Rondo, Celtics down Bulls

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Rondo, Celtics down Bulls

Any game pitting teams coached by close friends Tom Thibodeau and Doc Rivers should be expected to be a barnburner and Monday nights showdown between the Bulls (4-3) vs. Celtics (4-3) was no exception.

After a disappointing initial three quarters, particularly on the defensive end, the Bulls stormed back in the final frame behind the inspired play of Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, as well as the first primetime moment for rookie Marquis Teague, but ultimately fell short in a 101-95 defeat.

After recording his first game since 2003 without a field goal, Carlos Boozer (15 points) was aggressive from the outset, both in the post and shooting his mid-range jumper, helping the Bulls take a slight edge in the early going. On the other end, however, future Hall of Famer Kevin Garnett (15 points) was just as assertive, and with All-Star floor general Rajon Rondo (20 points, 10 assists, nine rebounds) running the show, the Celtics quickly overtook their hosts.

While the Bulls also got contributions from the likes of Deng (26 points, 11 rebounds), a strong quarter from Paul Pierce (10 points) and a surprising lack of defensive resistance from the home team allowed the visitors to shoot a gaudy 63.6 percent from the field in the period. At the conclusion of the first quarter, the Bulls trailed, 33-27.

Deng and the Bulls second unit opened the second period, but couldnt chip away at Bostons lead, despite reserve shooting guard Marco Belinelli matching the instant offense of Celtics counterpart Leandro Barbosa. The hosts combined one of their periodic offensive droughts, less-than-stellar defense and sporadic ball-security issues in a recipe that resulted in a double-digit deficit.

Two uncharacteristically loose periods defensively, compounded by the Celtics capitalizing on almost every lapse possible put the Bulls in a hole as halftime approached. At the intermission, the Bulls trailed, 58-46.

After the break, the Bulls inability to deal with Rondos all-around game, ability to penetrate and finish, orchestration of the Celtics offense, and improved outside jumper permitted the visitors to maintain complete control of the game. While Deng and Boozer were still effective, the latters counterpart for Boston, Brandon Bass (16 points), also got his game going, giving the Bulls another headache to deal with.

Boston continued to get quality shot attempts and knock them down, hold a slight edge on the glass and on the other end of the floor, make the Bulls work extremely hard for every bucket they got. Following an improbable three-pointer by rookie power forward Jared Sullinger with 0.7 seconds left in the period, the Bulls trailed, 82-70, after three quarters of play.

At the outset of the final stanza, it appeared that the Bulls would continue their one step forward, two steps back strategy that put them in such a tenuous position to begin with. But a lineup featuring Teague, led by the play of Deng and Noah (17 points, 11 rebounds), quickly brought them back within striking distance, raising the spirits of a previously listless United Center crowd.

Down the stretch, Thibodeau surprisingly stuck with Teague who was as fearless as a 19-year-old facing an All-Star could be and as Deng and Noah took over, making plays on both ends of the floor, but especially carrying the offensive load, the Bulls further narrowed the gap. Deng was fouled with 54 seconds on the clock and shockingly missed both free throws, but after Taj Gibson secured the offensive rebound of his second miss, Deng made a tough layup to bring the score to 95-93, in favor of Boston, with 49.5 seconds remaining.

Out of a timeout, Rivers drew up a brilliant inbounds, resulting in an alley-oop from Rondo to Garnett, again making it a two-possession game with 41.9 seconds to go. Gibson stepped to the line with 40.2 seconds left and missed a pair of attempts at the charity stripe and on the other end, Bass slammed home a dunk to put the game out of reach, though the Bulls valiantly fought until the final buzzer sounded.

Watch: Illini present Huskers with signed jersey in honor of Sam Foltz

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Watch: Illini present Huskers with signed jersey in honor of Sam Foltz

Big Ten teams have been honoring Sam Foltz all season long, and Illinois came up with a new way to honor him Saturday.

The Nebraska punter was tragically killed in a car accident in July, and teams playing the Huskers this season have done everything including lay flowers on the 27-yard line (Foltz wore No. 27) and wear helmet stickers honoring Foltz.

Saturday, Illinois visited Lincoln, and the Illini's specialists presented the Huskers' specialists with a Foltz Illinois jersey autographed by the team.

And Nebraska caught the emotional exchange on video. It's a must watch.

It's certainly been an emotional season for Nebraska, but it's great to see the whole Big Ten coming together to honor Foltz's memory.

Northwestern offense comes to play in upset win over Hawkeyes

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Northwestern offense comes to play in upset win over Hawkeyes

Forget everything you thought you knew about the Northwestern offense.

A unit that's looked sluggish through a rough 1-3 start came to play Saturday, scoring touchdowns on three consecutive second-half drives to pull an upset 38-31 win over Iowa at Kinnick Stadium.

Down 24-17 early in the third quarter, the Wildcats scored on touchdown drives of 75, 77 and 80 yards, all the while the defense holding the Hawkeyes to just a pair of three and outs in that same span.

Clayton Thorson hit Austin Carr for touchdowns on two of those drives — Carr had three touchdown catches on the afternoon — and Justin Jackson sprinted away for a 58-yard scoring rush as Northwestern put a two-score gap between itself and Iowa. Even a fourth-quarter score by the Hawkeyes couldn't close that gap.

The Cats piled up a not-all-that-impressive 362 yards of offense, but it was plenty compared to the Hawkeyes' 283 yards. Northwestern out-rushed Iowa, 198-79.

The game started in almost near-perfect fashion for the Cats, with Thorson running in for a touchdown after a long punt return by Flynn Nagel. But the Hawkeyes evened the score shortly thereafter, Akrum Wadley rushing in for a touchdown after a long punt return by Desmond King.

After a field goal, Thorson hit Carr for the first time on the day to put Northwestern up 17-7, but the momentum turned from there. Iowa scored on a short field off a punt, Jay Scheel making a great catch on a C.J. Beathard pass to set up another Wadley touchdown run. Then Brandon Snyder forced a Jackson fumble, and the Hawkeyes turned that into another score, Beathard finding Riley McCarron for a go-ahead touchdown before halftime.

But after an Iowa field goal, Northwestern's offense took over in the third quarter. The Cats got a score to cap a 75-yard drive with Carr making a highlight-reel catch in the end zone. Then the defense forced a three and out. Then Jackson scampered for that 58-yard score. Then the defense forced a three and out. Then an 80-yard drive wrapped with Thorson finding Carr on a crossing route, and the receiver bounced off a would-be tackler to reach the end zone for a two-score lead.

Iowa did score once more in the fourth quarter, Beathard leading a nice 75-yard touchdown drive. But once more the Northwestern defense stood tall and picked off Beathard at game's end to secure the upset.

The Cats looked like a totally different team on both sides of the ball, particularly after an ugly, mistake-filled loss to Nebraska last weekend. The offense was incredibly productive for that second-half stretch, 38 points being the most Northwestern has scored in a game since last September's win over Eastern Illinois and the most scored against an FBS team since November 2014 wins over Purdue and Notre Dame.

The defense deserves a heck of a lot of credit, too, limiting Iowa's offense to just 283 total yards and just 79 rushing yards a week after getting shredded by Nebraska for 556 yards. Ifeadi Odenigbo sacking Beathard four times and doing so in clutch moments, all four of his sacks coming on third down. The Cats had six sacks on the game.

Meanwhile, Iowa continued to have offensive struggles two weeks after falling to North Dakota State and one week after mustering just 14 points in a one-touchdown win over Rutgers. And the defense, as it did in those two games, had more trouble shutting down the run as Northwestern racked up 198 rushing yards.

The win sent the Cats to 2-3 on the campaign, and they have a bye next weekend before a trip to Michigan State.

The Hawkeyes fell to 3-2 with the loss and face Minnesota in the Floyd of Rosedale game next weekend.