Sports Watch

New-look Braves go deep against Phillies in 4-1 opener...Chisox-Royals postponed until Tuesday

(AP) - It's a brand new Major League Baseball season. Just ask the World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies.

The rebuilt Atlanta Braves slugged three home runs and their new ace Derek Lowe stymied the Phillies on two hits over eight shutout innings in their 4-1 win over the Phils before a disappointed full house at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils raised their championship banner before the game, but it went downhill fast.

Brian McCann slugged a two-run, upper-deck home run off Brett Myers in the first inning. Then Jeff Francoeur (fran-KOOR') and rookie center fielder Jordan Schafer hit solo shots in the second inning. Schafer's homer came in his first major-league at-bat.

Monday's game between Kansas City and the White Sox in Chicago has been postponed due to a forecast calling for snow, cold and high wind. The game has been rescheduled for Tuesday afternoon in the Windy City.

Barring any more postponements, 12 season openers are scheduled for Monday. Former president George W. Bush is scheduled to throw out the first pitch in Texas when the Rangers open against Cleveland. The first National League game begins in Cincinnati where the Reds host Johan Santana and the New York Mets.

It's Connecticut vs. Louisville in Tuesday's all-Big East championship

ST. LOUIS (AP) - Connecticut rolled to an impressive 83-64 victory over Stanford and will play Louisville in Tuesday night's all-Big East NCAA women's championship game. That's the 38th victory for the undefeated Huskies.

All-American Renee Montgomery led the UConn charge with 26 points, six assists and four steals.

UConn already has beaten Louisville twice this season, by a combined 67 points. The last meeting was in the Big East tournament championship on March 10 when UConn beat Louisville by 39.

In the first game, Angel McCoughtry and Louisville played the second half like they belonged in their first Final Four.

McCoughtry scored 14 of her 18 points in the second half and added 11 rebounds, helping Louisville crawl out of an early 11-0 hole to beat Oklahoma 61-59. Oklahoma's Nyeshia Stevenson had a good look on a 3-point attempt in the final seconds that rattled out.

Tar Heels unnerved by Spartans' home crowd edge

DETROIT (AP) - In Monday night's NCAA men's championship, the North Carolina Tar Heels are rated a 7-point favorite over Michigan State, a team they beat by 35 points back in December at Detroit's Ford Field. Nobody is expecting such a blowout this time.

North Carolina's senior class of Tyler Hansbrough, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor and Michael Copeland helped the Tar Heels to 123 wins over four years since the Tar Heels won the national title in 2005.

But Tom Izzo has his Spartans, playing their best ball of the year, inspired by the 50,000 or so Michigan State fans who were part of the NCAA record crowd of more than 72,000 in Saturday's semifinals. Izzo has one national title already and his .756 winning percentage in NCAA tournament games ranks him third among active coaches, just ahead of North Carolina's Roy Williams.

As Michigan State center Goran Sutton says of his coach: "We believe in coach Izzo."

Cavs pad their lead...Portland in playoffs despite loss

(AP) - LeBron James scored 18 of his 38 points in the first quarter and Cleveland coasted past visiting San Antonio 101-81 to avoid its first 3-game losing streak of the NBA season. The Cavaliers improve to 62-15 and move four games ahead of idle Boston in the race to nail down the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

In other NBA action:

The L.A. Lakers beat the crosstown Clippers 88-85. Lamar Odom led the way with 18 points and 10 boards. Kobe Bryant also had 18 for the Lakers, who remain one game back of Cleveland in the race for the overall best record.

San Antonio's lead over second-place Houston in the Southwest Division race is down to a-half game. The Rockets beat Portland 102-88. Yao Ming had 21 points and 12 rebounds. Despite the loss, the Trail Blazers made the playoffs for the first time in six years as a result of the Suns' loss.

Jason Kidd had 19 points and a season-high 20 assists in helping Dallas pound Phoenix 140-116. Kidd's 14th assist gave him 10,142 for his career, passing Magic Johnson for No. 3 on the NBA's career list. The victory virtually assures the eighth-place Mavericks of grabbing no worse than the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Dallas owns a 4-game lead over the ninth-place Suns with five left.

Will Bynum scored a franchise-record 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Detroit to a 104-97 victory over the Charlotte Bobcats. Bynum scored the final 13 points for the Pistons and finished with a career-high 32.

Vince Carter scored 15 points and the New Jersey Nets kept their scant playoff hopes alive for a couple more days by handing the Philadelphia 76ers their worst loss of the season, 96-67.

Carmelo Anthony scored 23 points and the Denver Nuggets easily won their seventh in a row by beating Minnesota 110-87.

Danny Granger scored 24 points, Troy Murphy added 22 points and nine rebounds, and the Indiana Pacers beat Oklahoma.

Wilson Chandler scored 17 points, David Lee added 16 points and 10 rebounds and the New York Knicks beat Toronto 112-103, eliminating the Raptors from the playoffs.

Kelenna Azubuike (ah-zeh-BOO'-kee) had 30 points and a career-high 15 rebounds and the Golden State Warriors held off the Sacramento Kings 105-100.

Ronnie Brewer scored 23 points and the Utah Jazz completed a season sweep of the New Orleans Hornets, 108-94.

Panthers gain on Rangers...Sharks pad overall lead

(AP) - On NHL ice, Bryan McCabe and Rostislav Olesz (RAHS'-tih-slav OH'-lehsh) each had a goal and an assist to lead the Florida Panthers to a 4-2 win over Pittsburgh. The Panthers moved into a tie with the idle New York Rangers for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.

Florida is vying for its first playoff berth since 2000. The Panthers have 89 points with three games remaining. The Rangers, who lost 1-0 to Boston Saturday, hold the edge over Florida because they have one more victory.

Also on the ice:

Joe Pavelski and Jonathan Cheechoo scored the tying and go-ahead goals during power plays and the San Jose Sharks set a franchise record with their 52nd victory, 3-2 over Anaheim. Backup goalie Brian Boucher stopped 19 shots for the Sharks, who lead Boston by three points in the race for the NHL's best record.

Washington got goals from six different players in a 6-4 win over visiting Atlanta that gives the Capitals sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference. The Caps lead the New Jersey Devils by two points in the battle for the East's No. 2 seed. Both have three games remaining.

Kris Versteeg beat fellow rookie star Steve Mason on a breakaway at 3:10 of overtime to give the Chicago Blackhawks a 1-0 victory over Columbus.

Minnesota's slim NHL playoff hopes took a hit when Marian Hossa (HOH'-sah) scored with 55 seconds left to lift Detroit to a 3-2 win over the visiting Wild, who sit 10th in the race for eight Western Conference berths for postseason play.

Colorado beat Vancouver 4-1. Milan Hejduk (MEE'-lahn HAY'-dook) got his 27th goal.

Lincicome scores dramatic victory

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. (AP) - Brittany Lincicome (LIN'-sih-kohm) claimed her first major title in dramatic fashion. She sank a 6-foot eagle putt on the par-5 18th hole at the LPGA's Kraft Nabisco Championship to cap a final round of 3-under-par 69 that moved her to 9-under par and one stroke clear of playing partners Kristy McPherson and Cristie Kerr.

It's the third career victory for Lincicome.

Casey a winner in the Lone Star State

HUMBLE, Texas (AP) - Paul Casey won the Shell Houston Open for his first PGA Tour victory. He beat J.B. Holmes with a bogey on the first playoff hole.

The 31-year-old Englishman has nine international victories, but had never won in the United States. The victory boosts Casey to a career-high sixth in the world rankings.

Gordon returns to Victory Lane

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Jeff Gordon ends the longest winless drought of his career with a first-place finish in the Samsung 500, taking a checkered flag for the first time in 48 races.

The 1 1/2-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway was 1 of only two active tracks where the 4-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion had never won a race.

Gordon, who leads this season's points race, got his 82nd career victory by 0.542 seconds over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson.

Briscoe wins, Patrick crashes

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) - Ryan Briscoe held off Ryan Hunter-Reay to win the IndyCar Series season opener on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Danica Patrick's season got off to a rough start. The only woman driver in the 22-car field crashed out when she got caught up with rookie Raphael Matos going into 1 of the tightest turns on the 1.8-mile circuit. She finished 19th.

British driver gets win from the pole

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Brawn GP's Jenson Button won a Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix that was curtailed after a tropical storm hit the circuit in Kuala Lumpur.

Murray hoists the trophy at Key Biscayne event

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. (AP) - Fourth-seeded Andy Murray took advantage of Novak Djokovic's (JOH'-kuh-vichz) slow start and beat the third seed 6-2, 7-5 to become the first Brit to win the Sony Ericsson Open.

The Scotsman is the first 3-time title winner on the men's tour this year.

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