Big Ten

Illini sweat out win over UIC to move above .500


Illini sweat out win over UIC to move above .500

It was far more difficult than a win over a 1-5 team should have been, but in the end, the Illini walked out of the United Center with a victory and a record above .500.

Illinois struggled early and trailed during the second half — blowing a double-digit halftime lead — but shot 60 percent over the final 20 minutes, gutting out a comeback win over UIC on Saturday afternoon by a score of 83-79.

It was a slow start for the Illini, who made just two of their first 13 shots and missed their first five tries from 3-point range, finding themselves in an early 12-5 hole. Still down four midway through the first half, Illinois used an 11-0 run to streak into the lead, getting made 3-pointers from Jalen Coleman-Lands and Malcolm Hill. The Flames cut that margin down to as little as three points, but Michael Finke accounted for 12 consecutive Illini points, part of a 12-3 run that got the Illini to their biggest lead of the first half. That lead was at 11 at the break.

Illinois shot just 39.4 percent in the first half, going just 6-for-16 from 3-point range and just 9-for-17 from the free-throw line. UIC had a slight rebounding advantage but turned the ball over nine time compared to just three for Illinois.

Finke had 14 points at the break to lead the Illini, while the Flames got a sensational performance from Dominique Matthews, who scored 18 points in the first 20 minutes.

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UIC came out of the break shooting well, and it had the Illinois lead down to six before it expanded back out to double digits. But the Illini went ice cold from there, missing five straight shots and turning the ball over twice while the Flames continued their hot shooting. A 14-0 UIC run took it from down 10 to up four midway through the second half, while the Illini went nearly five minutes without a point.

The UIC lead grew as big as five, but Illinois got six straight points to move back in front with seven and a half minutes to play. The teams traded baskets and modest leads from there. UIC bombed in a triple to make it a 65-63 game, but Coleman-Lands splashed in his fourth 3 of the game to put Illinois back in front at 66-65 with about four minutes remaining.

After another tie, Hill made a pair of free throws and hit a jumper to put the Illini ahead by four, and following two traded buckets, Hill hit another free throw before the two teams swapped 3-pointers. Hill hit four more free throws in the game’s final minute to push the lead out to seven. UIC made a couple late 3-pointers to keep things tight, but Illinois made the free throws needed to hold off another charge.

Illinois finished shooting 47.2 percent from the field, including a 60-percent mark in the second half. UIC finished with a 47.6-percent shooting mark on the game, 55.6 percent in the second half after making 13 of their first 19 second-half shots.

Malcolm Hill had a big second half and finished with a game-high 22 points, getting 11 of those from the free-throw line. Finke finished with 14, as did Kendrick Nunn, and Coleman-Lands had 15, including four made 3s, after going scoreless in the last two games.

Dikembe Dixson had 20 points and 10 rebounds for UIC, and Matthews finished with 18 points, all in the first half.

Illinois improved to 6-5 on the season with the win, above .500 for the first time this season. Just two games remain on the non-conference schedule, against South Dakota and Missouri.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately


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


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.