Hook’em Horns: Herman says he’s ready for pressure of Texas

By JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writer

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Tom Herman smiled, raised his right hand for the “Hook’em Horns” sign and said all the right things Sunday to fire up the fan base as the new Texas coach.

All of that was to be expected. Now comes the hard parts: winning, competing for a Big 12 title and navigating the treacherous landscape both on and off the field of Longhorns football.

Herman landed on the Texas campus Sunday to turn around a program worn down by three consecutive losing seasons under Charlie Strong. In Herman, Texas President Greg Fenves and athletic director Mike Perrin hired arguably the hottest young coach in college football away from Houston.

“We will win championships,” at Texas, Herman said, sounding the key note his new fans want to hear.

Herman lifted Houston with winning and public persona that pledged an “H-town takeover.” He now inherits a Texas program laboring to return to the national elite. And he’ll have to sooth some hurt feelings among the talented but young players who had pleaded a week earlier for Strong to stay. Among them was junior running back D’Onta Foreman, who rushed for 2,028 yards and is considering turning pro.

Some of that started when Herman met with his new players Sunday afternoon. Herman said he knows many of the Texas players are close to Strong, but added the “definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again.”

“There will be change,” Herman said.

Herman will enjoy a whirlwind of early support that Strong never really got. Herman was hired so quickly after Strong was fired — within hours — that it demonstrated how unified school administrators and influential donors were in a desperate rush to snatch him up before anyone else did.

Fenves and Perrin acknowledged they met Herman on Friday night after Texas lost to TCU and had an agreement in place before Strong was told he’d been fired. Three years ago, it took Texas about three weeks and flirtations with several other coaches, before Strong was hired.

And Strong had barely arrived on campus when billionaire businessman Red McCombs, one of Texas’ most prominent donors, called hiring Strong a “kick in the face,” a comment that set the tone for three tumultuous years for a divided fan base.

All of that came under different campus leadership than Herman has now. Fenves and Perrin have been in their jobs less than two years.

“What is important is that in the end, we got our man,” Fenves said.

Things look and sound good now, but Herman will want to remember that Texas has a board of regents that hasn’t been afraid to meddle in athletics. It was impatient board members and influential donors who worked tried to lure Alabama’s Nick Saban while Mack Brown was still the Longhorns coach in 2013.

Herman will have to put a staff together, and he deflected questions on whether that will include Houston offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. Applewhite is a former Texas quarterback and assistant coach who was immensely popular with Texas fans. But he also was disciplined by the university in 2009 when as an assistant coach school officials learned he’d engaged in “inappropriate” conduct with a student trainer on a bowl trip.

Applewhite, and how the school disciplined him, remains a key element in a long-running gender and race discrimination lawsuit against Texas filed by former women’s track coach Bev Kearney, who was forced out in 2013 after having a relationship with one of her athletes in 2002. That case is pending before the state Supreme Court.

Herman will enjoy hitting the recruiting trail for the state’s flagship university and the wealth and prestige that comes with it. And the buzz across Texas’ fertile recruiting grounds will be focused on him, instead of Big 12 and in-state rivals like Baylor, Texas Tech, TCU and Texas A&M, all of whom had disappointing seasons.

Texas is known a place where the pressure to win, be a politician and to be the public face of one of the nation’s most prominent programs can be crushing. Herman says he ready to handle it all.

“Pressure comes from being unprepared,” Herman said. “We are prepared for this job. We are prepared to be successful.”

Ottawa wins Grey Cup, beating Calgary 39-33 in OT

TORONTO (AP) — Henry Burris threw an 18-yard touchdown pass to Ernest Jackson in overtime and the Ottawa Redblacks won the Grey Cup on Sunday night, upsetting the Calgary Stampeders 39-33.

The third-year Redblacks won their first Canadian Football League title, and gave Ottawa its 10th championship. The Rough Riders won the last of their seven titles in 1976, and the Senators won in 1925 and 1926. The Redblacks lost to Edmonton last year in the title game.

“For all those haters out there, their organizations haven’t won a Grey Cup in decades, but ours, in three years, here we are, Grey Cup champions,” the 41-year-old Burris said.

Calgary was favored by double digits after finishing the regular season 15-2-1. The Redblacks, at 8-9-1, were the first team to finish first in a division with a losing record.

After Jackson bobbled but made the touchdown catch on the first possession of overtime, Burris missed the wide-open Khalil Paden on the mandatory 2-point conversion try.

“I didn’t even know E.J. kind of bobbled it,” Burris said. “I didn’t even know it was a completed pass, because it hit his hands and all of a sudden I see it bounce and I was thinking, ‘Awww!’ “Then all of a sudden I hear everyone go crazy and I was like, ‘Did it just happen? Did we just score?’ I think little plays like that just showed you that this was our moment.”

Calgary needed to match Ottawa’s six points, but went three-and-out. Bo Levi Mitchell’s third-down pass went off Bakari Grant’s hands to give Ottawa one of the biggest upset victories in Grey Cup history.

Burris won the game MVP award for the second time, completing 35 of 46 passes for 461 yards and three touchdowns. The former Temple star also ran for two scores after injuring a knee in warmups.

“I knew I wasn’t going to be the typical running guy that I usually am, but as long as I could come out here and make good, quick decisions and get the ball out of my hand … maybe I could do enough to help put our team in a position to be successful,” Burris said.

Burris also was the Grey Cup MVP with the Stampeders in 2008 in their victory over Montreal at Olympic Stadium. He was Jeff Garcia’s backup with the 1998 champion Stampeders.

The Stampeders rallied from 20 points down to force overtime. DaVaris Daniels scored on a 19-yard run with 1:38 left to cut it to 33-30. Glenn Love recovered Rob Maver’s onside kick at Calgary’s 49, and Rene Paredes tied it with a 10-yard field goal in the final second.

“If you don’t like ups and downs and all that kind of stuff, then football’s not a good profession to be in,” Ottawa coach Rick Campbell said. “But I think that’s why everybody loves it.”

Mitchell threw three interceptions for the Stampeders.

Burris led Ottawa to a 20-7 lead at halftime, completing 20 of 25 passes for 266 yards and one touchdown — a 6-yarder to Patrick Lavoie. Burris also threw a 9-yard scoring pass to Brad Sinopoli in the third quarter.

It was the third Grey Cup game to go to overtime and first since 2005 when Edmonton beat Montreal 38-35 in Vancouver.

Mourinho sent off, Man U draws 4th straight home league game

By ROB HARRIS, AP Global Soccer Writer

LONDON (AP) — Hired to revitalize Manchester United, Jose Mourinho is instead turning the clock back and losing his temper in public.

A 1-1 draw with West Ham on Sunday left United 11 points behind leader Chelsea and without a win in four league matches at Old Trafford for the first time since 1990.

That dry home spell came toward the end of a 26-year title drought which ended in 1993 with Alex Ferguson collecting the Premier League trophy. Ferguson retired in 2013 with 13 title triumphs to his name and Mourinho was appointed to recreate the Scot’s winning mentality at the club after three lackluster years under David Moyes and Louis van Gaal.

The only current similarity between Ferguson and Mourinho, who was fired a year ago by Chelsea, is the fiery temper on the Old Trafford touchline. At least with Ferguson it produced results.

Mourinho was sent to the stands for the second time in a month on Sunday after being enraged by Paul Pogba being booked for an apparent dive and kicking a water bottle.

United had just recovered after conceding inside 90 seconds from Diafra Sakho’s header. Pogba set up Zlatan Ibrahimovic to nod in the equalizer in the 21st minute.

“One day it will have to happen for us,” said Mourinho’s assistant, Rui Faria. “We’ll start winning.”

If they don’t, United faces a second season out of the Champions League and a 30 percent drop in sponsorship cash from Adidas of around 20 million pounds ($25 million). After a third of the season, United is eight points behind Arsenal in the fourth spot to qualify for Europe’s elite competition.

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ARSENAL 3, BOURNEMOUTH 1

After a four-game goal drought, Alexis Sanchez rediscovered his scoring touch with a double either side of Theo Walcott’s header.

A defensive blunder gifted Sanchez his 12th-minute opener, pouncing on the loose ball after an errant back pass by defender Steve Cook.

A dubious penalty — won and converted by Callum Wilson — allowed Bournemouth to level in the 23rd. Wilson barged into Nacho Monreal before the defender was penalized for fouling the Bournemouth striker.

Arsenal took until eight minutes into the second half to go back in front with Theo Walcott heading in Monreal’s cross. Sanchez completed the win in stoppage time from substitute Olivier Giroud’s pullback, highlighting the need for Arsenal to extend the Chile forward’s contract which expires in 2018.

“It is important,” Wenger said. “We will not sort it tonight. We have some time in front of us. You (the media) like us to spend money, so you should be happy!”

While Arsenal stayed three points behind Chelsea, Bournemouth dropped to 12th.

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SOUTHAMPTON 1, EVERTON 0

Charlie Austin scored after only 41 seconds on a miserable return to Southampton for former manager Ronald Koeman.

Josh Sims opened his Southampton debut by teeing the ball up for Austin’s header.

Southampton climbed to 10th place, two points behind Everton, which has won only one of its last eight league games in Koeman’s first season in charge.

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WATFORD 0, STOKE 1

The architect of the only goal acknowledged it shouldn’t have been awarded.

Charlie Adam’s push on Valon Behrami was missed by the referee before his header came off the post and cannoned off Watford goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes’ legs into the net.

“I think it was a foul actually,” Adam said.

Watford finished with 10 men. Miguel Britos was sent off in the 90th minute after receiving a second yellow card for a foul on Xherdan Shaqiri.

Midtable Stoke is two points behind Watford.

Kaepernick comes up short, then explains views on Castro

By STEVEN WINE, AP Sports Writer

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Colin Kaepernick threw three touchdown passes, ran for 113 yards and nearly rallied the woeful San Francisco 49ers from a 17-point deficit in the final eight minutes Sunday, which left a lot to talk about afterward.

That included communism in Cuba.

Kaepernick drew loud boos from Miami Dolphins fans early in the game for his political views, including recent comments in defense of the former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. Following the 49ers’ 31-24 loss, Kaepernick spoke at length about Castro’s policies.

“I agree with the investment in education,” Kaepernick said. “I also agree with the investment in free universal health care, as well as the involvement with him in helping end apartheid in South Africa. I would hope that everyone believes those things are good things. Trying to push the false narrative that I was a supporter of the oppressive things that he did is just not true.”

In August, Kaepernick drew attention for wearing a T-shirt that featured Castro along with Malcolm X. In a conference call Wednesday with South Florida media, Kaepernick defended Castro, who was enormously unpopular in Miami.

The timing of Kaepernick’s visit to Florida, coinciding with Castro’s death, became the latest chapter in a surreal season for the 49ers quarterback. He has drawn strong, mixed reactions for kneeling during the national anthem to protest the treatment of minorities.

He also has gone 0-6 as a starter, but the latest game might have been his best yet.

The 49ers trailed 31-14 with eight minutes left but scored twice, forced a punt and started at their 38 with 1:44 to go. Kaepernick drove them to the 6 but scrambled on the final play and was stopped at the 2 when sandwiched by Kiko Alonso and Ndamukong Suh.

“I could tell he was going to try to tuck it in and run, and everyone did a good job of running to the ball and stopping him,” Alonso said.

Alonso, ironically, is a Cuban American. He said he knew nothing about Kaepernick’s comments regarding Castro, but was pleased to learn from relatives about the former dictator’s death and the resulting celebrations in Miami.

“I heard there were some big parties on Calle Ocho,” Alonso said. “I know that my father was happy.”

There was no celebrating — again — for the 49ers (1-10), who set a franchise record with their 10th consecutive loss. Kaepernick said he misfired on some passes but was pleased his team didn’t quit.

“Our guys did a great job fighting to the end,” he said. “At the beginning of the game I asked them to go four quarters with me, and they did.”

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For more NFL coverage: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL.

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Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/steven-wine

Sounders beat Rapids 1-0 to advance to MLS Cup

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. (AP) — Jordan Morris’ sensational rookie season was in jeopardy when he was sick to his stomach Friday. He’s feeling a lot better after his performance Sunday.

Morris scored in the 56th minute and the Seattle Sounders advanced to their first MLS Cup, beating the Colorado Rapids 1-0 on Sunday in the second leg of the Western Conference final.

Nelson Haedo Valdez set up the goal to help Seattle take the series 3-1 in aggregate scoring. The Sounders will play Toronto or Montreal on Dec. 10 for the league title.

Toronto hosts Montreal in the second leg of the Eastern final Wednesday night. The Impact won the first leg 3-2 in Montreal. Seattle will host the final if Montreal prevails, but will travel to Toronto if needed.

A win there will cap an improbable turnaround for Seattle, which started the year 6-12-2 under coach Sigi Schmid but went 8-2-1 after Brian Schmetzer was named interim head coach to get in the playoffs.

“It’s funny looking back. Everybody thought we were dead in the water and now we move on,” Morris said. “This team always believed we were good enough to make it and we proved a lot of people wrong. We’ve got one more game to go.”

Morris, who was named the MLS Rookie of the Year on Nov. 10 after scoring 12 goals, said his stomach was hurting Friday and Saturday but started to feel better Sunday morning when he woke up. He was good enough to deliver a clutch goal.

“He’s not only strong physically, he’s also strong mentally,” said Schmetzer, who had the interim tag removed Nov. 2. “He wasn’t feeling his best and there were times in the first half he didn’t look like the Jordan we all know and love, but in the one moment that it really counted he was mentally strong enough to score the goal we needed to push us through.”

The Sounders won the first leg of the series in Seattle 2-1 on Tuesday night and needed only a tie to advance. They got more than that with a big goal from Morris.

It was the Rapids’ first home loss of the season.

Colorado carried the play for most of the game but Seattle jumped on a great chance Valdez had the ball above the box and passed to Morris as he got behind a defender. Morris knocked the ball over goalkeeper Zac MacMath as he slid to try to disrupt the shot.

“Nelson got the ball 25 yards out, put the ball through and I kind of took a touch,” Morris said. “It went out wide a little bit and I saw the keeper come off his line so I tried to chip it over him and fortunately it went in.”

Morris got the shot off as he was sliding, and MacMath spiked his right leg as both players converged.

The Rapids needed a goal to get even in aggregate scoring and came out inspired from the start. Jermaine Jones had the first real chance on a header in the fifth minute that went wide.

He later knocked a pass from Shkelzen Gashi over the bar.

However, the best chance for the Rapids came in the 23rd minute. Forward Kevin Doyle had the ball and maneuvered by defender Roman Torres on the left side and had just goalkeeper Stefan Frei in his path. Instead of taking the shot to try to beat the charging Frei, he sent the ball to the front of the net as Sebastien Le Toux came down the middle, but the ball went through and Le Toux never got a shot.

“We had a couple of good looks on goal,” Colorado coach Pablo Mastroeni said. “Those go in and it’s a whole different game. I thought we were in control of the game, we did everything we set out to do and to get beat on a strange play, that’s football.”

NOTES: This was the third trip to the Western Conference finals in Seattle’s eight-year existence in the MLS. The Sounders lost to the LA Galaxy in 2012 and ’14. … Rapids captain Sam Cronin was suspended for the match due to an accumulation of yellow cards. Cronin received a yellow card in the first leg of the series Tuesday in Seattle. Micheal Azira got the start in Cronin’s place. … Torres received a yellow card in the 14th minute after hitting the ball as it was set up for a free kick for Colorado.

Pitt outscores Syracuse in wild 76-61 victory

By WILL GRAVES, AP Sports Writer

PITTSBURGH (AP) — For the better part of four hours Pittsburgh and Syracuse raced up and down the Heinz Field turf like kids playing in the street waiting for their parents to call them in for dinner. The touchdowns kept piling up, one after another. An absurd 20 in all.

When Pitt quarterback Nate Peterman mercifully ended it with a simple kneel down to run out a 76-61 victory — the highest scoring regulation game in FBS history — the Panthers trotted toward the band for one last victory song caught somewhere between relief and disbelief, their head coach included.

“I’ve never been in a game like that,” Pat Narduzzi said. “I don’t ever want to be in a game like that again. But I’ll go back and say there’s no such thing as a bad win.”

If anything, it was a memorable one for the Panthers (8-4, 5-3), who capped a season that included victories over Clemson and Penn State with a performance that looks like a typo or something borrowed from the annual basketball showdowns by the former Big East foes turned ACC rivals. Pitt’s point total was actually higher than anything the school’s basketball team mustered in three wins over the Orange last season and the most Syracuse has ever surrendered in a program that dates back to 1899.

The combined point total (137) beat the previous FBS record of 136 set in 2007 when Navy outlasted North Texas 74-62.

“Half of me is jumping for joy with what our offense did today,” Narduzzi said. “The other half of me, makes me sick.”

Pitt survived thanks in part to 251 yards passing and four touchdowns by Peterman, who added a diving 13-yard score on the ground, and 160 total yards and three scores by running back James Conner. The Panthers needed only 24:18 to put up 644 total yards and averaged 10.9 yards per play.

No, really.

And still Pitt never really got comfortable, not even after Quadree Henderson’s 66-yard sprint gave the Panthers a 49-21 lead with 8:59 in the third quarter. Ten more touchdowns were to come.

“I’m thinking we’re about to put up 80 points in a football game,” Henderson said. “Are we playing basketball or football? It was definitely weird.”

The Orange (4-8, 2-6) ended coach Dino Babers’ first season a fourth straight loss but hardly rolled over when things looked bleak. Backup quarterback Zack Mahoney kept chipping away against the nation’s 127th ranked pass defense. Mahoney threw for 440 yards and five scores, all of them to Amba Etta-Tawo, and ran for two more.

Three times in the fourth quarter Syracuse pulled to within two touchdowns only to have Pitt answer quickly on a day the teams combined for 1,312 yards, something hard to do in video games, let alone real life.

“It’s fun being out there and putting up all those points,” Mahoney said. “When it comes down to it, the only important stat at the end of the days is wins and losses.”

STAYING PUT?

Babers brushed aside any speculation he might have any interest in the coaching vacancy in Houston now that Tom Herman has jumped to Texas.

“I am 100 percent locked in here at Syracuse,” said Babers, who just completed his first season with the Orange.

LAST CALL

Conner, who extended his ACC record for career touchdowns to 56, reiterated he will wait until after Pitt’s bowl game to make a decision about whether to return for his senior season or head to the NFL. A year after being diagnosed with cancer, Conner finished the regular season with 1,060 yards to become the fifth back in school history with two 1,000-yard seasons.

TAKEAWAY

Syracuse: Etta-Tawo will likely be getting paid to catch the football in the NFL next fall. The graduate transfer from Maryland finished with 13 catches for 178 yards. His five receiving touchdowns gave him 14 on the season, tying Tommy Kane’s school record.

Pitt: The Panthers finished the regular season with a three-game winning streak for the first time since 2004 and offensive coordinator Matt Canada will likely be a hot property after Pitt set a school record for points in a season (508). Yet there’s plenty for Narduzzi — who built Michigan State into a defensive power during his long run as coordinator there — to work on.

“People like scoring a lot of points … fans like a lot of points,” Narduzzi said. “We’re going to buckle down. That’s not going to happen again.”

UP NEXT

Syracuse: The loss ended any outside shot at a bowl game.

Pitt: Likely played its way into an upper-tier ACC bowl thanks to a resume that includes wins over Clemson and Penn State.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_Top25

Lomachenko successfully defends WBO junior lightweight title

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Vasyl Lomachenko successfully defended his WBO junior lightweight title, winning when Nicholas Walters was unable to continue after seven rounds Saturday night at the Cosmopolitan.

Lomachenko, the 28-year-old Ukrainian star who won two Olympic gold medals, improved to 7-1. Lomachenko dropped to 26-1-1.

“My goal is to be the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in the world,” Lomachenko said.

Lomachenko had his best round of the fight in the seventh, landing multiple power shots, including a hard shot to the temple that ultimately led Walters to stop fighting.

“He’s a good fighter, really strong,” Lomachenko said. “But he stood there and made it easy for me, then in the end he just quit.”

The pace quickened in the third, with Lomachenko leading the action and Walters looking to counter. Lomachenko landed a hard straight left, the best punch of the fight up until that point and began to establish himself as the aggressor by the end of the fourth.

Walters battled back in the fifth landing a few power shots, only to be matched by Lomachenko combination for combination.

“He’s a great fighter,” Walters said. “He’s very fast, a great puncher. He caught me with a hard shot to the temple.”

Lomachenko began to take control in the sixth, displaying superior technical skills and controlling the ring. By the end of the seventh, Lomachenko had the fans on their feet as he looked to finish the fight, landing a number of powerful combinations.

Walters survived the flurry and appeared fine as the round ended and he headed back to his corner. However, between rounds, Walters’ corner informed the referee that he was unable to continue and the fight was stopped and ruled a TKO for Lomachenko.

Lomachenko captured his first word title, the IBF featherweight crown, in just his third fight. That tied a record for the fewest fights needed to win a championship. He defended the belt three times before winning the junior lightweight title, earning his second title in as many weight classes.

Warriors eventually find flow without Green, beat Minnesota

By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Sports Writer

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Do-everything Draymond Green is fiery, vocal and brings energy on both ends of the court.

On a night the Golden State Warriors were without their emotional leader, it took them a while to find a flow.

Stephen Curry had 34 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and Golden State overcame Green’s absence to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 115-102 on Saturday night for their 11th straight victory.

“It wasn’t as loud, obviously,” Klay Thompson said of missing Green. “Collectively we had to raise our voices to make up for it.”

Curry shot 13 for 19 with four 3-pointers, while Kevin Durant added 28 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and a career-high six blocked shots — the Warriors’ first time ever having someone finish with at least 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and five blocks. Thompson scored 23 points with four 3s.

Durant figured he had to do more.

“Especially tonight. We missed Draymond,” Durant said. “We were a little stagnant early.”

Green sat out a day after bruising his left ankle at Los Angeles in a collision with teammate Ian Clark, who also missed the game after being hit in the throat on the play.

Zach LaVine scored 31 points with five 3s, while Karl-Anthony Towns had 12 of his 18 points in the first quarter on 6-for-10 shooting. He then quieted down and missed five of his next six attempts before a three-point play with 4:03 remaining to make it a 10-point game.

Without Green, Golden State lacked offensive flow and an interior defensive presence against Towns until finding some rhythm late in the first half and early in the second.

“It’s an All-Star team and you’ve just got to go up against them, be confident, and that’s what we are,” LaVine said.

The Warriors went off for a franchise-record 47 assists in their previous home game three nights earlier against the Lakers, but managed only 25 Saturday.

Golden State didn’t get its first field goal of the second quarter until 7:41 remaining on Durant’s three-point play.

“It’s good to see that we can step up in a guy like Draymond’s absence and still have contributions from other guys on the floor,” Curry said.

Kevon Looney made his first career start in place of Green and had six points, three rebounds and two assists in 18 minutes.

Curry’s 17 third-quarter points were his second-most in a quarter this season.

Minnesota handed Golden State one of only two home defeats last regular season, 124-117 in overtime on April 5 — just the Timberwolves’ second win in the last 17 meetings, including Saturday.

The Warriors won their sixth straight home game since a 129-100 season-opening loss to San Antonio, and ninth in 11 meetings with Minnesota dating to 2013.

TIP-INS

Timberwolves: Former Warriors G Brandon Rush was welcomed back on the video board during a first-quarter timeout, and he smiled and waved. … A night after getting 15 steals — five by Ricky Rubio — and forcing 26 turnovers, Minnesota managed only nine steals among the 18 turnovers by Golden State. … The Wolves will host the Warriors on Dec. 11, and Golden State has a nine-game winning streak at Minnesota.

Warriors: Curry had his sixth 30-point performance of the season, while he, Durant and Thompson each went over 20 points in the same game for the seventh time. … Golden State’s streak of 10 straight games with 30 or more assists was snapped. … They shot above 50 percent for the third straight game. … Golden State wore its slate alternate jerseys for the first time at home, improving to 24-2 all-time in that uniform.

THIBODEAU’S INFLUENCE

First-year Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau paid the Warriors a couple of visits last season in his year out of NBA coaching, a chance to observe Steve Kerr’s practices and catch up with old pal Ron Adams, Golden State’s assistant and defensive guru.

“It was fun to pick his brain and share knowledge and insight,” Kerr said.

Thibodeau called the Warriors “something we aspire to be.”

“Golden State was a good model for us,” he said of focusing on improvement. “They went step by step.”

UP NEXT

Timberwolves: Host the Utah Jazz on Monday for a quick two-game visit home.

Warriors: Host Atlanta on Monday in the second game of a five-game homestand and look to beat the Hawks at home for the fifth time in a row.

Texas fires Charlie Strong after 3 seasons

By JIM VERTUNO, AP Sports Writer

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Charlie Strong is done at Texas.

The first black coach in the history of the proud program was fired Saturday with a 16-21 record in three seasons. Strong had two years left on a guaranteed contract that pays more than $5 million per year, but was the first coach in Texas history with three consecutive losing seasons.

Reports that he would be fired swirled after a late-season loss to lowly Kansas, and school officials made it official after Friday’s 31-9 loss to TCU meant Texas would finish 5-7 without a bowl game for the second straight year.

“Charlie Strong is an outstanding leader and role model who worked hard with great integrity to move Longhorn football in the right direction,” university President Greg Fenves said in a statement on Saturday. “In the end, the results over three seasons were not there. It was not clear the future was going to be at the levels expected of Longhorn football.”

Texas moved quickly to replace him. Hours after firing Strong, Texas announced it had hired Houston’s Tom Herman to take over. Herman was 22-4 in his only two seasons with the Cougars, his first job as a college head coach.

Strong’s tenure was notable at first for his disciplinarian style and “core values” code of conduct. But the losses quickly mounted and Texas struggled just to qualify for bowl games despite recruiting classes hailed as some of the nation’s best. Texas had hoped for a turnaround this season after a 2-0 start, but a three-game losing streak and a 0-2 start in the Big 12 quickly followed.

Strong was a landmark hire for Texas in 2014, an up-and-comer who had earned his shot at one of the nation’s top programs after a four-year record of 37-15 at Louisville.

His arrival on campus wasn’t just about football , but also confronting the university’s long history of segregation and racism. Until 2010, a campus dorm was named after a past leader of the Ku Klux Klan. And a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis stood in the shadow of the central campus clock tower from 1930 until student protests forced its removal in 2015.

Strong’s hiring was a social leap forward, but his short tenure was marked by turmoil, losing football and a divided fan base.

That he lasted three years showed remarkable restraint for a school that forced out Mack Brown in 2013, eight years after he won a national title, once the Longhorns came up just short of sharing the Big 12 championship.

“When I took this job three years ago, I came here to win the national championship, and I came here to change lives,” Strong said after the loss to TCU. “”I was told when I came in three years ago to build a program. The wins and losses don’t add up, but it’s more than that … (It’s) taking the program in the right direction.”

Many of Strong’s players had hoped he would get another year.

“We’ve been blessed to have him,” freshman quarterback Shane Buechele said Friday night. “No one wants him to leave. Everybody wants him to stay.”

Shortly after the decision to fire Strong was announced, defensive lineman Charles Omenihu tweeted, “I love you coach.”

The question for Texas now is a new leader of a program that its supporters believe belongs among the nation’s elite, despite a long track record of mediocrity. As Strong’s future became increasingly unclear, Houston’s Tom Herman emerged as a leading candidate in multiple reports about the Texas job.

Texas has five seasons of five losses or more since 2010. Since 1986, Texas has lost at least five games 16 times, a rate of 52 percent. Only Brown’s 10-year run of 10-win seasons from 2000-2009, two Big 12 championships and that national title in 2005 went against that tide of lackluster results.

Strong grabbed national attention when he arrived and immediately announced his “core values” of team rules: honesty, treating women with respect, no guns and no drugs. Within a year, 10 players were dismissed after arrests or rules violations.

But he didn’t win enough games at a school that sits in the middle of one of college football’s most fertile recruiting grounds and boasts one of the wealthiest athletic programs in the country with its own ESPN-partnered television network. While some blamed Brown for leaving the program in shambles, Strong’s lineups were still peppered with future NFL talent.

Strong also made a promise he couldn’t keep. In November 2014, the Longhorns were 6-5 and already qualified for a bowl when he promised a five-loss season will “never happen again.” Two more immediately followed, and the rest of his tenure was marked by blowout losses, blown leads and excruciating finishes.

From the start, Strong struggled to win over some influential donors who liked his style but demanded more wins. Shortly after he was hired, Red McCombs, the billionaire businessman who is one of the program’s most influential donors, complained that he shouldn’t have the job.

The high points for Strong included four straight wins over teams ranked No. 12 or higher in the Top 25. But that success only compounded the frustration over his losses that were too many to overcome.

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AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo contributed to this report.

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More AP college football: www.collegefootball.ap.org

Rout of rival has No. 6 Washington on cusp of playoff

By TIM BOOTH, AP Sports Writer

PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Eight years ago, Washington walked off the field at Martin Stadium engulfed in a sea of crimson, its football program at the lowest point in its history.

When they left that same field on Friday night, the Huskies were passing the Apple Cup trophy like a baton — from teammate to teammate — hoping it’s the first of a few trophies to be celebrated this year.

Next up, perhaps a Pac-12 championship trophy. And after that, who knows what kind of hardware will be at stake for No. 6 Washington.

“I think the really good teams, the special teams can finish,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said. “The hard part about that is you’re playing better teams here as we finish. And so the next team we’ll play will be a really good and elite team. So it’s hard to finish, and then the one after that will be a really good team. We’ll figure all this out after we’re done playing, because we just feel like we’ve got some good football left.”

Washington’s dominant 45-17 win over No. 23 Washington State on Friday was complete affirmation of what Petersen has accomplished in three seasons in charge of the Huskies. More than just the Apple Cup and bragging rights within the state were at stake. A loss to the Cougars would have left Washington (11-1, 8-1 Pac-12) out of the Pac-12 title game and out of the College Football Playoff.

It was a game of enormous magnitude. And its importance was seemingly met with a collective shrug by the Huskies, who rolled to a 28-3 lead in just 14 minutes, 37 seconds, and simply overwhelmed Washington State.

“It all comes back to the details that coach (Petersen) preaches. Just comes back to practice and how we study our opponents, all of that,” Washington left tackle Trey Adams said.

Washington’s first reward is a spot in the Pac-12 championship game on Friday against Colorado. Colorado was probably the preferred opponent, but Washington will miss out on a chance at revenge against Southern California after losing to the Trojans 26-13 this month.

It’s the reward waiting after next Friday that looms as being the ultimate statement of how far the Huskies have climbed since that 0-12 season in 2008. That lost season was punctuated by a loss to a Washington State team that finished 2-10.

A win next Friday should put the Huskies into the CFP final four and a shot at the school’s first national title since the Huskies were co-champs with Miami in 1991.

“I really don’t care. Whoever we play, it will be awesome. It’ll be a great game and great experience,” Washington WR John Ross said.

The loss to USC appeared to expose flaws hidden by Washington’s soft schedule through the first three quarters of the season. The pass rush disappeared. Quarterback Jake Browning was flustered and made careless mistakes. The 13 points Washington scored against the Trojans were the fewest in 21 games.

This is why the last two games — a blowout of Arizona State and the romp over Washington State — eased those concerns and made the slog against USC appear as the outlier.

Browning rediscovered the form that had him in the Heisman Trophy conversation earlier this season. He was 13 of 17 for 202 yards and three touchdowns in the first quarter alone Friday, and finished 21 of 29 for 292 yards. He has 40 TD passes for the season, joining Jared Goff and Marcus Mariota as the only Pac-12 QBs with 40 or more TD passes in a season.

Equally important is a defense that stymied Arizona State, then held Washington State to its lowest output of points and yards since last year’s Apple Cup when quarterback Luke Falk was injured and didn’t play. Washington made a trio of goal line stands and held the Cougars to a season-low 334 yards.

“It means a lot, but at the end of the day it’s about us. We didn’t listen to the outside noise. We didn’t let it leak into our locker room,” Washington running back Lavon Coleman said. “We were focused on getting ready to play a championship game with championship effort and take care of our business.”

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