Big Ten

Can Vic Law be the biggest difference-maker and help Northwestern get to the Sweet Sixteen?

Can Vic Law be the biggest difference-maker and help Northwestern get to the Sweet Sixteen?

SALT LAKE CITY — So often this season, Vic Law has been so important for Northwestern.

And in the team's biggest game to date, Law will once again be key.

The question, though, after Thursday's win over Vanderbilt that advanced Northwestern to a Saturday showdown against Gonzaga in the second round of the NCAA tournament, is how big of a role Law will play.

Law struggled shooting the ball against the Commodores, scoring just two points on 1-for-8 shooting. He also missed the front end of a 1-and-1 set of free throws late in the game that looked like it had the potential to be disastrous for the Wildcats.

Law's shooting struggles have popped up again and again throughout the season. In his last two games — a Big Ten Tournament loss to Wisconsin and Thursday's win over Vanderbilt — Law is 3-for-16 from the field with six points. In the regular-season finale against Purdue, he was 2-for-13 from the field. During an eight-game stretch in January and February, Law shot a nasty 22.7 percent (17-for-75), and Northwestern lost five of those eight games.

So after surviving against the Commodores without Law producing on the offensive end, expect the Cats to try and get him heavily involved in a win-or-go-home game against a top-seeded Gonzaga team.

"I think it's important to get Vic established early," head coach Chris Collins said Friday. "I think you guys that have covered us know that when he gets off to a good start it usually leads to a good game. And we weren't able to do that yesterday. Part of that was Vanderbilt's defense, part of that was maybe we didn't make a conscious effort to get him the ball in the scoring areas where he could at least see the ball go in the basket.

"I thought in the second half he was more aggressive. In the first half he kind of got out of the flow and Scottie (Lindsey) and (Bryant McIntosh) had it really going and they carried us. But Vic really wasn't in the rhythm. And in the second half he tried to and wasn't able to get going. I think seven of his eight shots were in the second half.

"He's a big part of what we're doing, there's no secret. When we play well our wings usually produce, Law and Lindsey. And so it's going to be important tomorrow, can we get him in the post, can we get him something easy just to see the ball go in and get him back on track to being the guy he's been most of the year."

Of course, Law is valuable for much more than just his scoring ability. He's the team's top defender, named to the Big Ten All-Defensive Team. He's typically tasked with defending the opposing team's best player, and Saturday brings a whale of a matchup with Gonzaga's Nigel Williams-Goss.

Williams-Goss is recognized as one of the nation's top players, and he leads the Bulldogs in scoring, averaging 16.6 points a game. He had his own rough game Thursday in Gonzaga's win over South Dakota State, scoring just nine points on 4-for-13 shooting. But the Cats know they'll have their hands full with him.

"It's certainly going to be a tough task," Bryant McIntosh said. "And first thing we have to do is keep him out of transition as best we can and corral him. He's a one-man fast break. So that will be our first focus coming back on defense. And then we've got to try and gap it up and get out to their shooters when he kicks it. It's a tough task. He's one of the best players in the country.

"Individually I think Vic will probably draw the assignment. So he'll have to do a good initial job. And then it's our job to help him, it's team defense. Yeah, we have a tough task."

So obviously Law can have a huge impact on the game whether he pours in the points or not.

But if he can have a big scoring night, it could be the difference in Northwestern staging an upset of the West Region's No. 1 seed on Saturday. Combining a big game from Law with the scoring that McIntosh has provided for the last month and the scoring that Lindsey has provided for the last few games and the scoring that Dererk Pardon provides in the post would figure to mean the Cats would be dancing on to the Sweet Sixteen.

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

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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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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.