Big Ten

Illini dominated in ugly blowout loss at Purdue

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AP

Illini dominated in ugly blowout loss at Purdue

If the Illini are actually going to snap their NCAA tournament drought, quite simply they've got to stop playing like this.

Illinois was blown out of Mackey Arena on Tuesday night. Yes the 91-68 loss to Purdue came at the hands of one of the Big Ten's best on its home floor. But the Illini were atrocious on both ends of the floor, missing a boatload of shots and giving the Boilermakers anything and everything they wanted on the other end.

Look no further than the shooting percentages, which aptly if not fully tell the story of how things went for both teams. Purdue shot 60.4 percent from the floor. Illinois shot 40.3 percent.

Despite holding Big Ten Player of the Year candidate Caleb Swanigan to just one made basket in the first half, the Illini ended up getting dominated by the Boilers' big-man tandem of Swanigan and Isaac Haas. Swanigan, of course, turned in a double-double with 22 points and 10 rebounds. Haas dominated with 24 points and six rebounds. He was 9-for-12 from the field and 6-for-7 from the free-throw line.

For Purdue, it was a terrific response to its loss at Iowa last week. With the Big Ten a seeming league of mediocrity this far into the 2016-17 campaign, the Boilers still hold a top spot in the views of many. A win over Illinois won't vault Purdue into national title contender status, but winning by 23 is never a bad thing for the resume.

For the Illini, things were disastrous from the get-go. The Boilers used a big 16-3 run early in the game to establish a double-digit lead they didn't relinquish the rest of the way. That advantage grew as big as 16 in the first half as Purdue shot 60 percent over the first 20 minutes and splashed home five of their nine attempts from 3-point range. Swanigan made just one shot in the first, but Carsen Edwards and Haas scored 12 and 11 points, respectively. Illinois, meanwhile, couldn't cut into that lead, shooting just 36.1 percent from the floor in the first half. The individual shooting numbers were bad all around, with Tracy Abrams 0-for-4, Jalen Coleman-Lands 1-for-5 and Leron Black 1-for-5.

Things didn't get any better for the visitors in the second half. Their shooting numbers improved marginally as time wore on, but the Boilers stayed red hot, shooting 60.7 percent after halftime. Haas and Swanigan stayed dominant, with 31 of their combined 46 points coming over the final 40 minutes.

Maverick Morgan finished as Illinois' leading scorer with 15 points. Malcolm Hill scored 12 points, and Te'Jon Lucas scored 10 points.

Carsen Edwards finished with 14 for Purdue, with Vincent Edwards adding 11 points and P.J. Thompson scoring 10 points.

It was an ugly showing for the Illini, who could find their NCAA tournament hopes fading fast. Illinois sits at 12-7 overall with a mere 2-4 record in Big Ten play, losers of four of its last six. Things don't get too much easier, with games against Michigan, Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northwestern upcoming. Three of those come away from Champaign, where the Illini are 3-5 this season.

Purdue bounced back from that road defeat at Iowa last week with Tuesday's win. The Boilers are 15-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference, looking like one of the league's top teams. Next up is a Saturday game against 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.