Illinois lost its season-opener for the first time since 1998, falling to North Florida, 93-81, on Friday night in Springfield.
The Illini defense struggled mightily, as the Ospreys shot 52.2 percent from the field and 51.5 percent from 3-point range, hitting a whopping 17 3-pointers on the night.
Mike Thorne Jr. and Malcolm Hill had big nights for the Illini, each posting a double-double. Thorne had 25 points and 14 rebounds in his first game with Illinois after transferring in from Charlotte this offseason. Hill, one of the team's junior leaders, scored 20 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, also handing out five assists.
Freshman Aaron Jordan — who along with D.J. Williams got starts in their first collegiate game — was the only other Illini in double figures with 14 points, including three of the team's five made 3-pointers.
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Though North Florida is a good team coming off a 23-win season and an NCAA tournament appearance, this isn't the start Illinois was looking for in a critical campaign for John Groce's team, which has gone back-to-back seasons without making the Big Dance.
Friday's defeat was the first to open a season for the Illini since a loss to Wake Forest to begin the 1998-99 season. The 93 points were the most Illinois allowed in a single game since allowing 95 to Wisconsin on Jan. 8, 2014. It was the second time allowing 90 points during Groce's tenure, and just the third time allowing 90 or more points in the last 14 seasons.
Injured sophomore forward Leron Black did not play as he continues to recover from surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Junior guard Jaylon Tate left Friday's game with a dislocated finger.
Illinois next plays Sunday against North Dakota State.
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.