Big Ten

Reliance on 3s bites Illini in loss to Huskers

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Reliance on 3s bites Illini in loss to Huskers

Coming off a big win over Purdue last weekend, Illinois looked primed to continue to build momentum with middling Nebraska coming to Champaign on Saturday.

But the Illini refused to stop shooting 3-pointers, and a Land of Lincoln native sparked the Huskers, adding insult to injury in the Illini's 78-67 loss.

Illinois took 37 shots from 3-point range Saturday, making only 11 of them in a generally cold-shooting day in which the Illini went just 39 percent from the field. But all but 22 of their shots on the whole game came from behind the arc, and after going just 6-for-20 from 3 in the first half, the hole was too big for them to climb out of.

Meanwhile, Glynn Watson Jr. — a Bellwood native and the younger brother of former Illinois star Demetri McCamey — scored 17 points for Nebraska, one of four Huskers in double figures as they took advantage of the Illinois defense and shot 53.6 percent from the field, getting to the basket with ease for 34 points in the paint.

The teams exchanged modest leads early, and Illinois had some success from 3-point range in the game's opening minutes. Jaylon Tate — hitting his first triple of the season — Kendrick Nunn and Michael Finke hit consecutive 3-pointers to give the Illini a four-point lead ahead of the game's first media timeout. But a deep shooting freeze set in from there, Illinois missing its next four 3-point attempts and scoring just eight points over the next approximately eight minutes. A Nunn jumper cut Nebraska's small lead to just three with a little more than six minutes until halftime, but the Illini then went without a basket for the next four minutes while the Huskers went on a 9-0 spurt to build a double-digit edge, whittled down to nine at the half.

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After missing 14 3-pointers in the first half, the Illini did adjust some but still launched 17 over the final 20 minutes. Illinois got the margin down to four early in the period, but Nebraska streaked out on a 10-0 run helped by six points from Andrew White, who had a monster second half for the Huskers. The Illini punched right back with nine straight, but after White and Jalen Coleman-Lands traded 3-pointers, Nebraska scored seven straight to make it a 14-point game once more with under eight minutes to go. The Illini's continued chipping couldn't get the lead smaller than six over the game's final minutes. The Huskers answered every Illini bucket with a big shot of their own, and even though Illinois did get defensive stops, it kept casting up missed 3s and even missed five late free throws. Malcolm Hill, at one point, missed four straight from the charity stripe.

Hill finished with a team-high 17 points, also handing out seven assists. Nunn ended with 15 points, and Finke and Coleman-Lands each had 11.

White scored 21 points, 15 of those coming in the second half, and grabbed 13 rebounds. Watson's 17 points matched a season high for the freshman out of St. Joseph's. Tai Webster scored 16 points, and Shavon Shields had 14. Another Chicago native, Ed Morrow Jr., had six points and six rebounds.

The loss dropped the Illini to 9-9 overall and 1-4 in Big Ten play. Next up is a Tuesday trip to take on Indiana.

With the win, their third straight, the Huskers improved to 11-8 on the season and 3-3 in league play. They'll next travel to face Michigan State on Wednesday.

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.