Big Ten

Notre Dame's furious finish ends Badgers' NCAA tournament run

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Notre Dame's furious finish ends Badgers' NCAA tournament run

Wisconsin advanced to the Sweet Sixteen on an unbelievable shot in the final seconds of a win over Xavier. Friday in the Sweet Sixteen, the final seconds weren't nearly as kind to the Badgers, though they were equally unbelievable.

Vitto Brown's tie-breaking 3-pointer gave Wisconsin a 56-53 lead with 28 seconds left, but Notre Dame came away with a pair of steals to fuel an 8-0 run over the game's final 19 seconds to stun with a 61-56 win to advance to the Elite Eight and leave the Badgers wondering what the heck just happened in Philadelphia.

The Badgers led by as many as nine in the second half, and their lead was eight with under 14 minutes left to play. But Notre Dame burst out on a 12-3 run from there to come within a point. And despite four straight points from Zak Showalter, the Fighting Irish grabbed a lead moments later. The shots started falling after a generally sleep-inducing game that featured little in the way of offensive production, with Brown and Nigel Hayes hitting 3s but Notre Dame answering. A Zach Auguste dunk tied the score at 51 with about two minutes to go, and an Ethan Happ layup gave the Badgers back the lead before he fouled out on the other end.

Auguste's ensuing free throws tied the game at 53 in the final minute before Brown's clutch tie-breaking triple. Demetrius Jackson answered immediately with a layup, then came the game's biggest play, with Hayes taking the inbounds pass and inexplicably tried to dribble between defenders, fumbling the ball away, leading to another Jackson layup, this one giving the Irish the lead with 14 seconds left. Bronson Koenig flew down the court and drove right to the hoop, passing on the Badgers' two timeouts and missing the layup. Notre Dame hit two more free throws to make it a three-point game, then Jackson stole the ball away from Koenig on Wisconsin's make-it-or-break-it possession and hit two more free throws to ice the game.

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The result was a shocking one considering the Badgers had a lead with 19 seconds to go, but the final moments of the game were equally unexpected following a slog of a game that featured offensive ineptitude by both teams. Notre Dame scored just 19 first-half points and shot just 24.1 percent in the first half, but Wisconsin wasn't much better, shooting 34.6 percent from the field. By game's end, the Badgers raised their shooting percentage to 40.4 percent and the Irish were at 40 percent. The difference? Notre Dame shot 57.7 percent over the final 20 minutes.

Wisconsin had 17 turnovers in the game, while Notre Dame had 12.

Happ led the Badgers with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Hayes and Showalter each scored 11 points.

V.J. Beachem led all scorers with 19 points, with Jackson adding 16 points and Auguste recording a double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds.

Wisconsin's season came to a screeching halt with the loss, just its fourth in the last 17 games. Greg Gard's first season ended with a 22-13 overall record.

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.