Big Ten

Michigan finishes off remarkable run with Big Ten Tournament title game win over Wisconsin

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USA TODAY

Michigan finishes off remarkable run with Big Ten Tournament title game win over Wisconsin

WASHINGTON — What an incredible run for the Michigan Wolverines.

Wednesday afternoon in Ann Arbor, the team plane faced high winds that forced an aborted takeoff and the plane to slide off the runway. The next morning, Michigan finally got to D.C., and all it did after arriving was win.

Sunday at the Verizon Center, the Wolverines capped a tremendous four days of basketball with their fourth win, beating the Wisconsin Badgers 71-56 in the Big Ten Tournament championship game.

The win gave Michigan its first championship in the event since the inaugural edition back in 1998 as well as an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament. At No. 8, the Wolverines became the lowest seed to ever win the tournament.

Derrick Walton Jr., who has looked like one of the best players in the country this week in Washington, starred once more with 22 points, seven assists and six rebounds. He also made four 3-pointers and was a perfect 6-for-6 from the 3-point line. Zak Irvin also had a terrific game with 15 points, seven rebounds and five assists.

Michigan's offense has been terrific much of this tournament and was again Sunday, the Wolverines shooting 56.3 percent on the game and better than 50 percent in both halves.

And how about the Michigan defense, which after a mighty entertaining if low-scoring first half during which Wisconsin shot 53.8 percent from the field held the Badgers to 26.7-percent shooting after halftime. Wisconsin went the first eight minutes of the second half without a basket.

The teams started hot from the field, making for an entertaining opening half. Michigan hit 12 of its first 19 shots, Wisconsin nine of its first 17. The teams played real tight until Walton created some separation with back-to-back triples — his third and fourth of the game — to make it a 10-point game with about five and a half minutes until halftime. But the Badgers rattled off seven straight from there and closed the half on a 12-3 run, capped by Bronson Koenig's buzzer-beating 3-pointer to polish off a mighty entertaining half of hoops.

Michigan shot 59.1 percent from the field, with Wisconsin not far off at 53.8 percent. The teams combined to make 11 first-half 3s, the Wolverines splashing home seven of them. Michigan led in the points off turnovers department with 11, while the Badgers have five second-chance points to the Wolverines' none. Koenig was the game's leading scorer after a half with 13 points, hitting three 3s. Walton had 12 points and four 3s.

Michigan opened the second half on an 11-2 run, with Irvin converting a three-point play to again give the Wolverines a 10-point lead. Wisconsin, after its hot-shooting first half, went the first eight minutes out of halftime without a made basket before Ethan Happ laid one in. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman stretched the Michigan lead briefly to 11 before a 7-2 spurt from Wisconsin had the Badgers within six with six minutes to play. But Irvin answered that run with a shot-clock beating triple to stretch the Wolverines' advantage back out to a more comfortable nine.

After Happ got two of those points back, Duncan Robinson and Zak Showalter traded triples to keep the margin at seven with three and a half minutes to play. Michigan kept answering, though, every time Wisconsin got some points, most emphatically with press-breaking, fast-break dunks from Abdur-Rahkman and D.J. Wilson. And a fast-break layup from Walton gave the Wolverines a 13-point lead with about a minute to play, allowing them to hang on for a remarkable win.

For Michigan to do what it did after enduring the emotionally and mentally exhausting events of Wednesday afternoon is simply incredible. Certainly the Wolverines' hot streak dates back long before than, as they had a fabulous finish to the regular season and entered this tournament as one of the league's hottest teams. This team, now with a Big Ten championship in hand, will be one no one wants to see in next week's NCAA tournament.

Wisconsin also did impressive things in the nation's capital, reestablishing itself as a squad to be reckoned with in March. After a stumble down the stretch of the regular season, the Badgers won three straight games by double figures and looked far more like the preseason favorites everyone pegged them as months ago.

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

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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.