Big Ten

Illini crushed by Purdue in blowout end to Big Ten tourney run


Illini crushed by Purdue in blowout end to Big Ten tourney run

INDIANAPOLIS — Just two days after winning a Big Ten Tournament game by 33 points, the Illini lost a Big Ten Tournament game by 31 points.

Illinois had no answer for an exceptional Purdue team Friday, as the Boilermakers looked the part of a championship contender, throttling Illinois by an 89-58 score.

Purdue dominated in all facets, shooting a stunning 58.3 percent from the field, scoring 34 points in the paint and winning the rebounding battle, 42-24. The Boilers also hit 13 3-pointers.

Meanwhile, the Illini couldn’t get anything going offensively, going long stretches without points and baskets and shooting just 39.3 percent from the field on the day.

The Illini started well and were right with the Boilers until an eight-point surge that featured back-to-back Dakota Mathias 3-pointers grew the Purdue advantage to 10. Illinois fought back and got within four, but Purdue sprinted away from there, outscoring Illinois, 20-4, over the final eight and a half minutes of the half — which featured a 15-0 run — to build a colossal 20-point lead at the break. The Illini went ice cold, going five and a half minutes between made shots and going 2-for-10 from the field and 0-for-2 from the free-throw line over that eight-and-a-half-minute stretch.

The Boilers were firing on all cylinders, playing the lock-down defense and getting the production from its gigantic front court that was expected when it was tabbed in the preseason as one of the conference’s top teams. Seven-footers A.J. Hammons and Isaac Haas combined for 20 first-half points, with Purdue dominating the boards, 20-11, and scored 22 points in the paint compared to Illinois’ six.

The Boilers shot 62.1 percent in the first half, while the Illini shot just 38.5 percent.

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The onslaught didn’t stop in the second half, either, with Purdue blitzing out of halftime on a lengthy 21-5 run, with Caleb Swanigan scoring nine of those points. In fact, the entire second half was one big run, it seemed, with the Boilers outscoring the Illini, 38-14, before a late 12-0 burst by the Illini accumulated some points.

Hammons, Haas and Swanigan combined for 37 points, with Vince Edwards scoring 14 points and Mathias adding 11.

Maverick Morgan led Illinois with 17 points, Malcolm Hill had 16 points and Kendrick Nunn scored 13 points. The rest of the team managed just 12 points on 5-for-21 shooting.

The loss likely ends Illinois’ season, as it’s not expected to make any postseason tournaments and certainly won’t receive an invite to the NCAA tournament. The Illini finished with a 15-19 record, going 7-14 against Big Ten opponents. Illinois will miss the Big Dance for the third consecutive season, the first time that’s happened since 1980.

Purdue, meanwhile, advances to the Big Ten Tournament semifinals, where it will take a 25-7 overall record and a 13-6 mark against Big Ten foes into a Saturday game against Michigan, which scored an improbable win over top-seeded Indiana on Friday.

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


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


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.