We're Goin' Shriekin'

Feb 28, 2021

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My story goes back a long way. Well, not "long", but to 2015. Late February of 2015, we're playing Michigan State in Assembly Hall (I think it was still Assembly Hall then, right? Maybe not. Doesn't matter.), and I'm covering the game from the old press row (pre-renovations) which means that the visitor section is behind me to my right. During the game, during every Illini free throw (you know how quiet the SFC gets during home free throws), there's a woman shrieking behind me to my right. Let me tell you, A-section (I KNOW it was A-section then) is angry at her. Dead quiet, big Illini free throw, AYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYAYYYYYY.

I start getting asked on Twitter where the sound was coming from. I turned around and recorded a Vine of the shrieking and posted it on Twitter (I'd link the tweet here, but Vines are no longer linked so the video isn't there). Someone responded saying that from my video, it looked like it was Tom Izzo's wife. Now my mind is racing. The person shrieking is... Tom Izzo's wife?

(I hesitated to use the word "shriek" here because I wasn't sure if it was right. Looked up the definition: "to utter a sharp, shrill sound." Yep.)

I start looking for online photos of Izzo's wife to compare with the person behind me to my right. She's kind of hidden by other fans, so it's hard to tell, but maybe I should just run with this. Stupid, second-season-in-press-row me decides to run with it. I tweet that the person making the sound you hear on TV is Izzo's wife.

Pretty quickly, someone responded saying that it's Travis Trice's mom. I think they sent me a link to an article about Michigan State's "secret weapon", the player's mom who shrieks during free throws. So I very quickly deleted that Izzo tweet and corrected it with this one:

In the months that followed, she became quite famous. Michigan State, as a 7-seed, made the Final Four that year, and her shriek was talked about everywhere. If you want to read about what it was like back then, read this article. There's also this article which talks about Michigan State reaching the "Shriek Sixteen" that year.

But I want to focus on this article from Michigan State beat writer Graham Couch. I remember reading it at the time. I have this massive pet peeve when reporters build a narrative around a thing that happened when, having been there myself, I know that's not how it went. This is the part that bothered me:

There's no hard evidence Julie Trice was the difference Sunday. But by the time the Illini found a rhythm at the line, hitting 15 of their final 16 free throws over the last 10 minutes, MSU held a slight lead it would never relinquish.

It takes a lot of "I have a narrative I want to build" fact-bending to include sentences like "by the time the Illini found a rhythm at the line, hitting 15 of their final 16..." with a straight face. Illinois hit 75% of their free throws that night. Crediting the shriek for the win was a strettttchhhhhh.

Anyway, you have your memories of the Northwestern student who used to make a similar noise, I have my memory of Travis Trice's mom shrieking in Champaign.

I remember writing an article that night about how jealous I was of programs that regularly went to the Tournament while my team was 17-10, unranked, and headed for the NIT. And it's funny to think about that, because two weeks later we had what I'll always describe as our worst 80 minutes of basketball in my three, now nearly four decades of fandom.

That stretch, so you remember: Final game of the year in 2015, need a win to get to the right side of the bubble, and we jump all over Purdue with a 15-2 start and take a 26-13 lead into the under-4:00 timeout. From that point forward Purdue outscored Illinois 50-32 and we lose by five.

We then play Michigan in the first round of the BTT and lose 73-55 to fall off the bubble and into the NIT. We play at Alabama in the NIT and before we can blink it's 41-12. FORTY ONE TO TWELVE.

With four minutes left in the first half against Purdue, we lead 26-13 and are looking to lock up our NCAA bid with one more road win. 80 minutes of basketball later, with four minutes left in the first half against Alabama in the NIT, we trail 41-12. Outscored exactly 164-99 over those 80 minutes.

Wow I kind of got off track there. But I think it's important. That's where we were. Here's where we are.

We just beat #23 Wisconsin in the Kohl Center without our All American. We've locked up a double-bye in the Big Ten Tournament and are certainly going to be no worse than a 4-seed if we lose three in a row before the Tournament. Maybe no worse than a 3-seed. Perhaps even a 2-seed if the Committee sees that we lost some of those games without Ayo. Yeah, maybe the worst-case scenario here is a 3-seed.

That couldn't be any further from 164-99 with the Tournament on the line. We've come so far in these last four years and I want to keep marking the moments. The first time I heard the shriek, we were fading off yet another bubble. Perhaps the last time I hear the shriek, we win our third in a row over Wisconsin.

(LOL - Trice's mom just tweeted at me. More later as this story develops.)

It's a little embarrassing how much I've referenced her over the years. What's the phrase - "rent-free in my head"? Just searched my Twitter and my goodness, Robert - bitter much?

Still bitter in 2019 when the Northwestern fan was trying to match the shriek:

The bitterness of that Michigan State moment in 2015 - "they're still winning, and we might never get back there again" - carrying forward with memories of one shriek, referenced over and over. All leading up to today's game.

I first heard the shriek when Kofi was shooting free throws in the first half. And I immediately knew who it was. Apologies to the Northwestern shrieker, but Mrs. Trice is the GOAT. The original and the best. Perfected over years of practice - four years with Travis, four years with D'Mitrik.

For the next free throw I grabbed my phone to record. Sound up - you're going to need it for the rest of this post. And I'll link it so you can see one of the responses I received a little bit ago.

I have such a strange relationship with that sound. On one hand, it reminds me of a very dark moment in Illini fandom. That night in February of 2015, Michigan State came in at 18-8 and Illinois was 17-9. Win the game and both teams head towards March at 18-9. We begin to fade at the end of the game, the shrieks get more annoying each time, we lose, Michigan State puts it together and goes to the Final Four while Illinois is down 41-12 to Alabama in the NIT.

On the other hand, I kind of respect it? What's the best way to put it... I have reverence for it. It's SO grating, yet it's a mom supporting her son, and he loves it, so I can respect it even though I can't stand it.

I was surprised to hear it today, though. Wisconsin did not have fans in the stands. Some Big Ten schools have done "family tickets" - 40 to 80 fans in the stands each game if the state and local government allows gatherings like that. Illinois hasn't, and Wisconsin hasn't, and I saw no fans in the stands today when the game started. So how is Trice's mom making this sound? (My very first thought: "wait, did they record Trice's mom's shriek to be played on Senior Day?") Then I noticed that there were some fans in the suites - it looked like a few per suite - and I found an article that said for senior day, Wisconsin was allowing 2 attendees per player. So yes, she was in the building.

I tweeted that article right at the start of the second half. The next 12 minutes were really rough. Here's a fun stat:

Second half scoring at the under-8:00 timeout (7:46 left): Illinois 14, Wisconsin 12.

Scoring the final 7:46 of the game: Wisconsin 31, Illinois 23

26 points scored in 12:14 of game play. And then 54 total points in 7:46.

The final four minutes I'll remember for a long time. It was like they were designed just for me. Let me see if I can explain this.....

First off, if you didn't watch the game and don't know what happened, Wisconsin game roaring back. Actually, D'Mitrik Trice came roaring back. Here's his stats in the final 2 minutes and 12 seconds:

Yes, that's 19 points in 2 minutes and 5 seconds. 5-5 from three, 4-4 from the line. Personally brings Wisconsin back from 62-50 with 2:12 left to 70-69 with 7 seconds left. But focus in on the bottom 5 lines. His free throws had cut it to 4, then his three cut it to 3, then his three cut it to 2, then his three cut it to 1. Want to know why it stepped down perfectly like that?

Because we hit 10 of 10 free throws in the final minute. Miss any of them and it's tied. But we didn't, and we won. A guy scores 19 in the final 2:12 and they only cut it from 9 to 1. Our last five shots from the floor? 5 for 5. Our last 10 free throws? 10 for 10.

Wisconsin was a two-player team at that point. D'Mitrik Trice at one end and Julie Trice at the other end. He'd make a three, she'd shriek to try to throw off our free throw shooters. He couldn't miss. But she couldn't phase us.

It made for such a fascinating environment. No fans, maybe 100 total people in the entire building, so think a high school JV game at 5:15 pm with pretty much only parents in attendance where you can hear conversations from across the court. The shriek is basically going to be the only noise in the entire building.

So as we kept making every single free throw, it was like the layers of bitterness towards all those fruitless trips to Champaign to watch Michigan State parents celebrate with their kids on the court afterwards were peeling away. Even though D'Mitrik couldn't miss, I kept getting more and more excited for our next set of free throws. I'm usually the guy hiding my eyes, but this time I started filming. Why? Because the Trice family was doing everything they could to stop us but it wasn't working.

Curbelo one-and-one? Made 'em both despite that terrible noise:

But now Trent's at the line. What if he misses?

Is Trent just going to ignore the shriek and make free throw after free throw to put this one away?

Did you hear it? I smiled so big after that last one. It was perhaps... resignation? That shriek faded at the end. I interpreted that as "my son cannot miss right now and I just need them to miss one of these free throws - are they ever going to miss a free throw?"

Nope. 10 for 10 and a W. No Ayo, on the road at Kohl, Trice puts up 19 in the final 2:12, and a WIN on the day Wisconsin honored 7 seniors. 14 Big Ten wins (a year after 13 Big Ten wins), 8 Quad 1 wins (#8 Villanova has 2), 12-6 against Quad 1 and Quad 2 (#7 Oklahoma is 6-5), and two more opportunities at Michigan and Ohio State.

And perhaps most importantly, for me: the sound that haunts my mid-2010's memories, vanquished forever with 10 consecutive clutch free throws.


IlliniJoe81 on February 27, 2021 @ 09:53 PM

Articles like this are why we love you, Robert. You lived this with us. Nobody else understands quite like you do. For an out-of-state fan with nobody to watch games with (and family members that certainly don't get it) this is what I need to read after today's win.

twilson77@comcast.net on February 27, 2021 @ 10:31 PM

Loved it, Robert---what an awesome article, and I hope you tweet the link to Mrs. Trice so that she can read the article if she chooses to see that you really were giving her "props" in support of her sons, and so that she can see how passionate you (and the rest of us Illini fans) are about Illinois Basketball, which is why her shrieks have been so maddening (and perhaps effective??)! Obviously, I appreciated your perspectives on today's clutch victory!

callaird@cox.net on February 28, 2021 @ 12:12 AM

I started hearing that shriek from memory during last Tuesday's thug-mug game. To hear it again today - don't care. Not like the original. Maybe a clown horn in the BTT instead.

blackdeath on February 28, 2021 @ 06:51 AM

FWIW, that particular type of distinctive yell is called ululation.


MarkIllini24 on February 28, 2021 @ 06:57 AM

It's interesting to me that she starts her shrieks pretty late in each of the free throws. That last one it seems like the balls is just about out of Trent's hands. I am curious how much she thinks it affects the shooter when it's basically out of his hands when he first heard it. Thought she'd start earlier but like you said after many years of practice she must have a routine

stevelsloan on February 28, 2021 @ 07:25 AM

Great article. This is THE reason I am glad to be a subscriber and will continue to be for years to come. Thank you!

illinizeeman on February 28, 2021 @ 09:54 AM

Filling the gaps perfectly as usual.

neale stoner on February 28, 2021 @ 10:18 AM

Absolutely hysterical. Nice job.

DB50 on February 28, 2021 @ 12:35 PM

I felt like Yogi Berra yesterday, "it's deja vu all over again". I knew, from years past, I had heard the "skhreik" before. Thanks for solving it and an interesting read Robert.

WeatherfordForMVP on February 28, 2021 @ 02:54 PM

Awesome article, Robert. I've been following Illini basketball since 2004 when I was a freshman, but knew nothing about these shrieks and didn't notice them on yesterday's broadcast with kids running in and out, spouse talking about an upcoming move, etc. Would never have understood this game in this way without you. Keep it up!

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