Big Ten

With Northwestern fans invading Utah, Gonzaga expecting a road atmosphere for NCAA tournament game

With Northwestern fans invading Utah, Gonzaga expecting a road atmosphere for NCAA tournament game

SALT LAKE CITY — It got really, really loud inside Vivint Smart Home Arena on Thursday.

Northwestern fans flocked to Utah this week to support the Wildcats in their first-ever NCAA tournament, and they made their presence felt in Thursday's win over Vanderbilt, effectively giving the Cats a home-court atmosphere as head football coach Pat Fitzgerald frequently played cheerleader, standing on his seat and getting the crowd riled up.

"The crowd last night helped us tremendously, especially when (Vanderbilt) made that run in the second half. I thought we were a little bit tired at that point. So to have their energy kind of feed us and give us energy was really beneficial," Northwestern guard Bryant McIntosh said Friday. "And then obviously tomorrow we'd like to see that same backing and maybe a little bit more purple, maybe have a little bit of other fans jump on the underdog. It's something that we want, and I think it could help us."

"I could also say for me especially, but I think for all of us, I felt like it hit us the most when we were in the NCAA tournament when we came on the court for the first time yesterday and we saw how much love our fans had and all the support," Northwestern forward Sanjay Lumpkin said. "It was unbelievable to look up in the stands and hear the chants about us. It was awesome to be obviously in that moment and just be here and knowing that our fans have our back like that, it was awesome."

Should we expect another purple-packed arena for Saturday's second-round game against Gonzaga?

The selection committee typically assigns No. 1 seeds to geographically favorable destinations, meaning top-seeded teams should get pretty good fan presence at its games throughout the tournament. Gonzaga, located in Spokane, Wash., is nowhere near as far away from Salt Lake City as Chicago is.

But while there have been a good number of Bulldogs fans walking around this week, no fan base is more omnipresent than the Cats' purple-clad backers.

So even Gonzaga is expecting a road-style atmosphere on Saturday, despite the fact that it's the No. 1 seed.

"They have a great following," Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said of Northwestern. "We've been really good on the road all year, so we told our guys actually coming down here to expect a road-type environment and play like it. So that's kind of the mindset."

Yes, Gonzaga has been really good on the road this year, which might help to counteract the feverish support Northwestern fans are expected to bring. The Bulldogs have been really good everywhere this year, actually, with a 33-1 record entering Saturday's game. But away from home, Gonzaga is a perfect 18-0 on the year.

The average margin of victory away from Spokane this season? 20.2 points a game. That include's Thursday's 20-point win in the NCAA tournament and a 58-point throttling of San Diego earlier this season.

"Yesterday I noticed that Northwestern had a fan base, like they travel with their own arena," Gonzaga guard Silas Melson said. "That's what we want. We like playing with our backs against the wall. We like playing when fans are against us. That brings more fun, brings more competitiveness to us, and brings out our best."

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.

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Northwestern set to play Wisconsin at Wrigley Field in 2020

Weeks will separate a perfect 10-year anniversary where Northwestern will play at Wrigley Field for one of its regular season games in the upcoming years.

Back on Nov. 20, 2010, the Wildcats battled it out with Illinois, known as the “Wrigleyville Classic,” which saw the Illini take a 48-27 win.

Even though it’s still two years out, Northwestern still planned ahead and announced its opponent for its game at Wrigley Field on Nov. 7, 2020, against Big Ten rival Wisconsin.

“Obviously an exciting opportunity for our football program to come back to Wrigley Field, one of the Cathedrals of sporting venues in the world,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “When I announced it to our team, they were absolutely ecstatic.”

“The opportunity to play at Wrigley field is unique to us, being Chicago’s Big Ten team, and to have the chance to come down and play in an atmosphere like we did a few years back was a bowl game type atmosphere, and I look forward to this special opportunity.”

This game though will be a little different than it was back in 2010. Both the Wildcats and Illini played toward the west end zone due to a tight squeeze near the right field wall due to box seats that were added down the third base line.

Now, Northwestern and Wisconsin do not have to worry about that problem because the bullpens have since moved to the outfield.

Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney spoke at a news conference earlier on Tuesday at Wrigley.

“So excited to welcome back Northwestern to Wrigley Field to talk about football again,” Kenney said. “We had an incredible experience with them back in 2010."

Kenney also mentioned new seating is on a temporary platform that can all be removed and the dugout tops can be removed as well, and the field will expand west, to allow for a longer field.

With a sellout crowd in the last go around for the Wildcats, don’t be surprised for another sellout at the Friendly Confines.