VALPO PICKED TO WIN HL: Two-time defending Horizon League champion Valparaiso has been selected to win the league in a preseason poll of its head coaches.
The Crusaders picked up four of the eight first-place votes and tallied 46 points, one more than 2013 regular-season champion Illinois-Chicago, which earned the other four first-place votes. Rounding out the poll were Wright State, Youngstown State, Cleveland State and Green Bay, with Detroit and Oakland sharing seventh place.
PRAIRIE STATE REACHES .500 MARK: Nijea Dixon's 21 points and six rebounds led Prairie State to a 67-59 Skyway Collegiate Conference win over Oakton Community College on Thursday.
Faith Foulkes had 18 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars (12-12, 5-3), while Mandie Green had eight points and 10 rebounds.
NO. 2 IRISH REMAIN UNBEATEN: Natalie Achonwa scored 24 points, and Jewell Loyd added 18 to lead No. 2 Notre Dame to an 81-60 victory over Florida State (15-7, 3-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Thursday night that kept the Fighting Irish unbeaten.
Kayla McBride chipped in 14 points for Notre Dame (22-0, 9-0).
MOSES LEADS NO. 25 PURDUE PAST OHIO STATE: Courtney Moses scored 18 points and No. 25 Purdue made 27 of 29 free throws to turn back Ohio State (14-12, 4-6 Big Ten) 74-58 Thursday.
Liza Clemons added 14 points for the Boilermakers (16-7, 6-5 Big Ten).
It was Purdue's first game without senior point guard KK Houser, who is out with a left knee injury suffered against Michigan State on Sunday. Houser leads the team in scoring at 15.9 points and 6.2 assists. Moses wore Houser's No. 22.
NORTH DAKOTA ST. HOLDS OFF IUPUI: Lawrence Alexander scored 17 points to lead North Dakota State past IUPUI 66-60 Thursday night.
Mitch Patton scored 16 and grabbed eight rebounds for IUPUI.
SOUTH DAKOTA WALLOPS IFPW: Jordan Dykstra scored 18 points as South Dakota State (13-10, 5-3 Summit League) outshot IPFW 79-51 in moving to within one loss of league leaders IPFW and North Dakota State in the Summit League.
Steve Forbes (10 points) was the only IPFW (18-7, 6-2) player in double figures.
WHITING'S LOWE SIGNS WITH OILMEN: Whiting graduate Andrew Lowe has signed with the NWI Oilmen for this season. Lowe played with the Chicago Zephyrs last season. Lowe attends Wisconsin-Whitewater.
U.S. BEHIND AFTER 1ST DAY OF TEAM FIGURE SKATING: Meryl Davis and Charlie White comforted and cheered their fellow Americans on a tough first night of competition for the U.S. in the new Olympic event of team figure skating.
Nice to have their support, no doubt. But the biggest pick-me-up they can provide? Two dazzling performances in ice dancing.
The United States team was tied for the fifth-most points after the Thursday short programs for the men and pairs, technically resting in seventh after tiebreakers among 10 nations.
Only the top five countries advance to the free skates, a cut made after the women and ice dancers complete their short programs. But the Americans are hardly in a precarious position, because they boast the reigning world ice dancing champs in Davis and White.
Russia leads with 19 points, and the other favorite, Canada, has 17. The U.S. earned just 10 on Thursday, but has better balance then most of the squads ahead of it and two wins from its ice dancers would be worth 20 points.
CUBS, BARNEY AGREE TO $2.3 MILLION, ONE-YEAR DEAL: The Cubs have agreed to a $2.3 million, one-year contract with second baseman Darwin Barney, avoiding arbitration.
The agreement leaves pitcher Jeff Samardzija, a Valparaiso High School graduate, as the team's only remaining player in arbitration.
Chicago also announced Thursday that its home game against Washington scheduled for Sunday, June 29, has been moved up a day to ease potential congestion with the annual Pride Parade. The Cubs and Nationals will play a day-night doubleheader on June 28.
PORTLAND'S LILLARD COMPETING IN 3 ALL-STAR SATURDAY EVENTS: Portland's Damian Lillard will become the first player to compete in three events during All-Star Saturday night in New Orleans, including a slam dunk contest that features three All-Stars for the first time in 26 years.
The Pacers' Paul George and Washington's John Wall also will take part in the night's marquee event Feb. 15. There haven't been three All-Stars in the dunk contest since the famed 1988 duel, when Michael Jordan beat Dominique Wilkins on his home floor in Chicago, in a field that also included Clyde Drexler.
Around the horn
Times sports medical columnist John Doherty is the guest on "Purdue Calumet Sports Insight" at 5:30 p.m. today on WJOB-AM (1230). ... Ralph Kiner, who slugged his way into the baseball Hall of Fame and enjoyed a half-century career as a popular broadcaster, died Thursday. He was 91.