The Sports Xchange
• NEW ORLEANS — Jalen Hurts threw two touchdown passes to complement a stifling defense as Alabama defeated Clemson, 24-6, in the College Football Playoff semifinal at the Allstate Sugar Bowl on Monday night, Jan. 1, in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. • The No. 4 Crimson Tide (12-1) will face No. 3 Georgia, which beat No. 2 Oklahoma, 54-48, in the Rose Bowl, in an all-SEC CFP Championship on Jan. 8 in Atlanta. The defending CFP champion Tigers finished 13-2.
The Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions rang in the New Year by firing their head coaches, while Arizona Cardinals' Bruce Arians ended a stellar career when he announced his retirement on Monday, Jan. 1, after five years at the helm. However, on what traditionally has become known as "Black Monday," the carnage was relatively light in the National Football League. John Fox was sent packing following three seasons at the Bears, while Detroit sacked Jim Caldwell after four campaigns, bringing to six the number of teams publicly searching for a new head coach.
MINNEAPOLIS -- While the Minnesota Vikings' defense remains rock-solid, there were a few flaws in their offense and special teams revealed during Sunday's 23-10 win over the Chicago Bears.
NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Scott Hartnell and P.K. Subban broke a scoreless tie Saturday night with third-period goals as the Nashville Predators blanked the Minnesota Wild 3-0 at sold-out Bridgestone Arena. In a matchup of backup goalies, Nashville's Juuse Saros (4-3-2) outdueled Alex Stalock (7-8-1). Saros stopped 29 shots for his second shutout this season and the third of his career.
MILWAUKEE—Eric Bledsoe hit a 3-pointer with 2:25 left to give the Bucks their first lead of the night, and Milwaukee held on for a 102-96 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves Thursday night, Dec. 28, at the Bradley Center. Bledsoe scored 26 points, and Giannis Antetokounmpo finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds for the Bucks, who shot 54.7 percent from the floor and overcame a 20-point deficit in the second half.
MINNEAPOLIS—Jimmy Butler scored 12 of his game-high 39 points in overtime to help the Minnesota Timberwolves top Denver 128-125 on Wednesday night, Dec. 27, at sold-out Target Center. Butler picked up the slack in overtime after Karl-Anthony Towns and Taj Gibson fouled out, and point guard Jeff Teague exited with an injury. The Timberwolves held off a Nuggets team that surged in the second half after Minnesota led by as many as 19 points. The Timberwolves (22-13) have now won five in a row. Wednesday's loss halted the Nuggets' winning streak at three games.
ST. PAUL—Mikael Granlund's second-period goal stood up as the game-winner and Alex Stalock made 24 saves as the Minnesota Wild held on for a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Wednesday night, Dec. 27, at Xcel Energy Center. Jared Spurgeon and Eric Staal added goals for Minnesota (19-15-3) and Charlie Coyle had a pair of assists as the Wild won for just the second time in six games.
Veteran football coach Jerry Kill announced his retirement on Tuesday, citing health reasons for his resignation as Rutgers' offensive coordinator. The 56-year-old Kill has been plagued with epileptic seizures that led to his end as Minnesota's head coach following the 2015 season.
MINNEAPOLIS—While his former team and mentor were on the other sideline with their futures looking cloudy, Mike Zimmer had his Minnesota Vikings looking like a Super Bowl contender. With Zimmer's defense providing a dominating effort, two long-time friends were leading their teams on very divergent paths. Case Keenum passed for 236 yards and two touchdowns, and Minnesota's defense dominated Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati Bengals in a 34-7 win on Sunday, Dec. 17.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Karl-Anthony Towns had 30 points, 14 rebounds and a season-high five blocks as the Minnesota Timberwolves coasted to a 119-96 victory over the Sacramento Kings. Andrew Wiggins followed up a rough shooting night two nights earlier to score 22 points for the Wolves on 9-of-17 shooting. Jimmy Butler chipped in 21 for Minnesota (17-12), which has won three of its last four games.