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I'll say it.
That was a fantastic crowd. Just incredible. Better than any crowd in the State Farm Center this season. That's not a shot at the crowds in Champaign - fans have been extra loud this season after a year where they couldn't be there. But this crowd tonight was next level.
First off, I'm guessing Purdue sells what - three times more student tickets than Illinois? The Paint Crew is a weird name (why choose the current coach?) but the volume was amazing. Students basically extend all the way to the top at both ends. Reminds me of when the Assembly Hall had Krush seats on the floor and then thousands of student tickets extending up to the concrete lid. So much volume coming from one spot. And for Purdue tonight it came from two spots.
I found myself quite jealous when the game started. I know it was a big game - 3 vs. 13 - and so this was probably one of the louder Purdue crowds in years. ESPN in town, snow on the ground outside - felt like an old school battle at the top of the Big Ten where you walk in and it smells like Big Ten basketball. There's not much like watching your top-5 team dominate in person.
So maybe "jealousy" isn't the right word. I think I'm just mad that Covid took that away from us last season. We had the top-5 team, and the crowd would have been just as overconfident from the opening tip as this Purdue crowd was tonight. Yet we didn't get some #3 Illinois vs. #5 Iowa battle in the State Farm Center. There were no fans at all until the Big Ten Tournament (and then it was only 25% capacity).
Maybe the title should be "hey bitter" because that's what I am. The State Farm Center would have been like this last year - 41% louder simply because the team is #3 in the country - and we were robbed of it. Post title: "Hey, we got jobbed." (No, then everyone would think I'm talking about the officials tonight when the officials were fine.)
I should probably address the photo at the top. Sorry, I forgot. That was my view from my seat. And you know what? It honestly wasn't annoying at all. Basketball is played at the two ends. All I missed from sitting behind the camera was the opening tip. Everything else happened on either side of her head.
And the Bob Uecker seat was my own fault. I forgot to apply for a credential until Saturday because I'm stupid and dumb. So I'm guessing that on the seating chart all that was left were the old Wrigley Field "obstructed view" seats. I was in the building and it was fine.
But I was totally jealous of the Purdue crowd the whole time. I found myself wishing that 2022 was 2021 and Illini fans could have been at Illinois 76, Michigan 53 (I know, it was in Ann Arbor). College basketball rolls in waves, and I wish the Ayo + Kofi wave had crested while fans could be there.
Hmmm... I just re-read this and it sounds like I'm denigrating this team. I'm not. It's more of a 2001 followed by 2002 kind of thing. 2001 we were a 1-seed. 2002 a 4-seed. One step below (but still amazing). Purdue has their 2001 team now. With fans going crazy. We had our 2001 team in 2021. Without fans so the only sound you heard was the squeak of sneakers. I'm just wishing for a wave crest this year. And I should probably address what I mean by wave crest.
Purdue had a great team in 2018/19. The Carsen Edwards team that lost to Virginia in the Elite Eight on that insane buzzer beater to send it to overtime. That loss is a pantheon loss for Purdue fans because that was going to be the team that got them over the "no Final Four since 1980" hump.
And they all knew they'd take a dip the next year. 2018/19 was a crest. After Edwards (and guys like Ryan Cline) graduated, they fell back to 16-15 the next year. That's just when our wave started to rise. We beat Purdue 63-37 in Champaign and then 79-62 here in West Lafayette that season.
In 2020-21, our wave nearly reached #1. We were ranked 2nd in the final poll before the Tournament after going on that insane 14-1 run to close the season. And we beat Purdue, too - 66-58 in early January (no return trip to West Lafayette). They rebounded from 16-15 the previous season to go 18-10 (13-6 in the Big Ten). Things started to click for their freshmen and their wave started to really build. Now, in 2022, their wave is cresting again. Took three years to get it back but now they're gonna take another swing at getting opposing fans to stop mentioning their Final Four drought.
For us, our wave is still high with Kofi in town. It's just probably 4-seed high, not 1-seed high. It's fine. It's great, actually - it says that we have a program again - but it's a step below 2021 (say it with me - "and then in the Tournament, anything can happen").
I'm jealous that Purdue gets a crowd like this for a crest like this. Which is just me saying that I'm still so mad that Ayo had to be a first-team All American in front of empty arenas. He deserved cheers like Ivey got tonight. It just sucked that he couldn't have those moments.
So yeah, "hey jealousy" is right. Purdue's crowd was amazing. I'm so jealous.
+ I'm not sure I can handle all of these Trent Frazier Down On The Court moments. It happened in the K-State game and he was carried off (missed a few games and then returned). It happened tonight (rocking back and forth holding his knee). I was seriously ill. Several people tweeted at me that the replay showed a knee collision, not a twist or hyperextension, and that calmed me down. But until I saw those tweets, I thought I was going to puke. If Trent Frazier's career ended with a knee injury at Purdue I'm not sure I could follow sports anymore.
It's kinda funny - I didn't see him come back in the game. When he did, he was behind the camerawoman's head. So I was scanning the bench thinking "oh God I took my eyes off Trent for five seconds and now they've taken him back to the locker room so he can be fitted for an air cast" and then he appeared from behind the camerawoman's head. Such a massive sigh of relief.
I'm not sure what Robbie Hummel said on the broadcast, but I'm guessing seeing someone down on the floor holding his knee at Mackey sent him to a very bad place. So, so glad that Trent is OK.
+ When Purdue hit that three (while Trent was laying on the court), I was looking up their second half shooting stats. I believe that when that three went down, they moved to 15 for 20 in the second half. FIFTEEN FOR TWENTY. I can't remember giving up a run like that in any recent game.
In fact, while walking out I was trying to come up with the last time we were woodshedded like this. I landed on the Michigan State game in early 2020 (like, January 2nd, 2020). I need to look up that score.
Michigan State 76, Illinois 56. Still a game at halftime (36-30 Michigan State) and then taken to the woodshed in the second half. Ayo had 18, Alan Griffin had 17, and nobody else could score. Kofi had 5. Trent 6 points. Feliz 2.
This one felt like that one. Michigan State started the second half on a 15-3 run that night and it was over quickly. Tonight, Purdue began the half 37-18 in only the first 11:45 of the second half. If you're scoring at home they were on pace for 63 points in the second half at that point.
One more time in case you missed it.
37 points in 11:45. On pace for 63 points in one half. Purdue. Against us. Tonight.
It was at this moment that I tweeted this:
Found a stat you're going to hate but it's 2:29 here so nobody is up anyway.— Robert Rosenthal (@ALionEye) February 9, 2022
Purdue against Illinois in January of 2020: 37 points the entire game.
Purdue in the first 11 minutes and 43 seconds of the second half tonight: 37 points.
I'm guessing you'd have to go back years to find a team scoring 37 points in 11:45 against us.
+ I tweeted this after the game, but I found it very odd that we emptied the bench with two minutes left and Purdue kept the starters in. I'm not really going for the "Painter sucks" take here - I was mostly just confused. They were obviously staying aggressive with 30 seconds left, dumping it down to Zach Edey so he could try to score on Brandon Lieb.
My opinion here is probably shaped by the fact that in the last two games (Wisconsin and Indiana), we had possession at the end (with the shot clock still on) where we just dribbled until the shot clock expired. Purdue had the same scenario tonight, we had the end-of-the-bench guys in, and their coaches were pushing them to try to score. I know that can get "we're classy and they're not", but I'm not really going for that either. Maybe I can explain it this way.
Iowa went for the screw-you dunk in February of 2020. Game was over, they throw a full-court pass to get an exclamation point dunk. An obvious "taste it, Illinois" moment (their prerogative). The coaches had the dust-up in the handshake line, Fran instructed his team to stop shaking hands, and we haven't lost to Iowa since.
This wasn't that. This didn't seem to be Purdue going for "taste it, Illinois". There were no player celebrations like the Iowa players that night. This was just... odd. This, to me, seemed to be something more like college football where margin of victory matters and Cincinnati is calling timeouts and trying to run up the score late on East Carolina because they need to do everything they can to convince the committee that they belong in the playoff. This felt like that.
So does Painter believe scoring margin matters? They removed scoring margin from the NET rankings after the 2020 season but maybe he's not aware of that? It has to be something like that, right? Underwood emptied the bench with 1:37 left. Purdue then went to Ivey for a layup with 59 seconds left and then Edey was fouled attempting to score with 13 seconds left. I feel like, what, 98% of college coaches would have Ivey and Edey on the bench in the final minute up 15?
Really odd. Only thing I can come up with is that Matt Painter still thinks scoring margin matters when the committee is seeding you.
+ It's almost 3:00 and I need to leave here at 8:30. So let me wrap this up.
Purdue is a tier above us this year and I HATE that. I believe we were their last opponent inside the NET top-20, so it seems likely that they run the table and win the Big Ten. That super sucks.
All of that tweeting I do about "it has been XXXX days since Illinois lost to so-and-so" and we had a nice run through 2020 and 2021 without losing Purdue and now swept in 2022. Ugh.
RJ Melendez is a dude.
Matt Painter possibly thinks that scoring margin matters when it comes to seeding?
This crowd was amazing and I hated it.
I need to apply for press passes earlier than 3 days before a game.
I'm glad Trent is OK.
I don't like the feeling in my body when Purdue is on a 37-18 run in less than 12 minutes and the crowd is going insane it feels gross.