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.

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.