Big Ten

Shaking season-long free-throw woes, Dererk Pardon plays hero at the line for Northwestern

Shaking season-long free-throw woes, Dererk Pardon plays hero at the line for Northwestern

SALT LAKE CITY — If you've been watching Northwestern all season, Dererk Pardon stepping to the free-throw line to take high-pressure shots in the NCAA tournament might not have been the most confidence-inspiring sight.

But Pardon, who shot 51.7 percent from the charity stripe this year, stepped up in a gigantic way.

In the final four minutes and six seconds of Northwestern's 68-66 win over Vanderbilt on Thursday, Pardon knocked down six free throws, helping the Wildcats at the most critical of times.

But while that was something that surprised all onlookers, it didn't catch any of Pardon's teammates by surprise.

"I wasn't surprised at all," Scottie Lindsey said. "That's a part of his game that he works on all the time. He takes pride in trying to be a good free-throw shooter, and today it worked out. He was very clutch for us down the stretch."

"I shoot free throws with Dererk all the time, and he makes every one," Sanjay Lumpkin said. "He'll go 10-for-10 multiple times. We all have confidence in him to knock them down."

Well he sure did Thursday, and it's hard to imagine the Cats winning without Pardon making those six shots.

Vanderbilt shrunk what was once a 15-point second-half lead down to two with about five minutes to play. After both teams took turns missing 3-pointers, Pardon hit the first two to stretch things back to five with about four minutes left.

Vandy kept coming, and the second pair of foul shots came a minute and a half later, when three straight Commodore free throws sliced the gap to just a point.

Vandy kept coming, and the Commodores had a lead with a minute and a half to play and again with 38 seconds left. Pardon again hit two free throws, this time in the final minute to tie the game and then put the Cats back on top.

Pardon's free throws didn't just go in, they were as big as they come.

"I just had to focus," Pardon said. "I feel like when I focus, I make my free throws. A lot of times when I miss them, I'm not as focused. So I just had to focus in, lock in, and I felt like I was good.

"That's the moment I think about all the time in practice when I'm shooting my free throws: down one or down two, and I have to make both or I have to make one. Having that pressure on during practice where it comes game time, you knock them down."

Pardon has obviously been a huge part of things for Northwestern this season, and Thursday he was statistically the team's second-best performer, putting up a double-double for the fourth time this season. He finished with 14 points and 11 rebounds.

"He's got a quite confidence to him. He's a man of few words, he doesn't say much. He works his tail off," Chris Collins said. "After every practice, there's nobody in the gym more. He's doing free-throw shooting games, pressure free throws with coaches, with other teammates. He's worked incredibly hard. And he's got a calmness to him that I love. It wasn't going well for him in the first half, he had some turnovers, they were doubling him, getting the ball out of his hands. And he just steadied it, and I thought he played a fantastic second half."

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.