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McLemore, Traylor ready to go for No. 7 Kansas

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McLemore, Traylor ready to go for No. 7 Kansas

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) The taste of college basketball has come in sips for Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, just enough to make them thirsty for more.

The high-profile recruits were deemed partial qualifiers by the NCAA last season, which left them to watch as Kansas made another remarkable run to the Final Four. They couldn't practice until the second semester, and even then had to find their own way to see games played on the road.

They were finally able to suit up during a summer trip to Europe, and then got their first true taste of Allen Fieldhouse in a pair of exhibition games against Division II opponents.

On Friday night, the talented freshmen will finally get to absorb big-time college hoops.

The seventh-ranked Jayhawks - the eight-time defending Big 12 champions - open against Southeast Missouri in their only tuneup before next week's showdown against No. 14 Michigan State.

McLemore and Traylor should have been eligible last season, as far as coach Bill Self is concerned. But some questions about their grades forced them to stay away from the program entirely the first semester. It wasn't until December that they could practice with the team.

That is when McLemore, an athletic guard who draws comparisons to Brandon Rush, and Traylor, a slightly undersized version of Thomas Robinson, finally showed teammates what they had been missing.

McLemore has an uncanny ability to hover in the air, something he demonstrated on a couple of high-flying dunks during exhibition games. Traylor has the same kind of rebounding ability - though still unharnessed - that made Robinson a first-team All-American last season.

``The greatest lesson I learned last year is to just be humble, and you know, let things come to you and stuff like that,'' McLemore said. ``Last year I was getting a lot of talk from Elijah Johnson, and he was telling me stuff he'd been though, and stuff I will go through.''

Even Johnson, a senior, couldn't prepare McLemore for sitting out a year, though.

It was bad enough to have to watch games on campus, no different than the thousands of students who pack the ends of Allen Fieldhouse for every home game. But it was games on the road that were truly challenging - the logistics of getting there presenting plenty of hurdles.

Sometimes they would hitch a ride with cheerleaders or band members, or perhaps some friends, and sometimes they would figure out a way to drive themselves to far-flung places like Lubbock, Texas.

``I mean, I couldn't play, but I also enjoyed watching my teammates play,'' McLemore said, ``and all I could think about was next year and what we could do as a team again.''

Naturally, McLemore and Traylor have become fast friends.

That is what happens when you spend so much time in the car together.

``Maybe a little too much time in the car, because Ben McLemore has the worst gas,'' Traylor said with a laugh. ``Definitely too much time on the road with that.''

The duo even managed to find a way to New Orleans, where they watched the Jayhawks beat Ohio State in the national semifinals before falling to Kentucky in the title game.

``We definitely went to the Final Four. That was a great experience,'' McLemore said, sounding only a little despondent. ``Hopefully we as a team can go back there again.''

If they do, McLemore and Traylor will be a big reason why.

The 6-foot-5 guard from St. Louis led the Jayhawks with 14 points and eight rebounds per game in their two exhibition games, showing perhaps the best instincts on the team. Traylor averaged 5.5 points and three rebounds, but has only played high-level, organized basketball for a couple years.

That makes the comparisons to Robinson, at least for now, a bit unfair.

``If Thomas got one mitt on the ball, he got possession of it. He was a fierce, competitive rebounder,'' Self said. ``The thing about Jamari, Jamari's going to be good, but he's never played. He's going to be good, but it's going to take time.''

Plenty of patience, too, something McLemore and Traylor have already demonstrated they have.

US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

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US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

REIMS, France -- Megan Rapinoe converted a pair of penalty kicks and the United States set up a much-anticipated quarterfinal meeting with host France at the Women's World Cup with a 2-1 victory over Spain on Monday.

Rapinoe's first came in the seventh minute to the cheers of the U.S. supporters melting in temperatures that reached nearly 90 degrees at the Stade Auguste-Delaune. They were quieted a short time later when Jennifer Hermoso tied it up for Spain with the first goal the Americans had allowed in France.

Video review was used to confirm a foul on Rose Lavelle that gave the pink-haired captain the game-winner in the 75th minute, spoiling Spain's spirited effort in its first knockout-round appearance at a World Cup.

"That’s World Cup-level grit right there," Rapinoe said on the Fox Sports broadcast. "You can’t replicate it. You can’t teach it. We told each other during the game we needed to go up a level. They (the matches) only get harder and more intense from here. Everybody’s playing for their lives."

The defending champions head to Paris to face France on Friday night. The French defeated Brazil 2-1 in extra time Sunday night, with Amandine Henry scoring the game-winner in the 107th minute.

Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

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Italy wins bid to host 2026 Winter Olympics

LAUSANNE, Switzerland -- Italy will host the 2026 Olympics in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, taking the Winter Games to the Alpine country for the second time in 20 years.

International Olympic Committee members voted for the long-favored Milan-Cortina bid over Stockholm-Are from Sweden that also included a bobsled track in Latvia.

Milan-Cortina's jubilant delegation broke into chants of "Italia! Italia!" when the result was announced.

Italy last hosted in Turin in 2006, and the Alpine ski resort Cortina previously hosted the Winter Games in 1956.

Sweden's spirited late campaign effort was in vain, including the mayor of Stockholm appealing to voters from the stage by singing a lyric from Abba song `Dancing Queen'.

A sign of simmering Swedish frustration came minutes later when IOC board member Gunilla Lindberg pushed the limit of Olympic diplomacy ending her team's 30-minute presentation.

Lindberg challenged her colleagues to reward a new kind of creative, cost-effective bid the IOC has said it wanted -- "Or is it just talk?"

Instead, IOC members picked Italy despite a debt-hit economy which faces increasing European Union scrutiny.

"We submit with full confidence to your judgment," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told voters.

Both candidates would likely have failed to get this far in previous Olympic bidding contests.

The IOC has relaxed previously strict rules that demanded financial guarantees and government support earlier in the process.

It was an attempt to revive Winter Games bidding with just two candidates on the ballot paper for the second straight time, since Russia spent $51 billion on venues and infrastructure for the 2014 Sochi Olympics.

Now, the IOC seeks to avoid costly new venues -- and potential white elephants -- while encouraging regions and multi-nation bids to share the load. Hence, Sweden teamed with Latvia, across the Baltic Sea, rather than build its ice sliding sports venue.

"We have budget problems in Italy but I think that this is something that everyone has," Italy Undersecretary of State Giancarlo Giorgetti said at an earlier news conference, citing the wealth of the Lombardy and Veneto provinces underwriting the games costs.

"They are two of the richest provinces in Europe," Giorgetti said. "They certainly have the capacity, they have the readiness, they have the finances in order to be able to support the event."

The IOC will contribute at least $925 million toward Italy's games operating costs of up to $1.7 billion. Building athlete villages in Milan and Stockholm shaped as the main capital investment and most uncertain ventures in the projects.

Last week, the IOC flagged Stockholm's village as a risk, and asked for more details of guarantees underwriting the project.

"A letter of intent is as important to us as any contract," Volvo chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg said in the formal presentation, in what seemed a rebuke to the Olympic body.

The day-long meetings began with each bid in closed-door sessions with IOC members. The Swedish bid was challenged to prove its support from a Stockholm city authority coalition formed last October and a national government only five months ago.

Sweden Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said he assured voters "it's in the Swedish model, it's in our DNA" to deliver a stable Winter Games.

Still, a big plus for the Italian bid -- uniting Milan, the Alpine ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo, and several towns in between -- was the IOC's own polling. It found support from local residents around 85% compared to 60% in Sweden.

The 2026 contest meets the IOC President Thomas Bach's long-stated wish to return to traditional heartlands for winter sports after major construction projects from 2014-2022 in Russia, South Korea, and China.

The signature Swedish feature using the ice sliding sports track in Sigulda, Latvia, that meets the IOC's demand to use established sports venues.

The IOC has praised both candidates for projecting sports budgets "on average 20% lower" than spending on the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics and 2022 Beijing Olympics.

During the traditionally slick and emotional pleas to be awarded the games, Stockholm mayor Anna Konig Jerlmyr reminded voters of Sweden's most famous music act.

"Abba is everywhere," she said, before singing the lyric: "You can dance, you can dance, having the time of your life."

With more gravitas, Nobel Foundation executive director Lars Heikenstein spoke of Olympic values being an inspiration. Olympic leaders have long coveted a Nobel Peace Prize for the organization.

Sweden's heir to the throne, Crown Princess Victoria, joined a 100-plus delegation at the Swisstech convention center though did not take part on stage.

Italy's bid was livened by two Olympic champions, downhill skier Sofia Goggia and snowboarder Michela Moioli, doing a dab gesture and talking of their hopes to compete on home snow in almost seven years' time.

Sweden's wait for a first Winter Games goes on.

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