Big Ten

Tre Demps' hot streak pushes Northwestern past Illini

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Tre Demps' hot streak pushes Northwestern past Illini

EVANSTON — A lightning-quick streak of instant offense made all the difference in the world for Northwestern on Saturday night.

Tre Demps rose to the occasion with four consecutive made 3-pointers in a crucial second-half stretch, sending the Wildcats to a lead they didn't relinquish in a 58-56 win over the visiting Illinois Fighting Illini at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

With eight minutes remaining in the game, Illinois led by four. But Demps absolutely caught fire, splashing home triples on four consecutive possessions to turn that 46-42 Illini lead into a 54-49 lead for the Cats with five and a half minutes to play. There wasn't much more offense from there, with a Maverick Morgan layup cutting the deficit to three and Scottie Lindsey and Malcolm Hill swapping pairs of made free throws.

Illinois fumbled away a few late chances, missing free throws, missing shots and turning the ball over on multiple occasions. One of those turnovers turned into a fastbreak layup for Demps to put the Cats ahead by five with a minute left, but Kendrick Nunn immediately answered with a 3 to make it a two-point game. The Illini had a chance to tie or win the game in the final seconds, with Hill first getting fouled, then not even getting a shot off when Illinois inbounded the ball with two seconds left.

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Prior to Demps' heroics, it was Lindsey doing damage for the Cats. He had a big game, scoring 18 points and hitting four 3-pointers. With the two teams trading buckets and leads in the early stages of the second half, Lindsey tied the game and then gave Northwestern a lead when he hit back-to-back 3s. That lead disappeared pretty quickly, though, with Demps earning it back later in the period.

Demps also finished with 18, the majority of that coming during that all-important stretch. He was just 6-for-15 from the field and 4-for-10 from 3-point range.

The Illini struggled mightily shooting the ball, shooting just 28.6 percent from the field in the first half. Despite that, they led at the break. In the end, Illinois posted a 36.8-percent shooting mark on the game. The Illini had 14 second-chance points off 13 offensive rebounds, winning the overall rebounding battle, 40-31.

Northwestern turned its fortunes around by taking better care of the ball in the second half. After turning it over 10 times in the first 20 minutes, the Cats coughed it up just twice in the final 20 minutes.

Nunn finished with a team-high 13 points for Illinois, Morgan and Jalen Coleman-Lands each adding 12. Coleman-Lands was the Illini's driving force early, and he finished with four made 3s. Hill had only seven points.

The win sent the Cats to 17-9 overall and 5-8 in the Big Ten. Next up is a Tuesday-night trip to Purdue.

The Illini dropped to 11-14 overall and 3-9 in the league with the loss, their fourth in the last five games and ninth in the last 12. Next up is a Tuesday-night game against Rutgers.

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.