Jan 09, 2020

I don't have much to add here. I can't write about the emotions of the game because I wussed out and turned it off at halftime. I was so deep in my "I cannot stand the officiating in Kohl" hole that I'm watching the second half on the DVR just now, knowing that we won, and I'm still so angry about Kofi's fourth foul and Griffin's fourth foul. I'm watching the final possession, seeing that the score is 71-70, knowing that the game ends 71-70, and I'm still expecting Wisconsin to get a foul call and win it at the line.

I could feel it building all day. Three hours before the game I'm tweeting about how pictures of the inside of Kohl make me angry at yet-to-be-named officials. The first half, when fouls went to 9-3, I just about lost it. How am I supposed to see injustice like this and just accept it?

Look, I get WHY it happens. No game can be called 50-50, so Big Ten refs, for years, have just gone with "tie goes to the runner" when it comes to the home team. The close calls will go to the home team, if you need to call a ticky-tack foul to calm down some of the contact, you call it on the road team, etc. There are 20 Big Ten games, so we'll have a slight advantage in 10 games and a slight disadvantage in 9 games and then a massive disadvantage at Kohl. Every Big Ten fan just accepts that this is how it works.

(Saw a tweet from Isaac Trotter where he said he was listening to the Wisconsin broadcast and their radio guys were even talking about how they were glad they didn't have to be a visiting coach at Kohl dealing with the calls from the officials. Everyone knows it happens. No one cares to do anything about it.)

So because of all of that, I turned off the game at the start of the second half. I reached that "this isn't worth it" point. Part "there's no way this is good for my health", part "I need to press the reset button". My wife and I have been binging New Girl again (we already watched all of the seasons when it was on, but you can always watch them again), so I chose that instead of the second half at Kohl. I turned my phone off (not silenced, not do-not-disturb - off) and settled in for three episodes of Nick and Jess, Schmidt and Cece.

My wife touched my hand at one point and said "you're burning up". Sure enough, my anger at officials during a basketball game had manifested itself as scalding hot hands (from clenching fists maybe? no idea). Turning off the game was absolutely the best thing to do. I was recording the game on the DVR, so if we won, I would watch it, if we lost, I would delete it. I decided I wouldn't turn my phone back on until 10:30 and settled in to think about anything besides basketball officials calling everything in favor of the home team. I hope this episode has drunk Nick Miller at the end.

At 10:30, I turn my phone back on. I know that if we won I'm going to have a bunch of texts come through, so I need to get the score app open so I can see the score before I have to interpret just how many texts are coming through and what that means. Besides - this is silly. We're playing at Kohl with the officials in Wisconsin's pocket - we didn't win.

We won?

I wish I could tell you I then ran around the house celebrating and responded to all 117 texts, but I didn't. Mostly I felt sheepish. Weak. What kind of person doesn't have the mental fortitude to watch a basketball game without throwing a fit? I mean seriously - who turns a game off because he "can't take it" and sits there pouting with hot hands? THIS GUY.

And no, the juxtaposition here is not lost on me. What do great teams do when they're getting homered? They overcome it. They find a way. Kofi and Giorgi and Alan all in four trouble the entire game? Find a way. Taking the lead and then Wisconsin snatches it back at the free throw line after a weak call? Find some way to overcome it.

I wrote that post yesterday about all the things that open up for us if we find a way to win this game, well, we overcame a complete Kohl-ing and opened those doors. Let's go back through that list.

  • Break the losing streak against Wisconsin? Check.
  • Get a win over a team that's #26 in the all-important NET rankings? Check.
  • Add a road win to the resume? Check.
  • Be above .500 in the Big Ten after five games for the first time since 2012? Check.
  • Sweep Wisconsin in both football and basketball? CHECK.

That last one is the most important. Coming into this year, the last time we beat Wisconsin in football was 2007 and the last time we beat them in basketball was 2011. So to win both games and go into the summer working on two winning streaks? Yes please.

(I know, I know - we're totally going to get matched up with them in the BTT just to ruin this for me.)

I think that's all I have to say about this one. I still feel sheepish talking about it. I didn't have the fortitude to see it through, so you fans who did should celebrate while I sit over here to the side. I tried to overcome my anger at the officiating, but I just couldn't do it.

Thank God our team could.


Douglascountyillinifan on January 09 @ 05:15 AM CST

I feel the same way, Robert. I went to bed "knowing" there was no way the zebras would let us win that game. Good thing the team doesn't subscribe to my way of thinking.

IlliNYC on January 09 @ 06:00 AM CST

I hope something has clicked for this team--seems like it has. It'd be nice to be Illinois Basketball again.

ktcesw on January 09 @ 06:49 AM CST

The only time that WI doesn't get calls is in the NCAA tournament.

uofi08 on January 09 @ 09:11 AM CST

I almost did the same thing, but stayed with it. My wife went up to bed with around 8-10 minutes to go. I figured I'd stay a little longer, but didn't anticipate watching all the way to the end. Somewhere between the under 8 and under 4 timeouts, Wisconsin was up around 6 and I figured, "ok, this is where Wisconsin will get a couple more calls, get up by 10, and send me to bed pissed off." Thankfully it never happened and the team really showed some toughness and heart to pull it out.

Absolutely love what Alan is bringing to this team and his confidence continues to grow. I think he deserves to be a full time starter and not a "starter minutes" bench guy.

Also, good thing it's 2020, otherwise Kofi is a surefire 1 and done. I'm 34, started following Illini hoops in the late 90s, and I've never seen a big man like him in our program.

Giovantischixstripz on January 09 @ 10:05 AM CST

Whats the difference between starter and starter minutes? Its all about balancing the line ups. I like to bring him off the bench for 3 reasons:

A) Its good to stagger his minutes with Trent so they always have a plus shooter on the court. B) He is prone to stupid fouls, easier to keep him out of foul trouble coming off the bench. For example against Wisconsin if he starts he might be already on the bench at the 16 minute mark instead of the 12 minute mark

uofi08 on January 09 @ 10:18 AM CST

I understand all those points, and it's not my call. I just think making him a starter is a good reward that he has definitely earned. He's clearly a top 5 player for us and really can compliment nearly every player on this team. He has great versatility.

A) Trent and Alan are very different players and can easily play together. Also, adding another good shooter is really only a good thing.

B) He's also one of our better defenders and rebounders. You can play the "prone to stupid fouls" card on Kofi and Giorgi too and yet they both start even when they don't fit perfectly with each other.

I guess I'm just playing devils advocate here. As long as his minutes are big, I'm sure it'll work well. I just think the kid deserves it and adding a wing like that to the starting lineup brings some nice balance and versatility.

Giovantischixstripz on January 09 @ 11:40 AM CST

I think it is a legitimately hard decision to work our rotation because we have quite a few mismatching parts.

My point A wasn't that Trent and Alan can't play together, it is that if both are sitting (which is more likely to happen if they both start) we are sorely missing shooting, so it is good to stagger their minutes to make sure we always have a threat on the floor. They both should play about 30 minutes per game, just try to work it so the 10 minute each sits the other is on the court.

I think Alan has earned being appreciated, but some guys really relish that 6th man role. What is most important is that he is on the court a lot, and is on at the end of the game to keep hitting those clutch 3s

Groundhogday on January 10 @ 12:09 PM CST

If Frazier and Griffin play 30+ mpg each, you can start both and still ensure that at least one is on the floor at all times.

The big question is why Griffin is not getting over 20 mpg.

Giovantischixstripz on January 10 @ 01:01 PM CST

You can, it is easier if 1 starts on the bench though. For now, I wouldn't mess with the starting line up, stick with whats worked the last 2 games. Going forward if we hit a rough patch I would consider an Andres-Ayo-Damonte-Alan-Kofi starting line up. If Trent accepts it, he could be ultra aggressive in the 6th man role, and putting Giorgi on the bench protects a little against him and Kofi both getting into early foul trouble as has been happening.

Groundhogday on January 10 @ 02:27 PM CST

I'd mess with the starting lineup in a heart beat. But I sure wouldn't bench Frazier.


Then when you bring in Giorgi at the 5, you can go a bit bigger at the 4 with Nichols, swing Griffin or Jones to the 3.

Giovantischixstripz on January 10 @ 02:43 PM CST

to each their own

Giovantischixstripz on January 10 @ 01:13 PM CST

Also, I believe BU is ready to unleash Griffin for upper 20s mpg, even off the bench, just game situation has dictated otherwise since big 10 started back up. Blow outs against MSU and Purdue cut him short a few minutes, and foul trouble limited him vs Wisconsin.

IlliniLE on January 09 @ 11:36 AM CST

It was soooooo satisfying to finally get that W against Wisconsin. My wife went there, we've been together 10+ years, and it's getting really old to have to try to explain the we really were once a competent basketball team. Better than competent, even! I swear I'm not a crackpot.

I know this isn't the point of this post, but it drives me crazy when people talk about "Big Ten Refs" in basketball. There's no such thing. Refs do contract with conferences, but they contract with many conferences. That's why you used to see Ted Valentine driving ACC fans crazy just the same as B1G fans. Refs work all over. So I really don't buy that these guys, who work all over the country, watching all sorts of styles of play for a living all of the sudden change their entire mindset when they walk into Kohl. Or when the game happens to be a B1G game. They're in a different city every night and they're supposed to remember which conference bias to boot up at tip every day? I just don't see it. Anyway, not the point but it makes me twitch when I see it. Sorry for the tangent.

Illiniiniowa on January 09 @ 08:09 PM CST

Tell her that if Wisky wins 15/16 four more times over the next 40 years, Illinois will still lead the all time series. I wanted someone to mention that. Illinois after losing those 15, now leads the all time series by only 58 games

skibdaddy on January 09 @ 11:50 AM CST

I watched the game sitting up in bed and my wife comes in saying she's really tired and not to cheer too loud. I had to whisper all the normal things I yell at the tv, often looking over to see if I woke her up, haha.

I think one of the pivotal moments in the game was around the 12 minute TV timeout Underwood was calmly talking with a ref - presumably about the foul disparity (7-2 if I remember correctly). From that moment on we started getting some calls and getting a bit of leeway on defense. I remember thinking that at that point that it could be a good thing for us to have so many more fouls.

Sweetchuck13 on January 09 @ 12:19 PM CST

Overcome is such a great word. We didn't play our best game at all, and we escaped with a HUGE road win. The first half was mostly bad, but we kept it from getting away from us. And then the second half we just kept fighting and hanging around, and then a series of clutch plays pulled out the win.

I love seeing Ayo with that huge dunk in the lane and a couple of more fiery plays late to take the lead. That's what I expect to see from someone who wants to be a 1st round pick.

It's incredible to think we didn't play our best and still came home with a W. That might be a good sign if we can string something together.

orangejulius on January 09 @ 02:30 PM CST

You shouldn't feel bad about turning off the game. Doing what is best for your health, because you care so much, doesn't make you a bad fan. Just the opposite, I would say.

I think it is less that referees are more biased toward Wisconsin at Kohl, but more than Wisconsin knows how to exploit the bias. Bo Ryan was a genius at this and has passed it on to his protege. They play very physical defense at home as they know they will get away with much of it. On offense they are very good actors; for example the last foul on Kofi where there was little to no contact; just a slight movement of the head to make it look like there was something there. Also, their use of the entire shot clock, playing most of the possession in the half court, gives the official more opportunities to call a foul.

I would love to know what their home court advantage looks like statistically vs. other programs.

Giovantischixstripz on January 09 @ 02:51 PM CST

Completely agree about Wisconsin and the reffing. Its not that Kohl magically gets more calls than other arenas, its that they are trained to search for fouls on offense by doing those little things (throwing the head back, grunting, double clutching, etc.) that are so annoying.

I do think BU did a good job of getting in the refs ear about the foul discrepancy, we got a few cheapies on Reuvers in the last 10 minutes.

ktal on January 09 @ 03:31 PM CST

Robert, being a sports fan should be a blessing. Yes, I know that for Illini fans that's a real challenge, which is my point. When it gets to be too much, people need to take a step back. I think you did exactly the right thing when you recognized the strain you were feeling That's a healthy choice, and should be commended. More people should follow your example.

It applies beyond sports. But sports are the perfect place to start, because they're easy thing to turn off and still be able to fully enjoy, later.

orngblu on January 09 @ 05:40 PM CST

We swept Wisconsin in football and basketball by a grand total of 2 points! We'll take it. What a dominant game by Ayo, clutch play down the stretch, 18 points and 6 assists.

mmyers74 on January 09 @ 06:56 PM CST

I just want to carve out a moment to applaud what this staff and team did last night. Wisconsin players are (as mentioned earlier) trained to get the foul called. This is why I don't call that ref crew "homers". I called it the most GULLIBLE refereed game that I believe I have ever seen.

Btw 22-16 (15, if you don't count the intentional foul at the end) does NOT tell the story. The # that should be viewed is 23:30 vs 7:00 that is the time, per team, that each was in the bonus. Almost 4x. Crazy lopsided.

But to my point: The staff did an amazing job. Crushed every play coming out of a timeout. Played, and I think this is important, Kofi, Alan, Giorgi, etc... when most coaches (nearly every) would not have. When Kofi got the early 3rd, he put in Giorgi, who had 3. He played all three, when conventional wisdom said you had to sit them. The played. They squared well. They forced wisconsin to shoot over them. And eventually, Wisconsin missed. And Illinois did not.

I looked. Efficiency. (Points per possession) Best in the country is Gonzaga at 1.16. Duke 1.1. The game MSU trounced is, they were 1.105.

We played the second half at 1.26(!) points per possession.

We outplayed Wisconsin on both ends of the floor, for essentially the entire game... and it took An OTHERWORLDLY half of offensive efficiency, in Wisconsin, to win, by ONE.

This team and staff truly went 5 on 7, played an actual unfair (and that takes a lot to get me to say) game... and still won.


Chief4Life on January 09 @ 10:32 PM CST

March 26, 2005. Four minutes left. Down 15. Not this team. This is THE team. They can’t lose like this. I can’t. I can’t watch this happen.

I turned it off. Not because of the refs, but I couldn’t watch it happen. I had to turn it off. I just couldn’t.

Fifteen minutes later, I turn the TV back on to check the final score. Wait...what?!? They’re in OT!!! Turned the TV back off. They came back without me, can’t jinx it now. I rushed to another TV to start the VCR (yes, VCR) as I knew the DVR would have stopped recording as it was past the planned stop time.

Ten minutes later, I couldn’t believe what I missed. I was elated, and couldn’t wait to see how it happened. But I couldn’t. The DVR stopped right before the run, the VCR kicked on midway through OT. I don’t remember how long it took for me to see it, but 2005 was before on demand replay, so it was several days before I got to see the most amazing come back ever.

Sometimes you just can’t. It happens. I-L-L-!

Long live the Chief.

Axllini on January 10 @ 10:33 AM CST

no love for Winnie the Bish?

ATLIllini on January 12 @ 06:20 PM CST

Same. Except my kid and I are binging Star Wars: Rebels.

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