Sports in Brief: Southern Cal starts on top

Posted: August 20, 2012

Southern California is No. 1 in the AP Top 25, tossing off the weight of NCAA sanctions. USC earned the top spot Saturday in the Associated Press' preseason college football poll for the seventh time, edging out No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Louisiana State. The Trojans were banned from postseason play the last two seasons.

NBA: Serge Ibaka, the NBA's top shot blocker last season, signed a contract extension with the Oklahoma City Thunder. It's a four-year deal worth $48 million for the Spanish Olympian.

AUTO RACING:Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson will start at the back of the pack in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. Earnhardt hit the wall in practice and will go to a backup car. Johnson changed engines. Nelson Piquet Jr. won the NASCAR Trucks Series race in Brooklyn, stretching fuel to the end to beat Jason White.

TENNIS:Novak Djokovic reached the finals of the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, beating Juan Martin del Potro, 6-3, 6-2, in a reprise of their Olympics match. Del Potro defeated Djokovic for the bronze medal two weeks ago. Top-ranked Roger Federer beat Swiss countryman Stanislas Wawrinka, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in the other semifinal. On the women's side, Li Na defeated Venus Williams, 7-5, 3-6, 6-1, to get to the final.

LITTLE LEAGUE:Matt Kubel baffled Kearney, Neb., bats and Fairfield, Conn., romped to a 12-0 victory. Nebraska plays Ramstein Air Base, Germany, in a consolation game Monday. Ramstein was eliminated by CuraƧao, 14-2.

HORSE RACING:Questing posted a nine-length victory in the $600,000 Alabama Stakes at Saratoga Race Course in New York. Even-money favorite Grace Hall, winner of the Delaware Oaks, was fifth.

SWIMMING: Veteran endurance swimmer Diana Nyad set off on her fourth attempt to swim from Cuba to Florida. Nyad was forced to abandon her last attempt in September after jellyfish stings.

TRIATHLON: West Chester's Brian Duffy won at the USA Triathlon Olympic-Distance National Championship in Burlington, Vt., in 1:53:33.

- Staff and wire reports

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