Weekly sports update: Lakers survive double OT, NASCAR season starts Sunday

MLB minor leagues to play in 2021, more news in NCAA basketball

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John Raoux | Associated Press

Austin Dillon (3) crosses the finish line in front of Bubba Wallace (23) to win the second of two qualifying auto races for the NASCAR Daytona 500 at Feb. 12, 2021, at Daytona International Speedway, in Daytona Beach, Florida.

James Krause, Senior Reporter

The NFL season may be over, but that means it’s time for the basketball season to heat up and more sports are just around the corner. These are the top stories from the past week of sports.

 

Lakers tested but victorious in three straight overtime games

The defending champion Los Angeles Lakers have shown off their resilience this past week, beating the Detroit Pistons Feb. 6 in double overtime followed by back-to-back overtime wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Los Angeles Lakers forward LeBron James (23) dunks against the Detroit Pistons during the second half of an NBA basketball game Feb. 6, 2021, in Los Angeles. (Marcio Jose Sanchez | Associated Press)

The Lakers now have a league-leading six wins in a row, but only by an average margin of seven points. The Utah Jazz, on their own five-game winning streak, sit half a game ahead in the Western Conference standings.

The matchup of the week takes place Saturday night on ABC when the Golden State Warriors face the Brooklyn Nets for the first time since the opening game of the regular season. The Nets currently hold third in the Eastern Conference while the Warriors hold the last playoff spot in the West.

 

An undefeated falls in men’s college basketball, two remain

One of three undefeated teams in men’s basketball fell this past week with Drake University losing to Valparaiso University on Sunday night by a 74-57 final. The loss ends the 18-game win streak of the Bulldogs and knocks them out of the Associated Press Top 25 rankings. The only undefeateds remaining are first-ranked Gonzaga University and second-ranked Baylor University.

Valparaiso made headlines again later in the week when it was announced Thursday that the school would drop the name ‘Crusades’ after the term started being used by the several hate groups.

Interim university president Colette Irwin-Knott said the violent imagery of the Crusades, the name of a series of wars between Christians and Muslims, “are not reflective of Valpo’s mission and values, which promote a welcoming and inclusive community.”

 

UCONN first-year impacts battle of top women’s basketball programs

The battle of dynasties in women’s college basketball between the University of Connecticut and the University of South Carolina added another chapter on Monday with UConn getting a 63-59 overtime victory. First-year guard Paige Bueckers played the hero for the Huskies with a 31-point performance, including all nine of UCONN’s overtime points.

Connecticut guard Nika Muhl (second from right) hugs guard Paige Bueckers (second from left) after defeating South Carolina in overtime of an NCAA college basketball game Feb. 8, 2021, in Storrs, Conneticut. (David Butler | Pool Photo via Associated Press)

The loss is the first of the year for the South Carolina Gamecocks, ranked first in the women’s AP poll. The Huskies, also at one loss, are expected to take the top spot in the upcoming polls to be released Sunday.

 

MLB shuffles minor league system ahead of return to action

After having last season cancelled due to COVID-19, the minor league system of now 120 teams has been realigned by the MLB following every club filing a 10-year agreement with the league by the Wednesday deadline.

The league has dropped 40 affiliate clubs to make 30 team leagues over four playing levels. There will be two divisions in Triple-A and three divisions in Double-A, high-A and low-A.

The new structure will benefit players and organizations in the minors who were forced to sit out last season. An MLB.com report Friday said the new structure will promote player salary increases, better facility funding and reduced travel for teams. 

 

NASCAR starts season on Valentine’s Day with Daytona 500

The NASCAR season begins at 2:30 p.m. Sunday with its biggest event of the year; the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway.

Annual Speedweek attractions have been altered thanks to COVID-19, meaning a shorter time to prepare at the track and less time to practice. The annual Busch Clash was moved from the oval to the road course with Kyle Busch winning on a last-lap pass Tuesday night.

Alex Bowman won the pole for the 500-mile race on Wednesday, but will have to start in the back after crashing his primary car during Thursday’s Duel races. Aric Almorola and Austin Dillon won duel one and two respectively to earn spots on the second row.