Friday Sports in Brief

January 1, 2022 GMT

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Brian Robinson Jr. ran for a career-high 204 yards and top-ranked Alabama rolled into yet another national championship game by overwhelming the first non-Power Five team to make the College Football Playoff.

Heisman Trophy winner Bryce Young threw three touchdown passes while mostly avoiding Cincinnati’s standout cornerbacks and the Crimson Tide beat the Bearcats 27-6 in the CFP semifinal at the Cotton Bowl on Friday. It was the sixth semifinal victory in a row for the Crimson Tide.

Alabama (13-1) will try to win its second national title in a row and fourth in the eight seasons of the CFP format with coach Nick Saban.

MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — With one overwhelming half at the Orange Bowl, No. 3 Georgia showed that a humbling loss to Alabama did not break the Bulldogs.

In fact, it might have made them even stronger.

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Stetson Bennett threw three touchdown passes, Nakobe Dean led an angry defense and Georgia returned to its dominant ways, beating No. 2 Michigan 34-11 on Friday night to advance to the College Football Playoff championship.

Georgia (13-1) earned a rematch with Southeastern Conference nemesis Alabama (13-1) in the title game Jan. 10 in Indianapolis.

NFL

The Minnesota Vikings placed starting quarterback Kirk Cousins on the COVID-19 reserve list Friday, two days before their most important game of the season at Green Bay.

Cousins, who is unvaccinated, couldn’t be cleared in time to play even if he were feeling fine. The NFL recently reduced the required quarantine period to five days for asymptomatic players.

The Vikings (7-8) are one game out of the last wild-card spot in the NFC with two weeks to go. The Packers (12-3) are in control of the top seed and a first-round bye.

The Vikings activated backup quarterback Sean Mannion from the COVID-19 reserve list, putting the seventh-year veteran in line to start at frigid Lambeau Field on Sunday night.

NBA

LOS ANGELES (AP) — LeBron James became the oldest player in NBA history to have a game with at least 40 points and 14 rebounds, scoring a season-high 43 on Friday night as the Los Angeles Lakers rolled to a 139-106 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers.

According to Sportradar, the oldest player to have a 40-14 game was Larry Bird, who was 35 when he had 49 points and 14 boards for the Boston Celtics in 1992 (which coincidentally also came against the Trail Blazers).

The 37-year-old James recorded the 67th 40-point game of his career and sixth in four seasons with the Lakers.

James made 16 of 26 shots from the field and hit five 3-pointers in a game in which the Lakers led throughout.

CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers have agreed to acquire veteran guard Rajon Rondo in a trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for guard Denzel Valentine, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press on Friday.

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The Cavs needed an experienced guard to help continue their strong start after losing Ricky Rubio to a season-ending knee injury. They’ll add Rondo once the deal is approved by the NBA, said the person who spoke on condition of anonymity because the teams have not yet had the required conference call with the league.

A four-time All-Star, the 35-year-old Rondo averaged 3.1 points and 3.7 assists coming off the bench for the Lakers. It was his second stint with Los Angeles. He’s been in league health and safety protocols and will need to be cleared before joining the Cavs.

— By AP Sports Writer Tom Withers.

NEW YORK (AP) — The virus outbreak hasn’t just sent NBA teams looking for help from the G League. The NBA refereeing corps has had to do the same.

A trio of G League officials — Tyler Mirkovich, Clare Aubry and Pat O’Connell — were assigned games on Friday, the NBA debuts for all three. It was the first time that the NBA had to call up G League officials to work games this season.

Mirkovich was assigned Phoenix at Boston, Aubry got Atlanta at Cleveland and O’Connell was picked for New York at Oklahoma City.

OBITUARY

BOSTON (AP) — Basketball Hall of Famer Sam Jones, the skilled scorer whose 10 NBA titles is second only to Boston Celtics teammate Bill Russell, has died, the team said. He was 88.

Jones died Thursday night in Florida, where he had been hospitalized in failing health, Celtics spokesman Jeff Twiss said. The team planned a moment of silence before Friday’s game against the Phoenix Suns.

A North Carolina native, Jones played for Hall of Fame coach John McLendon at North Carolina Central before Celtics general manager Red Auerbach selected him eighth overall in the 1957 draft despite never seeing him play.

He went on to average 17.7 points and just under five rebounds in 12 years, winning eight straight titles from 1959-66.

WNBA

NEW YORK (AP) — Becky Hammon is coming back to the WNBA as a head coach.

The veteran San Antonio Spurs assistant took the lead spot with the Las Vegas Aces on Friday.

She will be the highest paid coach in the league, potentially earning three or four times more than the highest paid player according to a person familiar with the deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because terms of her contract haven’t be released.

Hammon has been an assistant for the Spurs for eight seasons. She has interviewed for several NBA head coach openings in the past, but hasn’t gotten an offer to be the first woman to lead a team.

— By Basketball Writer Doug Feinberg.

SOCCER

LONDON (AP) — A continuing coronavirus outbreak at Newcastle has led to Sunday’s game at Southampton being postponed, the Premier League said Friday.

Newcastle’s previous game against Everton scheduled for Thursday had also been called off.

The Premier League said a combination of COVID-19 cases and injuries meant 19th-place Newcastle does not have the required 13 outfield players and one goalkeeper available to face Southampton at St. Mary’s Stadium.

It brings the total to 18 Premier League games postponed in the past three weeks, including last-place Norwich’s trip to Leicester on Saturday.

TENNIS

LONDON (AP) — U.S. Open champion Emma Raducanu was honored by Queen Elizabeth II in the British monarch’s annual New Year’s list on Friday following the teenager’s breakthrough performance at Flushing Meadows.

The 19-year-old Raducanu, who became the first qualifier to win a Grand Slam title, was made an MBE — or Member of the Order of the British Empire — by the queen.

It caps a remarkable year for Raducanu, whose U.S. Open win catapulted her to instant stardom in Britain. She was also named the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year for 2021 after becoming the first British woman to win a Grand Slam tournament since Virginia Wade in 1977.

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