Big Ten

Insert pun here: Valentine leads Spartans in rout of Hoosiers


Insert pun here: Valentine leads Spartans in rout of Hoosiers

Let's just get it out of the way now: Happy Valentine's Day.

Yes, Denzel Valentine, a year after nailing a game-winning 3 on the holiday that shares his name, was again excellent on Feb. 14, pouring in 30 points and handing out a career-high 13 assists. But Michigan State as a team was sensational in the second half, blitzing past Indiana, a team that entered tied for first place in the Big Ten, by an 88-69 score on Sunday afternoon in East Lansing.

Valentine and Matt Costello were the biggest factors, Costello scoring a career-high 22 points and grabbing 11 rebounds, as the Spartans put on a clinic in the final 20 minutes.

Ahead by a point at the break after erasing a 10-point first-half deficit, Michigan State traded a few buckets with Indiana before exploding on a massive 23-4 run to build a 17-point advantage not long past the midway point of the second half. The Spartans got contributors all around, but unsurprisingly it was Valentine and Costello doing the most damage during that stretch. That lead stayed gigantic for the remainder of the game, at one point hitting 22. All in all, Michigan State shot a scorching 63.3 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, finishing with a 57.6-percent shooting mark on the game.

Valentine scored 15 in the second half, with Costello scoring 13 over the final 20 minutes. Not only did the Spartans ratchet up the offense with the lights-out shooting, but the defense shone, as well, holding the typically high-flying Hoosiers to just 29 second-half points. After Indiana out-rebounded Michigan State, 21-15, in the first half, the Spartans dominated the boards in the second half and ended the game with a 37-34 rebounding advantage. Each side turned the ball over 11 times, but the Spartans scored 20 of their points off Hoosier turnovers compared to just 11 by the visitors. Michigan State also held huge edges in points in the paint, 42-26, and fastbreak points, 22-9.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Spartans gear right here]

One other eyebrow-raising statistic: Indiana grabbed 16 offensive rebounds but scored just five second-chance points, while Michigan State turned seven offensive rebounds into 15 second-chance points.

Joining Valentine and Costello in double figures was Bryn Forbes with 14 points.

The Hoosiers were mostly cold from the field over the final 20 minutes after scoring 40 in the first half, shooting just 32.3 percent from the field in the second half. Four Hoosiers scored in double figures: Max Bielfeldt had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds, Robert Johnson and Collin Hartman each scored 11 points, and Thomas Bryant finished with 10 points. Yogi Ferrell scored just nine points on 3-for-10 shooting and 1-for-6 3-point shooting.

Shockingly, despite their top-10 ranking and Sunday's huge win, the Spartans are still just tied for sixth place in the Big Ten standings at 8-5 in the league, 21-5 overall. Next up is a Thursday-night matchup with red-hot Wisconsin, which is on a seven-game winning streak and fresh off a big road win at Maryland.

Indiana dropped to 20-6 overall and 10-3 with the loss, bumped back into a tie for second place in the conference with Maryland. Next up is a Wednesday game against Nebraska.

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.