic director.

    "We hadn't seen that type of speed," Centre coach Andy Frye said of Mount Union. "We beat three teams who got into the playoffs to get here, and none of them had that type of speed."


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    One night after beating the Philadelphia 76ers, a likely playoff team, the Cavs followed that up with a 117-108 win against the surging Houston Rockets.

    CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Who says the Cleveland Cavaliers are tanking? 

    One night after beating the Philadelphia 76ers, a likely playoff team, the Cavs followed that up with a 117-108 win against the surging Houston Rockets, who were playing without All-Star point guard Chris Paul. 

    Saturday night's win gave Cleveland its first official winning streak this season. It also represents the most important moment yet. 

    Prior to Saturday night, each of the Cavs' previous wins was followed by a blowout loss, unable to piece a pair of quality performances together. Leader Tristan Thompson lamented that in the embarrassing performance against Washington 10 days ago -- a game that came on the heels of the most complete showing all year.

    The Cavs spoke that night about the importance of learning from that loss. It's always a challenge for a young team to clear that hurdle.

    The Cavs finally got over it against Houston, showing the confidence head coach Larry Drew spoke about before tipoff and proving once again that they can compete with some of the league's elite if they play together, the right way and give effort for 48 minutes.  

    Consider Saturday night validation. 

    "This is two big wins," Thompson said following the win. "I think like I've been saying for the last couple of weeks and LD said, if we stay the course then we're going to get our fair share of wins. About four games where it could have been a W or L and obviously didn't go our way. These are the games that we are getting. I think we are figuring out if we play 48 minutes, play hard, play fast and always in attack mode then it gives ourselves a chance to be in these ballgames."

    Collin Sexton led the way on offense. The rookie scored a career-high 29 points, as he continues to shine as a starter. His jumper with around four minutes remaining in the fourth quarter helped hold off what looked to be a late-game surge from Houston. 

    "I'm just going out there and playing my game, getting to my shots that I know I'm capable of making nine out of 10 times," Sexton said.

    Still, on a night when the Cavaliers needed to do an abundance of little things to overcome the wide talent gap with a team that's won five of its last seven, Thompson and David Nwaba set the tone. 

    Thompson scored 16 points and grabbed 22 rebounds.

    Nwaba stuffed the stat sheet, tallying 12 points to go with four rebounds, two steals and one block. He went just 5-of-16 from the field. But offense isn't why the Cavs have inserted him into the starting lineup. Defense has allowed him to carve out a bigger role recently. 

    Drew continues to make the proper lineup calls. The Cavs' energy has picked up since mopey JR Smith left the team -- not at all a coincidence. They believe they've found a blueprint for success. 

    "Guys still have to stay locked in on what got us these two wins and the style of basketball we are playing," Thompson said. :We can't go away from that. If we do and try to go into the ISO or think it's one against five then it's not going to work out for us."

    Tanking teams don't play with the fight the Cavs have this season. Sometimes it will be good enough to win. Sometimes it won't. That's what happens during a rebuild. That's how it goes with talent deficiencies. 

    On Saturday night it was enough. It was the next step and there are plenty more of those ahead. If the Cavs keep playing the way they have this week, more wins will be coming as well. 

    Nwaba makes difference

    Drew said prior to the game he didn't know how long he was going to stay with Nwaba in the starting lineup. 

    But why mess with something that's working so well? 

    Nwaba got the nod for the third straight game. The Cavs originally put the stingy defender into the starting group Wednesday night so they could test him against LeBron James. That seems to be Nwaba's new role, taking over the assignment from Cedi Osman. 

    Nwaba was locked into a battle with James Harden all night, more than holding his own. 

    Harden finished with 40 points. But only a handful of his made baskets came while being guarded by Nwaba, who made Harden work hard all night and spearheaded an energetic effort on that end of the floor. Harden also committed nine turnovers. 

    Mr. Fourth Quarter

    Jordan Clarkson has become one of the guys Drew leans on late in the game when generating offense seems to be quite a challenge for Cleveland.

    As capable of anyone on the roster of igniting quickly, Clarkson scored 12 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter against the Rockets. The late-game eruption came on the heels of Clarkson putting away the 76ers one night earlier by scoring 14 points in the final quarter. 

    Cleaning the glass

    The Cavaliers entered the night in the top half of the league in rebounding differential. 

    They have now out-rebounded 13 of their 18 opponents after pounding Houston on the boards Saturday night. With Thompson as the team's anchor, the Cavs finished with a 19-board advantage, including 20-7 on the offensive end. 

    Larry Nance Jr. leaves early

    The Cavs have been battling injuries all season. And they might have added another to that list early in the fourth quarter, as Nance hobbled back to the locker room.

    Nance missed the first few games of the regular season with a sprained ankle. He told cleveland.com after the game that it was a slight re-aggravation, but didn't see any swelling so he's not overly concerned. His plan is to receive treatment on Sunday and then be ready to go.  

    Up next

    The Cavs will host the Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday night at 7 p.m. It's the second -- and final -- meeting between the two teams this season. Cleveland lost to Minnesota 131-123 in Game No. 2.


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