Thursday Sports in Brief

Sports

NFL

PITTSBURGH (AP)Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said Monday night’s game against the Cleveland Browns could be his last at Heinz Field.

”I don’t ever speak in definites or guarantees,” Roethlisberger said Thursday. ”That’s just not what I’ve ever done, or who I am. But looking at the bigger picture, I would say that all signs are pointing that this could be it.”

The 39-year-old insisted that he won’t make any final decisions until after the season, and Roethlisberger noted that his team remains in the playoff hunt.

But for now, the veteran quarterback publicly acknowledged for the first time that he could play his final home game on Monday.

NEW YORK (AP) – DeMarcus Ware, Andre Johnson and Devin Hester are finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s class of 2022 all in their first year of eligibility.

The 15 modern-day players who will be considered on Jan. 18 by the selection committee include tackle Tony Boselli and defensive lineman Richard Seymour. Other finalists announced Thursday are safety Leroy Butler, wide receivers Torry Holt and Reggie Wayne, linebackers Sam Mills and Zach Thomas.

They are all finalists for the third time. Defensive linemen Jared Allen and Bryant Young and cornerback Ronde Barber are two-time finalists. Tackle Willie Anderson and linebacker Patrick Willis are first-time finalists.

Three others – Dick Vermeil in the coaching category, Art McNally as a contributor, and Cliff Branch as a senior player – also are candidates for the class of 2022.

A maximum of five modern-day players can be elected for enshrinement in August to the Canton, Ohio, hall. The inductees will be announced on Feb. 10 at NFL Honors.

NBA

NEW YORK (AP) – The NBA postponed another game for virus-related reasons Thursday, raising the total to 11 pushed back so far this season while two more head coaches entered the league’s health and safety protocols.

Golden State’s game at Denver was postponed because the Nuggets – through a combination of injuries and a newly discovered outbreak of the virus – did not have the league-minimum eight players available to start the contest.

Had they played, the Nuggets would have also been without head coach Michael Malone. He went into the protocols on Thursday, as did Philadelphia’s Doc Rivers.

WOMEN’S COLLEGE BASKETBALL

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) – Lauren Hansen made a driving layup with 0.1 seconds left in overtime and Missouri stunned No. 1 South Carolina 70-69 Thursday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

The Tigers (12-2) overcame the absence of scoring leader Aijha Blackwell and four other players to beat a No. 1 team for the first time in program history. They were previously 0-8 against No. 1 ranked teams.

It marked only the seventh time an unranked team has beaten the top-ranked team, and the first since Colorado beat Stanford on Jan. 17, 2021. South Carolina had won 43 straight nonconference games.

South Carolina (12-1) was coming off its biggest comeback in school history, overcoming an 18-point deficit to beat No. 2 Stanford last Tuesday.

TENNIS

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – French Open finalist Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova has tested positive for COVID-19, casting doubt on her place in the Australian Open beginning Jan. 17.

The 30-year-old Russian confirmed she has the coronavirus and is isolating after arriving in Australia on Tuesday.

”I was fully vaccinated and was preparing for the start of the season in Dubai,” Pavlyuchenkova said on social media Thursday. ”… Right now I am in complete isolation, in a special hotel and following all the protocols under the supervision of doctors. … .I’ll be back on court when it’s safe for everyone.”

Pavlyuchenkova is coming off one of her best seasons.

SOCCER

The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the Barcelona squad swelled to 10 on Thursday, potentially jeopardizing the team’s return to league play after Spain’s winter break of nearly two weeks.

Meanwhile, in England, Saturday’s match between Leicester and Norwich in the Premier League was postponed because Norwich did not have the required numbers to play as a result of COVID-19 cases and injuries. It is the 17th match to be called off in the league in the past month.

Sergino Dest, Philippe Coutinho and Abde Ezzalzouli are the latest players to contract COVID-19, Barcelona said. They are self-isolating at home and the team said they were ”in good health.”

MANCHESTER, England (AP) – Manchester City player Joao Cancelo was left with cuts and bruising around his right eye after being attacked by four people during a burglary at his home on Thursday night.

The Portugal defender said in a post on Instagram Stories that he fought back while protecting his family. He has a 2-year-old daughter, Alicia, with partner Daniela Machado.

The photo on Instagram showed a deep cut above his right eyebrow and cuts closer to his eye.

FIGURE SKATING

OTTAWA, Ontario (AP) – Canada’s figure skating championships will have no fans in attendance as the national federation adapts to surging COVID-19 numbers.

This change aligns with the Ontario government’s decision Thursday to limit attendance at sporting and other event venues. The government capped crowd size for indoor venues at 1,000 spectators or 50% capacity, whichever is less.

The new capacity limits will go into effect Friday. The competition, from Jan. 6-13, helps Canada decide who will represent it at the Beijing Olympics in February.

COURTS

STORRS, Conn. (AP) – The University of Connecticut has settled a federal gender equity lawsuit, reaching an agreement to keep its women’s rowing program for at least the next five years.

The lawsuit was filed by 12 rowers after the school announced in June 2020 that the sport would be among several eliminated in budget cuts. A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order in May that prevented the school from dissolving the team.

U.S. District Judge Stephen Underhill ruled rowers were likely to prevail in their lawsuit, which alleged that eliminating the team would violate Title IX, the federal law that guarantees equal access to women in education, including athletics.

OBITUARY

CARLSBAD, Calif. (AP) – Deke Houlgate, a longtime West Coast sports publicist whose clients included such auto racing greats as Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Richard Petty and Johnny Rutherford, has died. He was 91.

He died Sunday at his home in Carlsbad north of San Diego of COVID-19-related illness, son Greg said Thursday.

In 1962, Houlgate opened his own public relations firm. He promoted Riverside International Raceway and the early years of the Virginia Slims women’s pro tennis tour in Los Angeles. He worked for automotive designer and driver Carroll Shelby. Eventually, he promoted events across motorsports, including Indy car, stock cars, drag racing and motorcycle racing.

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

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