Illinois Dominates Gophers to Kick off Centennial

Saturday was a day of celebration in Champaign, IL. The University of Illinois welcomed back over 300 former players, managers, and support staff to celebrate the last 100 Years of Illinois Basketball. Wearing the 1989 Flyin' Illini jerseys, the current Illini dominated the Minnesota Golden Gophers from start to finish en route to an 89-66 victory to ensure the celebration would be a joyous time for all involved.

This year's version of the Fighting Illini did everything in its power to ensure the 100 Years of Illinois Basketball celebration would go off without a hitch. On Saturday afternoon, the emotion was high in Assembly Hall as the past, present, and future of Illinois basketball all came together for one afternoon. The only thing the present had to do was win their 21st straight basketball game, 17th straight in the Big Ten. Led by Roger Powell and Deron Williams, Illinois jumped out to a quick 10-1 lead, and never looked back.

The Golden Gophers were overmatched all afternoon. The talent and emotion were all in the favor of the top ranked Illini. There was no way they were going to lose that basketball game, and the world knew it after the 10-1 run that started the basketball game. Minnesota's Dan Monson tried to slow down the Illini, but there was nothing he could do outside of placing his face in his hands and pray that the game ended as quickly as possible for the Gophers.

The 100 Years of Illinois Basketball celebration was started during the first TV timeout, as Athletic Director Ron Guenther handed former Illinois point guard Frank Williams his award for being a part of the All-Century Team. Frank received his award before the post game festivities because he needed to drive back up to Chicago for the Bulls game against the Celtic on Saturday evening.

At halftime, the crowd reached a fever pitch as the former Illinois coaches were announced and honored at half court for their work at Illinois. Former coaches Harv Schmidt and Gene Bartow were honored, but the afternoon truly belonged to Lou Henson. Wearing his trademarked orange blazer, Henson was back in Assembly Hall for the first time since he retired as Illinois' head coach. At center court, Henson was provided with a street sign for "Lou Henson Court," the section of First Street in front of Assembly Hall was renamed for the former Illinois coach earlier this week by the Champaign City Council.

With the Illini leading 47-26 at the half, the second half was anticlimactic, like many second halves have been for the Illini on this season. Sitting in audience, the fans were more excited about what would be happening after the game, than what was happening on the court. They already got a taste for excitement when the former coaches were announced, and the second half could not have moved quick enough for the Illini fans ready to celebrate the history of Illinois Basketball.

The Fighting Illini continue to have surgeon-like precision on the offensive end of the court, and a smothering defense to go along with it. The Illini let up in the second half allowing the Golden Gophers to score 40 points, but by that point the game was already well in hand. Of the Gopher's 11 turnovers, Illinois forced 8 of them. Offensively, there was not much the Illini could do wrong, outside of dropping some passes on the inside when the Illini guards were trying to add another play to the 2004-2005 highlight reel.

Offensive Efficiency: 129.96
Defensive Efficiency: 96.38
Illinois' Points per Shot Attempt (Adjusted): 1.34
Minnesota's Points per Shot Attempt (Adjusted): 0.92
Offensive Rebounding Percentage: 42.31%
Defensive Rebounding Percentage: 61.54%

After struggling through the beginning of the Big Ten season, Illinois' Roger Powell, Jr. is starting to come around. Against Wisconsin the Illini senior scored 11 points on 5-7 shooting. On Saturday afternoon, Powell led the Illini with 21 points on 8-for-12 shooting including 2-for-3 from behind the arc.

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