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    Coming off illness and spending much of his days as a full-time college student, Nathan Chen shouldn't have been capable of setting a personal best Saturday at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Then again, maybe it's wise to expect only greatness from the three-time defending champion and winner of the last two world championships. Chen, who hasn't lost an event since he struggled in the 2018 Olympics short program, soared far above the ice — and the competition — to win the short at nationals. His margin is so massive, 114.13 points to 100.99 for second-place Jason Brown, that Chen probably could power skate through Sunday's free program and still win. “It was one of my best,' the always understated Chen said, “really calm and paced. I felt in control of everything I was doing in the program.' That's how it tends to go for Chen, who is on target to become the first man to win four consecutive U.S. titles since Brian Boitano in 1988. Not even flu-like symptoms that curtailed his training earlier this month, nor the heavy class load at Yale, nor being separated by a continent from his coach, Rafael Arutunian, slows him. In pairs, Aleza and Chris Knierim won their third U.S. crown even though they finished second in the free skate to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson. Chen set the U.S. championships high in last year's short program at 113.42. His free skate and overall totals from 2019 clearly are in reach. It sometimes seems even the ceiling of the arena is within reach as he takes off on quads or triple axels. “It's the way Raf teaches us,” Chen said of being on his own in Connecticut, with Arutunian in California. “When we're young he wants us to be productive and learn to be self-sufficient as kids. By the time we're at this level, we still need him and he is a great guiding force ... but we know what we've got to get done that day and how to fix things on your own.' It didn't look like Chen had much that needs fixing in his program to “La Boheme.” It was graceful, lyrical, almost relaxing to watch, but also as difficult as any men's short routine gets. He nailed a quad flip, quad toe loop-triple toe loop combination and a triple axel. Brown, the 2015 national champ who won team bronze at the 2014 Sochi Games, has massively improved his technical skills since moving to Canada to train with renowned coach Brian Orser. Slowed by a concussion and what he calls “struggles' over the last year, the highly entertaining Brown has begun mastering the more difficult jumps. “The rockiness I dealt with definitely made me stronger,' Brown said. He credits training with 'the best skaters in the world' who work with Orser, including two-time Olympic gold medalist Yuzuru Hanyu of Japan, as being “uplifting and inspiring.' The husband-wife Knierims, team bronze medalists at the 2018 Olympics, also won nationals in 2015 here in Greensboro, and in 2018. But they struggled mightily last season and wound up seventh after coaching changes. Redemption came Saturday night. But the stars of the evening were Calalang and Johnson in just their second year together. They leaped from fifth in last year's nationals with a technically difficult yet gentle looking program that was clean, smooth and, at times, majestic. Their triple twist to start proceedings was almost stratospheric, and their lifts were intricate. Their 146.01 points in the free skate beat the Knierims by nearly seven points. But the Knierims entered with a large enough cushion after winning the short program, in which Calalang and Johnson were fourth. The United States has two teams for pairs at the world championships and those couples figure to get the nod. Later Saturday will be the free dance. The men's free skate is Sunday.
  • Nick Richards scored seven of his 25 points in overtime, including the game-deciding free throws with 10 seconds left, and No. 15 Kentucky beat No. 18 Texas Tech 76-74 in the only Big 12/SEC Challenge game Saturday featuring two ranked teams. Richards scored the first five points in overtime for the Wildcats (15-4), who blew a 10-point lead in second half and went the final six minutes of regulation without a field goal. His last two free throws came after he fouled when Terrence Shannon missed on awkward shot when defended by EJ Montgomery. Texas Tech (12-7), which had won 54 consecutive non-conference home games since December 2013, had one last possession. But Davide Moretti was stripped by Ashton Hagans when starting a drive in the lane. Immanuel Quickley had 21 points for the Wildcats, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from halfcourt that put them up 36-34 at halftime. Kyler Edards had 18 points for the Red Raiders, while Moretti had 15 and Shannon 12. Eight-time national champion Kentucky never trailed again after five points in the final five seconds of the first half. Tyrese Maxey made a contested one-handed floater before Chris Clarke's deep inbound pass went out of bounds with 1.6 seconds left. Montgomery then inbounded to Quickley, who took one dribble and let go of the shot from the half-court line. But the Red Raiders, who made it to their first national championship game last year, tied the game with their opening shot of the second half. Moretti twice tied the game late in regulation with free throws, though the 92% shooter missed the first of two from the line with 18 seconds left. Texas Tech missed another potential go-ahead free throw in overtime after Kevin McCullar was fouled when making a layup that made it 74-all with 31 seconds left in overtime. BIG PICTURE Kentucky: The Wildcats held on for an impressive road win in a raucous sold-out arena. While they blew the 10-point lead, they still improved to 257-7 when taking a lead of at least 10 points in a game in coach John Calipari's 11 seasons. Texas Tech: The Red Raiders hadn't lost a non-conference game at home since LSU, another SEC team, won there Dec. 18, 2013. They had been 34-0 in four seasons under coach Chris Beard. Their 54-game non-conference home winning streak was second to Butler's 58 in a row. UP NEXT Kentucky is back home and back in SEC play against Vanderbilt on Wednesday night. Texas Tech plays the second of three consecutive games against Top 25 teams. The Red Raiders host No. 14 West Virginia on Wednesday night before playing at No. 3 Kansas next Saturday. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketbal l and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • The death toll from the new virus in China has risen to 56 with 1,975 total cases reported. The figures reported Sunday morning cover the previous 24 hours and mark an increase of 15 deaths and 688 cases. The government also reported five cases in Hong Kong, two in Macao and three in Taiwan. Small numbers of cases have been found in Thailand, Japan, South Korea, the U.S., Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, France and Australia. Canada also says it has discovered one case. China's leader on Saturday called the accelerating spread of a new virus a grave situation, as cities from the outbreak's epicenter in central China to Hong Kong scrambled to contain the illness. President Xi Jinping's remarks, reported by state broadcaster CCTV, came at a meeting of Communist Party leaders convened on Lunar New Year — the country's biggest holiday whose celebrations have been muted — and underlined the government's urgent, expanding efforts to control the outbreak.
  • Jon Rahm is playing some of his best golf with two victories and a runner-up in his last four tournaments. He was at his best Saturday at Torrey Pines, holing a chip for birdie and a full gap wedge for eagle to start his round. Even after a 7-under 65 for a one-shot lead in the Farmers Insurance Open, Rahm knows as well as anyone that the hard work is still in front of him, mainly because of whoever might be behind him. Three years ago, that was Rahm. He made two eagles over the last six holes for a 66 to capture his first PGA Tour title. This year, it could be Ryan Palmer and Rory McIlroy in the final group, maybe even Tiger Woods from five shots back. “The back nine three years ago? It will do absolutely nothing, really,” Rahm said. “The only thing it's going to do is keep me focused, no matter how good I'm playing, knowing that somebody can come and do the same thing.” After a two-hour fog delay, Rahm had the ideal start. He chipped in from just off the green at No. 1. Then, he hit a gap wedge from 111 yards that landed short of the hole and rolled in for an eagle. Equally important was saving par on No. 5, and then on Nos. 12, 14 and 15, each of them feeling just as good as birdies. It led to the low round of the day. He was at 12-under 204 and had a one-shot lead over Palmer, whose card was a mixture of birdies and bogeys until a 10-foot birdie on the 17th gave him a 71. Rahm and Palmer have good history. They were teammates at the Zurich Classic in New Orleans and won. This time they're on their own, with company. McIlroy can go to No. 1 in the world with a victory, and after a poor finish on Friday, he got it right this time. McIlroy hit a 5-iron from a bunker on No. 12 — the third-toughest hole of the day — to 6 feet for birdie. He also powered a 3-wood over the water to 20 feet on the par-5 18th that set up an easy birdie for a 67. That left him three shots behind and in the final group with Rahm, the first time they've played together on Sunday on the PGA Tour. “It was nice to shoot a good third round here and get myself a little bit closer,” McIlroy said. “There's a lot of guys like 6-, 7-, 8-under par. Need to go out and try to replicate what I did today. If I can do that, I'll have a good shot.” Woods finished with a 15-foot putt — his longest of the round — on the par-5 18th and hopes it will give him some momentum going into Sunday. Never mind that the putt was for par. He sent his wedge over the green and into the bunker, and another dropped shot could have been costly. The par salvaged a 69 that got him within five shots. It wasn't a bad score, it just felt like way after the start. Woods opened with two birdies in three holes, chipped in for par, added two more birdies for a 32 and suddenly was within two shots of the lead as he goes for a ninth victory at Torrey Pines, and a record 83rd in his PGA Tour career. But he didn't make another birdie, and didn't even have a chance at one from closer than 20 feet. “It was important to make that putt,” he said. “By the end of the day, there will probably be 10, 11, 12 guys ahead of me. I've still got to go out there and post a low one tomorrow.” Woods was among 16 players within five shots of the lead. Sung Kang (67), PGA Tour rookie Harry Higgs (69) and Cameron Champ (68) joined McIlroy at 9-under 207. The group another shot behind included Tony Finau, Patrick Reed and Brandt Snedeker, a two-time champion at Torrey Pines who birdied his last two holes to salvage a 72. McIlroy is playing for the first time since late November and didn't appear to pick up too much rust during his break. This is his second time playing Torrey Pines, and it feels suited for him, even if he struggles like everyone else on poa greens. “Even if you're not making that many birdies but if you keep giving yourself chances, it's one of these golf courses that you feel like you're playing really well, you might be a couple under,” McIlroy said. 'That's OK. No one else is going that low. Keep doing the same thing tomorrow and should be right there.
  • Kendric Davis had 20 points and five assists, Emmanuel Bandoumel added 14 and SMU used a late run to upset No. 20 Memphis 74-70 on Saturday. Isiaha Mike scored 13 points, all in the second half, and Tyson Jolly finished with 10 as the Mustangs (15-4, 5-2 American Athletic Conference) won their third straight. D.J. Jeffries led Memphis (14-5, 3-3) with 18 points while Precious Achiuwa had 15 points and nine rebounds. The loss was the Tigers' second in a row and fourth in the last six. The Mustangs, who trailed by as many as 12 points in the second half, finally overtook the Tigers with a 15-2 run, erasing a double-digit deficit for a 71-70 advantage. Memphis failed to score in the final 6 minutes. The Tigers were able to build the lead to 11 points on several occasions in the first half but could never really stretch it beyond the double-digit advantage. Shooting 50% in the half helped, as did holding down turnovers. SMU was stymied by 32% shooting from the field and trailed 41-32 at halftime. Davis’ 14 points in the first half kept the Mustangs close. Achiuwa had 13 in the half to lead Memphis. BIG PICTURE SMU: The first half saw the Mustangs, who shoot almost 47% from the field, struggle from the field at 32%, including 5 of 21 from 3-point range. Still, SMU trailed by only nine at the half. But the closing rally, keyed by Mike’s eight points, and free throws by Davis made the difference. Memphis: The Tigers, which were trounced in their last game, at Tulsa, already had scored more points at halftime than they had in their whole game against the Golden Hurricane. But Memphis, which was favored by 5 1/2 points, couldn’t hold a 12-point lead in the second half and the six-minute drought at the end meant another loss for the Tigers. UP NEXT SMU: Plays at Cincinnati on Tuesday. Memphis: Plays at Central Florida on Wednesday. ___ More AP college basketball: https://apnews.com/Collegebasketball and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25
  • Spanish football was marred by a player being racially abused during a league game on Saturday, along with street clashes between rival fans outside stadiums before two matches. The league president said the incidents had done “serious damage to Spanish football.” Athletic Bilbao forward Iñaki Williams said that he was a victim of racial abuse from fans while playing at Espanyol in the city of Barcelona. “I suffered racist insults, something that no one wants to hear and has no place here,' Williams said after the 1-1 draw. Williams, who is black, played 82 minutes of the match before being substituted. TV broadcaster Movistar showed Williams confronting a section of Espanyol fans who were taunting him with monkey chants while a Bilbao teammate was taking a corner kick. “People should come to enjoy themselves, to help their team. This is a sport about friendship,” Williams said. Espanyol condemned the incident and said it is working to identify the fans involved. “Espanyol strongly condemns any expressions of racism in a football stadium,” the club said. “The club is investigating the racist incident produced by a few fans against Iñaki Williams.” Williams did not say if he had reported the incident to the referee, whose report did not mention the racist chants. Ultra fan groups clashed in the street before the match at Espanyol on Saturday and also outside Valencia’s stadium before a game against Barcelona. Video on social media showed groups of men tossing tables from bars and exchanging blows during both incidents. “Today we have taken a step back in the work that we began years ago,” Spanish league president Javier Tebas tweeted. “The violent incidents in Barcelona and Valencia (and) the racist insults against Iñaki Williams do serious damage to Spanish football. La Liga assumes responsibility and will look along with the clubs to find what we did wrong.” ___ More AP soccer https://apnews.com/Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • A group of Los Angeles Dodgers fans is making plans to vent its frustration at the Houston Astros about baseball's sign-stealing scandal. Houston and the Dodgers don't play each other during the upcoming regular season, so Pantone 294 is snapping up tickets to the Los Angeles Angels' home opener against the Astros on April 3 in Anaheim, the Los Angeles Times reported. The group regularly organizes trips to support the Dodgers on the road. “Spirits are great, man,” utilityman Kike Hernandez said Saturday about the fans. “Positive vibes.” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner joined several of his teammates in expressing frustration at the Astros for stealing signs during the 2017 season, when Houston beat them in seven games in the World Series. “It sucks for the fans as well. It sucks for a lot of people,” Turner said during the team's annual FanFest at Dodger Stadium. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • The Los Angeles Dodgers would rather earn a World Series trophy on their own than accept any scraps from the Houston Astros or Boston Red Sox, the teams that beat them in 2017 and '18. Despite being eager to focus on the upcoming season, several Dodgers publicly for the first time expressed annoyance at the Astros for the sign-stealing system used during the 2017 season, when Houston beat them in seven games in the World Series. “They cheated and they got away with it,” utilityman Kiké Hernández said Saturday during the team's annual FanFest outside Dodger Stadium. “I don't think it hurts more now than it did three years ago when we lost the Series.” Hernández said the Dodgers “had our doubts” about the Astros in 2017. “Everybody warned us. A lot of people told us to worry about them,” Hernández said. “We just thought it was just rumors, but I guess not.” Two weeks ago, Major League Baseball released the findings of its investigation, which concluded the Astros used a center-field monitor for real-time video of catchers' signs and subsequently banged a trash can to alert their hitters of incoming pitches, confirming initial comments by Mike Fiers to The Athletic. MLB suspended Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and manager AJ Hinch for the entire season and both were subsequently fired by owner Jim Crane. The team was also fined $5 million. The Red Sox are under investigation for possibly stealing signs in Alex Cora's first season as manager in 2018, when Boston beat the Dodgers. Cora has since been fired. Furious Dodgers fans have snapped up tickets for the Angels' home opener against Houston — a rare chance to boo the Astros, who aren't scheduled to play the Dodgers this season. LA manager Dave Roberts understands their irritation. “Frustrating is probably the floor of my emotions,” Roberts said. In hindsight, Roberts said pitchers Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen and Yu Darvish received “unfair criticism” for their performances against the Astros in the World Series. 'It's really frustrating if you look at what could've happened,' Roberts said. Roberts has a long friendship with Hinch, whom he said he hasn't spoken to since the scandal broke. “I don't think it really affects our relationship personally,” Roberts said. The Los Angeles City Council voted symbolically this week to ask MLB to strip the Astros and Red Sox of their World Series titles and award the trophies to the Dodgers. Thanks but no thanks, third baseman Justin Turner said. “We don't want a trophy, we don't want a fake banner hanging in our stadium,' he said. “We didn't earn it.” At the same time, Turner called into question the Astros' right to call themselves champions. “It's hard to feel like they earned it,' he said. “Just not 100% sure if they should be called champions for the rest of their lives.” Speaking on Saturday at a White Sox fan convention in Chicago, former Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal compared the Astros to another world champion that's been penalized for cheating. “They’re like the Patriots of baseball, right?” Grandal answered when asked about Houston during a kids-only Q&A. “They found a loophole, it worked out, but I think it’s a question that’s going to keep on coming up.” Andrew Friedman, president of baseball operations, was asked whether the Astros have contacted him to apologize or publicly been contrite enough. “They have not,' he said in answer to both questions. After initially poring over MLB's report, Friedman said he's tried to let it go. “It's just wasted energy and effort at this point because that's taking away from something that we can do to help make ourselves better in 2020,” he said. Turner said the players want to experience everything that goes along with winning a World Series, including dog-piling on the field after the final out, popping Champagne in the clubhouse, and parading through the city's streets. “We want to do it the right way,” he said. ___ AP freelancer Matt Carlson contributed from Chicago. ___ More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
  • Broadway producer Margo Lion, who helped bring the Tony Award-winning musicals “Jelly's Last Jam” and “Hairspray” to the stage and also worked on Tony Kushner's two-part classic “Angels in America,” has died at age 75. Her son, Matthew Nemeth, told The Associated Press that she died at a Manhattan hospital days after suffering a brain aneurysm. A Baltimore native, Lion was a proud independent producer who sometimes offered personal possessions as collateral in her determination to stage a show. She started out as an apprentice at the Music-Theater Group in the 1970s and a few years later began looking into the life of jazz musician Jelly Roll Morton, the basis for “Jelly's Last Jam,” which premiered on Broadway in 1992 and starred Gregory Hines. A decade later, she had enormous success with “Hairspray,” the Tony-winning smash that was adapted from the John Waters comedy. Lyon had seen the film on video in 1998 and quickly thought it ideal for Broadway, drawn in part to the story because it was set in Baltimore. “I wanted to do something joyful, something celebratory, like the shows I remembered when I was a kid,'' Lion told The New York Times in 2002. ”Halfway through (the video), I literally said: ‘Yes, this is it. I found it.’' Lion was among the producers of “Angels in America: Millennium Approaches” and 'Angels in America: Perestroika” and brought in George C. Wolfe to direct, his first Broadway show. Her other credits include August Wilson's “Seven Guitars” and “Elaine Stritch at Liberty.” In 2009, Barack Obama appointed her to the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities.
  • Irad Ortiz Jr.’s move paid off, and Mucho Gusto’s earnings more than doubled in a couple of minutes. Ortiz made a last-minute decision to take the mount aboard Mucho Gusto, and picked the right time to let the 4-year-old kick into high gear Saturday in the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park. Ortiz was going to ride Spun to Run, then made the tough call about a week before the race to switch to Mucho Gusto. As it turned out, Spun to Run was scratched because of a health-related issue -- and Mucho Gusto took the $1.8 million winners’ share of the purse. “I want to thank my agent and I want to thank (trainer) Bob Baffert for letting me ride the horse,” Ortiz said. Mucho Gusto finished the 1-1/8-mile trip around the dirt in 1:48.85. Mucho Gusto paid $8.80, $5 and $3,80. Mr Freeze returned $7.60 and $5.20, and War Story paid $6.80 to show. Mucho Gusto’s career earnings went from about $780,000 to roughly $2.6 million. He could seriously add to that if, as expected, he makes his next start at the $20 million Saudi Cup — the world's richest horse race — on Feb. 29. The Pegasus was a wide-open betting race, especially after the two morning-line favorites — Omaha Beach and Spun to Run — were scratched on Thursday. Omaha Beach was going to run the Pegasus as the final race of his career. Those departures took a 12-horse field down to 10, and without a big favorite. Mucho Gusto took advantage. “So happy to win this race,' Ortiz said. It wasn’t even close at the finish: Ortiz was cruising, as the nine others were all racing for second. Ortiz guided Mucho Gusto to the outside and easily to the lead at the top of the stretch, then simply pulled away from there. “Bob started working on that early and thank God he did,' said Jimmy Barnes, an assistant trainer for Baffert. “I'm just so happy for Irad. He did everything we needed him to do.' The Pegasus series was run under no-race-day-medication rules, something the sport will be pivoting to broadly over the next couple of years — a change that many prominent trainers said has been overdue. “We said, ‘Let's point to the future,’” said Belinda Stronach, the chairman and president of The Stronach Group, which operates Gulfstream. “Let's really create an opportunity for those horsemen and trainers that would like to run medication free and under the international standards, and really create an invitational that invites some of the best horses and trainers to be able to do so.” In the $1 million Pegasus turf earlier Saturday, 11-1 shot Zulu Alpha emerged from an extremely tight pack by heading to the rail and running down Magic Wand — who had been leading the whole way. Magic Wand started on the far outside and wasted no time getting to the front, and there was an enormous cluster of horses — “It was a mess,” said Luis Saez, who was aboard fifth-place finisher Arklow — not far from his heels for most of the 1-3/16-mile trip. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione guided Zulu Alpha to the inside and to what became his 10th career victory in 1:51.60. “I’m thrilled,” Gaffalione said. “I’m on Cloud Nine right now.” Zulu Alpha, whose career earnings got to just about the $2 million mark with the win for trainer Mike Maker, paid $25.60, $11.40 and $7.60. Magic Wand returned $5.40 and $3.80 and Instilled Regard paid $6.60 to show.