Illinois faces the No. 2 Michigan Wolverines on Thursday night with the chance to pull off one of the biggest upsets in program history. It’s rare Illinois welcomes a top-3 team onto its campus and into the walls of the space-ship looking State Farm Center.
The arena was called Assembly Hall from its opening in 1963 to 2013, when it changed names to State Farm Center in order to help support its much-needed renovation and upgrade.
Without further adieu, here are the biggest upsets in SFC/Assembly Hall History — sorted by date.
December 4, 1964: Illinois 110, No. 2 UCLA 83
In just the second year of Assembly Hall’s existence, Illinois earned one of its biggest wins ever. Illinois beat UCLA, a team that would go onto win its second national title under legendary coach (and Purdue alum) John Wooden by 27 points.
Future NBA Hall of Famer Gail Goodrich was UCLA’s star player, averaging 24.8 points per game and winning the Helms-Foundation Player of the Year Award.
January 11, 1979: No. 4 Illinois 57, No. 1 MSU 55
It’s not really an upset when the No. 4 team in the nation wins a home game against the top-ranked team. This game stands out, and is still an upset because of who was on the 1978-79 Michigan State Spartans team: Magic Johnson.
Illini forward Eddie Johnson scored the game winner in the waning seconds of the second half. Watch the shot and listen to Magic Johnson narrating the moment here:
Later that year Magic would go on to win the National Championship, defeating Indiana State and Hall of Famer Larry Bird.
February 8, 1986: Illinois 83, No. 7 Michigan 79
Michigan won the Big Ten title that year led by the late Roy Tarpley. The 6-foot-11 Tarpley was the reigning Big Ten Player of The Year, while Illinois’ Ken Norman was the Illini’s best player that season.
March 1, 1987: No. 14 Illinois 69, No. 3 Indiana 67
Indiana won the Big Ten and National titles in 1987 under head coach Bobby Knight. Illinois defeated the Hoosiers one month before the cream and crimson would go on to win their last championship to date.
Ken Norman averaged 20.7 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists that 1986-87 season.
February 21, 1990: No. 19 Illinois 90, No. 9 Purdue 78
Not the biggest upset on this list. Far from it. This one is notable because current Purdue Boilermakers head coach Matt Painter was a freshman on this team.
January 14, 1997: Illinois 96, No. 7 Minnesota 90
Minnesota won, but would later have to vacate its 1997 Big Ten Championship. That season, the Golden Gophers reached the Final Four before losing to the Kentucky Wildcats.
Bobby Jackson was Minnesota’s point guard, a player who would go onto have a solid NBA career, most notably for the Sacramento Kings in the mid-2000s.
December 1, 2004: No. 5 Illinois 91, No. 1 Wake Forest 73
When I was a student at U of I (2007-11) there were huge, blown-up panorama posters of the zoomed out photo taken from this game both at Follett’s Bookstore (RIP) and at Dave’s Barbershop. It looks like this. This was an iconic game.
The ‘Paint-the-Hall-Orange’ setup featured two of the game’s best point guards in Illinois’ Deron Williams and Wake Forest’s Chris Paul. This game set the tone early for what would be the most memorable, celebrated Illinois basketball team in the school’s history.
February 6, 2010: Illinois 78, No. 5 MSU 73
ESPN’s College GameDay was on campus for this game. The atmosphere around campus was electric and I distinctly remember a packed house filled with alums who were excited to cheer on their Illini on the national stage.
This game featured an excellent point guard matchup between two juniors: Illinois’ Demetri McCamey and Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas. Michigan State would go on to reach the Final Four that year, falling to Butler in the opening semi-final game.
January 10, 2012: Unranked Illinois 79, No. 5 OSU 74
Brandon Paul’s career high 43 points against the Ohio State Buckeyes is still a game Illini fans remember well. The Buckeyes and Illini had a similar record heading into this game, but it was Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger and Deshaun Thomas who had more national acclaim leading up to tipoff.
The Buckeyes would rebound (no punn intended) and win the Big Ten regular season title and reach the Final Four before falling to Kansas.
February 7, 2013: Illinois 74, No. 1 Indiana 72
Yada, yada, yada. You’ve heard enough about this game.
January 10, 2019: Illinois vs No. 2 Michigan
Will it happen?? Tune into FS1 at 7 p.m. to find out.
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