COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Ohio State’s elimination from the Big Ten tournament by lowly Rutgers last March showed the depths to which Buckeyes basketball had fallen in a just few short seasons.

First-year coach Chris Holtmann showed his players video cuts of that debacle before Sunday’s game, the first against the Scarlet Knights since the tournament. Ohio State then went out and routed Rutgers 68-46 .

On Monday the Buckeyes cracked the AP Top 25 poll for the first time in nearly three years. On Wednesday night they beat Northwestern to improve to 7-0 in the Big Ten — matching the number of conference wins they had all of last season.

Ohio State, 16-4 overall, is tied for first place in the conference with No. 3 Purdue and has forced its way into the NCAA Tournament conversation. Holtmann is the first coach in 95 years to win his first seven Big Ten games.

Who would have thought?

The Buckeyes missed the tournament for the second straight season last year. The loss of three of the top four scorers, transfers and a thin recruiting class led to a gloomy forecast for 2017-18. Thad Matta , who oversaw the rebuilding of Ohio State basketball in his 13 seasons, was fired and Holtmann, who had success at Butler, was brought in.

Holtmann managed to pull some pieces together but Ohio State lacked depth, especially at point guard. The coach did his best in the preseason to keep expectations low for what looked like another lost season.

He’s still trying to temper expectations, but the Buckeyes haven’t yet taken the lumps that he or anybody else were sure would come.

“Any coach that, through a third of the season, went undefeated would have to say they’re surprised,” he said. “I just think fortunately our team in general has played well and our really good players have led the way with that, both at home and on the road.”

None of those players has been better than Keita Bates-Diop , who missed all of the Big Ten schedule last season with a left leg injury that required insertion of a steel rod in his shin. He didn’t play again after Jan. 5 and not much went right for the Buckeyes after that.

Averaging 19.8 points per game, the 6-foot-7 forward has earned Big Ten Player of the Week honors for the past two weeks in a row.

Jae’Sean Tate, last year’s leading scorer, again is a major contributor. Point guard C.J. Jackson is second on the team in scoring, averaging 13.3 points per game. Freshman Kaleb Wesson, 6-foot-9 and 270 pounds, is providing needed bulk inside while averaging 11.2 points per game. His brother Andre, a sophomore, missed all of the summer and the first few weeks of fall practice with an illness but is contributing again.

Center Micah Potter, slowed by ankle injury this season, stepped up with a season-high 13 points on Wednesday as Northwestern applied pressure on Bates-Diop and Tate.

And Andrew Dakich, a graduate transfer who was a bit player for three years at Michigan, has been a bulldog at guard. His career high 11 points against Maryland Jan. 11 included three 3-pointers at the end of the first half that helped propel the Buckeyes to a 91-69 blowout. He is 12 of 18 for the season from 3-point range.

Holtmann, with an emphasis on defense and proper response to adversity, continues to publicly promote the theme that his team can’t possibly keep scoring at this pace and having this kind of success.

Don’t tell his players, though.

“I think it’s been all about approach,” Tate said. “Our approach every day in practice, our approach pregame. We always say we were picked (to be) one of the last teams in the Big Ten. We’re going to continue to play with that chip on our shoulder.”

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More AP college basketball at www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP—Top25.

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Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy

WARWICK, R.I. (AP) — The longtime principal of a Roman Catholic high school in Rhode Island has retired after a short video of him using racial slurs surfaced.

The president of Bishop Hendricken High School in Warwick announced the retirement of Principal Joseph Brennan Jr. in an email to parents obtained by media outlets.

The short video shows Brennan using slurs to describe blacks and Jews.

The email from the school’s president says “we will not tolerate inflammatory language in any context.”

The language also drew condemnation from the leader of the state’s Catholic community, Diocese of Providence Bishop Thomas Tobin.

Tobin says Brennan’s comments “seem out of character” but “expressions of racism will simply not be tolerated” by diocese employees.

Brennan, a 40-year employee of the school, could not be reached for comment.

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — How does a bighorn sheep say “cheese?”

Some charismatic critters caught by motion-detecting wildlife cameras seem to know how to strike a pose. But it’s not just show business. As these devices get ever smaller, cheaper and more reliable, scientists across the U.S. are using them to document elusive creatures like never before.

“There’s no doubt — it is an incredible tool to acquire data on wildlife,” said Grant Harris, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife biologist based in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Remote cameras have photographed everything from small desert cats called ocelots to snow-loving lynx high in the Northern Rockies.

Harris cited images of javelinas, pig-like desert mammals, and coatimundi, members of the raccoon family, captured at higher latitudes in recent years. That could mean global warming is expanding their range northward, he said.

Scientists deploying remote cameras in their work include researchers with the Wyoming Migration Initiative, who use global positioning to map the movements of elk, mule deer and antelope in and around Yellowstone National Park. They only have so many collars to track animals, meaning there’s a limit to the GPS data they can gather, said Matthew Kauffman, a University of Wyoming associate professor and initiative director.

“You see one animal migrating, you don’t know if it’s migrating by itself, if it’s migrating with a calf, or if it’s migrating with 40 other animals,” Kauffman said.

Remote cameras — which can be left in the backcountry for days, weeks or even months — help fill in blanks by showing how many animals are on the move over a given period, he said.

Where to position them requires careful forethought. Clustering several around a watering hole, for instance, might produce many images but not a thorough profile of a population.

“There’s this tension between subjectivity in where you put your camera and where it’s statistically sound,” Harris said.

Sometimes smart-alecky humans turn up among the images. “I’ve seen people moon cameras, and that’s always funny,” he said.

Remote video can also reveal details about animal behavior, including the mewling sounds of migrating mule deer. And live-streaming cameras for everything from bison in Saskatchewan, Canada, to the underwater kelp forest off California’s Channel Islands are always popular.

As with all human intrusion into nature, remote cameras have downsides. Animals such as wolverines and bears have been known to attack them, though whether out of curiosity or aggression is hard to say.

Also, the devices have become popular tools to help hunters scout for game, sparking a debate over fair-chase ethics. Then there’s the whole subjective thing about going into nature to get away from it all, including surveillance cameras.

Anyway, to answer the question: A bighorn sheep that looks like it’s smiling probably isn’t saying “cheese” but sniffing pheromones and other scents in what’s called a flehmen response, said Harris.

In other words … bleats us.

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Follow Mead Gruver at https://twitter.com/meadgruver

BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Catalonia’s new parliament on Wednesday elected a pro-secession speaker, virtually guaranteeing that the push for independence for Spain’s northeastern region will continue as its lawmakers prepare to elect a new government.

The opening session of the new Catalan assembly came amid looming questions about the role that fugitive and jailed politicians will play within the chamber’s separatist majority and the future regional government.

Ousted Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont, who fled to Belgium in October dodging a Spanish judicial probe over a foiled secession attempt, wants to be reinstated to his old job. But he faces arrest if he returns to Spain and legal hurdles if he wants to be voted in from abroad by the regional assembly.

Puigdemont’s and other empty seats in the parliament were adorned with a yellow ribbon Wednesday. Four ex-Cabinet members sought by Spain’s Supreme Court are also in Brussels and three more elected lawmakers — including former Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras— are jailed on provisional charges of rebellion or sedition.

Other former Cabinet members and parliamentary officials have been released from jail but remain under investigation.

Spanish central authorities took direct control of Catalonia following the unilateral declaration of independence by separatist lawmakers on Oct. 27.

Under special powers, Spain fired Puigdemont’s government, dissolved parliament and forced a new regional election on Dec. 21 in the hope of halting the secession drive.

But contrary to Madrid’s hopes, separatists regained their slim parliamentary majority despite receiving less than half of the votes, although Ciutadans (Citizens) —a party that fiercely opposes independence— gained the most seats.

Several hundred people rallied near the parliament in central Barcelona, waving separatist flags as they watched the new house speaker’s election on a large outdoor screen.

Roger Torrent, a lawmaker with the left-republican ERC party, was elected to head the assembly’s governing committee that plays a key role in deciding what issues are debated and voted on in parliament.

“I want democracy and coexistence to be the foundations of this term,” Torrent told fellow lawmakers from the speaker’s podium, vowing at the same time to restore the self-government of Catalonia that is now in the hands of Madrid. He also said that, as speaker, he would defend the right of “all 135 voices in the chamber,” including those fugitive or in jail.

But Ciutadans leader Ines Arrimadas criticized the inaugural session, saying, “We start the legislature as we finished the last one, with a parliament speaker who is going to work only for independence.”

However, she pointed out that things had changed in the parliament because the secessionist bloc now had fewer seats and votes and the independence stance had no international support.

“No matter what happens, we are going to be the guarantors for Catalonia not to make any independence declaration,” she said.

Although Arrimadas’ party won the most seats —36 — unlike the secessionist bloc, she lacks enough support to form a government.

Torrent is tasked with choosing a candidate to try to form a government by the end of the month. The two secessionist parties back the candidacy of Puigdemont, but the former president would first have to get approval from Torrent’s committee to vote and be elected from abroad.

Elsa Artadi, spokeswoman for Puigdemont’s Junts per Catalunya (Together for Catalonia), said the separatists are “working to explore all the tools in the parliament’s rules to see what will be the formula.”

Parliamentary legal advisers said in a report this week that Puigdemont can’t be sworn in via video link or by having a proxy candidate as he must debate his candidacy in person in parliament.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has also vowed to maintain direct rule over Catalonia if the fugitive separatist politician tries to resume office from Brussels.

The parties that promote Catalan independence jointly hold 66 seats in Catalonia’s parliament and also have support from four pro-independence, anti-establishment lawmakers.

Polls consistently show that most Catalans want the right to decide the region’s future, but are evenly divided over splitting from Spain.

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Parra reported from Madrid. Associated Press writer Ciaran Giles in Madrid contributed to this report.

KUWAIT CITY (AP) — Qatari authorities say an exiled sheikh once promoted by Saudi Arabia as a possible opposition leader amid a diplomatic dispute between Arab nations and Doha is now in Kuwait.

It’s the latest chapter in Sheikh Abdullah bin Ali Al Thani’s mysterious travels, after he appeared in an online video on Sunday alleging the United Arab Emirates was holding him against his will. Abu Dhabi has denied that.

Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Sheikh Abdullah was in Kuwait. Kuwaiti media reported that he arrived late on Tuesday night.

Kuwait’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Qatar diplomatic crisis began last June, with Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE cutting off Doha’s land, sea and air routes.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minneapolis has the signal strength, data speed and reliability to handle the onslaught of service demands that come with hosting a Super Bowl, according to a wireless coverage mapping company.

OpenSignal said the metro area has been performing well in similar studies for years, KSTP-TV reported .

“Our city is the Midwest’s premier tech hub and quickly becoming a serious player nationally,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said. “To keep that momentum trucking and continue recruiting top talent, we’ll need a 21st century communication infrastructure — and these investments will help make sure that we have one.”

Efforts to improve connectivity in preparation for the Super Bowl began more than a year ago. Major wireless carriers have been working to boost small-cell and other technologies to increase wireless capacity.

The Xcel Energy Center, the Minneapolis Convention Center and the Mall of America have also been working to improve their distributed antenna systems.

“The upgrade has been going on and off for the better part of a year,” said Lane Carlson, facilities manager for the convention center. “But it’s been hot and heavy for the last three or four months.”

The improvements will also make the facility a more appealing location for future conventions, Carlson said.

The Mall of America has added 1,200 antennas, 50 miles of cable and numerous temporary Wi-Fi access points, according to a spokesman.

Officials hope the efforts will allow the influx of Super Bowl week visitors to be able to take selfies, record video and seamlessly post content on their social media accounts.

The city expects to see about 1 million visitors during the week of the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Opening Night is on Jan. 29, and the game itself is Feb. 4.