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    Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb fired football coach Trent Miles after Saturday’s 37-23 loss to Louisiana-Monroe at the Georgia Dome. Texts or voicemails to Cobb and Miles haven’t been returned. Miles won’t coach the team’s final two games against Georgia Southern and at Idaho. The Panthers were 2-8 this season despite returning nine starters on defense and six on offense from a team that went 6-7 last season and appeared in its first bowl game. Miles went 9-38 overall at Georgia State. Saturday’s loss was an example of the troubles that Miles had at Georgia State, particularly in the last two years when he started to gain some traction. The defense played well in the first half until collapsing in the second half. The offense struggled in the first half until exploding in the second half. The special teams were a mess throughout . The announced attendance was 13,106, which doesn’t reflect the actual (typically fewer) number of people at the game. Miles was never able to get all three units to play consistently well at the same time in his three-plus seasons, other than a four-game winning streak last season. Miles was hired by previous athletic director Cheryl Levick and replaced the retired Bill Curry in December 2012 and was seen as the man to guide the Panthers from the FCS level to the FBS based upon his track record at rebuilding his alma mater, Indiana State. The Sycamores were arguably the worst Division I program when Miles took over in 2008 before leading them to a winning record in 2010. Two more winning records followed before he joined the Panthers. Miles did some research into Georgia State but was still surprised by the lack of resources devoted to the program compared to the schools he was recruiting against. The team shared a strength and conditioning center with every other team, a problem that was rectified in September 2015 with the opening of a facility on the grounds of the practice complex at 188 MLK Drive SE. Admission standards into Georgia State are also among the toughest in the Sun Belt, limiting the pool of players Miles could draw from. Those were a few of the problems, many of which have since been rectified. Plus, Miles inherited a roster mess from Curry. The team wasn’t balanced by class or each position, meaning that the rebuilding effort would likely take years so that when a senior graduated, there would be a seasoned player reader to fill in. Miles was able to mostly accomplish that by the third year. However, while the numbers were there the talent didn’t seem to be based upon the team’s record. The coaching staff was able to develop a few high school players into consistent impactful players from its signing day classes. To season the squad and build the roster balance, the coaching staff recruited and signed numerous junior college players. Quarterback Nick Arbuckle, who holds just about every school passing record, was one of the few who had a consistent impact. Still, Miles and his staff pushed forward with a blueprint for the types of players he was going to recruit: smart, tough, good character and who loved the game. It became a mantra that he would recite so many times that it started to become rote. The belief helped improve team’s overall grade-point average, one of the few consistent victories Miles could claim. Per the terms of Miles’ contract, he will be owed approximately $250,000. Cobb said he wanted to rework Miles’ contract after the team clinched an invitation to the Cure Bowl after defeating Georgia Southern in Statesboro. However, the contract wasn’t reworked as of the beginning of the summer workouts. Cobb would typically say it would be done, while Miles would say he wouldn’t know until the agency that represented him told him. The next coach may be able to take advantage of Turner Field as a recruiting tool. The State Board of Regents recently approved the sale of the Braves’ former home to Georgia State, which plans to turn the baseball stadium into a football stadium for the 2017 season. It should be a much better atmosphere than the cavernous and mostly empty Georgia Dome that Georgia State has played in since its first season in 2010.
  • Alabama will begin the 2016 college football season with the same ranking as it ended the 2015 season: No. 1.The Tide, winners of last year’s College Football Playoff, sit atop the Associated Press preseason poll released Sunday. They received 33 first-place votes, more than twice as many as the next team, No. 2 Clemson (16).This marked the first time since 1992 that two teams that had finished the previous season as Nos. 1 and 2 (Miami and Washington) opened the next season as Nos. 1 and 2.Alabama as No. 1: The Tide are the fourth consecutive defending national champ to start the next season as No. 1. None of the last three repeated as champ. The last team to start the preseason as No. 1 and finish as No. 1 was Southern Cal in 2004.It is the fifth time Alabama will start the season as No. 1 and the third time under Nick Saban. Alabama hasn’t finish No. 1 under Saban when it started No. 1.Who was No. 1 in the preseason last year and how did it do? Ohio State was voted atop last year’s preseason poll with 61 first-place votes (1,525 points). The Buckeyes went 12-1 and finished No. 4.Alabama started last year at No. 3 (1,322 points) and moved into No. 1 after defeating Michigan State 38-0 in the College Football Playoff semifinal. The Tide defeated Clemson, which had moved up to two spots to No. 1 in Week 11 voting following a victory against Florida State, in the national title game.Why is Alabama No. 1? The Tide return six starters on offense and five on defense. But they must find replacements for a host of departed stalwarts: quarterback Jake Coker, running back Derrick Henry, who was last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, defensive linemen Jarran Reed and A’Shawn Robinson and linebackers Denzel Devall and Reggie Ragland, among others.Why is Clemson No. 2? The Tigers return quarterback Deshaun Watson, the Gainesville native who is among the early favorites to win the Heisman this season, among the 10 starters back on a potent offense.How many SEC teams are ranked? There are six SEC teams in the Top 25, the most of any conference. Joining Alabama are No. 5 LSU, which received one first-place vote, No. 9 Tennessee, No. 11 Ole Miss, No. 18 Georgia and No. 25 Florida.How many ACC teams? Four. The ACC made conference history by placing two teams in the top 5: the Tigers and No. 4 Florida State. The other ACC teams to be ranked are No. 19 Louisville and No. 22 North Carolina.Georgia in the poll: The Bulldogs were No. 9 in last year’s preseason poll but didn’t finish in the Top 25. They finished 26th in votes received. Coach Mark Richt was fired and replaced by Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, the former Bulldogs safety. Richt is now the coach at Miami, which is the 26th team in the preseason poll in terms of votes received.The Bulldogs this season play four teams ranked in the preseason Top 25: No. 22 North Carolina in the Georgia Dome on Sept. 3, at No. 11 Ole Miss on Sept. 24, No. 9 Tennessee on Oct. 1 and No. 25 Florida on Oct. 29 in JacksonvilleBiggest surprise? Michigan received one first-place vote and is No. 6. It is the Wolverines’ highest preseason ranking since opening at No. 5 in 2007.Second-biggest surprise? Scandal-ridden Baylor, which saw its president, head coach, several assistants and several high-profile recruits leave during the offseason, is No. 23.What about the other teams who were in last year’s playoff? Oklahoma, which was beaten by Clemson 37-17 in the Orange Bowl, is No. 3 and received four first-place votes. Michigan State is No. 12.Did Georgia Tech get votes? The Yellow Jackets, which were No. 16 in last year’s preseason poll, received no votes in this year’s poll. The Yellow Jackets will play three teams ranked in the preseason Top 25: Clemson on Sept. 22, at North Carolina on Nov. 5 and at Georgia on Nov. 26.Rounding up the conferences: The Pac-12 has five teams, led by No. 8 Stanford. The Big Ten and Big 12 added four each. No. 15 Houston, which defeated Florida State 38-24 in the Peach Bowl last season, is the American Athletic Conference’s lone rep.
  • The preseason coaches Top 25 came out Thursday, and here are five things to know about the poll: 1. The teams who met in last season’s College Football Playoff championship game — Alabama and Clemson — rank No. 1 and No. 2 in the poll. Defending champ Alabama sits at the top of the poll. The Crimson Tide received 55 first-place votes and Clemson seven. Florida State and Tennessee received one apiece. 2. Georgia comes in at No. 16. No other state school ranks in the poll. 3. The top three teams in the poll participated in last season’s playoff. The fourth playoff team from last season just missed the top 10 in the poll. 4. Six SEC schools and four ACC schools are in the poll. The other conferences represented are Pac-12 (5), Big 12 (4), Big Ten (4) and American Athletic (1). The 25th school is Notre Dame. 5. Three teams in the poll are on Georgia’s schedule for this season: Tennessee (10), Ole Miss (12) and North Carolina (20). Two teams in the poll are on Georgia Tech’s schedule: Clemson and North Carolina. Ole Miss also is on Georgia Southern’s schedule. The poll: School, 2015 record, points (first-place votes) 1. Alabama, 14-1, 1585 (55) 2. Clemson, 14-1, 1524 (7) 3. Oklahoma, 11-2, 1398 4. Florida State, 10-3, 1351 (1) 5. Ohio State, 12-1, 1321 6. LSU, 9-3, 1241 7. Stanford, 12-2, 1149 8. Michigan, 10-3, 1062 9. Notre Dame, 10-3, 1034 10. Tennessee, 9-4, 960 (1) 11. Michigan State, 12-2, 901 12. Ole Miss, 10-3, 792 13. Houston, 13-1, 668 14. TCU, 11-2, 649 15. Iowa, 12-2, 579 16. Georgia, 10-3, 525 17. USC, 8-6, 468 18. Washington, 7-6, 454 19. Oklahoma State, 10-3, 426 20. North Carolina, 11-3, 422 21. Baylor, 10-3, 383 22. Oregon, 9-4, 361 23. Louisville, 8-5, 331 24. UCLA, 8-5, 296 25. Florida, 10-4, 245 5. The voters: Chris Ash, Rutgers Dino Babers, Syracuse David Bailiff, Rice David Beaty, Kansas Bret Bielema, Arkansas John Bonamego, Central Michigan Terry Bowden, Akron Matt Campbell, Iowa State Ron Caragher, San Jose State Rod Carey, Northern Illinois Paul Chryst, Wisconsin Chris Creighton, Eastern Michigan David Cutcliffe, Duke DJ Durkin, Maryland Larry Fedora, North Carolina Jimbo Fisher, Florida State James Franklin, Penn State Justin Fuente, Virginia Tech Mike Gundy, Oklahoma State Bryan Harsin, Boise State Clay Helton, USC Tom Herman, Houston Doc Holliday, Marshall Skip Holtz, Louisiana Tech Joey Jones, South Alabama Brian Kelly, Notre Dame Sean Kugler, Texas-El Paso Mike Leach, Washington State Lance Leipold, Buffalo Seth Littrell, North Texas Rocky Long, San Diego State Mike MacIntyre, Colorado Gus Malzahn, Auburn Chuck Martin, Miami (Ohio) Doug Martin, New Mexico State Derek Mason, Vanderbilt Urban Meyer, Ohio State Trent Miles, Georgia State Philip Montgomery, Tulsa Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina Chad Morris, SMU Dan Mullen, Mississippi State Mike Norvell, Memphis Gary Patterson, TCU Chris Petersen, Washington Brian Polian, Nevada Mark Richt, Miami (Fla.) Mike Riley, Nebraska Rich Rodriguez, Arizona Nick Saban, Alabama Tony Sanchez, UNLV Scott Satterfield, Appalachian State Kirby Smart, Georgia Frank Solich, Ohio Rick Stockstill, Middle Tennessee State Bob Stoops, Oklahoma Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M Dabo Swinney, Clemson Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati Ron Turner, Florida International Matt Wells, Utah State Kyle Whittingham, Utah Kevin Wilson, Indiana Everett Withers, Texas State
  • Georgia State President Mark Becker said the university is ready to move on the Turner Field property if it is put up for sale. The Braves announced earlier this week that they will be out of the stadium by the end of 2016. That decision was what all the parties interested in the stadium and surrounding properties were waiting for. Now, Becker said they will wait on the Atlanta-Fulton County Recreation Authority to decide if the 77-acre property will be put up for sale. Becker believes their decision will happen before the end of the year. “We are optimistic, hopeful that we have a real shot at it,” Becker said Saturday. “We have the best idea anybody has put forward. We are the only ones who have engaged the surrounding neighborhoods.” Georgia State and its partners Carter were the first to announce their interest in the Turner Field property in May 2014. In their $300 million plan, Turner Field would possibly be retrofitted into a football stadium for the Panthers. A college baseball stadium would be built on the site of the since-demolished Fulton County Stadium, and residential and retail outlets would also be constructed. Becker said that another option is now being considered, one that was partially inspired by conversations with residents of the neighborhoods near Turner Field. Instead of turning Turner Field into the home of another sports team, it could be turned into a large residential and retail outlet, similar to what was done at Ponce City Market. A new 25,000-30,000 seat stadium would be constructed in the north end of the property to house Georgia State’s football team. That plan would put the football and baseball stadiums very close to Georgia State’s campus and would put some of the retail and residential spots closer to the neighborhoods. Becker said the full cost-benefit analyses wouldn’t be done until Georgia State can purchase the property. He said retro-fitting Turner Field would likely be cheaper than building a new stadium. However, the long-term operating costs of maintaining such a large building would likely be greater. Becker said should Georgia State purchase the property it would be paid for through a combination of fund-raising, bonds and sponsorships. He said there is still much work to do. “We will use all tools available to make this work,” he said.
  • Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter was selected by Boston with the 28th pick in the first round of the NBA draft on Thursday. Hunter may have been joking, but he said he hopes to become the team’s best shooter since another son of Indiana used to burn the nets in the Garden. “My boy Larry (Bird) Legend played for them, so hopefully I’ll be their best shooter since Larry Legend,” Hunter said. Hunter, a 6-foot-6 guard, was an AP All-American honorable mention last season after averaging a career-high 19.7 points. He left Georgia State with a year of eligibility remaining after leading the Panthers to the third round of the NCAA men’s basketball tournament. His 30-foot 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left knocked off No. 3 seed Baylor in the second round and helped make Georgia State into the tournament’s media darlings. Hunter becomes the school’s first first-round pick in the NBA draft and the first selected in 32 years. He holds numerous school records at Georgia State, including career free throws (444), free throw percentage (.852) 3-pointers made (250), 3-point attempts (707) and points (1,819). “For me to be that pioneer and to be that ambassador, I’m super excited,” Hunter said. With red-rimmed eyes, Hunter looked noticeably exhausted Thursday after waiting more than three hours for his name to be called by league commissioner Adam Silver. Hunter could be heard trying to thank his family and friends afterward but kept choking up until he finally gave up. “I can’t explain it,” he said of the feeling. “It’s numb. It’s a whirlwind. It’s a great feeling for sure.” Hunter is known as a streaky shooter who can score a variety of ways and who plays with a high basketball IQ. Knocks against him going into the draft were his ability to play man-to-man defense because the Panthers played zone under his father and coach Ron Hunter, and his ability to beat defenders off the dribble. Hunter, a native of Indianapolis, Ind., attempted to answer those questions by participating in the NBA combine in Chicago, where he was also working out in preparation, and reportedly wowed several teams in individual workouts before the draft. The Celtics weren’t one of those teams. Hunter was supposed to work out for them last week, but wasn’t able to do so because of what he described as a personal issue. “His range is as soon as he gets in the building,” ESPN analyst Jay Bilas said during the draft coverage. Ron Hunter said Boston was one of three teams that he hoped would select his son because he knows Boston coach Brad Stevens very well from their time as college coaches in Indiana: Stevens at Butler and Hunter at IUPUI. R.J. Hunter said Stevens was the only coach beside his father in the state to recruit him. “Now I can relax and just go back to being a dad,” Ron Hunter said. The 28th pick is slotted to receive $957,200 in the 2015-16 season, slightly more than $1 million in 2015-16 and slightly more in the 2016-17. Ron Hunter said he expects R.J. to take him out an expensive restaurant in Boston after he receives his first paycheck. R.J. said he plans on buying something special for his mom, Amy, his dad and his sister as a thank you for everything they have done to help him. The Celtics went 40-42 last year and need shooters, according to ESPN’s draft analysts. One analyst said Hunter was already the best shooter on Boston. Hunter said he feels no pressure knowing that the Celtics might need his scoring sooner rather than later and seems ready to embrace the challenge of playing for one of the league’s marquee teams. “Every time you put the jersey on you know it means toughness,” Hunter said. “I’m just ready to put my hard hat on.”
  • The SEC’s preference is for the NCAA to pass a national rule prohibiting football coaches from participating in “satellite” camps for high school recruits far from campus. But if the NCAA doesn’t do that, the SEC will drop its own policy against the practice in 2016. “We are going to make every effort to have our rule adopted nationally,” SEC commissioner Mike Slive said Wednesday night at the league’s spring meetings. “If the rule isn’t adopted nationally, come next summer, our folks will be free to fan out all over the country and have at it.” SEC athletic directors voted Wednesday to rescind the league’s rule against such camps if the NCAA doesn’t act by summer 2016. Several Big Ten programs have held or plan to hold “satellite” camps in SEC recruiting territory. NCAA rules permit the practice if the program is a guest of a host school, as Penn State was at a Georgia State camp last summer. The SEC worries that its rule against such camps will become a recruiting disadvantage unless either the national rule or the conference rule changes.
  • Is your bracket busted? Well, don't worry because you're not alone. Here are the three big upsets that are making most of us pull out our hair on day one of the NCAA tournament. As you probably already know, Conference USA champs and No. 14 seed UAB kept the momentum going, knocking off No. 3 seed Iowa State. >> Read more trending stories   Blazers fans have a lot to be fired up about too. As SB Nation was quick to point out, their big upset comes just months after the school shut down its football program, so the victory resonates with their fans on multiple levels. And, even if the upset ripped apart your bracket, we'll give you a solid reason to jump on the team's bandwagon. Notice those mismatched shoes they keep wearing? Well, that's all a part of an effort to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer with an area cancer treatment center. >>Visit our special section: NCAA Basketball Tournament Next up: same seeds, different region. 'The first time that two No. 14 seeds have won in the same day since 1995, so you've got decades of history that we're breaking through,' CBS Sports basketball writer Chip Patterson said. Yep, it's about as wild as it gets. No. 14 seed Georgia State sent No. 3 seed Baylor packing early as well when R.J. Hunter nailed a buzzer beater pretty much from the parking lot. R.J. is the son of head coach Ron Hunter, who might need to work on his celebrating technique. He tore his achilles tendon jumping around after their Sun Belt Championship win last week.  >>Photos: 2015 NCAA tournament And then he flopped on the floor Thursday after his son's big shot. 'Hey! Dude, we gotta get a back to my dad's chair! ... He's wild. He's gonna tear his other achilles,' R.J. Hunter said. And, lastly, some good old fashioned controversy.  No. 11 UCLA inches by No. 6 SMU on a ... goaltending call? UCLA's Bryce Alford launched a 3-pointer with just seconds to go, while SMU's Yanick Moreira appeared to jump up and tip it on its way down. Now, according to NCAA rules, it's only goaltending if the shot has the possibility of going in. And it's also, yup, non-reviewable.  So, cue the controversy. Outsports said the officials were 'clearly' in the right, Deadspin said they were all wrong, and CBS posed the obvious question: 'should goaltending be reviewable?' >>Vote in our poll: Should goal tending be reviewable in the NCAA?' In the end, you probably fell prey to a few defeats. According to CBS, more than 99 percent of all its brackets were busted with the first few hours of the tournament. Read more at newsy.com.
  • Before the Sun Belt tournament championship game, Georgia State’s R.J. Hunter couldn’t eat or sleep. He was that nervous. He played reasonably well, and the Panthers won. In the days before Thursday’s NCAA Tournament game against Baylor — the Panthers’ first since 2001 — Hunter said he feels no pressure. It’s like he’s going to Florida for spring break, which is exactly what he’s doing because school is out this week. “I feel like this game we can go play with nothing to lose,” Hunter said. So, though the Panthers (24-9) have won one game in the NCAA Tournament in the program’s history, have yet to beat a team from a “power conference” since coach Ron Hunter took over the program in 2011, and know that only 18 No. 14 seeds have won their first game in a tournament, they feel unburdened … as long as they execute a three-point game plan. Ron Hunter said the Panthers can’t get overwhelmed trying to rebound — a problem in losses this season — and a strength of Baylor’s, which has outrebounded opponents by eight per game this season, compared with Georgia State’s minus-0.6 average. The main focus on rebounding will be trying to contain Baylor’s Rico Gathers, a 6-foot-8, 271-pound forward who is averaging 11.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. “It’s like facing J.J. Watt,” Georgia State coach Ron Hunter said. “That guy is unbelievable. It’s like facing a football player. He’s bigger than any football player we’ve got at Georgia State.” R.J. Hunter played against Gathers in AAU basketball, so he has some familiarity with the junior. Like the game, Hunter didn’t seem stressed about facing Gathers because he said the Panthers have had success on defense against the other’s team best option. Georgia State neutralized another skilled big man, Louisiana-Lafayette’s 6-9 all-conference forward Shawn Long, in the Sun Belt semifinals. He had 10 points and eight rebounds, but little influence. On defense, Georgia State’s players simply went around him. On defense, they harassed him with several players when he would get the ball in the post, taking him out of rhythm. The second key for Georgia State is it has to make a few shots against Baylor’s tenacious matchup zone. The win over Georgia Southern in the Sun Belt wasn’t fun to watch if you like points. The Panthers shot only 32.6 percent, almost 16 percentage points below their season average, in the 38-36 victory. The Bears are allowing 60.3 points per game on 40.2 percent shooting. Neither Hunter nor his son seemed too concerned about Baylor’s defense. Ron Hunter pointed out that his offense goes against a matchup zone most days in practice. “If we get confidence offensively, then the entire arena becomes Georgia State’s arena,” Hunter said. “Then they start feeling that pressure. Everybody will become a Georgia State fan.” Much may also depend upon the status of Ryan Harrow, who barely played in both Sun Belt tournament games because of a strained hamstring sustained in the regular-season finale against Georgia Southern. Harrow this season made 39 percent of his 3-pointers, a skill that could help break Baylor’s zone if he can play. Harrow said he is going to try to play Thursday, but hasn’t practiced. He has been going through therapy sessions numerous times per day. Kevin Ware’s growing influence could offset the loss of Harrow. Ware scored 18 points in the Sun Belt final to take Most Outstanding Player honors. It arguably was his finest all-around game since transferring to Georgia State from Louisville last year. “When Ryan went down, that’s when I kind of took on more initiative, ‘like all right, I’ve got to be a threat instead of just trying to run plays and things like that,’” Ware said. “These guys tell me all year, you’ve got to be aggressive. We see what you can do in practice, things like that. So it’s finally starting to show.” Lastly, Ron Hunter loves to coach as an underdog, so he is playing up the 14 vs. 3 seeding for all it’s worth. “(President) Obama didn’t talk about it, but he picked Baylor, so I’m taking my votes back from him,” Hunter said. “So I’m going to let my guys know that even the president of the United States believes we’re going to lose. My kids will be ready on Thursday, that’s for sure.”
  • Georgia State will face Baylor in the Big Dance, but Panthers coach Ron Hunter won’t be able to do the two-step. The Panthers defeated Georgia Southern 38-36 in the finals of the Sun Belt men’s tournament in New Orleans on Sunday. As Hunter jumped off the bench to celebrate, he said he could feel his Achilles pop. No matter the pain – he said it was 17 on a scale of 1 to 10 – Hunter and the players were ecstatic in making it to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2001. “This will be the best bus ride in the history of bus rides,” Ron Hunter said of the 61/2-hour ride home. Hunter, who is going to delay surgery until after the tournament, and the team watched the CBS selection show from a private room in Lakefront Arena set up by the Sun Belt Conference. Hunter reclined in a leather chair, the Sun Belt trophy sitting by his elevated foot. The Panthers were one of the last teams announced, amping the anxiety level in the room as projected opponents Louisville and North Carolina received different matchups. The Panthers (24-9) received a 14th seed and will play the third-seeded Bears (24-9) on Thursday in Jacksonville. Hunter and Baylor coach Scott Drew have a familiar history dating back to when Drew coached at Valparaiso and Hunter at IUPUI in the Summit League. “I’m familiar with that they do,” Hunter said. “They are a good basketball team. Physical, strong inside. We will have to rebound.” The Bears (24-9) were beaten by Kansas in the semifinals of the Big 12 tournament. They are led by 6-foot-7 forward Taurean Prince, who averages 13.8 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, and 6-8 forward Rico Gathers, who averages 11.7 points and 11.6 rebounds per game. The Panthers made it to the NCAA tournament on the back of either a defensive gem or an offensive mess against Georgia Southern. The teams combined to make just 26 field goals, just three of which came in the final 9 ½ minutes. R.J. Hunter scored the winning points on two free throws with 21.6 seconds left as the Eagles chanted “Daddy’s princess.” “I’ll take ugly wins all day,” Ron Hunter said. “My wife married an ugly man and she still loves me.” With the Panthers clinging to the lead, Georgia Southern missed two 3-pointers in the final seconds. As the last one bounced off the rim, Hunter jumped off the bench. It was then he knew he had hurt himself. But he kept going because he wanted to celebrate with his son, who tackled him. “It’s been a long road for my family,” he said. “I wanted to celebrate with him. Actually, I’m embarrassed by this because it takes away from the kids.” He couldn’t be slowed down even after the celebration. He used crutches to get to the podium and the tournament organizers lowered the basket so that he could reach up and cut a portion of the net. He was the last to grab the twine after players and others involved with the team each took their turn. Many of the players tucked their pieces into their championship hats and wore them throughout the day. “One of the best feelings of my life,” said R.J. Hunter, who finished with nine points. The Panthers were led not by Hunter, but by Kevin Ware. He scored 18 points, most on a series of slashing drives, to be named the tournament’s most outstanding player. Ware transferred to Georgia State from Louisville, where he became mostly known for the gruesome broken leg he sustained in the NCAA tournament two years ago during the Cardinals’ national championship run. Ware left Louisville partly to get a fresh start and to return home to Atlanta. “Ultimately it’s paid off,” he said. That Ware had a chance to play so well in the semifinals and finals can be traced to an injury sustained by Ryan Harrow, who suffered a strained hamstring in the regular-season finale. Harrow, the conference’s leading scorer in the regular season, played just a few minutes in Saturday’s semifinal win over Louisiana-Lafayette, in which Ware scored nine points, had six assists, three steals and three rebounds. Ron Hunter said Harrow should be available for the NCAA tournament, but wasn’t sure how much he would play. The Panthers are 5-0 in games this season in which Harrow hasn’t played, and 3-0 in games in which he has barely played. Like their coach, the team knows how to play through pain. “I’m grateful for these guys,” Ron Hunter said as he sat in a chair in front of a podium that he couldn’t step up and onto because of his injury. “That was a struggle, but it’s supposed to be a struggle. This is the most resilient group of guys I’ve ever coached in my life.”
  • At least 10 college-football greats are expected to be on hand Saturday when the College Football Hall of Fame holds its grand opening in downtown Atlanta. A tailgate-style event will be held outside the Hall of Fame’s new home near Centennial Olympic Park from 9 a.m. until noon Saturday, organizers announced. The event will include visits from cheerleaders, mascots and the ESPN GameDay bus, as well as a kids’ football clinic, music, games and prizes. Tickets are not required for the tailgate event. To enter the College Football Hall of Fame and Chick-fil-A Fan Experience, however, tickets are $16.99 to $19.99 and available at www.cfbhall.com. The building, under construction since January 2013, will open at 10 a.m. Saturday. Hall officials said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed will officiate the opening and will be joined by a number of College Football Hall of Famers, including former Georgia players Charley Trippi, Bill Stanfill and Kevin Butler, former Georgia Tech players Joe Hamilton and Randy Rhino, and former Falcons quarterback Steve Bartkowski. The Hall of Fame, located at 250 Marietta Street, moved to Atlanta from South Bend, Ind. The new 94,000-square-foot attraction combines historical artifacts with modern interactive technology. Hall officials, in a news release Monday, urged people planning to come to the grand opening to arrive early and consider taking MARTA. A portion of Marietta Street will be closed to through traffic from 7 a.m. until noon. More information: www.cfbhall.com/events/grand-opening. RELATED College Football Hall of Fame Opens August 23 News and information about the College Football Hall of Fame, which is moving from South Bend, Ind. to downtown Atlanta

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  • Russia's opposition, often written off by critics as a small and irrelevant coterie of privileged urbanites, put on an impressive nationwide show of strength Sunday with scores of protest rallies spanning the vast country. Hundreds were arrested, including Alexei Navalny, the anti-corruption campaigner who is President Vladimir Putin's most prominent critic. It was the biggest show of defiance since the 2011-2012 wave of demonstrations that rattled the Kremlin and led to harsh new laws aimed at suppressing dissent. Almost all of Sunday's rallies were unsanctioned, but thousands braved the prospect of arrests to gather in cities from the Far East port of Vladivostok to the 'window on the West' of St. Petersburg. An organization that monitors Russian political repression, OVD-Info, said it counted more than 800 people arrested in the Moscow demonstrations alone. That number could not be confirmed and state news agency Tass cited Moscow police as saying there were about 500 arrests. Navalny, who was arrested while walking from a nearby subway station to the demonstration at Moscow's iconic Pushkin Square, was the driving force of the demonstrations. He called for them after his Foundation for Fighting Corruption released a report contending that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has amassed a collection of mansions, yachts and vineyards. Navalny is a persistent thorn in the Kremlin's side. He has served several short jail terms after arrests in previous protests and has twice been convicted in a fraud case, but given a suspended sentence. He intends to run for president in 2018 — an election in which Putin is widely expected to run for another term — even though the conviction technically disqualifies him. Putin has dominated Russian political life, as president or prime minister, since 2000. No overall figures on arrests or protest attendance were available. Some Russian state news media gave relatively cursory reports on the demonstrations; the state news TV channel Rossiya-24 ignored them altogether in evening broadcasts. Police estimated the Moscow crowd at about 7,000, but it could have been larger. The one-hectare (2.5-acre) Pushkin Square was densely crowded as were sidewalks on the adjacent Tverskaya Street. In St. Petersburg, about 5,000 protesters assembled in the Mars Field park, shouting slogans including 'Putin resign!' and 'Down with the thieves in the Kremlin!' Russia's beleaguered opposition is often seen as primarily a phenomenon of a Westernized urban elite, but Sunday's protests included gatherings in places far from cosmopolitan centers, such as Siberia's Chita and Barnaul. 'Navalny has united people who think the same; that people don't agree with the authorities is obvious from what is going on in the country today,' Anna Ivanova, 19, said at the Moscow demonstration. 'I am a bit scared.' Scuffles with police erupted sporadically and the arrested demonstrators included a gray-haired man whom police dragged along the pavement. Police cleared the square after about three hours and began herding demonstrators down side streets. 'It's scary, but if everyone is afraid, no one would come out onto the streets,' 19-year-old protester Yana Aksyonova said. The luxuries amassed by Medvedev include a house for raising ducks, so many placards in Sunday's protests featured mocking images of yellow duck toys. Some demonstrators carried running shoes — a reference to Navalny's assertion that tracking shipments of running shoes for Medvedev helped reveal his real-estate portfolio. Others showed up with their faces painted green, a reminder of a recent attack on Navalny in which an assailant threw a green antiseptic liquid onto his face. 'People are unhappy with the fact that there's been no investigation' of the corruption allegations, said Moscow protester Ivan Gronstein. There were no comments reported from Putin, Medvedev or other top Russian politicians, leaving in doubt what the Kremlin's strategy may be for countering the protests. Previous waves of demonstrations have dissipated through inertia or the intimidation of increasingly punitive measures; under a 2014 law, holding an unauthorized protest is punishable by 15 days in jail, or five years imprisonment for a third offense. In Vladivostok, police forcefully detained some demonstrators near the city's railway terminal, in one case falling down a small grassy slope as they wrestled with a detainee. News reports and social media reported demonstrations in large cities throughout the country, including Novosibirsk, Tomsk and Krasnoyarsk. At least 25 people were reported arrested in Vladivostok and 12 in Khabarovsk. About 40 people were detained in a small protest in the capital of Dagestan, a restive republic in the Russian Caucasus, according to Tass, ___= Irina Titova in St. Petersburg contributed to this report.
  • Knoxville Zoo officials are investigating why 33 reptiles, including three endangered species, died Wednesday.  Herpetologists came to work that morning to find a majority of the 52 animals housed in one of the reptile buildings dead. They immediately evacuated the snakes and lizards, giving them oxygen and checking their heartbeats with an ultrasound device. “This is a devastating and catastrophic loss to our zoo,” Lisa New, president at the zoo, told the Knoxville News Sentinel Saturday. “These animals were important ambassadors who helped so many people understand the role snakes and lizards play in the balance of nature.” >> Read more trending news Veterinarians from the zoo as well as from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine are investigating the cause of death. “We also lost breeding programs for several endangered and threatened species,” she added. “It is especially difficult for our herpetologists who have dedicated their careers to caring for and advocating for these animals.” Three critically endangered species died; the Louisiana pine snake, the Catalina Island rattlesnake and the Aruba Island rattlesnake. The zoo’s forest cobra and albino Eastern diamondback rattlesnake also died. “We don't know exactly what occurred to cause this terrible event, but we do know it was isolated to a single building,” the zoo said in a post on Facebook. “We are continuing to investigate all the physical systems and conducting necropsies to see if we can gain any insight.”
  • The pilot of a single-engine plane that crashed into a Marietta house has been identified, officials say. Robert George Westlake, 78, of Atlanta, was killed Friday evening, when a Cessna Citation I aircraft went down near a home in the 100 block of Vistawood Drive in Marietta, Cobb County police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce said. No one else was on board. This was the third time in less than six weeks that federal officials investigated a deadly plane crash in or near metro Atlanta. The 1976 plane was en route to Fulton County Airport from Cincinnati, Ohio, Pierce said. Westlake radioed that he was having mechanical troubles moments before the crash, Pierce said. RELATED: Pilot killed after plane crashes near Cobb County house Flames from the crash spread to the home, setting it on fire, Channel 2 Action News reported. The residents, Norm and Barbara Keller, were at church at the time of the crash. No injuries were reported from the fire. 'From what it looks like at this point, it came over from the top of the house and landed in the front yard,' Danell Boyd of the Cobb County fire department told Channel 2. The crash site is near Kennesaw State University’s Fifth Third Bank Stadium and Town Center at Cobb. Smoke was visible from the stadium. Witnesses said the plane nose-dived to the ground, Channel 2 reported.  'I heard a swoosh and then a clap and an explosion and I pretty much knew before I looked outside that it was a plane crash,' said Joe Thomas, a resident in the area. The neighborhood will be blocked off while National Transportation Safety Board investigators look into the crash. On Feb. 16, a plane crash at the Barrow County airport killed two people on board. On March 4, the pilot was killed when a plane went down near the Cherokee County airport.
  • Alanna Smith's jumper with 23 seconds left capped Stanford's rally from a 16-point deficit in the second half, Erica McCall blocked a last-second shot and the Cardinal edged top-seeded Notre Dame 76-75 Sunday to reach its first Final Four since 2014. Brittany McPhee scored 27 as the second-seeded Cardinal (32-5) won its eighth in a row overall. This was the third straight year Stanford and Notre Dame have met in the NCAA Tournament, with the Cardinal winning twice. Down 47-31 in the third quarter, Stanford surged to end Notre Dame's 17-game winning streak. The Irish (33-4) had a final shot, but McCall blocked Arike Ogunbowale's drive near the basket. The win in the Lexington Regional gives Stanford a chance to pursue its third national championship under coach Tara VanDerveer. Among those in the crowd at Rupp Arena was Jon Samuelson, whose daughter, Karlie, scored 15 for Stanford. A day earlier, he was at the Bridgeport Regional to see another daughter, UConn star Katie Lou Samuelson, help the Huskies win their 110th straight game. Smith finished with 15 points. Ogunbowale had 25 and Marina Mabrey 20 for Notre Dame, which had sought its sixth Final Four in seven seasons. After driving for a basket with 51 seconds left, Smith added her biggest shot for the go-ahead score. Stanford then denied Notre Dame's Lindsay Allen and Ogunbowale on successive attempts in the final 15 seconds to spark a wild celebration. THE BIG PICTURE Stanford once again proved no deficit was too big to overcome. The Cardinal shot 12 of 26 on 3-pointers, Samuelson and McPhee each making five. Not bad, considering Stanford shot 2 of 15 overall in the second quarter while getting outscored 23-7. ... McCall had 15 rebounds. Notre Dame seemed to do everything right for most of the game but couldn't stop Stanford's perimeter game in the second half. The Irish also made just 11 of 31 shots after halftime and were topped 33-32 on the boards. UP NEXT Stanford faces the South Carolina-Florida State winner in the Final Four in Dallas next weekend.