Big Ten

As worst season at Ohio State ends, Thad Matta upset vote of confidence was necessary


As worst season at Ohio State ends, Thad Matta upset vote of confidence was necessary

WASHINGTON — The list of things that upset Thad Matta on Wednesday night is probably rather long.

But after his Ohio State team fell to Rutgers by a 66-57 score on the opening night of the Big Ten Tournament, Matta's most vocal criticism wasn't of his team's poor shooting, lack of toughness or horrendous performance at the free-throw line.

Instead, Matta sounded off on the need for his athletics director, Gene Smith, to release a statement giving the head basketball coach a vote of confidence earlier Wednesday.

"I think it's ridiculous that we have to do stuff like that," Matta said. "Gene and I met a couple weeks ago. It's amazing what people do nowadays. This is a very fickle business that we're in. Unless you're intimately involved on a day-to-day basis, people choose the negative side of things. It's what they do. Obviously, gas is poured on the fire. It is what it is.

"You know, it's sad that sports has come to where you got to do stuff like that. Just coach your team. If they like it, they bring you back. If they don't, they don't. But it's amazing. Really is."

Smith expressed public support after Matta's job status had become a talking point. That might seem crazy for a head coach as accomplished as Matta, but this has been the worst season of his tenure at Ohio State, the first one of his Buckeye teams to fail to win 20 games. Wednesday's loss to Rutgers bottomed out Ohio State's overall record at 17-15.

Things have been going downhill for the past few years at Ohio State. In the past four seasons, the Buckeyes have finished fifth, sixth, seventh and 10th in the Big Ten standings.

This will be the second straight season without an NCAA tournament berth, the first time under Matta there have been back-to-back seasons without an invite to the Big Dance. It's a first for the program since a three-year drought from 2003 to 2005, the last of those seasons being Matta's first on the job.

But Matta's tenure at Ohio State has undoubtedly been a resounding success. In 13 seasons he's taken the Buckeyes to nine NCAA tournaments, including a pair of Final Fours and an appearance in the national championship game in 2007. His teams have won a total of five Big Ten championships.

Though even if Smith and athletics directors across the country aren't into the "what have you done for me lately?" thinking that so many fans and observers possess, there's no doubt that this season has been a very different one for Matta in Columbus.

He was asked after Wednesday's game if this was as tough a season as he'd ever had, and the 17-year Division-I head coach had to answer yes.

"I would say so, yeah. Just from the daily battles that we've had just in terms of getting guys ready to play, that sort of thing," Matta said. "We've said it all along, when this team has played not just great basketball, but consistent basketball, we've been a heck of a basketball team. We've beaten some pretty good teams this year. You know, tonight we weren't ready to fight at the level we needed to fight, for whatever reason.

"Rough one, no doubt."

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.