Big Ten

Illini miss point-blank chances in final seconds, fall at Providence

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Illini miss point-blank chances in final seconds, fall at Providence

The Illini had their chances to pull out a late win over Providence on Wednesday night, but point-blank misses in the final seconds instead meant a brutal loss.

Illinois missed two shots right at the rim with time ticking off the clock, and a second-half comeback was for naught as the Illini fell to the Friars, 60-59.

Trailing by a point after a tie-breaking Providence free throw with 43 seconds to play, Illinois walk-on Alex Austin had a layup attempt blocked. But the Friars missed a pair of free-throw chances at the other end, giving the Illini the ball back with 21 seconds to play. Malcolm Hill drove, getting to the hoop but missing a layup. Michael Finke grabbed the rebound but missed a put-back dunk, the second blown chance at point-blank range in seconds, and time ran out on the Illini.

John Groce was bent over with his head bowed when the clock hit zero, sending the Illini to a second loss in their first three games of the season.

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Illinois trailed by as many as seven early on in the second half, but Finke scored eight straight points for the Illini to cut the deficit to one. An Aaron Jordan 3-pointer tied the game at 43 with 11 and a half minutes to play. A Hill jumper gave the Illini their first lead of the second half with a little more than nine minutes left in the half, and two and a half minutes later, Jalen Coleman-Lands hit back-to-back 3-pointers to tie the game at 54, then to give the Illini a three-point lead.

Providence scored the next five points to take a two-point lead, but a Hill bucket with a little more than a minute left tied the game at 59 before Providence hit a late free throw that proved the game-winner.

It was a tough night for the Illini, as their two starting big men were in foul trouble throughout the evening. Mike Thorne Jr. and Leron Black combined to play just 17 minutes and picked up a combined nine fouls. It meant big minutes for Finke and Maverick Morgan. Finke certainly answered the bell with 12 points and seven rebounds.

Coleman-Lands hit five 3-pointers and was the high man for the Illini with 17 points.

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Hill played all 40 minutes, showing how badly the Illini miss the injured upperclassman trio of Tracy Abrams, Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. Hill had a double-double with 15 points and 11 rebounds.

The Illini played their best defensive game of the season thus far, holding Providence to 38.3-percent shooting and just 26.1-percent shooting from 3-point range. And while the Friars went to the free-throw line 18 times, they made just eight of those shots. Meanwhile, the Illini attempted just six free throws, making four. Foul trouble for the bigs and in general proved Illinois' downfall Wednesday.

The Illini next play Chattanooga at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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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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.