Big Ten

Illini hang tough before No. 4 Iowa State pulls away late

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Illini hang tough before No. 4 Iowa State pulls away late

It hasn't been a pretty start to the season for Illinois, but after sticking with the No. 4 team in the country for the majority of Saturday night's game, the Illini finally have something to hang their hat on.

Illinois played a closely contested game with fourth-ranked Iowa State, leading as late as the 11:33 mark of the second half and down just three with fewer than eight minutes to play. But the Cyclones used a couple late bursts to pull away from the Illini in the game's final stages, sending Illinois to its fourth loss of the young season, 84-73, in the Emerald Coast Classic in Niceville, Fla.

Illinois led for a good portion of the first half, and it wasn't till a 10-0 Iowa State run that the Cyclones create an eight-point advantage of their own. But that too was erased when the Illini scored the final six points before halftime to make it just a one-point game at the break.

It was a back-and-forth second half, as the Illini continued to hang tough. Illinois got a 58-57 lead on a Jaylon Tate bucket with 11 and a half minutes to play, but from there, Iowa State scored six straight. The lead fluctuated between three and five over the next couple minutes before the Cyclones pulled away from the Illini with another 10-0 run, which made it a 13-point game with four minutes to play. That stretched out to as big as 17 before things were said and done with an 11-point decision.

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Iowa State shot 49.3 percent from the field, but Illinois wasn't too far behind, shooting 46.6 percent. The Cyclones had a 40-30 rebounding advantage and made 12 of their 14 free-throw attempts, while the Illini visited the charity stripe just eight times. Illinois actually held Iowa State to just 6-for-25 shooting from 3-point range, a solid feat for a team that's given up tons of 3-pointers this season.

Malcolm Hill led the Illini with 20 points, hitting four 3s and grabbing five rebounds. Kendrick Nunn followed up his 18-point performance in a win over UAB with 19 points Saturday, also hitting four 3s. Mike Thorne Jr. was also in double figures with 10 points, grabbing seven rebounds. Leron Black had eight points and eight rebounds off the bench.

The Illini wrapped the month of November with an ugly 3-4 start, but their last two games in Florida went better than any had prior. Part of that can certainly be chalked up to getting healthy. Illinois got Nunn, Tate and Black back in the Emerald Coast Classic after various lengths of injury absences.

The Illini next host Notre Dame on Wednesday night as part of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. That will be the first game played in the renovated State Farm Center and the first game in Champaign for Illinois this season.

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.