Wow. Just wow. We did it guys, we actually got another Big Ten win, and a huge win at that. Thanks to a solid effort by Tyler Griffey (finally!), Illinois beat No. 1 Indiana 74-72.
After tonight, Illinois now has wins over four top 14 teams. FOUR! Not sure who else in the country can boast a record like that. There is still a lot of season left to go, but this was a win that Illinois really needed. And, a win over Indiana is always a cause for celebration.
Down 41-29 at the half, things weren’t really looking great for Illinois. Since we’ve essentially been a first-half team (see blowing a 10-point halftime lead at MSU last week), I was pretty resigned to the fact that we were going to lose. The second-half lead for the Hoosiers hovered around 10-13 for a long stretch of time, when all of a sudden things started working for Illinois.
Down 10 points with 4:30 left in the game, 69-59, Indiana went cold and we got hot. A D.J. Richardson 3 cut the lead to 70-65 with 3 minutes to go. Christian Watford missed a bucket, Richardson blocked a shot, and then made another 3, cutting the lead to 70-68. Richardson scored YET AGAIN and the game is tied. Victor Oladipo made a fg with 52 seconds to go, and two free throws from Brandon Paul kept the score tied.
So here’s where it got really good, and what I better see on ESPN top plays tomorrow morning. Indiana was bringing down the ball with just 37 seconds left. Indiana could get the last shot, and then leave just a second for us to screw up. BUT, Richardson got a steal, and ran back to the Illini basket. Oladipo got a real nice looking block, leaving us to inbound the ball with just .9 seconds left in a tie game. No biggie! We can do overtime, I mean winning is better, but overtime is fine.
On the inbound, Indiana was all up on Richardson, as he had the hot hands. Paul noticed Griffey slip right under the basket uncontested, and bounced the ball right to him. Griffey, who was having a pretty nice game already, made a basket as time ran out. Game over, we win, they lose. Rush the court!
There are oh so many reasons why this victory was sweet. First of all, we got a conference win. Secondly, it was against Indiana, and it’s no secret that we don’t get along. Not to mention the fact that we beat the number 1 team in the country!! This has only happened three times: 1979, 2004 and tonight.
Apparently, Tyler Zeller flipped the bird to the Orange Krush, so I’m glad the Illini flipped him the bird right back. Coach Tom Crean, classy as always, apparently shook Coach John Groce’s hand and then hightailed it to the locker room without saying anything to the players. And, he kept the press waiting for a looooooooong time after the game.
Paul had 21 points and Richardson had 23. Griffey had 14, including 2 from behind the arc. Griffey has been ice cold for about two months, so his success was great to see. He still made a couple bonehead Griffey plays, but on the whole he was extremely effective. And, of course, he won the game for us, so there’s that.
As the game started, ESPN had us listed as one of the first four out teams, which proves how important this game was. If we had lost it wouldn’t really have been a big deal, but winning is HUGE. Now we know we haven’t completely lost our touch, and there is still plenty of basketball left. What I wanted was an unexpected win, and we did it.
Up next, Illinois will head to Minnesota on Sunday, Feb. 10. We’ve got some great home wins, now let’s grab one on the road.