Toews scores three, assists on two others as Hawks beat Wild.

ST. PAUL—The relatively slow start to the season for Jonathan Toews has been buried by his recent surge.The captain is in prime form at the right time for the Blackhawks, reminding the Minnesota Wild that their postseason path will likely lead to Chicago.Toews had three goals and two assists, and the Blackhawks beat the rival Wild 5-3 on Tuesday night for their second win over the Western Conference leaders in less than two weeks.

“Johnny’s done so many things for us,” Joel Quenneville said. “He’s an amazing player with competitiveness you’re never going to find. What a great leader and a great captain.”

Toews notched his fourth career hat trick on an empty-netter with 1:02 left to stave off a spirited rally by the Wild, who began a franchise-record eight-game homestand on Feb. 8 with a 4-3 overtime loss to the Blackhawks. Toews had a goal and two assists in that one and has 37 points in 35 career games against Minnesota.

“We always look at that team, especially with the way they’re playing, as a measuring stick right now,” said Toews, who has 20 points in his last 12 games. “Our respect level for what they can do is at an all-time high, and we know it’s going to take a heck of an effort to beat them.”

Toews’ wing men Nick Schmaltz and Richard Panik had the other goals, giving the Blackhawks 34 goals in their last eight games and four five-goal outputs in their last five games. The first line totaled nine points, which rendered the shutdown of Patrick Kane and his line moot.Mikael Granlund had two power-play goals, the second of which brought the Wild within 4-3 before Ryan Suter just missed the tying goal with an attempt that hit the crossbar. Between the goals by Parise and Granlund, though, was the tap in by Toews made possible by a slick behind-the-net spin by Schmaltz that produced a perfect pass to the edge of the crease.

“He just wasn’t getting the bounces there at the start of the year. He’s always worked so hard, so you knew at some point the tides were going to change for him,” Schmaltz said.

The game was played in front of the largest crowd of the season in Minnesota, an overflow paid attendance of 19,333 filled out with the usual smattering of boisterous Blackhawks fans. They got the first chance to fully cheer when Toews knocked in the rebound of Brian Campbell’s slap shot that Dubnyk wasn’t able to glove in the first minute of the second period.Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, back from a four-game absence because of a lower-body injury, was in Dubnyk’s way as the All-Star goalie tried to freeze the puck. The night didn’t improve for Dumba, whose turnover behind the goal line less than five minutes later gave Toews possession for a setup for Panik and a 2-1 lead.Dubnyk, who stopped 34 shots, was awfully busy in that middle frame, making a diving save to deny Kane’s chip from the edge of the crease a little later and then letting Brent Seabrook’s shot ping off the post. The Blackhawks outshot the Wild 13-5 in the second period.The Wild took a five-point lead over the Blackhawks, with one game in hand, into their five-day bye.

“They outplayed us today, but what wouldn’t make me think that we couldn’t play with them?” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re a great team. But we’re right there.”

The Blackhawks are 20-5-1 when Toews gets at least one point. … Corey Crawford had 29 saves. … Parise had a third-period goal waved off for a high stick. … The Wild lost by more than one goal for only the fifth time this season. … Exactly one year ago, the Wild beat the Blackhawks 6-1 in an outdoor game at the University of Minnesota’s football stadium.The Blackhawks return home to start a four-game homestand, beginning with Arizona on Thursday.

Illini complete sweep of NU as Cats go stone cold!

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)Illinois Fighting Illini (2004 - 2013)

CHAMPAIGN—Malcolm Hill scored 18 points to lead Illinois to a 66-50 win over Northwestern on Tuesday night.The two teams played a tight contest where the deficit didn’t grow larger than four points for much of the game. But Northwestern suffered an eight-minute scoring drought in the last 10 minutes and Illinois build its lead to double digits for the first time.Illinois (16-12, 6-9 Big Ten) controlled the pace for much of the game, including offensively where the Illini shot 40 percent from the field and 6 of 18 from 3-point range.Leron Black had a strong presence, scoring seven of the Illini’s first eight points. He finished with 11 points and eight rebounds.Bryant McIntosh led the way for Northwestern (20-8, 9-6) with 16 points.The Wildcats shot well from the field, 32 percent, but failed to take advantage of the numerous open 3-point opportunities, shooting 4-18.

NOTES—The Wildcats have now lost twice to a bad Illini team. Northwestern has three more games before the Big Ten Tournament and what will likely be the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth….The Illini got another win against their rival, one that will help their NIT Tournament chances. With three games left in the season before the Big Ten Tournament, wins against Northwestern are the bright spot for a season that doesn’t look good for John Groce’s team or his future…..Northwestern travels to Bloomington for a Saturday night matchup against Indiana…..Illinois heads back to the road for a Sunday evening game at Nebraska.

ISU escapes with 2 late free throws to edge Loyola

NORMAL—Deontae Hawkins scored 16 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, including a late go-ahead free throw, and Illinois State held off Loyola 65-63 on Sunday to win its fourth straight.The Redbirds missed three straight shots, and the Ramblers one, before Hawkins was fouled by Milton Doyle and hit two free throws with three seconds left. Ben Richardson’s 3 at the buzzer rimmed out.The Redbirds extended a seven-point halftime lead to 11, but the Ramblers closed to 45-40 on Aundre Jackson’s layup, tied it at 55 on Doyle’s layup, then led 58-57 on Donte Ingram’s 3 with 4:53 left. MiKyle McIntosh’s back-to-back 3s put the Redbirds back on top, but Doyle’s jumper tied it at 63 with 2:04 to go.McIntosh scored 13 points, Paris Lee hit three 3-pointers and made nine assists, and the Redbirds (23-5, 15-1 Missouri Valley) used 18 assists to score 25 of 53 field goals.Doyle scored 17 for the Ramblers (17-12, 7-9).

DePaul drops 10th straight, 82-66 to Butler

INDIANAPOLIS—Nate Fowler scored 15 points and Kelan Martin added 14 points and eight rebounds Sunday as No. 24 Butler blew out DePaul 82-66.The Bulldogs (21-6, 10-5 Big East) won their second straight and retained their hold on second place in the conference standings.Eli Cain had 24 points for DePaul (8-19, 1-13), which has lost 10 straight. Joe Hanel had 10 points.DePaul led 27-22 with 4:52 to go in the first half but failed to score again until 17:11 was left in the game.Butler took advantage of the drought with a 21-0 run that made it 43-27.The Blue Demons didn’t get closer than 11 points the rest of the game, and the Bulldogs put it away with a 13-0 second-half run.

Davis sets record in NBA All-Star Farce


NEW ORLEANS—Anthony Davis had an All-Star Game for the record books.And on a night when Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant provided a glimpse of the past, Giannis Antetokounmpo showed he’s clearly part of the future and a midcourt lob attempt from James Harden even went in, Davis absolutely stole the show.He scored 52 points, 10 more than Wilt Chamberlain’s All-Star record that had stood for 55 years, and the Western Conference beat the Eastern Conference 192-182 on Sunday night – the highest-scoring game in league history.Davis made 26 shots and took 39, both of those also All-Star records. He even outdid Westbrook, who had 41 points in just 20 minutes – which ordinarily would have been enough to merit him what would have been a third straight MVP award.Not this time. It was cChicago native Davis hoisting the trophy, to the delight of his New Orleans fans.

”It was a lot of fun,” Davis said. ”My teammates did a great job of looking for me.”

Durant had a triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Stephen Curry added 21 points for the West – where a subplot emerged as DeMarcus Cousins played only two minutes, prompting some speculation that a trade sending him out of Sacramento might be looming.Antetokounmpo had 30 points for the East, with 12 dunks in his night. LeBron James scored 23 points to become the first All-Star to eclipse 300 in a career, Kyrie Irving had 22 points and 14 assists, and Isaiah Thomas scored 20 for the East.Davis became the story that overshadowed The Story coming into this game, that being the Durant-Westbrook whatever.And if there is any animus remaining between Durant and Westbrook, it was hidden. They passed each other the ball and slapped hands in the pregame layup line, and not long after Westbrook checked into the game the former Oklahoma City teammates provided one of the game’s top highlights – a give-and-go, capped by Durant lobbing the ball to set Westbrook up for a dunk.

”OH MY GOD! WHAT JUST HAPPENED?” Curry shouted on the West bench, which moments later broke into celebration. Players jumped and threw hands skyward, Curry tossing a cupful of water onto a smiling Durant amid it all.

Draymond Green called the play ”cute,” and Westbrook and Durant seemed happy with it as well.

”It was a nice give-and-go, man,” Westbrook said. ”Good give-and-go. Made a good pass. I barely got over the rim, but it was a nice give-and-go.”

Added Durant: ”It was a great basketball play. He was open so I threw him the lob. He can jump really high so yeah, good play.”

Some fans were shouting ”De-Fense!” in the fourth quarter. West center DeAndre Jordan heard them, rising from his seat on the West bench to yell ”No, no, no” back in their direction.If those fans were serious, they were disappointed.Westbrook scored 12 points – all on 3s – in a 63-second span late in the third quarter, coming off the bench and firing over and over and over again. And then he opened the fourth quarter with another 3, giving him 34 points in just under 14 minutes played to that point.It looked like he was a cinch for MVP honors, until Davis scored 20 points in the fourth.Irving also led the East in rebounds with seven. … Kyle Lowry scored 19 points and DeMar DeRozan added 16. … No East player logged more than 24 minutes.Curry took cover in the third quarter, comically hitting the deck face-first as Antetokounmpo went in for yet another dunk. So later in the quarter, Antetokounmpo went over Curry for a rebound slam – one that left Curry staring at the scoreboard for a replay. … Kawhi Leonard had a steal and dunk in the opening minute, a defensive display that left West coach Steve Kerr in hysterics.Joel Embiid wanted to be in the All-Star Game, and he was close – literally and figuratively.The Philadelphia star sat on the edge of the baseline next to the West bench, meaning he got to greet players throughout the night and share a few words with some at halftime.A huge roar greeted Jon Batiste, who performed ”The Star-Spangled Banner” pregame, when he started the song.It wasn’t for him.That happened to be the moment when John Legend – the halftime performer – and Chrissy Teigen were shown at their sideline seats on the video screens around the arena. And a louder cheer came not long afterward when Beyonce and Jay Z got on-screen.Among the other celebs in the seats: Guy Fieri, Dave Chappelle, Julius Erving, Alonzo Mourning, Bill Russell, Oscar Robertson and The Roots.

Bulls edge Celtics on a pair of Butler free throws with 0.9 second left.

Chicago Bulls Logo - Red bull with script above head

Jimmy Butler made two free throws with 0.9 seconds left to lift the Bulls to a 104-103 victory over the ticked off Boston Celtics on Thursday night.Butler’s clutch foul shots capped a memorable duel with fellow All-Star Isaiah Thomas in the NBA’s final game before the break. Butler and Thomas had 29 points and seven assists each.Butler was touched on the right elbow by Marcus Smart on a turnaround jumper at the final horn, drawing a foul. Butler nodded his head up and down as an incredulous Smart danced up the court in disbelief.Butler calmly drained each free throw, and Al Horford air-balled a baseline jumper on the Celtics’ last shot, giving the Bulls (28-29) consecutive wins against Eastern Conference powers Toronto and Boston (37-20). Thomas said “We won this game, Smart made a great defensive play, but that was a terrible call”. Make that check out to the National Basketball Association Isaiah!

Trimble, Maryland too much for Wildcats

Northwestern Wildcats (1981 - Pres)

EVANSTON— Maryland figured out pretty quickly that Melo Trimble had an extra gear Wednesday night, so it kept going back to the junior guard.There was never any reason to go anywhere else.Trimble scored a career-high 32 points on 12-for-17 shooting, and the 23rd-ranked Terrapins strengthened their position in the Big Ten with a 74-64 victory over Northwestern.

”Tonight was my night,” Trimble said. ”Just kept playing, and took what the defense gave me.”

Trimble repeatedly came up with big plays for the Terrapins (22-4, 10-3), driving inside for layups or connecting from long range. He made four of Maryland’s eight 3-pointers and also contributed four rebounds and three assists.It was a welcome turnaround for the Terrapins’ leading scorer after he shot just 31 percent (16 for 52) in his previous four games.

”He’s got to have the confidence. I can’t give it to him. His mom can’t give it to him,” coach Mark Turgeon said. ”He’s got to have it. He’s got to be borderline cocky out there and I think he played that way a little bit tonight.”

Anthony Cowan added 13 points and Damonte Dodd had 12 as Maryland moved into a tie with Purdue for second in the conference, just a half-game behind Wisconsin. The Terrapins visit the Badgers on Sunday.

”Just to come out here and win this game is really special to this team and gives us a lot of confidence going to Wisconsin,” Trimble said.

Northwestern (19-7, 8-5) was coming off a big 66-59 win at Wisconsin last Sunday, boosting its chances for the first NCAA Tournament appearance in the history of the program. But it got off to a slow start offensively and never recovered against Trimble and the poised Terrapins.

”We’re not capable right now of throwing up 75, 80 points,” coach Chris Collins said. ”We just don’t have enough firepower. So we have to win games 65-60. Maryland is very potent offensively. They score the ball. We just couldn’t match that.”

The Wildcats whittled a 20-point deficit to nine on Sanjay Lumpkin’s layup with 3:16 left. But Dodd responded with a rebound basket, and the Terrapins closed it out at the free throw line.Freshman Isiah Brown led Northwestern with a career-high 19 points. Vic Law had 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocked shots, and Dererk Pardon finished with 11 points.

”You can’t be sluggish from the last win,” Law said. ”You can’t be thinking about `Oh we beat Wisconsin’ because when you come in and play a team like this that’s just as good as Wisconsin they can put you in a hole like they put us in.”

The Wildcats played without Scottie Lindsey, who was sidelined by mononucleosis for the fourth straight game. The 6-foot-5 junior, who leads the Wildcats with 15.4 points per game, is day to day.With Lindsey out and Bryant McIntosh battling foul trouble, Northwestern struggled to score against Maryland’s suffocating defense. The Wildcats heated up a bit in the second half but shot 39 percent (23 for 59) for the game. McIntosh finished with nine points on 3-for-13 shooting.Maryland: Trimble and the Terrapins appear to be back on track after consecutive losses to Purdue and Penn State at the beginning of February. Maryland stopped the slide with an 86-77 victory over Ohio State on Saturday, and then stepped up with a composed effort against a Northwestern team looking for another signature win for its resume. The Wildcats miss Lindsey, but they also hurt themselves against the Terrapins. They went 13 for 23 at the line.Brown gave Northwestern a big lift in his best performance of the season. He was 6 for 15 from the field and 5 for 6 at the line. He scored just nine points in his previous two games.

”My focus is just anytime I’m out there I try to make a shot or a positive contribution,” he said.

Northwestern hosts last-place Rutgers on Saturday.

ISU escaps with 1 point win at Missouri State

SPRINGFIELD—Dontae Hawkins scored 19 points and put his team on top for good as Illinois State edged Missouri State 67-66 on Wednesday night.Tony Wills and DJ Clayton added 12 points apiece for the Redbirds (22-5, 14-1 MVC) who remain tied with Wichita State for first in the Missouri Valley Conference.Missouri State took a four-point intermission advantage to 45-37 early in the second half before a dunk and a 3-pointer by MiKyle McIntosh and a 3 by Hawkins helped put the Redbirds on top 47-45 with 11:38 to go. A flurry of six 3-pointers followed as the teams battled to a tie at 60 with 5:07 remaining. Hawkins hit a jumper and a layup back-to-back to break the Redbirds into a 67-62 lead with 1:46 left and they held on for the win.Alize Johnson scored 17 points and Jarrid Rhodes 16 for the Bears (15-13, 6-9). Missouri State has lost four straight.

Ramblers shut down Indiana State 64-46

Aundre Jackson scored 18 points and Loyola used its best defensive effort of the season to end a four-game losing streak with a 64-46 win over Indiana State on Wednesday night.Donte Ingram added 15 points and eight rebounds for the Ramblers (17-11, 7-8 Missouri Valley), who held their first opponent to less than 50 points this season. Clayton Custer had 14 points and Milton Doyle had 12.Laquarious Paige and TJ Bell had 10 apiece for the Sycamores (10-17, 4-11), who failed to reach 50 points for the first time.Leading 24-20 at the half, the Ramblers made 6 of 10 3-pointers and shot 56 percent (14 of 25) in the second half. Jackson had a 3-pointer and Custer hit a jumper and a 3 in an 8-0 burst that pushed the lead to 46-34 midway through the half.Bell made four-straight free throws before the Ramblers took charge, going on an 18-4 run to lead by 22 with less than two minutes to go.Indiana State finished at 35 percent, including 3 of 15 from 3-point range.

#2 Villanova overwhelms DePaul 75-62.

ROSEMONT—Ho-hum, just more of the same for loaded Villanova.Another homecoming for Jalen Brunson was no big deal.Brunson scored 18 points, Josh Hart had 16 and the second-ranked Wildcats cruised to a 75-62 victory against lowly DePaul on Monday night.

”In a game like this, they came out and pressured us, and your point guard has got to run the show,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. ”Jalen did a great job mixing up driving (and) finding people. When you’re driving the ball physically and get fouled, that can take off some of the pressure.”

Brunson, a former Illinois prep star from nearby Lincolnshire, went 4 for 8 from the field and 8 for 9 at the free throw line. The sophomore also contributed four assists, four rebounds and three steals, brushing off any talk of increased pressure while playing in front of family and friends from his hometown.

”I was just focused on playing for my teammates and coaches. Honestly, it didn’t play a factor at all,” Brunson said. ”I looked at it as just another game as a team.”

Villanova (25-2, 12-2 Big East) played without Darryl Reynolds for the second straight game due to a rib injury, but the defending national champions still had more than enough to put away last-place DePaul (8-18, 1-12). Reynolds, a senior forward who started the Wildcats’ first 25 games, is day to day.Mikal Bridges scored 15 points in Villanova’s sixth straight victory, and Kris Jenkins finished with 13.

”Even now, with a shortened bench, they played really, really well together,” DePaul coach Dave Leitao said.

The Blue Demons shot 38 percent (22 for 58) from the field in their ninth straight loss. They also committed 14 turnovers, leading to 16 points for the opportunistic Wildcats.DePaul made Villanova work all the way to the very end in a 68-65 road loss on Dec. 28, but the rematch was no contest.Villanova grabbed control with an 11-1 run in the first half and then poured it on as DePaul repeatedly clanged shots off the rim and backboard. Brunson made a couple of 3-pointers from the same corner to help the Wildcats open a 33-16 lead with 3:16 left.Brunson drew an ill-advised foul on Chris Harrison-Docks near midcourt in the final seconds and hit two foul shots to make it 39-18 at the break. The Blue Demons had more turnovers (nine) than field goals (seven) at halftime.Villanova let up a bit in the second part of the second half, but it was long over by that point. Bridges’ dunk made it 48-21 with 13:03 left for the Wildcats’ biggest lead.Harrison-Docks led DePaul with 18 points. Eli Cain finished with 12 on 4-for-13 shooting.Villanova reached 25 wins for the fourth straight season and the 12th time in the history of the program. It also improved to 122-15 since the start of the 2013-14 season.With Brunson and Jenkins leading the way, the Wildcats enjoyed a huge advantage at the line. They made 26 of 32 foul shots, compared to 10 for 16 for DePaul. The Wildcats also had 12 assists on 21 field goals…..Leitao is in the second season of his second stint at the school, and there is plenty of work to do. The Blue Demons have lost their last 14 games against the Wildcats…..DePaul visits No. 24 Butler on Sunday afternoon.