Big Ten

Illini need second-half comeback, but rebound for win over NDSU

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Illini need second-half comeback, but rebound for win over NDSU

It could have been the Illini's first 0-2 start since the 1920s.

But despite trailing by as many as 14 after halftime, Illinois used a second-half comeback to get its first win of the season, an 80-74 victory over North Dakota State on Sunday night in Springfield.

Mike Thorne Jr. was sensational for the second straight game, scoring 21 points on 8-for-11 shooting and grabbing eight rebounds to lead the Illini. This after he scored 25 points and grabbed 14 rebounds in the season-opening upset loss to North Florida.

Malcolm Hill scored 13 points, while Jalen Coleman-Lands had 15 and Maverick Morgan had 10 off the bench.

Down 11 at halftime, the Bison got a 3-pointer to open the second half to make it a 14-point advantage. Illinois responded, cutting the lead to five over the next few minutes before another NDSU spurt again made it a double-digit lead.

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But the Illini went on a 20-5 run over the next five and a half minutes, with Thorne scoring eight points during that stretch and walk-on Alex Austin adding five points. Thorne's layup with five and a half minutes to go gave Illinois its first lead since the game's opening basket.

After going down, 54-44, with 10 and a half minutes to play in the game, the Illini outscored the Bison, 36-20. Thirteen of Thorne's 21 points and nine of Hill's 13 points came during that span.

The Illini shot 49.1 percent from the field, aided by hot shooting in the second half of the second half. Illinois outscored NDSU, 52-35, in the final 20 minutes. The Illini were just 17-for-27 from the free-throw line, an ugly 63-percent mark.

The Bison started hot shooting the ball and finished with a 44.3-percent mark from the field. For the second straight game, the Illini allowed an opponent to hit double digit 3-pointers, as the Bison splashed in 11 shots from behind the 3-point line Sunday.

Illinois sits at 1-1 after two games in three days. Next up is a road trip to play Providence on Wednesday night.

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.