Big Ten

Five B1G-gest things: Northwestern gets its signature win at Wisconsin

Five B1G-gest things: Northwestern gets its signature win at Wisconsin

Too busy crowing about the lack of Big Ten teams in the tournament selection committee's top 16 that you missed this weekend's slate of games? Here are the five B1G-gest things that happened over the past two days.

1. How 'bout dem Wildcats?

Northwestern scored what some folks on Twitter were dubbing the biggest win in program history on Sunday night, going into Madison and taking down seventh-ranked Wisconsin. With Scottie Lindsey sidelined for the third consecutive game, the Cats' defense took over, silencing Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Ethan Happ in a sensational showing. Bryant McIntosh scored 20-plus points for the fourth straight game, coming up with some big plays down the stretch. While the Cats had a nine-point lead at halftime, it was how they responded to the Badgers' 10-0 run to open the second half, outscoring them 16-6 from there and building a lead as big as 10 before holding on for the 66-59 win. It was a great way to stop a two-game slide that had plenty of folks worrying, but more importantly it was a signature win on the season that should all but guarantee a spot in the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history. Heading into Sunday's game, Northwestern's biggest win of the season was a non-conference victory over Dayton. Sunday marked the Cats' first win of the season over a team in the top half of the Big Ten standings. If Northwestern can follow this one up with a home win over a ranked Maryland team on Wednesday in Evanston, the new question might be how high a seed can the Cats get come dancing time.

2. Bad weekend for the Badgers

Wisconsin has never been a team that's gonna break any scoreboards, but the offensive woes of late might be a good reason why the Badgers were surprisingly left out of this weekend's top-16 reveal from the NCAA tournament selection committee. Folks were talking about Wisconsin as a potential No. 1 seed at this time last week, but the committee doesn't feel the Badgers have earned anything better than a No. 5 seed at the moment. Sunday's loss to Northwestern won't Wisconsin look any better, the Badgers held to 59 points and Ethan Happ shut down in a stellar defensive effort by the Cats. But this is a growing trend for Wisconsin, which has seen offensive production fall off a cliff in games throughout the season. While the Badgers are the conference's top defensive team, allowing an average of just 60.4 points a game, they're seventh in scoring, averaging just 73.8 points a game. The defense is usually enough to make up for that, but in the last seven games, there's been a loss to Northwestern and wins over mediocre Big Ten teams Minnesota, Rutgers and Nebraska that all necessitated overtime. It's still pretty clear that Wisconsin is the Big Ten's best hope come March, but it's also understandable why the committee did what it did.

3. Great Lakes State clinging to tourney life

Both Michigan and Michigan State racked up wins this weekend that kept them in the NCAA tournament conversation (and in Joe Lunardi's latest bracket projection). The Wolverines yet again bested Indiana, this time at Assembly Hall, and while the Hoosiers are in a free fall, the win will be noteworthy enough to keep John Beilein's team in the projections. Despite continual disappointments on the defensive end — Indiana shot better than 50 percent in the second half Sunday — the wins have come, Michigan now with back-to-back victories over Michigan State and Indiana. While the Wolverines might not be able to stop the shots from going in, they are forcing a lot of turnovers, a total of 36 in the two wins. As for the Spartans, they topped Iowa on Saturday night, raising their Big Ten record to 7-5 and putting them on the cusp of a top-four spot in the league standings. A defense that allowed Michigan to shoot better than 60 percent earlier in the week held Iowa to just 32.8 percent Saturday. The two teams are in the top seven in the standings and had a good weekend after the selection committee announced its lack of confidence in the Big Ten has a whole.

4. Things keep getting worse for Hoosiers

Don't look now, but Indiana is in danger of going from last year's Big Ten regular-season champion to playing on the first day of this year's Big Ten Tournament. It's been a free fall for the Hoosiers as they've dealt with injuries to OG Anunoby and James Blackmon Jr. Blackmon has since returned from a three-game absence, but the results haven't improved. Sunday brought a loss to Michigan, Indiana's second since late January. All in all, the Hoosiers have dropped five of their last six games, the only win in there being a triple-overtime bout with Penn State. Michigan scored 20 points off 15 Indiana turnovers Sunday, with the Wolverines going 15-for-19 from the free-throw line compared to the Hoosiers' 9-for-14 mark. Indiana is squarely out of most NCAA tournament projections at this point, a near-incredible change of events from the non-conference schedule that featured wins over Kansas and North Carolina. If this trend continues, it'll be an even more remarkable journey from this time last season, when the Hoosiers were wrapping up a conference championship and earning the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Now Tom Crean's crew is potentially barnstorming toward a Wednesday game against the likes of Rutgers.

5. Here come the Nittany Lions?

Penn State won't be challenging for a conference championship or for an NCAA tournament spot, but don't discount what Patrick Chambers' team has done this season, currently positioned higher in the standings than you'd normally expect to find it. A win over Illinois on Saturday — and losses this weekend by Indiana and Ohio State — has Penn State sitting ninth out of the league's 14 teams. Now, sure, the Lions are just two games over .500 on the season and still under .500 in conference play. But this is Penn State we're talking about, a program that hasn't finished above 10th place during Chambers' tenure. This season — one that's coincided with the incoming of a heralded freshman class — has featured wins over Michigan State and Maryland plus two wins over Illinois. The Lions have won back-to-back contests and have seemingly winnable games remaining against Nebraska, Minnesota, Ohio State and Iowa. It could be a fun finish for Penn State.

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.