Sports Briefs

Posted: Sunday, December 22, 2002

Oracle again beats OneWorld

AUCKLAND, New Zealand -- Oracle of San Francisco moved within one victory of the America's Cup challenger final Sunday when it took a 3-0 lead over Seattle's OneWorld Challenge in the semifinal repechage.

OneWorld incurred an early penalty for a right-of-way infringement and fouled again when it crossed the startline before the gun.

Those errors gave OneWorld little hope of saving the race and preventing Oracle from taking a big lead in a best-of-seven series. It followed Oracle around the 18.5 nautical mile course and, when it had discharged its penalty at the finish line, trailed by 55 seconds.

Oracle has won the three repechage races to date -- by 4:08 Friday, three seconds Saturday and by Sunday's comfortable margin. It needs only one more win to join Switzerland's team Alinghi in the final starting Jan. 11.

Oracle's strongest asset in the series has been its strong defensive performances against a talented opponent in shifty conditions. It showed that quality again Sunday, holding out OneWorld on the last two legs to cross the finish line 23 seconds in front before its rival had completed its penalty.

The startbox errors by OneWorld, both additions to a growing list of tactical mistakes, decided the race before it had begun.

''It was very shifty today,'' said Oracle navigator Ian Burns. ''Either side of the course paid off but if you got caught in the middle you'd lose.

''We were lucky we didn't collide in the pre-start. The boats were very, very close and when they get that close they get sucked together,'' he said. ''The penalty wasn't the end of the race. It these conditions things can change very quickly. Sometimes they were in front but each time the shifts went against them.''

Artest misses first trip back to Chicago

CHICAGO -- Indiana Pacers forward Ron Artest sat out Saturday night's game with a stomach ailment, missing his first trip back to Chicago since being traded.

Artest, a first-round pick of the Bulls in 1999 who was traded to Indiana in February, didn't travel with the team. Jermaine O'Neal, the Pacers leading scorer, missed his second game with a sprained left knee.

Artest is tied for third in the NBA with 2.19 steals per game. He's also Indiana's second-leading scorer with 15.3 points a game.

This weekend's back-to-back games are the first between the teams since the Feb. 19 trade that sent Artest, Ron Mercer and Brad Miller to the Pacers in exchange for Jalen Rose, Travis Best and Norm Richardson.

Indiana beat Chicago 101-86 in Indianapolis Friday. Artest had 12 points, three steals, two rebounds and an assist.

Arizona's Walton receives college degree

TUCSON, Ariz. -- With his entire family on hand, basketball star Luke Walton received his degree Saturday in winter graduation ceremonies at the University of Arizona.

Walton's father, former UCLA and NBA star Bill Walton, mother Susan and three brothers attended the ceremony, where Walton received a bachelor's degree in family studies.

He is the third of the brothers to earn his college degree. His younger brother, Chris, is in his second year at San Diego State.

Luke Walton said he hopes to be an example for younger athletes.

''The position I'm in and other athletes, kids are always going to look up to you,'' he said. ''Something like this is great. Hopefully, kids won't think athletics is everything.''

After an NBA career, Walton hopes to work with children, much like former teammate Eugene Edgerson, who is working on a master's degree in teacher education.

Walton, a preseason All-American, was able to participate in the ceremonies because he is sidelined with a sprained ankle. The No. 1 Wildcats played at LSU on Saturday night. He said he talked to some of his teammates before graduation.

He planned a celebration dinner with his family Saturday night.

Rebraca leaves game with irregular heartbeat

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- An irregular heartbeat forced Detroit backup center Zeljko Rebraca to leave the Pistons' game with the New Jersey Nets on Saturday night.

Rebraca entered the game late in the first quarter and made a shot to start the second. He walked off the court 8:34 before halftime.

He is the second Detroit athlete to leave a game because of an irregular heartbeat in the last week. Lions quarterback Joey Harrington left his team's game against Tampa Bay on Sunday with a rapid heartbeat. He underwent a procedure to correct the ailment.

The Pistons announced at halftime that Rebraca was feeling lightheaded and would not return. The news of the irregular heartbeat came after the game ended.

''I knew he left in the second period because I didn't see him, but I didn't know what was the matter,'' Pistons guard Jon Barry said. ''Hopefully, everything is all right.''

After the 100-92 loss, coach Rick Carlisle said Rebraca would probably be held overnight for evaluation at a hospital.

''That's all I know,'' Carlisle said. ''Of course you are always concerned when it has something to do with a heart problem. We won't know anything till tests are done.''

Rebraca, a second-year player from Yugoslavia, is averaging 6.5 points and 3.0 rebounds.

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