Big Ten

Michigan just keeps on winning, beats second-seeded Louisville to advance to Sweet Sixteen

Michigan just keeps on winning, beats second-seeded Louisville to advance to Sweet Sixteen

Michigan's red-hot run is showing no signs of cooling off.

The Wolverines, who won the Big Ten Tournament title with four victories in four days, are now 2-for-2 in the NCAA tournament and heading to the Sweet Sixteen after beating second-seeded Louisville by a 73-69 score on Sunday afternoon.

All in all it's seven straight wins for the maize and blue and 12 wins in the last 14 games. That includes six consecutive wins in the postseason, the latest advancing Michigan to its third Sweet Sixteen under John Beilein and third in the last five seasons.

Saturday, the Wolverines took down one of the nation's best teams thanks to a monster second half.

After Michigan tied the game near the end of the first half, Louisville rattled off a rapid 8-0 run to grab an eight-point edge at the break. But the Wolverines came back from a nine-point deficit with a 13-4 run to tie the game at 51 with a little more than nine minutes to play. Michigan didn't trail the rest of the way, though it never led by more than six in a back-and-forth finish. The Cardinals closed within two in the game's final minute, but D.J. Wilson knocked down four free throws in the game's final 17 seconds to seal the win for the Wolverines.

Michigan shot a jaw-dropping 63 percent from the field over the game's final 20 minutes, part of the huge days for both Wilson and Moe Wagner. Wagner had a career-high 26 points in the win, with Wilson adding 17. Zak Irvin scored 11 points, and Derrick Walton Jr. had just 10 points on a rare off shooting day for a guy who's been one of the country's best point guards in recent weeks.

The Wolverines march on to Kansas City for the Midwest Region semifinals, where they'll face either third-seeded Oregon or 11th-seeded Rhode Island.

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

1021-cam-thomas.jpg
USA TODAY

Illini play freshman quarterback Cam Thomas for first time, but still fall at Minnesota

While Saturday's trip to the Twin Cities featured some more of the same for the Fighting Illini, it marked important step in Lovie Smith's rebuilding project.

Freshman quarterback Cam Thomas, a Marian Catholic product, saw action for the first time in his collegiate career, Smith busting out a new option at the game's most important position. Thomas threw a nasty pick six, but he did lead Illinois in rushing in a 24-17 loss at Minnesota.

Thomas only made four throws, completing two of them and landing a third in the hands of a Minnesota defender, but his play injected a bit of excitement into what's looking like another dreadful season of Illinois football, with Smith's team falling to 2-5 through the first seven games of his second season at the helm of the program. Thomas mostly starred with his feet Saturday, rushing for a team-high 79 yards in the defeat.

His first appearance came following the first of the Illinois' defense's three takeaways. Thomas ran for a nine-yard gain on his first carry, and the Illini tied the game with a touchdown on the next play. Thomas was interchanged with starting quarterback Jeff George Jr. from there on out.

While the Illini defense kept the Gophers at bay for much of the day thanks to those three takeaways, P.J. Fleck's team had no trouble racking up rushing yardage, finishing with a whopping 292 rushing yards. Minnesota engineered a 12-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter exclusively running the ball to break a 10-all tie and go up 17-10.

Thomas threw a pick six on the very next play from scrimmage, sending the Gophers up 24-10 to effectively seal the deal. George led an Illinois touchdown drive on the next possession, but the Illini couldn't make up the suddenly big gap in the limited amount of time.

Illinois finished with only 282 yards of offense. George was 18-for-23 for 128 yards and a touchdown. Ra'Von Bonner carried the ball 18 times for 57 yards and a touchdown.

The defeat dropped the Illini to 2-5 on the season and 0-4 in conference play. One of just two teams without a Big Ten win (Indiana is the other), Illinois faces off against a top-10 Wisconsin team next weekend.

Big play from Justin Jackson sets up Northwestern's overtime win over Iowa

1021-justin-jackson.jpg
USA TODAY

Big play from Justin Jackson sets up Northwestern's overtime win over Iowa

Justin Jackson is one of the top 10 rushers in Big Ten history for a reason: He's very, very good at this football thing.

But it was a big play Jackson made not as a ball-carrier but as a pass-catcher Saturday that set up Northwestern's second straight win, a 17-10 takedown of Iowa in Evanston.

Jackson took a pass from quarterback Clayton Thorson and went all the way down to the 1-yard line, picking up 23 yards and shedding multiple tacklers on the game's biggest play.

Two plays later, Thorson plunged in for the go-ahead score. Iowa failed on a fourth-down conversion attempt on its ensuing overtime possession, ending it with a dropped pass that finished the game.

The game's result rapidly altered the social-media conversation, which moments prior had been mighty critical of Pat Fitzgerald, who made a controversial decision at the end of regulation.

Iowa tied the game at 10 on a field goal inside of two minutes to play, forced to kick after a false start was committed on fourth and 1. Fitzgerald had a minute and a half and two timeouts to try to get his own team into field-goal range for a shot at a win but instead ran the clock out and headed to overtime.

Fitzgerald explained after the game that the blustery wind at Ryan Field played a big role in that decision, plus his team had a long way to go against an Iowa defense that played well throughout the game.

Northwestern's defense was very strong, too, holding Iowa to 312 total yards, only 89 of which came on the ground. Hawkeyes quarterback Nathan Stanley was also picked off in the second half for the game's only turnover.

Jackson finished with 93 rushing yards and 38 receiving yards. Thorson was 21-for-36 passing the ball for 192 yards. Backup running back Jeremy Larkin scored the Wildcats' lone regulation touchdown.

The win improved Northwestern to 4-3 on the season and 2-2 in Big Ten play. After a 2-3 start, the Cats have won back-to-back games and take on a ranked Michigan State team next weekend.