Big Ten

Spartans look championship-caliber in flying past Buckeyes

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Spartans look championship-caliber in flying past Buckeyes

INDIANAPOLIS — It's March. And as always that means one thing: Michigan State is flying high.

The Spartans once more look destined for March greatness under Tom Izzo, and they looked the part of a championship contender Friday night with an 81-54 crushing of the Ohio State Buckeyes to earn a spot in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals.

There's certainly no reason to be surprised anymore that the college hoops powerhouse hits its stride every March. Last season saw the Spartans run all the way to their seventh Final Four under Izzo, and with the way they're playing, there's no reason to believe this season can't feature an eighth.

Friday, despite leading by just seven at the break, Michigan State exploded to begin the second half, running away and hiding in a blink. After shooting just 35.5 percent over the first 20 minutes, the Spartans started the second half on an 18-6 run, getting back-to-back 3-pointers from Denzel Valentine and Eron Harris and getting back-to-back dunks from a fired-up Matt Costello. The game was over at that point — and really was over prior, as Ohio State led for just a minute and five seconds, even if Michigan State's first-half edge wasn't as gigantic as its second-half leads.

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The Spartans shot 60.6 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes, outscoring the Buckeyes, 48-28, in the second half. Ten different Spartans scored during the second half, with Harris scoring 12 after halftime. Michigan State scored 21 points off 14 Ohio State turnovers on the game, won the rebounding battle, 40-29, and outscored Ohio State in the paint, 42-30.

Valentine was again sensational, further bolstering his case for national player of the year honors. He scored a game-high 19 points, grabbed nine rebounds and handed out eight assists. Harris scored 13 points, Deyonta Davis added 12 points and Costello finished with 10 points.

The Buckeyes couldn't do much offensively, shooting 42.6 percent on the game and going a dreadful 1-for-11 form 3-point range. JaQuan Lyle was the lone Ohio State player in double figures with 10 points.

Michigan State rumbles on to the tournament semifinals, where it will play either Maryland or Nebraska on Saturday. Winning the championship seems like it would lock up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

Ohio State probably won't make the NCAA tournament, on the bubble prior to Friday's blowout. It could still reach a different postseason tournament.

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.