Big Ten

Illinois survives drought in 68-63 victory over Missouri

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Illinois survives drought in 68-63 victory over Missouri

ST. LOUIS (AP) — There was no panic when the shots refused to fall for 9-1/2 minutes and the 20-point lead dwindled to just five.

Illinois survived the drought by turning up the intensity on the other end.

"To be honest, I don't think we took that many bad shots," said Malcolm Hill, who had 21 points in a 68-63 victory over Missouri in the annual Braggin' Rights game on Wednesday night. "We didn't tie that to our defense, and I think we did a great job sticking with it."

Hill drove the baseline for a basket that ended the scoreless stretch and put Illinois up by seven with 6:52 to go, and hit a 3-pointer at the shot clock buzzer with just over five minutes left. Kendrick Nunn hit two free throws to clinch it with seven seconds remaining and Hill yanked off his jersey during the post-game celebration, mimicking the move by Rayvonte Rice last year after hitting the winning 3-pointer as time expired.

"The first 25 minutes we played about as well as we've played all year at both ends of the floor," coach John Groce said. "The thing I was most proud about was our defense, by far."

Nunn had 19 points and season-best 11 rebounds for his first double-double for Illinois (8-5), which has won five in a row overall and three straight in the neutral site series.

Wes Clark had a career best 21 points with four 3-pointers for Missouri (5-6), which has lost three in a row. Kevin Puryear added 12 points and Russell Woods had seven points and career-high 10 rebounds.

"We'll take the good from it," Clark said. "We know we have some fight."

[B1G ROUNDUP: Michigan State wins OT thriller to stay undefeated]

Illinois led 50-30 with 16:13 to go but missed 11 straight shots and three free throws while Missouri climbed back into it with a 15-0 run, including seven points from Clark.

"I tell him he has to be our go-to guy and tonight he brought it," Woods said.

Nunn scored eight points — including back-to-back dunks — in a 14-2 run that put Illinois in control at 35-21 with 3:39 to go in the first half. A 9-3 run to open the second half seemingly put it out of reach.

TIP-INS

There were thousands of empty seats, especially in the upper bowl on the north side of the Scottrade Center, for what annually has been the toughest ticket in town. Enthusiasm waned with the two schools combining for a 12-10 record and neither ranked for the second straight year, although those in attendance included Hall of Fame manager Whitey Herzog, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon and Missouri football coaches present and past, Barry Odom and Gary Pinkel.

Anderson said he had a lot more to worry about than attendance, but added:

"It's the worst possible day of the year to play, Dec. 23," Anderson said. "It's still a great atmosphere — they lost five games, we lost five games, so maybe it didn't have that luster."

AS ADVERTISED

Illinois is dependent on Hill and Nunn, who entered averaging 18.5 and 18.4 points, and both delivered. Michael Finke added 16 points with a team-high three 3-pointers for the Fighting Illini, who overcame 40 percent shooting and a 43-32 rebounding deficit.

"When situations get tough, we're looked upon to get the team going and keep the team together," Hill said.

UP NEXT

Illinois: Dec. 30 at home against Michigan in Big Ten opener.

Missouri: Tuesday at home against Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

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.