Big Ten

Tom Izzo calls Michigan State's performance 'humiliating' after loss to Penn State

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USA TODAY

Tom Izzo calls Michigan State's performance 'humiliating' after loss to Penn State

After a strong start to Big Ten play that saw wins over Minnesota, Northwestern and Rutgers, Michigan State got back in the loss column Saturday.

It was a unique game not just because Penn State beat Michigan State, something that hadn't happened since March 2011. The Spartans and Nittany Lions clashed in the Palestra, the famous Philadelphia arena that's been hosting college hoops games since the 1920s.

The arena's legacy is so impressive that it's dubbed the Cathedral of College Basketball.

The setting seemed to make Saturday's 72-63 loss by Michigan State sting even more for head coach Tom Izzo, who let his team have it in his postgame press conference, calling the Spartans' effort "humiliating" and apologizing to the fans and even the building.

"This was humiliating for me to be in such a great city and in a great basketball venue, and our players did not play and I didn't have our players ready to play," Izzo said, his comments published by MLive.com. "The whole thing falls on me. But I'm just so tired of trying to explain why I don't see the daylight at the end of tunnel. I see us getting better, and then the minute I say it, we take that for granted.

"My apologies to this magnificent facility. ... I feel like we cheated those of you who have seen great teams and great coaches and great players play here. You got robbed today."

Penn State led for pretty much the whole game and shot better (46.4 percent compared to 41.1 percent). The Lions scored 16 points off 17 turnovers by the Spartans. Penn State had a 38-28 rebounding edge.

All those things drove Izzo nuts.

"I am embarrassed that in a city where basketball is like this that my team would play like they did in that first half," Izzo said. "We guarded nobody. We played with no energy. I was totally frustrated with the way we played. I guess I'm going to have to live with some of it and that's the problem with freshmen — up and down. But it was very discouraging."

Izzo started all four of his highly touted freshmen in Saturday's game. Miles Bridges played in his second game back from an ankle injury, and the rust has most definitely not worn off, Izzo evaluating his star at around 80-percent health.

But Bridges' effort was as much a topic of conversation as his health. This from MLive.com's Brendan F. Quinn:

Multiple times, Bridges was caught standing and watching, instead of running and rebounding. He missed one loose ball in the second half and got blistered on the court by junior point guard Tum Tum Nairn, and then sent to the bench.

But it sounds like Bridges was hardly the only one in green and white not to live up to Izzo's expectations.

And that's becoming an upsetting season-long theme for a program that annually challenges not just for conference championships but for a national championship.

This was the sixth loss of the season for Izzo's crew and the second that's come in somewhat embarrassing fashion. Non-conference losses to Arizona, Kentucky, Baylor and Duke could be excused due to the quality of the competition. But this loss to Penn State feels a little more like the defeat at the hands of Northeastern than it does other of those aforementioned losses.

This doesn't yet seem like your typical Izzo team, and while there's still time to iron these issues out, questions of effort and readiness with a young roster might linger long enough to yield a far less rosier than usual outlook for Michigan State come March.

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

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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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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.