Illinois Basketball: Ranking the Top 25 Most Memorable Illini Moments on YouTube

Eric BrowningContributor IJanuary 21, 2012

Illinois Basketball: Ranking the Top 25 Most Memorable Illini Moments on YouTube

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    It's almost a requisite duty to pledge allegiance to the orange and blue flag when growing up or attending school in Champaign-Urbana.

    There's simply no escaping the passion for University of Illinois basketball.

    Children dress up as Chief Illiniwek for Halloween.  Illini flags proudly wave in front of houses and places of business.  The old Aunt Sonya's restaurant and the Ribeye might not have revolutionized pancakes and steak, but the Illini memorabilia lining the walls will always hold a special place in our hearts. 

    If the town's sports foundation was laid by Red Grange and Dick Butkus, then Kendall Gill and Deron Williams introduced the area's rural history to its cosmopolitan present.

    Simply put, the University of Illinois is a basketball school.  

    As a result, a lifetime of memories from Assembly Hall continue to entertain, inspire and revitalize "that old Illini spirit" that we cherish.  

    From the buzzer-beaters, to the monster dunks, to the heartbreaking misses, this video slideshow contains the most memorable moments in modern Illinois basketball history.

25. Brian Randle Posterizes IU's Marco Killingsworth (2006)

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    For as much criticism heaped upon Illinois' Brian Randle during his tenure in Champaign, his dynamic athleticism earned him the nickname "Freak" for his occasional moments of supreme ability.

    His most memorable moment at Illinois was an in-your-face dunk over Indiana's Marco Killingsworth on February 19, 2006.  

24. Cory Bradford's Game-Winner in the Big 10 Tournament (2000)

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    Cory Bradford's three-pointer against Indiana in the quarterfinal of the 2000 Big Ten Tournament did more than just propel the Illini into the next round.  

    Bradford's streak of three-pointers made in consecutive minutes was in jeopardy late in the game.  

    His game-winning shot brought his total to 59. 

23. Bill Self Leaves Illinois for Kansas (2003)

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    Bill Self's three-year tenure at Illinois consisted of two Big Ten conference titles, three NCAA tournament appearances (including an Elite Eight and Sweet 16 appearance).  His recruiting class during his final year was projected to be top five in the nation.  

    That's why it hurt so much when Self abruptly left for Kansas after a raise, a five-year extension and committing to being in it for "the long haul."  

22. Gene Keady's Explosive Technical Fouls at Assembly Hall (1990)

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    Illinois head coach Bruce Weber is no stranger to animated courtside antics and displays of disapproval.

    It's no wonder, either.  

    Weber served as assistant coach under Keady for 20 seasons.  One year at Western Kentucky and 19 at Purdue.  

    The apple doesn't far from the tree.

    In a 1990 game between Illinois and Purdue at Assembly Hall, Keady throws a tantrum of epic proportion.   

21. Kenny Battle's Dunk Against Georgia Tech (1989)

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    Kenny Battle was the best dunker in Illinois history.  No discussion is necessary.  

    Battle's dunk against Georgia Tech in a double-overtime victory during the 1988-1989 season is one of his most impressive.

20. Luther Head's Game-Winner at Purdue (2005)

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    Luther Head scored 19 points en route to the Illini's win over Purdue at Mackey Arena, including the game-winning shot.  

    The win preserved the Illini's chances at the Big Ten title.  

19. Eddie Johnson's Three-Pointer to Beat Magic's MSU Spartans (1979)

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    Eddie Johnson and the 1978-1979 Fighting Illini were 15-0 heading into a home game with Magic Johnson's No. 1 Michigan State Spartans.  

    Johnson nailed the game-winner in what was arguably the most important win ever at Assembly Hall.

    Johnson and the Illini dropped the next three games.

18. Eric Gordon and Kelvin Sampson vs. the Orange Krush (2008)

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    On February 7, 2008, Indiana head coach Kelvin Sampson and freshman Eric Gordon made their first and only appearance at Champaign's Assembly Hall.

    Gordon, the No. 1-ranked player in 2007 by, reneged on his eight-month oral commitment to Illinois and head coach Bruce Weber.  

    The late decision left Weber's recruiting class in shambles.

    The Orange Krush gave both a less-than-heartwarming welcome.

    Apparently, Eric Gordon is still battling honesty and commitment issues.  

17. Frank Williams' Buzzer-Beater Against Ohio State (2000)

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    Illinois freshman Frank Williams had two attempts at game-winning shots in the non-conference schedule, but he came up short on both.

    The Illini's Big Ten opener against Ohio State brought different results.  

    Williams' three-pointer gave Illinois an 80-77 win against the Buckeyes.

16. Marcus Griffin's Putback for the Win (2001)

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    The 2000-2001 season marked Bill Self's first year at Illinois.  

    The Illini reached the Elite Eight with the help from Frank Williams, Sergio McClain, Lucas Johnson, Marcus Griffin, Sean Harrington and Brian Cook.

    One of the most gripping moments of the season came during a home game against Wisconsin.  In the closing seconds, Sean Harrington's lob pass to Marcus Griffin resulted in a 68-67 Illini win. 

15. Bruce Pearl, UW-M and the 2005 NCAA Tournament

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    The 2004-2005 University of Illinois basketball season was responsible for expanding the footprint of Illini basketball.  Bill Murray and the bandwagon fans jumped aboard with delight as the Illini romped their way through a nearly untouched season.  

    But one game seemed to be designed specifically for the older generation.  

    When the NCAA Tournament pairings were announced, the likely matchup with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee brought excitement to fans from the 1980s and early 1990s. 

    The reason?  Bruce Pearl coached UW-M.  

    The former Iowa assistant coach was responsible for derailing the Illinois basketball program for his participation in the Deon Thomas recruiting saga.

    Many Illini fans agree that Pearl's actions thwarted Illinois recruiting—and ultimately the win column—for a decade.  

    The 2005 pairing with Pearl, whether a virtuous sentiment or not, meant one thing to those who lived through it.  


    Illinois beat Bruce Pearl and the Panthers soundly, 77-63.  

    Many orange and blue fans closed the book on Pearl once and for all.  Pearl, however, left UW-M shortly after and pursued other interests.    

14. Illinois Snaps Wisconsin's 38-Game Home Win Streak (2005)

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    On January 25, 2005, the No. 1 Illinois Fighting Illini were 19-0 heading into a matchup against No. 19 Wisconsin at the Kohl Center.  

    Illinois was the better team on paper, but winning at the Kohl Center was no easy task.  The Badgers had won 38 consecutive games prior to their date with the Illini.  

    Wisconsin led by 10 points in the second half, but the Illini proved to be too much for the Badgers and the Grateful Red.  

    Illinois 75, Wisconsin 65.

13. The Worst Loss in Illinois Basketball History (1987)

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    Dick Vitale boldly pronounced that he would stand on his head if (3) Illinois lost to (14) Austin Peay in the first round of the 1987 NCAA tournament.  

    It was a safe bet considering that Ken Norman's Fighting Illini were 23-7 heading into the game.

    In the end, Illinois went home early and Vitale made good on his bet.

12. Lou Henson Banner Raised at Assembly Hall (2012)

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    On January 7, 2012, the University of Illinois honored Lou Henson on his 80th birthday with a banner to be lifted to Assembly Hall's rafters.  

    The guest of honor spent 21 years as head coach of the Fighting Illini.  

    Henson, the all-time winningest coach at Illinois, led the Illini to 12 NCAA tournament appearances, including one trip to the Final Four in 1989 and two Sweet 16s.  

    His entire basketball coaching career spans over 40 years at Hardin-Simmons, New Mexico State and Illinois.  His 779 win total places him sixth on the all-time list.   

    Many feel that Henson's next tribute should be an induction into the Naismith Basketball Memorial Hall of Fame.  

11. Wake Forest and "Paint the Hall Orange" (2005)

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    The 2004 ACC/Big Ten Challenge pitted the No. 1 Wake Forest Demon Deacons and the No. 5 Illinois Fighting Illini.  

    The marquee match of the Challenge didn't live up to the hype.  Illinois crushed Chris Paul and the Demon Deacons, 91-73.

    Despite the lopsided score, the game is memorable for two reasons.  

    The win showed the entire nation that the Illinois Fighting Illini were the best basketball team in the entire country.  Illinois swiped Wake Forest's coveted No. 1 spot the following week.

    The other reason why the Wake Forest game will be remembered?  

    The color orange.  Lots of it.  

    A sold-out Assembly Hall embraced the "Paint the Hall Orange" campaign pushed by the athletic department.  Even Bruce Weber wore an orange blazer.  

10. Illinois Snaps Duke's Win Streak in Durham

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    Illinois appeared to be a decided underdog when they traveled to Durham, N.C. to play Duke.  The unbeaten Blue Devils had a 95-game streak of non-conference home wins.

    Kiwane Garris led the Illini to a 75-65 win.

9. OSU and Matt Sylvester Ruin the Undefeated Record (2005)

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    When February of 2005 rolled around, many Fighting Illini fans began to take all the winning for granted.

    The Big Ten conference championship had been locked up weeks prior.  Not winning the Big Ten tournament seemed unlikely.  They owned the No. 1 spot in the AP since December 1st.  

    The fanbase was not growing cocky, it just sought bigger challenges.  

    But the March 6, 2005 regular-season finale between No. 1 Illinois and unranked Ohio State was a pre-NCAA tournament wake-up call to both the team and fans.  

    Illini Nation was brought down to earth as OSU's Matt Sylvester buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to end Illinois' 29-game win streak.   

8. Rennie Clemons' 'Dunk' over Shaquille O'Neal (1990)

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    Sometimes there are no answers to life's best questions.  

    Who killed John F. Kennedy?  Does a secret society rule the world?  Did aliens land in Roswell?  Illinois fans, however, have argued and debated their own conspiracy theory since 1990.

    Did Rennie Clemons dunk on LSU's Shaquille O'Neal?  

7. Frank Williams Beats Minnesota, Wins Big Ten Title

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    No. 15 Illinois needed a win versus Minnesota to earn a share of the 2002 Big Ten conference title.  

    That goal looked unlikely since Illinois trailed by four points with just 18 seconds to play.  Cory Bradford, however, knocked down a three-pointer to cut the lead to one point.  

    On the ensuing possession, Minnesota threw the ball away and gave Illinois a shot to win.  

    Everyone knew Illinois' head coach would draw up a play for Frank Williams.  Williams' athleticism and poise under pressure made him the perfect fit.  

    Williams received the inbounds possession as expected, drove down the lane and scored with two seconds to play.

    Illinois 67, Minnesota 66 .

6. Illinois Recruit Ben Wilson Is Gunned Down (1984)

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    Ben Wilson, the Simeon Vocational High School standout, was the No. 1 recruit in the nation in 1984.  He was gunned down in Chicago just days after receiving a basketball scholarship to play at the University of Illinois.

    Former Illini and Simeon alumni Nick Anderson, Calvin Brock and Deon Thomas all chose to wear No. 25 out of respect to Wilson.

5. Illini Comeback vs. Seton Hall (2000)

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    The December 9, 2000 non-conference billing between No. 7 Seton Hall and No. 9 Illinois was a microcosm for the Fighting Illini that year.

    Quitting never applied to names like Lucas Johnson, Sergio McClain and the other Fighting Illini. 

    Down 21 points at the Assembly Hall, Illinois' Frank Williams and the Illini chipped away and eventually knocked off the Pirates in overtime.  

    Marcus Griffin led the Illini with 24 points and 13 rebounds.  

4. Andy Kaufmann Sinks Iowa (1993)

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    On February 4, 1993, Lou Henson and the Fighting Illini had a home date with the No. 9 Iowa Hawkeyes.

    Illinois' Richard Keane tied the game on a three-pointer with under 30 seconds to play, but the Hawkeyes took the lead on a basket that some argue was tipped in by an Illinois player.  

    With 1.8 seconds on the clock, Illinois' TJ Wheeler threw a baseball pass to Andy Kaufmann.  

    Kaufmann's three-pointer at the buzzer gave the Illini a one-point win.  

3. Anderson's Buzzer-Beater at Indiana (1989)

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    Bob Knight appeared to have gotten the best of Lou Henson during a home game between Indiana and Illinois in 1989.  

    Indiana's Jay Edwards tied the game with an unlikely behind-the-basket prayer.  Two seconds remained on the clock.  

    Illinois then pulled the rug out from under the Hoosiers on their home court.  

    The Illini's Nick Anderson caught Stephen Bardo's uncontested inbounds pass and sank a three-pointer as time expired.  

    Illinois 70, Indiana 67.

2. Chief Illiniwek's Last Dance (2007)

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    Chief Illiniwek was the official symbol of the University of Illinois and had been connected to various Illini sporting events for over 80 years

    A vocal minority on campus and across the country claimed that Illiniwek misrepresented Native Americans through perpetuating stereotypes.  

    The NCAA even labeled Illiniwek "hostile and abusive."  

    On February 21, 2007, Chief Illiniwek danced for the final time in a home game against Michigan.  

1. The Comeback (2005)

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    It was brutal and downright devastating to watch Deron Williams, Dee Brown and the 2004-2005 Illinois team down 15 points to Arizona in the 2005 NCAA quarterfinal.  

    When the clock ticked down to four minutes, the harsh reality of a dream turned nightmare took its toll on Illini fans.

    We were going to lose.   

    But destiny and virtue turned out to be with the Fighting Illini.  They simply refused to lose.   

    "We just played very hard down the stretch," Brown told's Gary Parrish.  "In the huddle we just said we aren't going to lose this game."

    No single play or player was responsible for erasing the seemingly impossible deficit.  Everything became a blur.  

    Dee Brown's steals.  Luther Head's hustle.  Jack Ingram's tip.  Deron Williams' game-tying three-pointer to send the game into overtime.

    By the time overtime began, the pro-Illini crowd at Rosemont Horizon knew their beloved team would live to see another day.

    Final score: Illinois 90, Arizona 89 (OT).