Big Ten

Aaron Falzon pours in 20 as Northwestern crushes Gophers

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Aaron Falzon pours in 20 as Northwestern crushes Gophers

Before the season started, Chris Collins already dubbed Northwestern freshman Aaron Falzon as one of the best shooters in the Big Ten.

Coming off back-to-back miserable shooting performances in losses to Maryland and Ohio State, the Wildcats needed someone to shoot the lights out Saturday.

Enter the freshman. Falzon was 7-for-10 from the field, 6-for-9 from 3-point range, scoring a game-high 20 points to help Northwestern blow out Minnesota, 77-52, in the Twin Cities.

The Cats as a whole shot brilliantly following those two straight ice-cold outings. Northwestern shot 56 percent from the field, including a stunning 65.2-percent clip in the second half as it ran away from Minnesota.

Falzon hit a pair of early 3s, but the Gophers held a one-point lead about six minutes in. From there, though, the Cats went on a 10-0 run, helped by two more Falzon triples, and they led by six at the half.

The Cats opened the second half on another burst, getting back-to-back dunks by Joey van Zegeren and eight straight points, including two more 3s. The first of those stretched the Northwestern lead out to 15. And the Cats continued to shoot hot from there, the lead hitting 22 on a Tre Demps triple closing in on eight minutes remaining. Bryant McIntosh's 3-pointer with two and a half minutes to go made it a 25-point game, and it got as big as 27 multiple times in the final minutes.

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Northwestern went 11-for-25 from 3-point range on the day. Minnesota shot just 39.1 percent from the field and went 5-for-18 from 3-point range. The Cats also held a big rebounding edge, dominating the boards, 33-17.

Falzon matched a season and career high with his 20 points, setting a new season and career high with the six made 3-pointers. Demps scored 13 points, getting into double digits for just the second time in his last five games. McIntosh set a new career high with 11 assists, and van Zegeren had his highest-scoring game since coming to Northwestern with 11 points. Sanjay Lumpkin had 10 rebounds.

It was an important win for the Cats, who could have let the past two losses dictate things for some time. In the first two seasons under Collins, lengthy losing streaks in conference play have crippled seasons. Sure, Minnesota isn't a very good team, one of the Big Ten's bottom feeders this season, but it was important to get back to winning nonetheless.

The victory sent the Cats to 2-2 in Big Ten play and 14-3 on the season. Northwestern next plays host to Wisconsin on Tuesday.

The loss was the fifth straight for the Gophers, who fell to 6-10 on the campaign and 0-4 to start conference play. Minnesota travels to Nebraska on Tuesday.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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USA TODAY

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.