In Your LIFE
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There's this famous call from Verne Lundquist at the 2005 Masters. You've seen the clip. Tiger is chipping off the back of the green, the ball rolls right to the edge, pauses, and then falls, and Verne Lundquist says his famous line: "in your LIFE have you ever seen anything like that?".
Here's the clip, if you've never seen it.
It's such a perfect call. And the fact that it was Verne, at the Masters, 19 years after his "yes SIR" for Jack Nicklaus - it's just perfect broadcasting. Share the exact emotion you're feeling at the time: in your LIFE have you ever seen anything like that?
After this game, I'm struggling to say that I have.
Let's just start with a quick list from tonight. A very simple, concise list:
- We've never beaten #2 or #1 on the road, so this was the highest-ranked team we've ever beaten on the road.
- We did this with our leading scorer, certain first-team All American, and possible National Player Of The Year on the bench.
- We did not just "win". We won by 23. It was the third-worst home loss for Michigan at Crisler, which was built in 1967.
Try to contextualize that. It's impossible.
Michigan went from 1998 to 2009 without making the NCAA Tournament. They had some horrific years in there, winning only 10 games in 2001, 11 games in 2002, 13 games in 2005, and 10 games in 2008. And only twice in the last 54 years did Michigan lose a home game worse than this one: a 27-point loss to Michigan State in 2001 and a 25-point loss to Indiana in 1985. There's an 11-season streak in there of not making the Tournament a single time - so many horrible Michigan teams - and this team is the one with the third-worst home loss.
The one ranked #2.
Playing Illinois without Ayo Dosunmu.
I mean, in your life, have you? I have not. It's the single-greatest regular season Big Ten victory of my lifetime.
I mean, had we won by one, with Ayo, it's probably the single-greatest regular season Big Ten victory of my lifetime. Neck and neck with beating #3 Indiana on the road with Nick Anderson's shot. Win by 23? Twenty three?
I should probably go in a different direction here because I'm never going to find the words to put this into perspective. There is no perspective. This is the new standard, at least for regular season games. And it won't ever be topped in my lifetime.
How can I write about something I can't even understand? Maybe I'll get a little risky with this post. Maybe I'll vignette this one (can that be a verb?). I'll hop on Twitter right now and ask for some moments to write about since I was so lucky to be in the building, and then I'll write a little vignette around each of them.
Here we go. Tweet sent.
The 5 point Trent play with the sexy crossover
The bench went absolutely insane. We recorded a Board Room podcast afterwards and I told this story, but it reminded me of those old And-One tours where someone would do something crazy with the ball and the crowd would go insane. And if that person crossed someone and then launched a three, the crowd would crouch down ready to explode. And if the shot went in, pandemonium.
That's what the Illinois sideline did for that Trent three. Eleven simultaneous "OHHH"-s when Trent got his defender's momentum moving in the wrong direction. An entire sideline crouched-down in anticipation when the ball was in the air. And then, as I saw that they showed on the broadcast, absolute pandemonium.
There are no crowds this year, so it's such a stale environment. The vibe is that of a game under the lights at the local park with maybe 30 people watching. So the crossover, followed by OHHHH, followed by SWISH, followed by AHHHHHHH, is about as great as Covid-era basketball gets.
I've told this story before, but there was one Illini basketball moment that made me do what the Illini sideline did: The Frank Williams Show. I was with my friends Brian and Derek at the Lake of the Sky Motor Lodge in Tahoe City, California. Frankie already had us buzzing, and then he goes behind-the-back to Brian Cook for the layup, the crowd is going insane, Dick Vitale is screaming "he's drivin' and dishin' the rock, Mr. Williams", and THEN, while all of that is going on, mid-sentence for Vitale, he gets another steal, drives for the layup, and Iowa takes a timeout. I remember running around the hotel room and jumping from one bed to the other. I had no idea what to do with my body.
That's how the sideline was tonight. I'm so glad there were shots of it in the highlights. OHHHH, then SWISH, then AHHHHHHH.
Trent's free throws with the guys arm-in-arm
He's talking about this:
These guys are a FAMILY. 🥰🥰— State Farm Center (@StateFarmCenter) March 3, 2021
(How many words does this this picture say?) pic.twitter.com/32SJoUTmas
Let me show you something. I've been saving this for a few days, wanting to find the right spot. This is the right spot.
Here's the video I took of Da'Monte on Senior Day:
Here's a video I took on Saturday of Wisconsin's team reaction during Senior Day:
Class, would anyone like to point out the differences between these two videos? Yes, Sarah?
"The Illinois team really seems to care about each other while it sounds like Wisconsin pumped in crowd noise because their seniors just stood there quietly clapping for Brad Davison".
Gold star for Sarah.
That's the kind of thing I think about when I see the players doing that. And I really think a lot of the credit needs to go to Giorgi. He might be the huddliest player in Illini history.
I haven't taken any photos because it happens during the national anthem and I'm not going to take photos during the national anthem but when the anthem plays, Giorgi always has his arms around two teammates. Usually the big men. Often it's Jermaine Hamlin and Brandon Lieb. Giorgi loves a good embrace.
So while I didn't see who initiated the arm-in-arm while Trent was shooting, I'm guessing Giorgi. I mean this: the guy loves his teammates.
Oh man there's 50 responses to my tweet now. Gonna have to pick my way through the list...
The canned recording of The Victors blaring 3 seconds after the conclusion
They played it most of the night. Even heard it in the concourse when I went to the restroom. And as I left the restroom, looking down as I walked, each granite band in the flooring had a different line. I'd walk across "Hail To The Victors Valiant" and then 12 more steps and it's "Hail To The Conquering Heroes". I did make myself laugh with my inner-dialogue of "but they're in the Big Ten East" once I got to "The Champions Of The West" on the floor.
But yes, Covid Crisler is pretty much what you'd expect. And I don't mean that as some jab at Michigan Men or something. They love that song, and they play it all the time.
To the point where I'm not sure they understand the moments where maybe they shouldn't play it (like immediately after losing at home by 23 while ranked #2). The name of the song is "Victors", and, uh, you lost. But, traditions are traditions, and I'm guessing they just play it after every game, win or lose.
Might want to skip it when the game is on ESPN and there's no crowd noise to drown it out, though.
Brown airball free-throw and Giorgi and Monte's reaction
This is what he's referring to:
Can you imagine being a Michigan fan watching that? You've been yapping at Illinois fans on Twitter for weeks, waiting for this game, and you can't believe your luck that your team will get to cut down the nets and celebrate a Big Ten title after a home win over the Illi-whine-i.
And then you lose, and not only do you lose, you lose by 23, and not only do you lose by 23, the other team is high-fiving your airballed free throws on ESPN. I'm guessing a lot of televisions were turned off in the glove state at that exact moment.
But there's more to that story than just the high five. When he air-balled the free throw, the Illinois bench got LOUD. It wasn't like Krush was there, raining down "aaiirrrr-ballll, aaiirrrr-ballll". But they did go with the random "ohhhh... ohhhhhhhhh" callout. 12-15 guys all yelling "ohhhhhh" at random times.
Da'Monte heard them, turned to the Illinois bench on the other end, and, with Brown standing two feet away, gave the Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix motion:
The disrespect is real.
Adam Miller from Ypsilanti
I never know what's shown on TV, so maybe you saw this, but Miller ran a 200-meter dash after nailing that three.
Here's a photo I took after the game. Obviously, those baskets in the foreground weren't up during the game. Maintenance staff put them up (for practice tomorrow, I'm guessing) immediately after the game.
The orange arrow shows where Miller ran after hitting that three and Michigan taking a timeout. He hit the shot on the basket to the right, so he turned, ran the full length of the court, and then circled into the corner.
He ran to that spot, screaming and celebrating, and with Michigan having taken a timeout, his teammates ran towards that corner as he circled back and ran towards the bench. The officials actually had to step in and provide a path for some of the Michigan players to get to their bench.
That seemed to be the moment when the game was over. I was still nervous, of course. Michigan came out of the locker room hot, scoring seven points on their first three possessions of the second half. But Illinois matched them shot for shot, and when Miller hit that three, it was suddenly a 16-point game only four minutes into the second half. By the time Trent had that five-point possession six minutes later (the two free throws from the technical followed by the three pointer), Illinois was up 28. TWENTY EIGHT.
Curbelo self high five and then jumping on Underwood
See I don't even know what that is. But that's the difference between watching at home and watching in person.
Curbelo butterknifing the entire Michigan defense
When I got to the game, I'm thinking "will I go three-for-three in the last eight days with someone sitting in my media seat even though there's only 150 people in the building?" The answer was no. Because Michigan doesn't do assigned seating.
They have stickers on the tables showing which seats are open and which seats are closed. The usher told me I could sit in any of the seats, just not the front row. So I picked a seat in the second row closest to the center of the court. Apparently, this was the Michigan media section because the only people who filled in around me were Michigan reporters.
But the usher did come by to check on me, so I know I was allowed to sit there. I think it's just one of those situations where three Michigan Media Men might walk up to me, one cracking his knuckles, and say "seat's taken, son - move along" because while there's no assigned seating, those are the Michigan seats.
Anyway, because of this, I could hear their chatter most of the night. And a lot of their disbelief was centered around Curbelo getting to the rim. They kept making noise (gasps and such) when Michigan would swipe at a missed block shot. I was interpreting the noise and reactions as "Michigan hasn't allowed layups like this all year - how is this guy getting to the rim?" Over and over and over, a Curbelo layup with a Michigan big swatting at the air followed by disbelief all around me.
Trent drills a mid-range jumper with 40 seconds left in the first half to go up 11 and get a 2-for-1 opportunity
If there was a foreshadowing moment in this game, that was it. "Oh, freshman year 'on a heater' Trent Frazier is here tonight." A hint of what was to come in the second half.
The coaches get credit for that 2-for-1, by the way. They called it from the bench. As soon as Trent got the steal, they were yelling something. Trent kind of acknowledged it and then came off the screen to shoot the quick two (and give us a double-digit lead).
And then in the second half, just a pure Freshman Trent performance. 16 second-half points, 2-3 from three, 4-5 from the line, and the lead goes from 11 to 28 in the first ten minutes of the half. On the road at #2 Michigan with Ayo out for the third game in a row.
I asked Brad Underwood about Trent in the postgame, and as part of his answer, he called Trent "the Ultimate Illini". That's nearly perfect. Called upon to be a scorer his freshman year when we win 14 games, then adjusts to playing with Ayo his sophomore year (and we win 12 games), then moves heavily into a defensive role as a junior (how many players see their scoring cut significantly and just change to "I'm all about defense now"?), and then this year, more defense. But with Ayo out, and Trent can still hit the ignition, and so he did. 16 second-half points to put away #2 Michigan.
On the road.
In your LIFE have you ever seen anything like that?