Around the Nation (Jan. 26): Azarenka wins back-to-back Australian titles

Associated Press Published:

ASSOCIATED PRESS

TENNIS

Azarenka wins second straight Aussie title

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Victoria Azarenka won her second consecutive Australian Open title, beating Li Na 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a dramatic final that contained a break for fireworks, two medical timeouts and a nasty fall to the court by Li.

The Chinese star first tumbled to the court after twisting her left ankle in the fifth game of the second set and had it taped.

On the first point after a 10-minute pause in the third set while fireworks boomed overhead from nearby Australia Day celebrations, Li fell over again and slammed the back of her head on the court. The 2011 French Open champion was treated and had another timeout before being allowed to resume the match.

Azarenka, who broke down in tears and sobbed into her towel when the match ended, won five of the next six games to claim her second major title and retain the No. 1 ranking.

BASKETBALL

Griner breaks NCAA career blocks record

WACO, Texas -- Baylor two-time All-American post player Brittney Griner has broken the NCAA women's career record for blocks.

Griner's 664th block broke the record set by Louella Tomlinson for St. Mary's in California from 2007-11. It was Griner's seventh Saturday for the top-ranked Lady Bears against No. 20 Oklahoma.

The 6-foot-8 Griner got the mark when she swatted away a shot by Aaryn Ellenberg with 10:25 left in the game. It came about 21⁄2 minutes after Griner had matched Tomlinson's record with another block against Ellenberg.

Meanwhile, Griner was only four points shy of becoming the Big 12 career scoring leader.

Youngstown State tops Cleveland State

YOUNGSTOWN -- Kamren Belin scored a career-high 24 points as Youngstown State topped Horizon League rival Cleveland State 73-59 Saturday.

Belin scored nine consecutive points during an 18-0 run in the first half that put the Penguins (12-8, 4-3) ahead 42-25.

Youngstown State jumped to a 14-6 lead over the first 4 minutes, and led 21-11 following Belin's 3-pointer with 12:19 left until halftime. The Vikings rallied with 10 consecutive points and took a 25-24 lead with 6:44 left. D.J. Cole responded with two free throws for Youngstown State, sparking the 18-0 run.

Cleveland State (10-12, 2-6) pulled within 56-50 on a three-point play by Bryn Forbes with 9:19 left. Cole responded with a 3-pointer, followed by Kendrick Perry's fast-break layup and 3-pointer for a 64-50 edge with 7:17 remaining.

The 14-point margin of victory was the Penguins' largest in the rivalry since 1983.

Rockets reinstate White, send him to D-League

HOUSTON -- The Houston Rockets have reinstated suspended forward Royce White and he's due to report to the team's developmental league affiliate on Feb. 11.

The 6-foot-8 White, the 16th overall pick in the last draft, has been on the inactive list all season as he worked on an arrangement with the team to balance his acknowledged anxiety disorder with the demands of the NBA schedule.

The Rockets said Saturday they had reached an agreement that "addresses the major issues" for the two sides. The league and the players' union have both approved the settlement, the Rockets said.

White was vocal on Twitter throughout the saga, often criticizing the team. The Rockets suspended White on Jan. 6 after he refused to accept an assignment to Rio Grande Valley in the NBDL.

BASEBALL

William Howard Taft joins president dash

WASHINGTON -- The Washington Nationals' newest racing president may have to drop a few pounds to be competitive.

The team said Saturday that William Howard Taft will join George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt this season for the fourth-inning race by 12-foot mascots at Nationals Park.

Taft was the portliest president at more than 300 pounds. He became the first president to throw out a ceremonial first pitch, at Washington's Griffith Stadium on April 14, 1910.

After losing more than 500 times since the team began the races in 2006, Teddy won for the first time on the final day of last year's regular season and then won again during the NL division series against St. Louis.

Villanueva, Cubs reach $10M, two-year deal

CHICAGO -- Pitcher Carlos Villanueva and the Chicago Cubs have completed a $10 million, two-year contract.

Villanueva will earn $5 million annually as part of Saturday's deal. The sides had agreed to the contract in mid-December, pending a successful physical.

The 29-year-old right-hander spent the past two seasons with Toronto and went 7-7 with a 4.16 ERA last year in 16 starts and 22 relief appearances. He slid to 0-3 with an 8.10 ERA in five September starts.

Villanueva spent the previous five seasons with Milwaukee. He has a 33-35 career record with six saves and a 4.26 ERA.

To clear a roster spot, the Cubs designated right-hander Lendy Castillo for assignment.

Musial remembered during funeral Mass

ST. LOUIS -- Stan Musial was remembered as a Hall of Famer on and off the field during a 2-hour funeral Mass.

Broadcaster Bob Costas, his voice cracking at times, pointed out during Saturday's lengthy tribute that in 92 years of life, Musial never let anyone down.

Among those in attendance were baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, former St. Louis standout Albert Pujols and Hall of Famers Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Bruce Sutter and Red Schoendienst.

FIGURE SKATING

Davis-White tie U.S. record with fifth title

OMAHA, Neb. -- Add another title to Meryl Davis and Charlie White's impressive collection.

The Olympic silver medalists and 2011 world champions won their fifth straight ice dance crown at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Saturday. That matches a record held by four other couples, including Tanith Belbin and Ben Agosto. Wasn't even close, either, with Davis and White scoring personal bests for both overall score (197.44 points) and free dance (118.42) for a dramatic routine to "Notre Dame de Paris."

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