SOC - Northwestern 2021
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Just wanted to tell a quick basketball story before I get to the final football SOC of the year. Well, two basketball stories. Actually, three.
I was at the game tonight. Tyler was too, and he's covering the game for the site, so right now we're basically racing to see who gets finished writing first - him with the game story and me with the SOC. But we have friends in town, so my wife and I sat in the stands with them.
This was my wife's first Illini basketball game (crazy, right?). When I'd come to games pre-blog, I always came with our boys. Once I started the blog in 2009 (right up until today, really), I basically attend every single game by myself. So there's never really an opportunity for her to go to a game. She's been to a lot of football games - she's going tomorrow - but never a basketball game.
Tonight, we had friends in town, and Tyler was covering the game, so I decided to buy four tickets. We sat in the Krush seats (students are home on Thanksgiving break). She had a lot of fun, I think.
And she called the UTRGV flops. Like, saw them coming when I didn't. Even before the flop warning - I mean, she doesn't even know what a "flop" is, let alone a flop warning - she said to me "this other team fakes like they're getting fouled a lot". Sure enough, not even five minutes later, a flop warning.
Then, in the second half, "that one guy keeps doing it". I told her that if he got caught again, he'd get a technical since they already got a warning. Sure enough, 10 minutes later, a flop technical with "that one guy" did it again. I hadn't picked up on the flopping, but she did. And they did eventually get a technical.
There was a kid (maybe 10 years old?) sitting in front of me. One of our friends asked me how tall Kofi was, and I tried to get technical. "He's listed at seven-foot, but I think he's really 6'-11" because they always add an inch for every basketball player."
The kid in front of me turned around. "Who, Kofi? He's seven foot tall."
Love it. I was once the kid who would tell fans that starting center Lowell Hamilton was only one inch taller than starting point guard Stephen Bardo. And the kid is right - Kofi, on the roster, is listed as 7'-0". I can get so full of myself sometimes, thinking I'm the Illini expert. But this kid nailed it. Just say "seven foot", Robert.
I enjoyed this UTRGV team (well, besides the flopper). They really did play hard. Johnson, Johnson, Nelson, Nelson, and the flopper. Fun little team.
One of the Johnsons (I think it was Justin Johnson) was yapping at these fans in the corner. YAPPING. He'd make a shot and turn directly to them to let them know. One of the Nelsons (I think it was Ricky Nelson) picked up on it and started jawing with them.
After the game, both Justin Johnson and Ricky Nelson ran over there to talk to the guys. Pretty much all of them hugged. The Illini fans seemed to congratulate them on playing so well and the players appeared to be thanking them.
Count me in for pulling for UTRGV the rest of the year. Those four guys with two last names really played hard. And gave it to the fans. And then chatted them up after the game.
I never know what to say for this SOC. They're usually fairly short, I think. It's "please God, don't let us lose to the Kitties again" followed by us losing to the Kitties. 2014 - our last LOLHAT win - was seven years ago.
And this one makes me feel so nervous. Win tomorrow, get the hat back, and the season goes off in this direction. Lose tomorrow, seven straight, and the season kind of sinks off in that direction. I make too much of these things, but I feel like offseason momentum hinges on a win tomorrow.
I mean, let's just talk about four Big Ten wins (which would be the case if we won tomorrow). Here's all the seasons with four-or-more Big Ten wins since 1995:
That's it. Only six times since 1995. Win tomorrow and this season is the 7th season with four-or-more Big Ten wins in the last 27 seasons. That's a big deal to me.
Which is why I'm so nervous. I don't care how - I just want to win. I don't care if it's 7-6 with a defensive touchdown - just get me that hat. I honestly do not care if it's the ugliest game of the year. All I care about: if Northwestern scores 16, we'd better score 17.
I just want the hat. It's all I care about. It's been so incredibly long. That picture at the top still makes me angry. Please, someone, bring me the hat.
(I think someone will bring me the hat. Northwestern covers, but I think someone will bring me the hat.)
Illinois 20, Northwestern 17