Big Ten

Illini fight back but Buckeyes hold on for victory

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Illini fight back but Buckeyes hold on for victory

The short-handed Illini didn't win Sunday night in Columbus, but that doesn't mean they didn't impress.

Illinois showed a lot of fight in coming back from a deficit as big as 10, taking a lead and continuing to battle to the game's final second. But Ohio State emerged the victor, 75-73.

The Illini were solid defensively throughout the first half, as both teams shot poorly: Illinois shot 34.5 percent and Ohio State shot just 32 percent over the first 20 minutes. The Illini scored the first six points of the game on a pair of Jalen Coleman-Lands 3-pointers, but the Buckeyes scored the next 12 to kick off an 18-2 run that built a 10-point lead. Illinois answered with 11 straight to take a one-point lead, and the teams traded modest leads for a while until Ohio State closed the first half on a 9-5 spurt.

The Buckeyes moved their advantage out to eight in the early minutes of the second half, and it stayed around that for much of the final 20 minutes. But the Illini charged, getting three straight buckets from Michael Finke, Coleman-Lands and Malcolm Hill to make it a 59-58 game with about five and a half minutes remaining. A Finke triple from the corner gave the Illini a lead at 61-59, but it proved to be their only lead of the second half. Marc Loving scored six straight points to put Ohio State back in front by four. Jaylon Tate and JaeSean Tate traded layups before Hill and JaQuan Lyle traded free throws, and the lead grew to five on another Lyle free throw with 32 seconds left.

A Finke bucket trimmed things to three, but the Illini couldn't foul on the ensuing Buckeyes inbound and Tate dunked the ball to punish Illinois for its missed opportunity, one that became even more glaring when Coleman-Lands and Hill hit 3s in the final seven seconds, those shots sandwiched around a pair of Loving free throws.

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Both teams' defenses let up in the second half, with Ohio State shooting a sparkling 52 percent from the field and Illinois shooting 44.4 percent over the final 20 minutes. The two teams combined for 92 second-half points after totaling 56 in the first half. The Buckeyes had 14 turnovers and made just five 3s compared to the Illini's 12, but Ohio State held a massive edge in free-throw shooting, making 28 of its whopping 39 foul shots. Illinois was 9-for-11 from the stripe.

While it was a strong showing by the Illini, the absence of their two starting big men, Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black, was noticeable. Ohio State had a 42-33 rebounding advantage and blocked nine shots while Illinois blocked none.

Four different Illini players scored 14 points: Coleman-Lands, Hill, Nunn and Finke. Coleman-Lands hit four 3-pointers, and Finke scored all his points in the second half. All four guys had to put up a lot of shots to get to those point totals, though, combining to shoot 36.5 percent (19-for-52).

Loving had a career-high 27 points to lead all scorers, joined in double figures by Lyle (14 points), Keita Bates-Diop (11 points) and Kam Williams (10 points).

Illinois opened the Big Ten season at 0-2 with the loss, and games against two of the conference's best await with a Thursday trip to Michigan State and a Sunday date with Purdue.

Ohio State joined Maryland, Indiana, Michigan and Iowa as teams to start the league schedule at 2-0. The Buckeyes visit Northwestern on Wednesday and Indiana on Sunday.

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.