After falling to Notre Dame earlier in the week, Illinois got its first win at the renovated State Farm Center on Saturday.
The Illini shot better than 52 percent from the field and got career-high scoring performances from Kendrick Nunn and Michael Finke in an 80-68 win over Western Carolina, their fourth victory of the season.
Illinois led by as many as 12 in the first half though were ahead by just five at halftime. An 11-0 Western Carolina run in the middle of the second half actually tied the game at 50 with 12 and a half minutes remaining, and the Catamounts hit three 3-pointers in a one minute, 20 second span to tie the game at 59 with fewer than eight minutes to play. But the Illini scored the next 10 points, part of a 15-2 run to pull away late.
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Illinois finished the day with a 52.8-percent shooting mark and won the rebounding battle, 34-21.
After John Groce blasted his team's defensive performance in the loss to Notre Dame, Illinois was somewhat better against Western Carolina, forcing 19 turnovers. But the Catamounts became the sixth team in nine games this season to hit at least 10 3-pointers against the Illini, making 11.
Nunn finished with a career-high 27 points, making three 3s. Finke had a career-high 24 points, hitting four 3-pointers. Malcolm Hill also scored in double figures with 10 points.
The Illini improved to 4-5 on the season with the win. Next up is a Wednesday game against Yale.
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 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.