Big Ten

Purdue collapses as Little Rock pulls off NCAA tournament upset

dakota-mathias-0317.png

Purdue collapses as Little Rock pulls off NCAA tournament upset

With five minutes remaining, Purdue had its biggest lead of the game, a 14-point advantage over Little Rock, and looked like it was storming to a Round of 64 win.

And then everything fell apart.

Little Rock caught absolute fire down the stretch as Purdue collapsed, first forcing overtime, then a second overtime, finally winning in incredible upset fashion, 85-83.

It was a stunning implosion by the Boilermakers, who made a habit of blowing double-digit leads this season. This, though, was the worst and the last, Purdue’s season coming to a close with the first-round exit from the NCAA tournament. The Boilers led by 14 with five minutes left and 13 with three and a half minutes left. But they were ambushed by the Trojans, who closed the second half on a 21-7 run, using a ridiculous 3-pointer to tie the game and force overtime, before outscoring the Boilers by a bucket in the two extra periods.

Only Vince Edwards’ buzzer-beating 3-pointer prevented a halftime tie, giving Purdue a three-point lead at the break. But it looked like the Boilers shook their 12th-seeded foe, slowly building a double-digit lead over the course of the second half. It was an Edwards 3 that gave Purdue its 14-point edge at the five-minute mark, and two A.J. Hammons free throws made it 65-52 with three and a half minutes to go. But that’s when Little Rock went off, charging on a 12-0 run, hitting five straight shots as Purdue missed four straight shots and turned the ball over three times. A Dakota Mathias triple looked to restore sanity, giving the Boilers a four-point lead with 33 seconds left, but that 3 was immediately answered with another. And after a pair of Edwards free throws, Little Rock’s Josh Hagins hit an unbelievably deep 3 to tie the game, completing the jaw-dropping comeback and sending it to overtime.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Purdue gear right here]

An Edwards bucket gave Purdue a quick lead in the extra period, but three Little Rock free throws had the Trojans in front not long after. There was no more scoring till the final minute of the period, when an Edwards layup put Purdue in front again, a lead extended when Ryan Cline split a pair of free throws. But Hagins struck again, hitting a jumper to tie the score once more, with a second overtime forced when Edwards missed his shot attempt in the final seconds.

Little Rock scored the first five points of the second overtime and didn’t trail again. Dakota Mathias and Hammons each missed a free throw late to prevent Purdue’s suddenly necessary comeback effort, and the upset was secure.

The Boilers shot just 41.9 percent on the game, under 40 percent in both the first half and the overtimes. Purdue was just 4-for-13 from the field in the two extra periods. After going 3-for-13 from 3-point range in the first half, the Boilers were 6-for-10 from 3 in the second half, but they were 0-for-5 from deep in the overtimes.

Purdue won the rebounding battle with its huge size advantage but turned the ball over a whopping 18 times, leading to 25 points for Little Rock.

Edwards was Purdue’s leading scorer with 24 points, also recording a double-double with 13 rebounds. Hammons also posted a double-double 16 points and 15 rebounds. Mathias had 12 points.

Hagins finished with a game-high 31 points for Little Rock, going 10-for-20 from the field.

For the third time in its last four NCAA tournament appearances, Purdue was eliminated in its first game. The Boilers haven’t won an NCAA tournament game since the Round of 64 victory over Saint Mary’s in the 2012 tournament.

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

jeremy_larkin.jpg
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

anderson.jpg
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.