HOWARD LEADS ROCKETS OVER BULLS: Dwight Howard scored 23 points as the Houston Rockets used a big third-quarter run to pull away for a 109-94 win over the Bulls on Wednesday night.
The Rockets picked up the victory in the return of coach Kevin McHale, who had missed the previous three games following the death of his mother.
Jimmy Butler led the Bulls with 20 points.
LATE RUN LIFTS HEAT PAST PACERS: Dwyane Wade scored 32 points; Ray Allen hit a go-ahead 3-pointer with just under a minute left, and the Miami Heat erased a 15-point deficit in the second half to beat the Pacers 97-94.
LeBron James scored 24 on a bad left ankle for the Heat, who closed within a game of the Eastern Conference-leading Pacers.
Paul George scored 25 points but missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it with 4 seconds left. David West had 23, and Lance Stephenson added 13 for the Pacers, who have dropped two straight.
BEARS SIGN TACKLE: The Bears signed 6-foot-5, 304-pound tackle Joe Long to a two-year contract Wednesday.
Long was signed by the Bears off Pittsburgh’s practice squad, where he has spent the entire 2013 regular season. Long entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent with the St. Louis Rams in 2012 out of Wayne State (Mich.).
He was signed to the Steelers practice squad in November of 2012 and spent the entire offseason with Pittsburgh but has not appeared in a regular season game.
Collegiately, Long started all 49 games at left tackle earning the Gene Upshaw Award as the top Division II lineman in 2011.
COLTS DEFENSE FACES BIG CHALLENGE AGAINST CHIEFS: Indy's defense understands the challenge of facing Kansas City.
It will have to contend with Jamaal Charles, slow down an offense that has scored 101 points in the last two games and somehow show it can play well in back-to-back weeks before the playoffs begin.
None of it will be easy when Indy (9-5) and Kansas City (11-3) meet Sunday in a possible playoff preview. The AFC South champs currently hold the No. 4 seed while the Chiefs (11-3) are No. 5. If things don't change they would meet again the first weekend in January.
OFFICIALS READY UP FOR WINTER-WEATHER SUPER BOWL: Transportation and football officials say they're armed with thousands of trucks and more than 60,000 tons of salt to combat weather that could jeopardize the Super Bowl from kicking off as scheduled in February.
Officials held a press conference on Wednesday at a snowy MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., to assure the public that snow or ice will not hinder the big game on Feb. 2.
NO. 18 PURDUE HOLDS OFF GREEN BAY: KK Houser hit three of four free throws in the final 11 seconds and scored 17 points as No. 18 Purdue escaped with a 49-45 win at Green Bay (6-4) on Wednesday. April Wilson added 12 points, and Courtney Moses had 11 for the Boilermakers (8-2).
DEPAUL DEFEATS HOUSTON BAPTIST: Cleveland Melvin scored a season-high 28 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to lead DePaul to a 78-58 win Wednesday night over Houston Baptist (3-8) on the 100th anniversary of the birth of legendary coach Ray Meyer.
Tommy Hamilton IV added 14, and Brandon Young had 11 for DePaul (7-4), which has won three straight and four of five.
The Blue Demons honored the Hall of Fame coach who led them for 42 seasons and died in March 2006 at age 92.
NIU RALLIES TO BEAT LOYOLA: Travon Baker scored 14 points as Northern Illinois (4-5) overcame a 28-14 halftime deficit to beat Loyola. Christian Thomas led the Ramblers (5-5) with 16 points.
SIU'S HINSON APOLOGIZES FOR SINGLING OUT PLAYER: Southern Illinois coach Barry Hinson said he regretted singling out one of his players in a postgame diatribe that went viral.
And that's about it.
Hinson said at a news conference in Carbondale, Ill., on Wednesday that he apologized to starting point guard Marcus Fillyaw for calling him "absolutely awful" in a 73-65 loss at Murray State on Tuesday night.
Hinson, however, said he wouldn't take back calling his players "uncoachable," ''a bunch of mama's boys" and comparing the disciplining of his young team to housebreaking a puppy.
"If that ruffles your feathers, or ruffles somebody else's feathers, then you know what, you're going to have to deal with it," Hinson said. "And here's the other thing, I'm going to have to deal with it."
Fillyaw said he wasn't surprised with the way Hinson voiced his displeasure.
"Everything he said was true," Fillyaw said. "Right now our team is playing soft. That's a big part of our identity right now ... It wasn't so much him calling me out personally. I was just as upset with my performance. His statement about me was accurate."
Athletic director Mario Moccia said he took no disciplinary action against Hinson.
NICHOLLS STATE DOWNS IUPUI: Dantrell Thomas scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds as Nicholls State (3-5) beat IUPUI 62-56. Marcellus Barksdale scored 10 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for the Jaguars (4-9).
SAINT LOUIS PUTS AWAY INDIANA ST.: Dwayne Evans scored a season-high 24 points as Saint Louis (10-2) defeated Indiana State 83-66. Manny Arop led Indiana State (7-3) with 16 points.
IRISH RANK SECOND ON FORBES LIST: Forbes magazine rates Texas as the most valuable college football team in the country for the fifth straight year.
The magazine values the Longhorns at $139 million, almost 20 percent more than Notre Dame at No. 2. The Irish are valued at $117 million.
Alabama rose from sixth to third at $110 million, followed by SEC West rival LSU.
Michigan is fifth.
Florida (sixth) and Georgia (eighth) give the Southeastern Conference four of the top 10, the most of any conference but down from last year when it had seven of the first 10.