Big Ten

Northwestern squanders sizable leads as Michigan pulls away late

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Northwestern squanders sizable leads as Michigan pulls away late

A hot start gave Northwestern an early double-digit lead. But a cold finish meant a loss Wednesday night in Ann Arbor.

The Wildcats had a 13-point first-half lead on the hosting Michigan Wolverines and were ahead by as many as nine in the second half. But Northwestern went four and a half minutes without a basket in the middle of the second half and was nearly doubled up, 20-9, over the game's final five minutes as Michigan dug out a 72-63 win.

It would have been something had the Cats been able to hang on to even a bit of that big early lead. Alex Olah was cooking at game's start, and his sixth and seventh points of the game's first first seven minutes put Northwestern ahead, 17-4. That edge didn't last long, though, as the Wolverines answered with 10 straight points, part of a larger 13-2 run that made it a two-point game with seven minutes before half. Michigan battled cold shooting and missed its first eight 3-point tries, but Duncan Robinson's buzzer-beating triple was a sign of things to come and sliced the Northwestern lead all the way down to one at halftime.

The Cats then had a mini explosion out of the break with eight points, getting a pair of triples from Aaron Falzon that sent the lead out to nine in the opening two and a half minutes of the second half. But again that margin was whittled right down by the Wolverines, with back-to-back 3-pointers from Aubrey Dawkins making it a one-point game, then tying the game at 44 with a little more than 11 minutes to go. Michigan couldn't capitalize too much on that long basket-less stretch by Northwestern, and Gavin Skelly's 3 with seven and a half minutes to play put the Cats back in front. The teams swapped leads from there, but Michigan finally took off with five minutes to play. Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman tied the game at 54, and Dawkins followed with another triple, one that proved back-breaking. After Derrick Walton Jr. and Bryant McIntosh traded layups, Abdur-Rahkman's bucket with under three minutes to play gave the Wolverines a five-point lead that wouldn't get smaller than three and grew as big as 11 as Michigan hit nine free throws in the final three minutes, Northwestern going 1-for-8 from the field over that same closing stretch.

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Both teams shot 50 percent from the field in the second half, Michigan edging Northwestern in overall shooting on the night, 49 percent vs. 46.3 percent. The Wolverines hit just four 3-pointers, three coming from Dawkins, and the Cats hit eight. But Michigan had a monstrous advantage at the free-throw line, going 20-for-25 from the stripe as opposed to Northwestern's 5-for-9 night. The Wolverines won on the glass, 33-24, and owned the paint, outscoring the Cats there, 32-18.

Abdur-Rahkman was the high man for Michigan with 19 points, going 8-for-14 from the field. Walton had 16 points and six rebounds, and Dawkins finished with 11 points and seven rebounds.

Olah scored 14 of his team-high 19 points in the first half. Demps and Falzon each finished with 14 points.

Northwestern has now dropped eight of its last 10 games, falling to 17-11 overall and 5-10 in the Big Ten after Wednesday's defeat. Three games remain against beatable opponents — Rutgers, Penn State and Nebraska — if the Cats want to finish the regular season on a high note and improve their seed in the conference tournament.

Meanwhile, though a win over Northwestern doesn't mean much on Michigan's NCAA tournament resume, the Wolverines kept their tourney hopes afloat with the win, which improved their record to 20-9 overall and 10-6 in the league. Michigan has two tough ones to end the regular-season schedule: Sunday at Wisconsin and the following weekend against Iowa.

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.