Big Ten

Bronson Koenig's buzzer-beating 3 sends Badgers to Sweet Sixteen

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Bronson Koenig's buzzer-beating 3 sends Badgers to Sweet Sixteen

Whether the Badgers win the national championship this season or not, you can bet that Bronson Koenig will be prominently featured in the annual "One Shining Moment" highlight video.

Koenig — one of the two returning key players from Wisconsin's march to the national title game a season ago — took an inbounds pass with two seconds left on the clock and nailed an arching corner 3-pointer to give the Badgers a 66-63 buzzer-beating win over Xavier and a ticket to the Sweet Sixteen on Sunday night in St. Louis.

Koenig's game-winning triple was one of a handful of heroic plays made in the final minute by the Badgers, who after trailing by nine with six and a half minutes to play, outscored Xavier, 17-5, over the final six minutes to pull off the upset victory. It was another Koenig 3 — he had six on the night — that tied the game at 63 with 18 seconds left. That shot was followed up by Zak Showalter drawing a charge on Xavier's Edmond Sumner to not only prevent a try at a go-ahead basket by the Musketeers but give the ball back to the Badgers with five seconds left, making Koenig's game-winner possible.

A closely contested game the whole way through was tied at 49 when Nigel Hayes made just his second bucket of the game just past the midway point of the second half. From there, though, Xavier blitzed out on a 9-0 run to create the biggest gap of separation that either team had on the evening. Wisconsin chipped away, Ethan Happ and Koenig combining on four made free throws to cut the lead to six, and then a Happ steal turned into a Showalter layup to make it a four-point game inside of five minutes to play. Happ laid one in with about two minutes to go, but when Hayes split a pair of free throws, the second of which could have tied the game, it looked like a glaring missed opportunity. Even after a stop, Happ was bodying down low and fell out of bounds, the nearest official surprising observers by calling Happ out of bounds rather than a foul on Xavier. Sumner turned that turnover into a bucket that put the Musketeers up three, but that's when Koenig hit the first of his last-minute triples.

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Xavier was one of the top-scoring teams in college basketball this season, averaging more than 81 points a game. But in typical Wisconsin fashion, the Badgers slowed things down and held the Musketeers to almost 20 points below that average. Xavier shot just 40.7 percent from the field, Wisconsin shooting 42.4 percent. Neither team shot particularly well from 3-point range, the Badgers going 8-for-27 and the Musketeers going 5-for-16.

Koenig's 20 points led all scorers, all six of his made field goals coming from behind the 3-point line. The six triples were a career high. Happ finished with 18 points and seven rebounds. Vitto Brown scored 12 points. The Badgers won despite a lackluster performance from the All-Big Ten First Team selection Hayes, who scored just six points on 2-for-10 shooting and 0-for-5 shooting from 3-point range.

This is Wisconsin's third straight trip to the Sweet Sixteen following back-to-back Final Four runs and fifth Sweet Sixteen appearance in the last six seasons. The accomplishment is an incredible one for Greg Gard, who coached his first game as the Badgers' permanent head coach just a week and a half ago at the Big Ten Tournament in Indianapolis. The marvelous turnaround this season continues. On Jan. 12, following a loss to Northwestern, Wisconsin was 9-9 and 1-4 in conference play. But the Badgers rattled off seven straight wins and wins in 11 of 12 games, turning themselves into an NCAA tournament lock. Now they're making noise in the Big Dance and with a win over the No. 2 seed in the East Region will play No. 6 seed Notre Dame next weekend for a trip to their third consecutive Elite Eight.

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.