Big Ten

Spartans blast Michigan in Ann Arbor, is Final Four next?


Spartans blast Michigan in Ann Arbor, is Final Four next?

Coming into Saturday's game in Ann Arbor, one fascinating stat made its way around the Internet: In seven of the eight seasons in which a Tom Izzo-helmed Michigan State team won at Michigan, it reached the Final Four.

So after the Spartans crushed the Wolverines on Saturday, should green-and-white backers start booking their tickets to Houston?

It was quite the display here in the first weekend of February, with Michigan State dominating from start to finish, the No. 10 team in the country flirting with 70-percent shooting deep into the second half in an 89-73 win over rival Michigan.

Bryn Forbes was particularly effective, scoring 29 points and hitting eight 3-pointers, seven of those coming in the first half. Denzel Valentine dropped 21 points and came very close to another triple-double with nine rebounds and eight assists. Matt Costello was a force in the second half and finished with 14 points and eight rebounds.

The Spartans finished shooting 64 percent on the afternoon, going 32-for-50 from the field and 14-for-22 from 3-point range.

[MORE BIG TEN: Northwestern dominates in blowout win over lowly Gophers]

The rout was on early as it didn't take long to become clear that Michigan State wasn't going to miss many shots and Michigan wasn't going to make many. The Spartans made five 3s in the first seven minutes, building a 10-point lead at the end of a 16-4 run. Another 10-0 burst not long after ballooned the edge out to 18 with eight minutes until halftime, Forbes adding two more triples during that stretch. Michigan got the gap down to 11 during a turnover-happy stretch by Michigan State, but the Spartans were back out in front by 16 by the break, Forbes hitting his seventh 3-pointer with 16 seconds on the clock.

Costello scored the first six Michigan State points of the second half as the lead briefly touched 20. It got back there on what else but a Forbes 3 at the 11:40 mark. An 8-0 burst got the lead up to 27, Costello accounting for all but three of those points, and the advantage grew as big as 30 before the Michigan reserves whittled it down to 16 by game's end.

As electric as the Spartans' offense was, the Wolverines' offense was equally ineffective. Michigan shot 44.8 percent from the field, just 37.9 percent in the first 20 minutes when Michigan State built its lead. The Wolverines did turn 19 Spartan turnovers into 23 points, but they were beat up on the boards, Michigan State owning a 35-20 rebounding advantage. Michigan was just 8-for-28 from 3-point range.

Zak Irvin led the Wolverines with 19 points, Aubrey Dawkins finished with 14 points, and Derrick Walton Jr. had 11 points.

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

After suffering that three-game losing streak in the middle of conference play last month, Michigan State has won four games in a row and again look like one of the league's best teams. The Spartans will take a 20-4 overall record and a 7-4 Big Ten mark into a big game at Purdue on Tuesday.

And what about that fun stat? Does the win mean Sparty is going back to the Final Four this spring? The common denominator there is likely Izzo rather than a particular win in Ann Arbor, but surely this performance made the Spartans look capable of getting back to college hoops' mountaintop.

Meanwhile, Michigan suffered its second straight embarrassing home loss in a week, losing to Indiana and Michigan State by a combined 29 points. In that loss to the Hoosiers, the Wolverines allowed 28 unanswered points, and Saturday they trailed by as many as 30. It's not a good look for a team that's been without star player Caris LeVert for the last 10 games. At 17-7 overall and 7-4 in the league, Michigan next visits Minnesota on Wednesday.

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


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


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.