Let us reminisce about these great games. I'm sure I will leave some out that you would have picked - so please let me know.
# 10. The OSU Football game at Memorial Stadium. Junior QB Jon Beutjer was coming into his own, giving the Illini fans hope that they could play with the #1 team in the nation. The Illini lose in OT 16-23.
# 9. During the 2000 season the Illini lost to Michigan 35-31. That was the game when all the calls appeared to go against Illinois. The alleged fumble - that's the one.
# 8. Frank Williams had taken a beating from a lot of the media in 2001 (you know, because he was "dogging it"). It was the last regular season game against Minnesota when the Illini lost the lead to the Gophers and then made a big run to get back in it. Cory Bradford hit a big three. I think he fouled the player prior to that and then was on the line when he hit the three. Frank Williams then took the ball to the rack for the game winning shot.
# 7. In 1994 the Illini hosted the # 1 ranked Penn St. Lions at Memorial Stadium. The boys came out fighting. Everyone in the country that year talked about Penn St. being the best college football team ever. Illinois had them on the ropes the entire game only to lose 35-31. I still say that was Ty Douthard's best game ever as an Illini.
# 6. The year 1989 was a magical year for Illinois basketball fans nation-wide. I put this game at # 6 because I didn't think in my lifetime I would ever see Illinois ranked # 1 in basketball. Well I did, and it came after beating Georgia Tech in front a packed house at Assembly Hall. Every department store, shoe store and shopping mall in the state sold t-shirts saying the Illini were really # 1.
# 5. February 6, 2001 in Champaign, IL. Junior Cory Bradford hit six 3-pointers to beat 4th ranked MSU while the Illini were ranked 7th. Bradford finished the night with 22 points. It was paint the hall night.
# 4. December basketball means Illinois vs. Missouri. There have been plenty of great battles between the Illini and the Tigers - too many games to go over them all. I think the worst loss was the three overtimes with freshman Kiwane Garris having a chance to seal the win. My favorite "bragging rights" game was in the year 2000. The Illini needed overtime to beat the Tigers 86-81. Former Illini Frank Williams scored the last basket in regulation and scored six of his 18 points in OT. Also, that was a coming out party for big man Brian Cook, scoring 25 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
# 3. As Prince would say, "let's party like it's 1999." I don't think there's a team in college football that Illinois likes to beat more than Michigan. During the 1999 season our beloved Illini fell behind 27-7 to the 9th ranked Wolverines. They were 24 ½ favorites. It appeared to be another Michigan-Illinois blowout; when all of a sudden this kid named Rocky Harvey broke loose and the game was never the same for Michigan. Maybe Illinois' best QB of all time was 24-33 for 280 yards.
# 2. Usually when you get this far down the list wins are what matters. This game came in the 1998 season when Illinois played UCLA on the road. The Illini were getting beat so bad the announcers were talking about other sports and other teams. Former coach Lon Kruger tried everything, but nothing seemed to work until senior guard Kevin Turner caught fire. I remember someone saying "call 911" because this kid couldn't be touched. The Bruins knew Turner was going to shoot the ball and there was nothing they could do about it. The Illini lost 74-69, but that night Turner was 8-13 from the three point arc and finished with a career high of 32 points - until the very next game against Indiana when Turner scored 35 points. Most fans thought Turner was a "packaged deal" with Bryant Notree, but truth be told, Turner was the better player.
# 1. This one is easy for me - the 1989 Syracuse game. The Fighting Illini finally got the monkey off their back. What a great group of players on the floor that day: Kendall Gill, Kenny Battle, Lowell Hamilton, Stephen Bardo, Nick Anderson, Derrick Coleman and Billy Owens. Every time I think about that game all I can remember is Kendall Gill and his bloody jersey, fighting for our Illini nation.