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MINNESOTA SPORTS ROUND-UP: Gophers reach NIT finals

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NEW YORK CITY --  Austin Hollins and Deandre Mathieu scored 17 points apiece as Minnesota edged Florida State 67-64 in overtime in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden. 

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The Golden Gophers will meet SMU in the NIT Championship game on Thursday.  Andre Hollins added 13 points for the Gophers in the victory.  Okaro White posted 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Seminoles, who end the year 22-14.  Ian Miller had 16 points off the bench in defeat.

Markus Kennedy scored 21 points with nine rebounds to lead Southern Methodist in a 65-59 win over Clemson in the NIT semifinals from Madison Square Garden.  Nic Moore added 13 points with five boards for the Mustangs, who improved to 27-9 on the season.  SMU will face Minnesota in Thursday's final.  Rod Hall led four Tigers in double-figures with 18 points.  K.J. McDaniels added 11 points and seven boards for Clemson, which closes out the season at 23-13.

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Chicago looks to follow up its impressive first game with its seventh win in eight meetings as it hosts Minnesota on Wednesday.  Coming off their first last-place finish since 1989, the White Sox won 5-3 over the Twins on Monday in a well-rounded performance. Chris Sale limited Minnesota to three runs over 7 1/3 innings and five White Sox had two hits apiece, with Alejandro De Aza homering twice for the first time in his career.  The Twins opened with a loss for the sixth consecutive season. After their starters posted a major league-worst 5.33 ERA and 78 wins over the last two years, they signed free agents Nolasco and Phil Hughes in an attempt to upgrade the rotation.  Nolasco struggled Monday, however, allowing five runs and 10 hits in six innings. The White Sox got to him early, scoring two runs in both the second and third innings.  Kevin Correia (9-13, 4.18 ERA) will take the mound Wednesday after leading Minnesota in victories in his first year with the club. The right-hander was 2-2 with a 3.21 ERA in his first four career starts against Chicago last season, pitching into at least the seventh inning each time.  Minnesota will face Felipe Paulino, who is making his first start since June 6, 2012, when he faced the Twins. The right-hander underwent Tommy John surgery the next month after starting that season 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA in seven outings for Kansas City.  First pitch is 1:10 this afternoon.

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Memphis' quest for a fourth straight playoff berth continues Wednesday night in the finale of a five-game road trip that could include Minnesota being officially eliminated from the race for a 10th consecutive year.  This trek has seen the Grizzlies (44-30) pull out narrow victories over sub-.500 teams Utah and Denver around losses to two teams ahead of them in the Western Conference playoff race -- Golden State and Portland.  Memphis, Dallas and Phoenix will enter Wednesday within a half-game of each other for the West's final two playoff spots. The Grizzlies reached the conference finals last season and haven't missed the postseason since 2010.  A loss Wednesday would leave the Timberwolves mathematically out of the postseason hunt a month after they had climbed within five games of a spot by winning six of seven. They last reached the playoffs in 2004, when Kevin Love was a high school freshman.  Memphis has won six straight in Minneapolis.

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The NBA named Minnesota Timberwolves center Gorgui Dieng as its Western Conference Rookie of the Month for the month of March. Dieng is the fifth player in franchise history to earn the award, joining Ricky Rubio (January 2012), Kevin Love (March 2009), Randy Foye (December 2006) and Stephon Marbury (January 1997).  Dieng, a 6-11 center, averaged 8.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game during the month, including averaging 12.1 points, on 64.5% shooting, and 12.0 rebounds per game over the month's last nine contests (six starts). Filling in for an injured Nikola Pekovic, Dieng made his first career start on March 16 and tallied then-career highs in points (12), rebounds (11) and blocks (5) to record his first career double-double. He became the first player to record 10+ points, 10+ rebounds and 5+ blocks in his first NBA start since Elden Campbell in 1991.  Originally selected by the Utah Jazz with the 21st overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft, Dieng was acquired by the Wolves in a draft day trade. The University of Louisville product is averaging 3.5 points and 4.0 rebounds per game this season, ranking first among rookies in rebound percentage (19.8%) and T-4th among all NBA players in rebounds per 36 minutes (13.7).

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While the Minnesota Wild were idle last night the two teams in direct pursuit were in action.  The Dallas Stars shutout the Washington Capitals 5-0 while the Phoenix Coyotes dropped a 2-1 shootout decision to the Winnipeg Jets.  That means the Wild still hold the top Wild Card position and 7th place in the West with 89 points.  With the Stars two points gained and the Coyotes settling for one - that means those two teams are tied for 8th place and the final Wild Card berth each with 85 points and each four back of Minnesota.

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Minneapolis is among three cities bidding for the 2018 Super Bowl.  NFL owners will meet next month to chose between Minneapolis, New Orleans and Indianapolis.  Minnesota has hosted only one Super Bowl in 1992.  Indianapolis hosted its first and only Super Bowl in 2012.  New Orleans has hosted the big game 10 times, most recently in 2013.

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Tiger  Woods will miss the Masters next week after having surgery on Monday to correct  a pinched  nerve that has been  causing him problems for the past few months.  Woods  made the announcement on  his personal website, saying he will need several weeks of  rest and rehabilitation after undergoing a microdiscectomy in Utah. In March, Woods was forced to withdraw during the final round of the Honda Classic  due to back  spasms and was also unable to defend  his title  at the Arnold Palmer Invitational because of the injury.  He will begin rehab and soft-tissue treatment within a week and may be able to start chipping and putting in three weeks, with the goal of returning to competitive action later this summer.

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The Big Ten Network announced yesterday that BTN2Go will provide live coverage of the Minnesota spring football game at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 12. The game will be televised on BTN at 6:30 PM ET on Sunday, April 13. Matt Shepard and former Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber will have the call, and former Gopher Justin Conzemius will report from the sideline.

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University of Minnesota junior guard Rachel Banham was named an Associated Press All-America Honorable Mention selection for the second-straight season, it was announced on Tuesday.  A native of Lakeville, Minn., Banham was named a unanimous All-Big Ten First Team selection after securing the Big Ten scoring title with her 23.3 points per game average in conference only games. Banham ranks fourth all-time at Minnesota with 1,993 career points, and needs just seven points to become the fourth Gopher in program history to score 2,000 points in her career. With 750 points this season, Banham broke Minnesota's single-season scoring record and also holds the record for most three-point field goals in a season with 93. Both numbers rank in the Big Ten's single-season top-10.

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St. Cloud State University senior forward Nic Dowd has signed an entry-level contract to play professional hockey with the Los Angeles Kings organization of the National Hockey League.  Dowd, who just finished his college play career at St. Cloud State in 2013-14, signed a one-year contract.  A team captain for SCSU, Dowd had 22 goals, 40 points and 32 penalty minutes in 38 games this season, helping the Huskies advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.  A seventh-round pick (No. 198) of Los Angeles in the 2009 NHL Draft, he led the National Collegiate Hockey Conference with 10 power-play goals, was second in goals and ninth in points.  A top 10 Hobey Baker Award finalist in 2014, Dowd was named to the All-NCHC First Team this season and was also selected as the league's Student-Athlete of the Year and the NCHC's Defensive Forward of the Year.  In four seasons with the Huskies, Dowd scored 121 points, 52 goals and 69 assists.  He currently ranks 15th in the team records for most career points.

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